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Katherine

Here’s what Kim’s nude selfie really revealed.

IMG_20160325_224331Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie on Twitter a few weeks ago. Bette Midler saw it and tweeted: If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.

I thought that was pretty clever. Still, it heralded a torrent of reactions. Some criticized Kim, others defended her. International Women’s Day was brought into the subject. Finally Miley Cyrus in her eloquent way whined, “Stop all the cu**tiness”. In an intriguing lack of self-awareness, I think she may have also called everyone tacky.

Eventually the notion of body and slut shaming came up, and finally the shamers were shamed for shaming (isn’t anyone allowed an opinion anymore?).

Here’s the thing, if you post a nude selfie on Twitter to 41.9 million followers, you’ll get a reaction. If you’re using your head, even a little, you’d expect some good and some bad ones. If one is okay, then the other should be too.

More revealing – and provocative – was how this fiasco exposed the complex, often conflicted, relationship we have with our bodies and nudity. Some are empowered by it, others embarrassed. Others feel defenseless.

A few years ago, I considered going to a clothing optional spa. Media and random conversations over the years made me vaguely familiar with the concept. I also associated it to the fun of skinny-dipping as a kid. More importantly, I was at a stage where I had shed my past and changed the direction of my future. It was a purifying time. Somehow, going to a clothing optional spa aligned perfectly. After a lot of research, I chose Living Waters Spa just outside of Palm Springs – the perfect place for a first timer (going by myself I might add!).

It was eye opening to say the least. I arrived at a small, relaxing resort with mineral water pools and beautiful palm trees run by a welcoming couple. There weren’t a lot of people. It was quiet and natural in the truest sense. Despite being a professional writer for nearly 20 years, I truly can’t find the words to express how freeing and uplifting the experience was. Even though a bikini is just two strips of clothing, it’s like wearing a parka next to pure nakedness. What’s more, there was no judgment. I know this because I put my own away. It just wasn’t the place for it.

So, does nudity embarrass me? In that context, it didn’t. Does it empower me? In that context, it left me feeling great – that’s a powerful feeling. Does nudity make me feel vulnerable? Again, in that context, I felt safe, secure and natural in every sense.

However, when I consider nudity in the context of my gender as a whole, and the history of our bodies, my opinion toward nudity shifts dramatically. Our nude bodies have historically been associated to sexuality. For those with bodies that were attractive according to cultural trends, whatever power we gained from that sex appeal was diminished through objectification.

And that’s the least of it.

As women, our bodies have experienced more derogatory and explicit terminology, harassment and violation than men could ever imagine (this is comparative and not meant to diminish the horrors that men have also experienced). In addition, our intellectual and professional value has been denigrated to the point that we aren’t even entitled to the same wages – for the same work – as our male counterparts.

In the context of our gender’s history, nudity has not been our friend. So, with all this, what do I make of Kim’s selfie? She’s an exhibitionist. It’s natural for someone with her tendencies to feel empowered by nudity that’s publicly staged. It’s also okay. But do I – someone who’s enjoyed public nudity herself – support it? Not for second. Two very separate topics have been linked together by this debacle. So let me be clear:

I have no issue with what women do with their bodies. I do take issue with what celebrities do with their celebrity.

I think Kim’s selfie was outrageously irresponsible. It shows an egregious disregard and/or ignorance for both 1) the young women she influences and 2) the potential for life-altering danger she poses to them by her example. I’m not suggesting that because girls worship her that she, in turn, owes them. I am, however, suggesting that anyone so cavalier with all that influence is nothing but a waste of skin.

Kim is surrounded by bodyguards. She’d be safe if she walked nude along Hollywood Boulevard. Did the plight of Amanda Todd escape her? If not then did the plight of Jesse Logan escape her? Or, let’s see, what about the plight of Hope Sitwell? I can appreciate that she likes to make news, but does she ever read it?

I don’t usually follow celebrities, but the story of this selfie and the backlash for both supporters and non-supporters was compelling given the conflict it revealed within our gender. We do, in fact, have a right to do as we wish with our bodies. What’s more, celebrities have a right to do as they wish with their celebrity. But we also have a right to find it objectionable.

The real beauty in all of this came from the wisest female of all, actor and model, Chloe Grace Moretz – who also happens to be just nineteen years old. Still a teenager with a fledging career, she had the courage and maturity to respond to Kim’s nudity with the following:

I truly hope you realize how important setting goals are for young women, teaching them we have so much more to offer than just our bodies.

I’m so impressed and heartened to see so vocal a female coming up behind us and I look forward to witnessing her positive effect.

By the way, do you know how Kim responded to her? With this: “Let’s all welcome @ChloeGMoretz to twitter, since no one knows who she is. Your nylon cover is cute boo.” Good comeback Kim. You’re not just an ass. You’re a dumb ass.

I’d love to hear other opinions on this. It’s a very controversial subject for our gender. Dialogue and debate could help us arrive at a healthy point of view.

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Grey hair. Strokes. And, the link between them.

IMG_0662 (1)

The dramatic effect of grey on middle-aged women.

The other day I ran into a neighbor who 1) saw me 2) gasped 3) stared 4) blurted, “Your hair!” then 5) stared some more. Silence does not begin to describe a message quite so loud.

“I chopped it all off”, I said laughingly, ”It’s okay not to like it, you know.”

“No, the cut’s cute”, she said, “but… the gray!”

I didn’t know what I took issue with more: that I’d gone from long, straight brunette hair to a short messy crop and all she could say was “but the grey”, or the fact that I had paid several hundred dollars for what were meant to be streaks of lavender locks intermingled with (said) brown.

Truthfully both.

However, for the purpose of this blog, I’ll stick with the fact that grey hair (which, again, not to be picky – was a prrreeeetttty fine shade of lavender) would cause a stroke (face dropping, difficulty speaking)  in a woman who, like me, is middle-aged.

What’s up with that?

Granted, this is a woman who’s horrified of aging. She maintains her girlish figure by throwing up food. She dyes her roots before they even peek over her cranium. She also injects Botox into her forehead with all the overcompensation of an introvert who injects nervous laughter into a conversation.

Yet, even though she’s immeasurably high on the crazy meter of Gerontophobia (love new words!), she’s not alone. How many of us resist turning grey because it will…dare I say it…age us?

Why is that so bad? When did this happen? How come it’s hip to have silver hair in your 20’s, but old when you’re over 40? Why is old looking equivalent to bad looking? Why is grey more acceptable on men than on women?

Why can’t women age with pride and acceptance from within – and out?

So many questions. So many objections.

I know two women who actually asked their husbands’ permission to go grey. I understand wanting a man’s opinion. I myself tried asking a gay male friend about a hair style I was considering . His answer? A long pause and, “You know I’m not that kind of gay, right?”

Right.

Anyway, I can appreciate asking a man, especially your romantic partner, about whether or not he thinks a certain look has sex appeal. But to ask permission and, specifically, to ask permission to be your natural self?

Geez.

The other day I was at the hair salon getting my lavender hair fixed (okay, fine, maybe it did look grey) when I overheard a middle aged stylist telling his elderly client that her white hair was aging her. Actually it wasn’t. The fact that she was in her 70’s aged her and that’s okay.

Age is okay. The signs of aging are okay. There are some gorgeous greys out there, as well as stunning whites. They won’t age you. What will age you is society’s perception of age, which frankly, is getting old.

Honestly, I myself am not ready for grey yet. I’m not ready for the dignity and maturity – or ageism – that comes with. I love playing with my hair and realized lately that I’ve missed the days where I’d chop, streak, spike and have fun with it. I’m probably too old to being doing this. That is, according to society. According to me, I’m old enough to do what I want.

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Dear HuffPost, when did the “B” word become okay?

Enough bitching about Jennifer Lawrence already.

As an avid consumer of social media, I saw the recent Jennifer Lawrence scandal go viral. At issue was her behaviour toward a reporter following the Golden Globes. What made mass rounds was a seconds long clip taken out of the context from what was, in fact, a 6 minute press conference. At the gathering, Lawrence’s dry tone had been firmly and graciously set, not to mention well-received by the audience (listen to the laughter). Even if you did view the comment from a negative perspective, let’s face it – at worst, she was peevish.

I was choked up that this outspoken, elegant young woman – who so thoughtfully and courageously crafted a letter about Hollywood’s wage gap between genders – would be blasted for nothing more than voicing an annoyance.

Moreover, she delivered it with the same deadpan tone and humour, she’d been using throughout the entire conference. And, while I’m not a fan of colloquial terms, her use of “bro” also kept it lighthearted. In fact, she was harmless enough that the reporter himself laughed heartily. He then asked her another question, which she answered with sincerity.

Keep in mind, the man had his cell phone up while asking her questions. Instead, she wanted him to speak to her directly to her.  Not an unreasonable request and not one delivered in any way that deserves backlash.

But backlash there was.

Who’s being harsh?

That one 52-second clip garnered all kinds of criticism. She’s been called rude, harsh, scolding. Media headlines have pondered “did Jennifer Lawrence go to far”. According to one gossip columnist  (who wasn’t there to witness it) Lawrence “made fun of the way he spoke, his cadence. That’s what made it so uncomfortable, the scolding and derision disguised as teasing.

Um…ooookay…perhaps she hadn’t seen the video either because there was no “making fun of the way he spoke”. That’s pure fabrication.

Moving on…

Her “roasting of a reporter”, “slamming of a reporter” and “telling off of a reporter” also made international news. The UK’s Daily Mail called it an “outburst”. What’s shocking is, if  you go back over old reports, they labelled Mel Gibson’s massive meltdown as an anti-semitic “rant”.  In other words, using descriptors that essentially make both behaviours comparable.

Even Anne Hathaway was criticized for running to Jennifer’s defense.

Oh.My.God.

In a week where David Bowie, Allan Rickman, Glenn Frey, and Celine Dion’s husband and brother died – this is the news covered by entertainment media?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Jennifer Lawrence, the celebrity. I’m defending the female. This is my point of contention.

PuffPost’s derogatory language

I was already annoyed about the hype. To my mind, this nonsense wouldn’t have made news had a man behaved the same way. In fact, if it made news at all in that case, I suspect it would have been positively touted as a disarming example of how to handle an irksome reporter. I also don’t think that it would have made news if an older female celebrity had acted the same way. Too late to train the Helen Mirrens of this world. Come to think of it, how great would it have been had some of our more established female celebrities run to her defense?

Here’s what really angered me though – I saw a headline on Huffington Post that read: Stop Praising Jennifer Lawrence for being a B*tch.

Wow.

When did it become alright for mainstream media to boldly and unapologetically use derogatory language toward women – or any group for that matter? The B word may be culturally popular, but it’s still a pejorative. How is this okay? Will the N word become popular? Ummmm probably not. What about the C word? Maybe, I mean, it’s not racist.

Have we become so accustomed to this slur that we’ve lost our outrage?

It was bad enough that Jennifer’s unremarkable behavior made news, but that a media giant would approve the use of that kind of language floored me. “Puffpiece” Post is not so puff when you consider its vast audience and cultural influence. One might argue that the media doesn’t start trends, it leverages them. Perhaps that’s true. But when a cultural trend is picked up by the media, it starts to solidify. From there, a powerful cycle of reciprocity begins.

Does Arianna Huffington really approve of this?

Also, if you have to use * to get it by an editor then consider another word. How does * change the meaning? After all, it’s meaning that’s at issue, not the spelling of the word.

Did you know that there was a show on ABC called “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 C”? It had originally spelled out the entire word, but ABC censored it and the —- was made. Again, how is removing the vowels, but keeping the meaning, any better?  Who’s coming up with these “alternatives”.

Holy sh-t!

I have one friend who I playfully use the B word on and this exchange dates back years. It’s between us. Otherwise, it’s a word I use cautiously and certainly wouldn’t use in my writing. Given how it’s actually entered mainstream media and is boldly blasted across a headline, I hope we all become a little more reticent and more protective of our right to respect.

The outrageously unfair Jennifer Lawrence debacle leaves me with three commitments to myself:

  1. I’ll be more vigilant about the derogatory language that blatantly disregards my gender
  2. I’ll have a heightened sensitivity to a woman’s right to express displeasure or a preference
  3. In the case of Jennifer Lawrence, I’ll learn from her diplomacy. I like how she handled that reporter. He clearly meant no disrespect and she treated him accordingly. It was civil, congenial and handled with aplomb by both of them (though not the media!)

On a final note, congratulations to Anne Hathaway for speaking up. I’m impressed. I wish more female celebrities had come to Lawrence’s defense.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear.

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Karma is me.

IMG_0525They say  you get wiser with age. I’m not sure that wise best describes me. I’d lean more toward “lessons finally learned” and here are three of note: They’re about closure, clarity and Karma.

Closure doesn’t mean you get the last word.

Over the years, I’ve found myself in relationships that ended when I wasn’t ready. Some were professional. Others personal. All were over before I knew it. They felt unfinished. I still had pain to express, questions to ask and actions to defend.

I remember times when I’d replay the final scene in my mind – an exacting director incessantly shouting,  “Cut. Let’s try that again.” I’d fuss with the words. Change the protagonist and, finally, create the ending I wanted. That is – had I been given the opportunity for closure.

Then, one day, my notion of closure changed. Suddenly a whole new avenue of insight opened. Here’s what I realized:

When someone says it’s over, it’s over. It’s that simple. It’s that final.

As disempowering as that might be, it’s also empowering. To recognize what is, and what’s isn’t, within your control is freeing. It allows you to focus on reality and rebuilding. It’s been said that, when one door closes, another one opens. I don’t know if that’s true. If it is, yeah closure. For me though, grasping that closure doesn’t require a counterpoint, is positive and liberating enough.

Light casts shadows

Growing up, I had to handle difficulties that caused me to veer off course from what might be called a normal childhood. In doing so, I missed avenues usually laid before us as we mature.

In later years, I found myself crippled by a need to understand experiences I had undergone and the people who were part of them. I wanted to identify wrong turns I had taken – and why – so I could detour if I began turning toward the familiar again. Moving forward, I wanted to find avenues that would make both the journey positive and rewarding.

But it’s hard to find anything in the dark. I needed clarity.

So I explored my childhood. I know, I know, it’s not “au courant” to look back. Goal setting, forward thinking and Anthony Robbins all have their place. However, when your soul is a tangled mess of wrong turns along the only roads you thought existed –  and you’re at risk of getting lost forever in the maze – then sometimes going back to the beginning is the best way to get to a better place.

So I did. I’m glad for it. Wrongs were righted. Questions were answered. I was enlightened. The darkness lifted. I could look ahead and see a brighter landscape.

There’s just one thing with clarity – light casts shadows.

Suddenly the brightest memories and people in my life began to dim, some slightly, some deeply. Yet, some not at all. Those were the keepers!

Light also creates contrasts. I began to compare people, experiences, stations in life. It too was painful. But it helped me set standards and define boundaries.

All to say, finding the truth can change how you see everything. So be prepared for the full spectrum.

Karma starts…3…2…1…now

I was dating a man some years ago who actually broke up with me via email. I’ve since heard this is common, as are text breakups. However, I’m not 20. To me, this isn’t common. It’s cowardly.

A friend of mine was floored. She thought I was so much better than him in the first place (female friends are the best!). After spewing a side-splitting diatribe, she said “he’ll get his karma.”

And that’s when it hit me – Karma was already at play.

In popular usage (admittedly, I’m simplifying a rich spiritual belief),  Karma means what goes around will come around. Do good and good will come to you. Do bad and bad will come to you.

But I don’t think it “will”. I think Karma is more immediate than that. Here’s why – if you’re someone who does wrong without basic regard for others, then you’re a dishonourable person. You’re someone I’d never respect and, given my worth (or, rather, self-worth), that’s Karma right there.

I’ve realized that the people who’ve hurt me the most are the people I think the least of – and that’s Karma. That I would prefer to me to them – that’s Karma. That they’d never again be invited into my life – again, Karma.

The reverse is true too – if you’re someone wonderful, then you get me love, respect and loyalty in return. That’s Karma.

So there you have it, when it comes to people’s actions toward me, Karma is immediate and me.

Final words

I mentioned early on that I wasn’t sure where I’d go with this blog. Because it’s a personal one, I have an open field. That means, I can bore you with more of these wisdoms (you’ve been warned). It also means that you’re welcome to provide me suggestions and contributions. The blog is for all of us. My hope is to create a community of women who can share opinions, information and insights.

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Think I’m angry now? Ask me if I’m menopausal.

IMG_0498The link between hormones and homicide.

It’s been a long time since anyone asked if I was PMS when I’ve shown anger.  When I was younger, people occasionally had the nerve.

Thankfully, as I get older, I’ve never had anyone suggest that my anger is the result of menopause. Then again, I’m pretty sure that’s due to the “not so secret” link between the question, “Are you menopausal” and acts of homicide. I doubt that being older has somehow afforded me the right to display a normal range of human emotions.

It has, however, given me the confidence to do so.

In fact, the other day I was on the phone with a doctor who had left my mother in a hospital bed with no instructions to the nurses regarding her care, meds or next steps. Though my tone was even and measured, I was angry.

“I understand your frustration”, said the doctor. I corrected him and said I’m not frustrated, I’m angry. The conversation progressed and again he said, “I understand your frustration”.  Again, I corrected him and said, “I’m not frustrated, I’m angry”.

On yet another occasion, he said “I get that you’re frustrated”.  “Angry”, I said, “What I am is angry”.

He laughed uncomfortably. It was his most honest reaction.

I believe men are uncomfortable with women’s anger. They try to temper it with words that package it up more manageably, like  “I get your frustration”. They also try to understand it by linking it to hormones – a sound medical cause for what they deem is irrational behaviour.

More significantly, I think women are uncomfortable with women’s anger. We too assign it to hormones. We too diminish it, even deny it, with words like “frustrated” , “upset” and “bothered”.

Uh…okay this is beginning to bother me.

Interesting note: I searched for “women and anger”. Google autofilled my query with “women’s hormones and anger”.

Another interesting note: According to a study by Arizona State University on jury deliberation, men can successfully use anger to influence others, but women lose influence when they allow anger into an argument. I’m not suggesting that this one study and its methods are irrefutable. Still, it’s intriguing.

I watched Alanis Morisette at this year’s AMA’s and was reminded of her rise to fame after Jagged Little Pill. There were so many jabs and jokes about her anger at that time. I made some myself.

I also recall being at a sound studio to produce a radio spot I had written when the engineer stopped everything to play me a funny spoof ad about angry women. It was sung to the tune of “You Oughta Know”.

That song was even labelled as a revenge number yet none of the lyrics speak to that. Rather, they’re angry – pure, pained anger at being dumped and quickly replaced. It was unapologetic and honest. It was healthy and normal. Who hasn’t felt that betrayal and hurt? Yet, I remember the backlash, one to which even I added, and for which I’m sorry.

No. Thank you Alanis for your honesty.

I’ve changed my tune since then. Just a decade or so later, I find myself far less apologetic for my anger, unless of course it – or its manifestation – has been inappropriate.

910a26354679143c523c4129d3820f77Truly, as I age, I have a wider breadth of experience, more discerning judgement, greater critical thinking and a freaking awesome command of language (couldn’t help myself!).

I think women have a lot of work to do when it comes to evaluating whether or not their anger is fair. I believe (this is an opinion-based blog) that we doubt and undermine our right to this emotion too often. I know I have in the past. I also know a lot of other women with the same conflict.

I have a friend who’s younger than me. This friend is, and always has been, one of the nicest people you could ever meet. We used to work together in a highly political and stressful environment. She rarely lost her temper. When she did, it was usually justified.

In addition, she never raised her voice or displayed the emotion in an unprofessional way.

Yet, on those rare occasions of anger, she’d feel so insecure and guilty, that she’d have pull me aside to talk it out. Even when I identified very rational points on which she could appreciate just how righteous her emotions were, it would still take an inordinate amount of convincing.

The older she gets, the more comfortable she is with her right to get angry.  She even gets mad at me now. She called me a cow a few years ago and still refuses to take it back (soooo off my Christmas card list!).

Personally, I felt very empowered when speaking to that doctor. I knew my tone was strong, but rational. I knew my anger evident, but justified. I felt good when I didn’t allow him to tone it down for his own comfort. I honored my feelings and my right to them.

I can honestly say that I’m not angrier as I grow older. I just show it more. For that reason, I’m actually less angry and have stronger, more genuine relationships with others as a result – including the all-important relationship with myself.

Why temper anger?

Over the years, I’ve learned that appropriate, proportionate anger has purpose.  It rights wrongs. It defines boundaries. It establishes confidence, even dominance when necessary.  It creates positive change.  In short, it can be constructive.

So why temper it?

From now on, I’m making a commitment to myself and other women to evaluate anger fairly. I’ll not get “turned off” when a woman forms a strong opinion, gets outraged, or raises her voice when appropriate. I won’t undercut myself or others when it comes to this constructive and important emotion.

What about you? How’s your relationship with anger? Does it inspire self-doubt and guilt? When you see anger in other women, does it turn you off even when it’s appropriate?

Feel free to express your thoughts. I’m hoping we can create a community of women who share their opinions, advice and information that can help us be truer to ourselves and our gender.

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Muffin top, middle age spread and meltdowns.

The other day, I was out with my 30-something friend. Julie. and lamented that I have middle-age spread.

“You have what?”, she asked.

“Middle-age spread”, I answered.

“What’s that?”, she asked.

“Middle-age spread”, I answered.

“What’s that?”, she asked again.

“Middle. Age. Spread.” I said at greater volume, slower speed and just the right amount of sarcasm.

“I. Heard. You. “, she said right back, “I just don’t know what it is”.

Ouch.

Once  I described it, she redeemed herself briefly by saying, “Well, at least I know what muffin top is”. Then she added, “Because I remember you freaking out at yours”.

(Seriously I need new friends)

Case of the muffin top meltdown

It’s true. I did freak out and it was memorable. I was on my way to meet her that day when, passing a mirror on my way out, I noticed “something” hanging over the top of my pants. Obviously the pants were the problem. So I changed. As it happened, the pants I changed into were problematic as well. Three more pairs of pants and untold numbers of tops later, I realized my clothes were fine. The problem was that my muscles had fallen and couldn’t get up…ever.

I remember reading that aging was liberating. You became stronger, more sure. You swore more and said what was on your mind. You became more radical, less insecure and more vibrant. Firm skin was replaced by solid self-belief. You were mature and free.

Right.

Having had a lithe, athletic body my whole life, I didn’t feel liberated in the least. I felt pressured. I felt fat. I felt not ready. I was determined to get rid of that muffin top. Perhaps all those older liberated women had given up. Perhaps, in the words of Janis Joplin, they had “nothing left to lose”.

Me? I still had a youthful body to maintain. I was going exercise more, eat less and forego the wine.

It didn’t work. I’ve always been fairly disciplined with regard to exercise. I don’t eat meat. I hardly know how to cook. I’m not a huge fan of desserts. Nor do I drink a lot of wine (okay fine, but not enough to get fat on).

quote-people-often-say-that-beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-and-i-say-that-the-most-liberating-salma-hayek-81491To add restrictions on an already pretty modest lifestyle in terms of indulgences was not the answer.

Instead, I gave up, but in a good way.

I began to accept. I began to look at myself, my lifestyle and my choices as a whole.

Rather than fuss over my wrinkles, softening skin, extra weight and my tiresome vanity, I took complete stock of myself. I looked at my heart, my talents, my spirit, my courage and my intellect, and then began to measure myself by my standards. I realized that I’m kinda “all that”, you know?

It also occurred to me that I’d never, but ever, include anyone in my circle if they critiqued me over signs of aging.

Somewhere between my muffin top meltdown and expanding waistline, I realized I didn’t have to fight to maintain my youth. In fact, there was nothing I had to fight for. It’s not that freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Freedom’s another word for realizing you have everything you need.

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When did Mom become a four letter word?

Every morning I used to walk by the second cutest cat ever (mine was the first, but you probably guessed that). I’d stop, speak gently to her and send loving blinks. She was a skittish cat. Still, though she initially ran away, she began to sit sweetly and blink back at me.

One day, a man who lived in the area, saw this exchange and was floored, “She never does that. She always runs away”, he said, “you must have a mother-like quality”.

The second he said that, his face registered panic, his eyes grew big with fear, and he quickly blurted,  “I don’t mean that in a bad way”.

Bad way? When did having a nurturing quality become bad? When did calling someone mother-like become offensive – so offensive, in fact, that some poor schlep would fear retribution?

I’ve been called many things. “Mother-like” is not one of them. Those who know me might say it was inaccurate…okay, fine, many who know me would say it was inaccurate, but still, it was a great compliment.

How could it be anything but?

Moms are our first love.

My grandfather used to say,”The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” It was a quote taken from a poem written in 1865 by William Ross Wallace that praises the role of mothers and the power they wield in shaping our world.

What happened to that celebration? What happened to that regard? When did soccer mom, mom jeans, stage mothers and mom mini vans – become parodies of women’s noble qualities and contributions.

When researching this blog I also discovered Tiger Moms (too strict) and Snowplow Moms (they ensure that nothing stands in the way of their child’s success). Even Super Moms, once defined as Moms with thriving careers, perfect children and positive attitudes, are now being shamed as harried failures.

And don’t get me started on the stereotypes of mothers-in-law and stepmothers. Not to mention the fact that a Daddy’s Girl is awesome, but a Momma’s Boy?

Oh come on, give Moms a break. Moms loved us first and gave us our first home, our first sanctuary.

The persecuted Mom.

I’m not entirely sure how society has come to this. To my mind (this is all opinion based), there was a time when we didn’t have media to pick up on differences and tendencies, then create trends from them that and, in their predominance, create a skewed perception of norms.

Instead, men and women had roles of equal importance. Men brought home the money and women brought up the children. Actually, women’s roles were more important.

Fast forward (admittedly a lot and simplifying a sociologically complex subject)  to a time when media went from print to radio to TV and had wider and wider reach.

What’s more, media was run primarily by men. This isn’t an anti-male jab, by the way. Given their years in business, men naturally held the biggest positions in media and owned businesses that fuelled ad dollars. This, I feel, resulted in shows and advertising that were heavily male influenced, as were the depictions of women in these shows.

Moms in particular.

For the longest time, Moms were chipper, stay-at-home ladies in heels. They moved into a working Mom phase where they (inexplicably) kept it all together while maintaining that “Mom” safety and wisdom. Moms were never especially young (most were around 40 years old), nor were they sexy.

However, most were very likeable.

I loved every TV Mom from Carol Brady to Claire Huxtable to Shirley Partridge to my very favorite ever, Lorelai Gilmore.

Now, however, we’re exposed to everything from Allison Janney’s self-centred recovering coke addict to Julia Bowen’s  basket case who’s entire body looks like it’s in a constant state of electrocution.Worse yet, we also have women like Mama June and Kris Jenner taking up a lot of TV time – thank you pop culture.

Curious about the causes, but serious about the solution.

Somewhere along the line I suspect a few things happened somewhat simultaneously (again I’m simplifying):

  1. Women began having a greater voice in, and to, the media. This resulted in a less sanitized version of mothers, but sadly, a more exaggerated one.
  2. Whether chipper or anxious and troubled, mothers have rarely been portrayed as sexual. They were the ones looking after children, after all.
  3. Women have been having children later in life so not only aren’t they sexy, they’re also not young, nor do they tend to be carefree and submissive.
  4. Youth and sexuality grew remarkably in value, and if you look at the expressions of young models, submission is hot.

So, over the years, young, sexy women have been celebrated, which in turn has set standards of appeal that Moms can rarely attain (not that they should!) – especially today’s Moms.

There are now more and more frazzled working women over 40 with children and teens in tow who have inordinate responsibilities.  It’s not sexy. It’s also not fair to expect that it would be.

Again, I’m not sure how Moms have become  fair game for disrespect and potshots. Is it because of a male dominated culture that celebrates youth and sexiness? Is it that women now have earning power and we’re  a threat to the power structure? Could it have absolutely nothing to do with men and we can’t use them as scapegoats for our lack of self-esteem?

Does it even matter how we’ve arrived here when what matters is making it stop?

I think we need to be aware of the unfair portrayals and take a more critical approach to how we perceive them and ourselves. For instance, is the Mom being portrayed on a sitcom actually a mess or is she justifiably having difficulty keeping it together?

The more aware we are, the better we’ll be at reframing the message these negative portrayals deliver, and the better we’ll be at preventing their destructive effect on our psyches. It’ll be better for men too. The next time a positive, well-meaning guy says “you’re Mom-like”, he might not fear the wrath of womankind.

Over 40 and undermined.

I spent my early life living in a French Canadian city. It was a wonderful place, but it had strict language laws. Billboards, posters, signs – all were in French. When there was English, the words were given significantly less prominence than their French equivalent.

When entering stores, restaurants, coffee shops and offices  – every greeting began with “Bonjour”, not “Hello”.This was the norm. It was all I knew. It had no negative impact on me  – that I was aware.

Then I moved and everything changed.

Suddenly I was in an environment where bus boards, billboards, store signs, traffic signs, posters, flyers, brochures, people from government workers to gelato servers  – all “spoke” me  and it felt good!

Actually, it felt great – I mattered!

Until then I hadn’t realized how damaging  “not being addressed” (or rather, being neglected) was to my self-esteem and spirit. It’s just not a healthy way to treat another human being.

Yoo hoo!

And yet…here we are.

Women over 40 face some degree of being overlooked every single day. By the time they’re in their 50’s, they  face it to a much larger degree and begin to feel its negative impact. Women over 60 start getting used to it, however dispiriting. Women over 70 and 80 don’t even notice anymore. Why would they? Years of neglect becomes their norm.

I was in line at Gap the other day. Four tills were open. There was a young couple at one. At each of the other tills, three middle aged women stood with purchases in hand.

And yet…

Behind each of these tills were four posters: a white girl, an Asian girl, a white boy and an African American boy – all in their 20’s.

So much for diversity. So much for connecting with your customers.

Gap isn’t the only culprit (to be fair, they used 63-year old Anjelica Huston in one of their ad campaigns, I just wished it had carried through to the store where I spend money, but alas). Even Lululemon, which brilliantly turned “hippy yoga” into a trend, ignores older women even though they make up a large portion of yoga enthusiasts.

I picked up “the” fall Vogue and saw one older model – Jessica Lang, perfectly photoshopped.

As usual, none of the ads catered to me. However, this year, I put the magazine right back down, turned on my runners, and left the store with my head high with defiant dignity (that’s right Vogue, you can charge over $100,000 for an page, but you’re not getting my $10…you’ve been soooo dissed)

All to say that a major demographic is overlooked on a daily basis in North America and by the very brands that take our money.

Dear brands: You pay attention, we pay money. Deal?

And yet…

According to an article Business Insider, women 45 years old spend $750 billion annually on clothes. If you look at this screen shot I took from the article, even though women in their 20’s figure most prominently on fashion ads, they actually don’t spend any more on clothes than women in their 70’s.

screen shot 2013-11-19 at 3.34.22 pm

What’s more, a recent article in Adweek says, “Worldwide, consumers over 50 spent more than $8 trillion in 2010; in 2020, that is projected to rise to $15 trillion.”

Read the uplifting article here.

So why aren’t over 40’s showing up in more ads? Why are so many brands happy to be paid by us even though they don’t pay us the slightest attention?

The good news is that some brands are beginning to recognize our worth – and they’re being rewarded for it.

When Celine used 80-year old author, Joan Didion, in its print campaigns, they went viral.

Other luxury brands like St. Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Kate Spade have followed suit. Even mid-income brands have joined in – from L’Oreal using Helen Mirren and Twiggy – to American Apparel featuring then-unknown 62-year old Jacky O’Shaughnessey in their campaigns.

We have a long way to go before using older models goes from “maverick” to mainstream. So, for my part, I’ll support those brands that represent me more often than those that don’t.

I’ll also keep noticing the inequity and pointing it out in this blog so that we can catch the neglect and hopefully become a bigger, stronger and more powerful voice in stopping it. Like the blog? Then like the Facebook page!

Connie Briton. Older, wise asser and that’s why we love her.

connieConnie Britton is an accomplished actress. At present, she’s a main character on Nashville. She’s also known for her roles in Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story.

She’s been nominated for several Emmies, a Golden Globe, as well as Critic’s Choice awards.

Besides her artistic achievements, she’s devoted her time to charity and humanitarian work both in the US and internationally. Last year, she was appointed as a Good Will Ambassador to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  She’s also a passionate supporter of women’s empowerment and health issues.

But do you know what she gets asked about most often? Her hair. There’s even a Twitter fan account dedicated to it because, well, that’s not crazy at all.

Hair tips over talent.

Due to my own odd mix of insecurity and defiance, I admit that I kind of like the fact that reporters and audiences still find something attractive about this 48-year old female (and why shouldn’t they!).

What I don’t like, however, is how focused they are on that one shallow and diminishing attribute when there are so many more substantial ones on which they can concentrate.

Clearly, she’s not happy with it either.

Britton’s goal with this video was to destigmatize feminism and pay tribute to the true value women  offer. She did so in collaboration with the Representation Project for its #AskHerMore campaign.

The campaign encourages red carpet reporters to celebrate artistic achievements and not send the message that a woman’s value lies only in her youth and beauty.

I’m thrilled with Britton’s video. I think it’s so positive. I love that she’s an older, successful actor who’s taking a risk (after all, feminism can be polarizing) and speaking out.

While I love the fashion we see at award shows, surely there’s a negative impact on our society, and women’s place in it, when accomplishments are overwhelmingly ignored in favour of sartorial choices  – and in front of a huge national television audience. I think that’s what concerns me the most. There’s astounding reach.

Do you have any older female sheroes you’d like to see featured here? In my previous post I came up with Annie Lennox and Wanda Jackson. Someone on my Facebook page suggest Bette Midler (who’s as amazing as always).

Please be sure to send me your suggestions and feedback. Also feel free to post them on the Aging Gracefully I Am Facebook page so that others can join in the discussion.

Looking for a woman like Christopher Walken.

FullSizeRender (2)I first saw Christopher Walken strolling along the seawall by my home. I saw him again when I turned around and realized that I did, in fact, just see Christopher Walken strolling along the seawall by my home. The third time I saw him was when I turned once more and, heart palpitating, thought,

“If  Christopher Walken had sneezed just before I walked by him, I may have breathed in some of his saliva, which is kind of like a kiss”.

Don’t judge. It was a random thought. We all have them…we do all have them, right?

Christopher Walken is a cool dude. At 72 years of age, he’s no less cool now than he was 40 years ago. He’s so cool that he actually won six MTV awards for his mesmerizing choreography and dance routine in a Fat Boy Slim video – when he was pushing 60!

Since starting this blog, I’ve wondered if my own gender has an older, endlessly cool equivalent.

Are women anything but cool?

When I Googled “coolest women over 40”, it resulted in a full page of fashion suggestions. Not quite what I had in mind. I tried “coolest women over 50” and ended up with the most beautiful, sexiest and fit women over 50. Not bad, but not cool.

I then tried “coolest women over 60”, “coolest women over 70″ and”coolest women over 80”. I didn’t find anything cool. I did however discover hair cuts to suit my sagging face over the next decades.

Oh good. Now I can stop worrying about that, sigh.

Finally I tried “today’s coolest women”, which lead me to cool women in science, cool women in the Silicon Valley and cool women according to British GQ mag, which came up with a list of interesting choices, many half-naked.

Still, I give them credit for listing Phoebe Philo, an over 40 British fashion designer who was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014. However accomplished though, I wasn’t convinced that she had Christopher Walken cool.

Plus, she’s in her early 40’s versus early 70’s like he is.

So I did more research on the subject of cool women. Mostly what I found sexy women, great women and powerful women. Cool women? Not so much.

American Cool is soooo not cool.

Then I landed on “American Cool“, an exhibition that took place last year at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.  It seems that out of the 100 coolest Americans ever, only 23 were women (soooo not cool). Then again, they didn’t include Christoper Walken either.

For the most part, I like who they chose for their paltry list of females: Lauren Bacall, Mae West, Billy Holiday, Joan Didion, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry and Susan Sarrandon among them – the latter four all alive, well and over 60.

I was surprised that Katharine Hepburn wasn’t on the list. She grew cooler and more intriguing with age – and she died in her 90’s.

Finally, after much research and reading, I realized something very cool – I don’t need a female equivalent of Christopher Walken, I have two: Wanda Jackson and Annie Lennox.

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson, otherwise known as the first lady of rockabilly. Wanda is in a number of “Halls of Fame”.  She’s the recipient of the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s had an alley named after her, as well as a street. She’s a legend with a career that spans over 60 years (how many female rockers can say that!).

She also took to the mike and belted out “Thunder on the mountain” just a few years ago, while in her mid-70s. Watch the video. You’ll love it. She has vitality, passion and, mostly, a good down-to-earth vibe about her.

That track comes off the album, The Party Ain’t Over, produced by Jack Black who, to my mind, is also pretty cool. In fact, that he celebrates talent over trend makes me think he’s even cooler (there’s  lot of cool going round n’est ce pas?).

Wanda, you’re an inspiration! Can’t wait for more from you.

Annie Lennox

Sixty-year old Annie Lennox, otherwise known as “the greatest white soul singer alive”, not to mention songwriter, political activist, gay icon, feminist and philanthropist who, in 2011, was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

This is only the half of it. Google her and make sure you have a few hours to read it all.

She’s also someone who, at last year’s Grammys and without even trying, usurped Hozier’s phenomenal rendition of Take Me To Church with her own mesmerizing performance of “I Put A Spell On You”. I had a friend at the Grammys who said Lennox put a spell on everyone.

Here’s the coolest thing of all.

There are countless remarkable women in the world, not to mention cool ones. That I found two  – who are also well over middle age – tells me they certainly exist, they just aren’t celebrated as much as their male counterparts.

So, the lesson to me (and maybe to you) is this: it would appear that Google search (hence, our culture) tends to view “cool” as a primarily a masculine trait. Yet, the more active we are at not accepting these predispositions, the more likely we are to discover their inaccuracy.

The benefit? We’ll feel better about ourselves. Men and women will value our gender more. The world will be a more balanced, positive and cool place to live.

If you like the blog, then like the Facebook page and stay up to date on new posts, as well as all relevant news. Also, feel free to contribute! If you have your own list of cool older women, then by all means please share!