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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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Someone has some ‘splainin’ to do

Could someone please tell me why printer ink cartridges are so expensive? I went to Staples today to get new replacement cartridges for both our printers and the bill came to $232.14. It would have been cheaper to buy two new printers.  And, the manufacturers threaten to void our warranty if we don’t use brand name replacement cartridges. The original cost of the printer probably justifies buying off-market cartridges, making the warranty issue moot. With colour printers now available for less than $100.00 are they amortizing the cost of the printer into the cost of the toner? It’s a shameful scam right up there with the cost of Ontario Hydro/Alectra/OPG or whatever they call themselves these days.

Once upon a time colour printers cost the equivalent of week-long vacation in the tropics. As with all evolving technology however, manufacturing efficiencies soon brought the price down to a level any household could afford—until you run out of toner. When I look back on my working days, our department alone printed thousands of colour pages each month for proposals, presentations and reports. The monthly cost of toner for that volume of work would probably offset the national debt of Greece. Thank goodness I wasn’t paying the bills then. Although I could have been more cognizant of its effect on my profit sharing.

I thought there were laws against price-fixing. The cost of restocking my printer cartridges has seriously jeopardized my budget for wine this week and by anyone’s standard, that’s cause for alarm. While the printer cartridges last just slightly longer, they’re not nearly as satisfying. What is it about barely a thimble-full of coloured powder in an ink cartridge that warrants such usurious prices? How is it any different from the pressed blue power pigment in my eye shadow compact, which if I shop at Walmart is only $1.99? If anyone has the answer, I’d be grateful to know.

Hewlett-Packard’s printer ink runs at a premium cost of $4,285 per litre.

That exceeds the cost of Channel No. 5

 

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David Sedaris’s humour has a raunchy edge

The brilliance of David Sedaris’s writing is his ability to make it look so effortless. Having read most of his books over the past few years, I’m always amazed at how he can take the most seemingly ordinary situation and turn it into something hysterically funny. It’s a skill shared by Jerry Seinfeld—although Sedaris is raunchier. He’s a master of understatement and innocent observation. Growing up in a completely normal North Carolina family that included five siblings (one brother and four sisters) he’s versatile and wonderfully flawed. Sedaris has parlayed his weaknesses and ordinariness (is there such a word?) into a lucrative career as an author and humourist.

In his latest book, Theft By Finding Dairies 1977-2002, David Sedaris edits twenty-five years of entries from his personal diaries into manageable bite-sized excerpts. A large part of his material is drawn from his own experiences doing mundane jobs and his encounters with the peculiar people who pass through his daily life. With a history that includes drug and alcohol abuse, working at a variety of odd jobs including as a painter (not the artistic kind), Santa’s elf at Macy’s in New York, a teacher and part-time cleaning ‘lady’, Sedaris has lived a colourful and varied life. An aficionado of IHOP, he shares numerous stories from years of taking his meals at the famous pancake chain.

Eventually Sedaris met his partner Hugh, got his life together and now owns homes in London, Paris and New York thanks to his successful writing and speaking career. When Hugh bought him his first laptop, it required some adjustment to get used to the modern technology. “On a typewriter, when you run out of things to say, you get up and clean the bathtub. On a computer, you scroll down your list of fonts or make little boxes”. Who among us hasn’t wasted hours playing with useless functions on our laptop or personal devices. It’s those simple observations we can all relate to that make Sedaris’s writing so enjoyable. Fortunately he got the hang of his laptop and provides hours of reading for us to enjoy. I can’t say this is his best book, but it’s certainly fun to read. David Sedaris’s writing is not everyone’s taste but I read everything by him that I can get my hands on. He makes it look so easy and always puts a smile on my face. That’s good enough for me.

To order a book by David Sedaris from Amazon.com, click on book cover below:

 

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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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