Lady Boomer Transitions
Remember the 60s? The 1960s that is... when outta sight referenced something cool and hip? In the 60s that "something" could have been a Baby Boomer girl/woman. Well, that ship seems to have sailed and now we are just plain "out of sight."Last fall I visited New York City with four other similarly aged Moms. Since that time I’ve pondered the societal status of Baby Boomer women. On one hand, Baby Boomer women (Lady Boomers as I’ve dubbed us) are nearly 40 million strong and enjoy much focus from the media, marketers, and merchants. On the other hand, baby boomer women tend to be invisible. I realize I'm not the first to say this, but being in hip, cool NYC brought this fact into full relief for me. Now, let me be quick to point out, I, at 63, was the oldest among - a former lawyer, television anchor, pharmacist, and practicing lawyer. However, for the sake of this column, I'm lumping our 57-63 selves into this same age cohort. The first clue I had about our invisibility status was at a comedy club- Carolines On Broadway. Our table virtually abutting the stage, and thus, became a convenient part of the show, and, the butt of many jokes. According to the young male hosts and comedians the five of us share the same hairstyle - "just like Hillary's". First of all, I would love to have Hillary's hair or at least her stylist at my disposal. Not one of the five of us believe our hairstyles resemble each other, but you be the judge (see adjacent photo). The comics dismissed us as women who were well beyond child-bearing years (quite true, but nevertheless, a stinging retribution). There were other clues- cab drivers ignoring our hails and ticket takers our stubs. But...there were and are advantages....our age and various infirmities enabled us to jump the queue in the 45 minute line to enter the 9/11 museum, a big help escaping the cold wind and rain; we always had a seat on the subway. Melissa Swann's 31 year tenure as an anchor on the CBS Affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, enabled us to get a tour of the control room and set of the CBS Morning News show, meeting Charlie Rose and Gail King. One of the Mom's in our group was able to obtain backstage access to a Broadway play because of her daughter's relationship with the female lead.One of my travel companions said the following about the freedom afforded us by our invisibility... "We could smoke a bong on fifth avenue and the police would assume someone else was blowing smoke in our faces". (Not that we tested this theory). I guess while our sex appeal may have waned, the experience and freedom afforded us by all these life years is irreplaceable. And let's say it...Being in our 60s is priceless. Check out this book- Calling Invisible Women. Jeanne Ray describes a woman who awakens one morning to discover she is invisible and her family doesn't even notice.
As some of you may already know, Be Brave. Lose the Beige is a place for Baby Boomer women, Lady Boomers as I like to call us (as I most definitely fit into this demographic). I write about issues facing our generation. I started writing back when we were struggling with how to fill our empty nests followed by how to cope when it filled back up and emptied for a second and third time. The issues have transitioned in the ensuing years to - (1) navigating retirement retirement options, (2) the advent of grandchildren in our lives, (3) our changing bodies, and (4) caregiving and health care issues. Aging, as the pundits are want to say, "is not for sissies". So true for me as I face a myriad of joint issues, thinning hair, feet issues, and a wrinkly neck (remember Nora Ephron's quote in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck- Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth...You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t if it had a neck.” She was 65 when she wrote that book (not long before her untimely death six years later). At 63, I'm really relating. I find I'm obsessing about the shampoo/conditioning protocols to deal with my dry hair; shoes...I'm totally obsessed with finding shoes that can help me manage a Morton's Neuroma and Plantar Fascitis; even makeup- what can help keep up the lie on my face as Ephron put it. So...periodically I will post tips from experts on these topics. I read with interest a recent article in The New York Times entitled "There Is a Right Way to Wash Your Hair". I actually clicked on it and received good information about:
I'm not much of a girlie girl (if I can even use that reference at my age) but I found this article fascinating. I hope you will too. I'll post tips from other experts soon. (Disclaimer: I researched neck enhancement tips but they all looked incredibly painful.
- The right way to brush your hair.
- Using a vegetable derived oil to moisturize hair as opposed to conditioner which can weigh down your hair.
- The right kind and amount of shampoo depending upon the nature of your hair
- The correct way to rinse your hair
- Even the correct method for towel drying your hair.
First we were the children; then we became parents; then we became the parents of our parents; then our children became the parents; and at some point our children may end up parenting us.Given these intertwined and interdependent relationships gaining clarity about them, regardless of our age, can have a positive impact.
When we bond well with our parents, we're able to feel connected, comforted and secure about our place in our family and the world. On the contrary, to feel less bonded to our parents is to experience a relationship far more precarious.” (Taken from Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. Evolution of the Self.)Now, I would argue it is never too late to get healthy (mentally or otherwise). I don’t care whether you are 63 (my age) 83, or 33, I think a periodic examination of parental relationships can only lead to healthy outcomes. The following exercise affords just such an opportunity. In a previous post I wrote about 6 word stories as the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. (And let’s face it the parent-child relationship is positively pregnant with all kinds of emotional dynamics. (Sorry, I’m addicted to alliteration) Read the following description of the 6 Word Story exercise. According to legend, Ernest Hemingway bet fellow writers he could write a short story in just 6 words. His companions had their doubts and wagered 10 dollars each to put Hemingway to the test. As the tale goes, Hemingway believed the resulting story to be his finest work ever: For Sale, Baby shoes, Never Worn. Whether this legend is true or not it helped inspire a whole genre of literature sometimes called Flash Fiction. The constraints of choosing only six words is freeing and could turn us all into writers. It relieves the pressure of writing a perfect story. They are a great way to capture anxiety, joy, even pain, in a succinct way. According to an article in the Huffington Post, “ “These abridged yarns do not fall into one genre, or even one tone, their only similarities being their strict adherence to the mandatory word limit. Some anecdotes are funny, some are introspective and others are down right heartbreaking.” These story prompts are parent and childhood focused, and are intended to elicit emotions, which can be written about and/or discussed.
- A funny story about one of your parents
- A story about your earliest childhood memory
- A story about something that made you anxious
- A story about something that made you mad
- A story about when a parent disappointed you
- A story about something that gives you hope.
- A story about your relationship with your Mom
- A story about your relationship with your Dad
- A story about your relationship with a sibling
Six-word stories are the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. The constraints of choosing only six words feels strangely freeing. It relieves the pressure of writing a perfect and precise story. The key to the six-word story is finding the best 6 words to communicate your point.
Read What the Huffinton Post Says About 6 Word Stories:
These abridged yarns do not fall into one genre, or even one tone, their only similarities being their strict adherence to the mandatory word limit. Some anecdotes are funny, some are introspective and others are down right heartbreaking.
Grief topics/prompts and story examples:
- A story about your loved one
- A story about a good memory
- A story about you after she died
- A story about something that makes you mad
- A story about something that gives you hope
I tend to write a lot about baby boomer women, (most likely because I sit squarely in the middle of that demographic) so I was more than a little amused when I ran across this “Baby Boomer Barbie” photo on Pinterest. (Click here to see the Autumn Wind Studio's version of Barbie as a Baby Boomer) I was six when the original premiered in 1959. In March, Barbie will be 58. This commercial icon has evolved over the years- sporting tattoos and fishnet stockings, becoming an entrepreneur, developing a handicapped version of herself; Mattel even added an ethnically diverse line of Barbie dolls. She has obviously undergone many of the same transitions as the rest of us Boomers with a little pop culture thrown in for good measure. I have no illusions, however, that the toy company will launch an aging version of this Baby Boomer icon any time soon.
But in point of fact, we’ve been marketed to all our lives and it does not appear to be slowing down I recently read an article by Jia Tolentino entitled “How Empowerment Became Something for Women to Buy”.
“No matter what, the intent of this empowerment is always to sell.”
Commercial Ad Campaigns Marketed to Boomer WomenTolentino cites women's empowerment pitches by companies such as:
- Aerie, the lingerie brand of American Eagle, who increased its sales by 26% in the last quarter of 2015 on the strength of its #AerieReal campaign which disses photoshop and employs models of a slightly larger size, describing it as “empowering”.
- Dove who increased sales by $1.5 billion with it’s #RealBeauty advertising campaign, recognizing few older women label themselves “beautiful”.
- Brawny’s paper towels- “StrengthHasNoGender”;
Her question, and I guess mine as well, is do we, as baby boomer women, start feeling better about ourselves after watching these ad campaigns? Is women’s empowerment a made up Madison Avenue phrase? I’m interested in your opinions. Please comment.
Note: This author actually thinks the term “empowerment” has become a trivialized phrase. “The deep truth about “empowerment” is that it has never been defined by the people who actually need it. People who talk empowerment are, by definition, already there.'
Back to Barbie- I’ve grown up with Barbie. Probably at 15 I did share her impossibly slender shape. Alas, for obvious reasons, there will never be a Baby Boomer Barbie for sale with her thickened hips and silvery hair. I’m sure Matell realizes there would be a slim market for that version of the doll. But it is still kind of fun looking at the picture. I think our generation is aging pretty well, a fact I find quite empowering.