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Are baby boomer women becoming less invisible?

Is it a mirage or are we gaining ground? The October issue of Italian Vogue, The Timeless Issue was dedicated to ‘mature’ women and featured Lauren Hutton on the cover. I was hoping to share some of their wisdom and bounty with Boomerbroadcast readers but I tried everywhere and couldn’t score a copy so we’ll just have to take their word for it. The good news is that when I was in Chapters/Indigo in October I did spot the British magazine woman&home (which sounds rather mumsie but is actually refreshingly ‘broad’) and it was all about us. Yes. It’s true. A magazine targeted at and about our generation—the smart, educated and hardworking demographic with a bit of experience under our elastic waist belts and some disposable change in our purses to spend on fashion and lifestyle. Imagine my delight. If you can find a copy of the October edition of British woman&home I assure you it’s worth the hefty $9.99 price tag as it was cover-to-cover full of relevant material for baby boomer women.

Lauren Hutton’s back on the runway and from time to time I see great fashion coverage on the internet of Ali McGraw in all her boho splendiforousness. I don’t normally look to celebs for fashion and style inspiration but Diane Keaton is a major exception along with the amazing Helen Mirren. Maye Musk is high-profile these days and although these ladies are all stick thin (which most boomers are not), the recognition is definitely encouraging.

Kudos to CITY-TV’s CityLine and CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show for including mature and normal-sized women along with the requisite skinnies in their fashion presentations. Seeing an amply proportioned mature woman confidently walking out in stylish fashion is inspiring and gratifying. Blogs and websites for women our age are proliferating. I enjoy perusing these sites and try to share the good ones with Boomerbroadcast readers. It’s where I get most of my personal fashion inspiration since magazines are totally bereft of anything we can relate to. If you come across something you like and would like to share, please do so. We’re all in this together. Stay beautiful mes très chères.

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It’s the most glamorous time of the year

Everyone is busting out their sparkles now for the various seasonal celebrations. There are office Christmas parties—his and hers, black tie charity fund-raisers, family get-togethers and of course, New Years’ Eve. I’m no longer a young party animal. I’m now enjoying retirement and prefer a quiet evening in my LaZ-Girl chair with my little dog in my lap and a nice cup of tea at my side, binge-watching the latest Netflix offerings. Since retiring I’ve passed most of my sparkles and evening dresses on to better causes, tossed the stiletto’s and said farewell once and for all to small talk with business associates and people I hardly know over lavish dinners under mirrored disco balls.

Despite entering this quieter phase of my life, I still can’t resist admiring the bling and excess that confronts us at this time of year whenever we enter a store or mall. I marvel at the gorgeous sequined cocktail dresses and evening bags displayed on the mannequins in store windows. Those strappy silver heels that would cripple this old boomer’s feet after one step still emit their siren’s call. I imagine my former twenty-something body in those shimmery mini party dresses, then sigh at the realization I’ll never look that great again. The upside of the current state of affairs is knowing that I was never as happy then as I am now, so all’s well.

Give me strength, for this too shall pass.

November and December are when the major cosmetics companies bring out their big marketing guns, the AK47’s of the beauty business. Promotions, gift sets and purchase-with-purchase collections abound and I’m a sucker for all of it. Forty or fifty years ago I got a ‘free’ Frosted Apricot lipstick as part of an Estée Lauder promotion at Eaton’s and I was hooked. Miraculously, they still make that colour and it’s my go-to lipstick for all occasions and outfits. Those freebies were so much fun and introduced me to products that I soon incorporated into my ‘beauty’ routine. That’s the genius in their marketing. My biggest weakness with the most potential for being sucked in are those giant makeup and treatment kits offered by Clinique, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden and other cosmetics behemoths in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You know the ones—buy this incredible assortment of products valued at $450.00 for only $65.00 with any Estée Lauder purchase. A dizzying array of blushers, eye shadows, multiple lipsticks (in colours I would never wear), mascara, eye liners, full-size bottles and jars of skin care products are all seductively displayed in a faux-croc travel case (usually in red) for my greedy pleasure. And I love it all.

. . . and visions of sugar plums.

Several years ago I caved and bought one of those purchase-with-purchase combos. Most of the products didn’t suit me so it languished in the drawer for months before I finally tossed or gave away its contents. And the travel case turned out to be neither efficient or practical. Even now, I have an embarrassing inventory of makeup and skin care products in my bathroom that mostly collect dust. As we age, we find that less is better and I no longer need or use so much of what was once part of my regular routine. Smokey eyes, facial contouring and iridescent shadows are and will remain distant memories. Moisturizing eye drops, industrial strength retinol and biotin are now front and centre.

So, if you happen to spot me drooling in front of the Estée Lauder counter with my credit card quivering in my hand, give me a smack and tell me to get myself off to Tim Horton’s and cool my heels. But first, I have to pick up a new Colour Envy lipstick in Defiant Coral at Estée Lauder and a Lancôme Hypnôse mascara with the corresponding eye makeup remover. That should qualify me for the cute promotional bonus. How’s that for step one in my 12-step programme to correcting my wanton ways and creating a better me?

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I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!

Satan made me do it. My first mistake was picking up the President’s Choice  300-gram chocolate bar with hazelnuts (actually I bought three but who’s counting) at The Great Canadian Superstore (just sounds so patriotic doesn’t it?). Thought they’d come in handy over the Christmas holidays. For the record, these chocolate bars are a product of France (good); they’re 3¼ inches wide by 11 inches long (better), they cost only $4.95 (best) and are amaaaazing. The chocolate was so fresh it melted in my mouth and crunching the hazelnuts allowed me to make it last longer. And, as everyone knows, like Halloween candy, holiday treats purchased ahead of time rarely make it to the home stretch. It’s a predictable and unfortunate fact of life.

The problem arose when I opened the package for just a “little taste”. Less than twenty-four hours later, the entire chocolate bar was gone. If I were Catholic I could go to confession and God’s representative would absolve me of my sin. In his great magnificence, he would probably wipe out the accompanying calories too. But because I’m not Catholic I’m forced to live with my transgressions in a seething, swirling vortex of shame, guilt and self-hate.

Forgive me for I have sinned and will probably continue to do so. Seeking salvation.

In my defence, I’m convinced the manufacturers of those chocolate bars include a highly addictive narcotic in the ingredients so we mere mortals are powerless against its pull. I can personally confirm that the same ingredient is also present in red licorice twizzlers (as evidenced by ninety little bags disappearing from my house a few days after Halloween), and Black Jack Cherry ice-cream. My rationale is the sooner I dispose of it (i.e. eat it) the sooner it’s no longer a temptation and household hazard. I realize I should know better than to even allow these goodies into the house, but sometimes a healthy diet of oatmeal, fruit, vegetables and  organic food just doesn’t cut it. It’s hard to avoid those special sweet-loaded holidays like Halloween and Christmas. And there’s nothing wrong with buying your own Valentine chocolates—I’m just confirming that in advance. Some diet advocates say we should allow ourselves little treats on a regular basis so we don’t feel deprived and won’t binge. That’s exactly what I was trying to do—just a little taste. While my intentions were honourable, my little slip-up turned into a major pig-out and I’m now considering converting religions so I can continue to live in peace with my conscience. I think those Catholics are on to something.

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What would you do if you had $800 million lying around?

Soon to be Scotiabank Arena for only $800+ million? By comparison, Rogers bought former SkyDome for a mere $25 million.

Scotiabank should be ashamed. They recently had a bit of extra change overflowing their vaults from all those service charges to customers so they decided to invest it in marketing. They’ve purchased the rights to have the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and Raptors basketball team, renamed Scotiabank Arena. I find this business decision to be an appallingly poor use of nearly a billion dollars. Let’s face it. We have five banks in Canada and because of excellent federal regulation our banks are strong and all five pretty much play on a level field. One’s as good as the next and they’re all pretty good. They pay reasonable dividends to investors and are less prone to financially raping their customers with dodgy lending schemes than the greedy American financial institutions. Therefore, how much do they need to market to a captive audience? To the tune of more than $800 million?

Off to a hockey game at Scotiabank Arena.

As a retired Corporate Marketing Manager I totally understand the merits of marketing and attaching your corporate name to a high-profile sports venue. Let’s leave that to the McDonald’s, the Coca-Cola’s and other brands like the beer companies who have a stake in the business. In the case of Scotiabank, their name on the Air Canada Centre would be flaunted in the faces of hundreds of thousands of commuters and visitors who drive past the old hangar on the Gardiner Expressway every day. Their head office tower in downtown Toronto with the reflective windows containing real gold is already an icon on the Toronto skyline. Do banks really need to promote to a captive audience with the kind of exposure offered by a sports and concert facility?

Imagine what else Scotiabank could have done with such an enormous amount of money if they put it to better use within the communities where they sell mortgages, finance car loans and invest our life savings. Have they ever considered a network of shelters for victims of domestic violence and homelessness? Scotiabank Shelters. Or what about investing in after school programs in economically and socially challenged neighbourhoods? Scotiabank Investing in Lives  programs. Many young people go to school hungry every day. Scotiabank Healthy School Meals. A large segment of our population is financially illiterate and have no hope of climbing out of the poverty and/or debt cycle. Perhaps support for education, mentoring and interning in financial institutions for young people? Scotiabank Banks on Futures.

Just imagine . . . Scotiabank Cancer Treatment Centre emblazoned on the front of the building.

More significantly, what about emblazoning the Scotiabank logo on a dedicated new cancer treatment facility? One billion dollars would fund one heck of a fine building. It could even include accommodation for family of out-of-town patients affected by onerous accommodation and parking costs at Toronto Hospitals—something like Ronald McDonald House for families of adult patients. Or they could build smaller facilities in rural communities that don’t have access to local treatment centres. I found Scotiabank’s choice of allocating nearly one billion dollars to having their name attached to a sports venue that charges hundreds and even thousands of dollars for tickets to events affordable by only the elite to be shameful and inappropriate. Banks have a greater corporate responsibility to serving their community and Scotiabank could have done so much more. It’s just wrong. Or am I?

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Is there really a Santa Claus?

Boomer gals looked to Helen Gurley Brown for divine guidance in the sixties.

Every boomer gal worth her salt in the sixties read the best-seller Sex and The Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. Our lives were modeled around the latest COSMO decrees as our entire generation was creating a new world order. We also read Coffee, Tea or Me? about two high-flying stewardesses (as they were called in ancient times) living the swinging single life. There was even a movie and television series made of the book. We aspired to live exciting lives as modern gals enjoying beginning careers and the freedom of the sexual revolution—just like Helen Gurley Brown, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones. Reading about Trudy and Rachel’s escapades as they flew the friendly skies in search of adventure was enough to make this boomer high-tail it to an Air Canada recruiting (cattle) call in their old Toronto head office on Bloor Street in 1971. Although I was turned down, a friend of mine was deemed to have the requisite ‘sex appeal’ and was hired. Fortunately, my life eventually turned out OK despite the rejection by Air Canada.

Last week, to my everlasting horror, I learned that Trudy and Rachel were totally fictional characters created by ghost writer Donald Bain. I thought the original Coffee, Tea or Me book was non-fiction. It was Bain’s obituary in the newspaper that alerted me to the fact my role models were neither real nor particularly authorly. Bain, who was an airline publicist and pilot himself, based the book on stories from conversations with a couple of Eastern Airline flight attendants, but they were inspiration only. Donald Bain, who was eighty-two years old when he passed away also authored all forty-six of the Murder She Wrote mystery novels, which were turned into the popular television series starring Jessica Fletcher, his alter-ego played by Angela Lansbury. He’s what is known in the biz as a ghost writer. We all know they exist and routinely pen autobiographies for semi-literate celebs and famous people who lack the wherewithal to compose their own story. Mr. Bain was so prolific writing for others, that it was fifty years before he finally had a book published under his own name. At least HGB wrote her own material so I’m somewhat mollified.

Imagine my shock when a major totem of my swinging sixties days suddenly came crashing down. The problem this bit of information has created is profound. It has undermined my entire belief system. For fifty years I actually thought Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones were real people, role models I could aspire to. I’m now considering the possibility that there might be further deception in what I read on a daily basis. What if those long-ago stunning magazine shots of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy had been air-brushed and they really weren’t that drop-dead gorgeous? Was I bowing down to false idols? Perhaps Resdan really didn’t cure dandruff and Bonne Belle’s 1006 Lotion wasn’t the solution to my acne problems? Here are some other sixties’ assumptions that have been called into question as a result of that bit of revealing news about Coffee, Tea or Me:

  • “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”
  • Men prefer to marry virgins.
  • Your engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ wages of your beloved (I rather liked this one although it meant he’d be so far in hock you’d never be able to scrape together the down payment on a house.)
  • A woman’s place is in the home.
  • Marriage is forever.
  • Smoking makes you look sexy.

The end of innocence

The possibilities and implications of those decisions based on standard assumptions in the sixties have influenced my entire life. Where would I be today if Air Canada had deemed me sexy enough to hire? Are my wrinkles now the result of applying tank trucks full of harsh astringent to my face to combat acne fifty years ago? Boomer gals were raised to do as we were told, not question authority and to be patient; the rewards will come to those who are deserving. We have all since learned those premises are total bull crap. I know for sure that being a good girl who doesn’t rock the boat in business did not serve me well. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a whole lot more assertive in insisting on equal pay and recognition for work performed. I did well enough, but I could have done better if I’d cast aside so many of those standards of behaviour baby boomer gals were raised with. Self-promotion, equal rights, speaking up were issues we were just starting to dip our toes into. By the time we realized these traits were assets in business not liabilities, we were often past our career prime and nearing retirement. We got the ball rolling but there’s still a lot of work to do. You’re welcome, Xers, Y’s and millennials who think feminism is passé.

Some things never change. Buyer beware.

The upshot of this experience is that I’m going to be a lot more discriminating about everything I read and am told from now on. From now on I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about the claims made by the cosmetics companies about the efficacy of their ‘anti-aging’ potions. It’s entirely possible they could be selling me a bill of goods. A shocking prospect to consider. Do you suppose food conglomerates are not being totally honest with us as well? Can I really lose weight and stay regular on fat-free yogurt? We learned too late that chewing Dentyne gum does not replace brushing. The ramifications of questioning all those early assumptions are mind-boggling.

My brain’s straining from the implications of the simple discovery that a book I read in sixties and considered to be non-fiction was in fact a total fabrication. I’ve always put all my faith in media being unbiased, just like in the days of Walter Cronkite. Now I’m forced to consider that my entire value system is flawed and now I’m too old to ‘be anything I want to be’. I should have clued in when Air Canada didn’t think so and chose to reject me. Next thing you know someone will be trying to tell me there’s no Santa Claus. If that proves to be another deception, then that definitely proves there’s no advantage in being a good girl. It’s taken me awhile to catch on but from now on, I’m my own boss living by my own rules. It’s about time.

To order Coffee, Tea or Me from Amazon click here.

To order Sex and the Single Girl from Amazon click here.

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What a difference a scale makes

Mother’s little helper. Wish I’d bought one of these little scales years ago.

Sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time in an attempt to save money when spending the money in the first place would save us a great deal of time. Such was the case in my recent purchase of a kitchen scale—one of those nifty little digital jobs for weighing food items in recipes. In more than fifty years of doing my own cooking and baking, I could never see the value in investing in a scale. I had a large supply of measuring cups, spoons, scoops and various gadgets that allowed me to calculate the correct quantity of flour, sugar or other ingredients. And, yes, many times I also employed a pocket calculator to convert imperial to metric or vice versa.

The other day I dug out my nearly one-hundred-year-old recipe for dark Christmas fruitcake. My mother would traditionally make it every year while Dad was away deer hunting in early November so it would have about six weeks to season and ripen in time for Christmas. When she got beyond making it herself, I would go and stay with her for the week Dad was away and make it myself in her kitchen. The first time I couldn’t find a bowl big enough to contain all the ingredients so I had to wash out a cooler, dump all the ingredients in and do the mixing with my hands.

My ancient recipe for Christmas cake called for one jar of red cherries and one jar of green cherries. How much do you reckon that is?

The difficulties associated with working with such an old recipe include interpreting quantities of the listed ingredients. The recipe originally came to my mother in the fifties from a girlhood friend of hers who got it from her aunt who, with her husband owned the dairy in our small town. It called for one jar of red cherries and one jar of green cherries but gave no indication of what size the jar should be. I could take a guess at around twelve ounces each but that brought up another problem. The ingredients in the store today are now labelled in odd metric sizes like 375 g or 2 kg which always presents nearly insurmountable problems for someone like me with zero aptitude for math and conversions. Despite forty-plus years since Canada’s conversion to the metric system, I’m still thoroughly and utterly imperial. When I pass on I’ll be buried in a six-foot coffin and dropped into a six-foot pit. No metrics involved. When I buy a Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey, don’t ask me to do a quick mental calculation to convert the size from kilograms to pounds. I can’t do it, so I just eyeball the size and hope for the best. Usually I cook two turkeys just to be on the safe side and enjoy the bounty of the leftovers.

The sheet of paper with the old Christmas cake recipe on it has numerous calculations scribbled on the side of the page after my attempts to nail down the quantities in language I can understand but I’m never confident I get it right. This year, after all this time, I picked up a little President’s Choice digital scale (less than $30.00) with my groceries and I can’t begin to tell you how much I love it. And it works in imperial as well as metric. I simply put the empty bowl on the scale, hit zero then add the raisins or whatever until it shows the two pounds, one-quarter pound or whatever quantity is needed of nuts, currants or glazed fruit. No calculator, no Google, no brains required. Right up my alley. I don’t know why I waited so long. Just think of the painful hours I could have eliminated with my pocket calculator or Googling conversation charts over the years trying to adapt recipes to something I could understand. My mother would be proud. If you don’t already have a little digital countertop scale, pick one up. It’s a good investment by anyone’s measure. Believe me.

Footnote: The one scale I’ve never been able to find is something to measure butter when the wrapper has been cut away. This is further complicated by the fact that many American recipes call for one stick or two sticks of butter and in Canada butter is sold in a solid pound, unless you want to pay extra for ‘sticks’. At one time I saved the little strip along the closing flap from a Tenderflake lard package but lost it and now that I never make anything requiring lard, I’m lost without that little cardboard measuring strip. I think I’m going to have to create my own, get it laminated and put it on Etsy. I’m bound to make a fortune. Or I could simply buy a pound of lard, save the measuring strip and call it a day.

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