As a Florida native, I’ve had the luxury of escaping to the beach on short notice. The oceans on either side of me are virtually only a movie’s length distance away from my doorstep. There are pictures of me at four plopped contentedly amid mounds of white confectionary sugar-like sand. (And, unfortunately there are also pictures of me at 64 virtually doing the same thing). I was thinking about this as I lazed away in a low beach chair beneath a Tommy Bahama umbrella recently. (The umbrella was rarely if ever present in my four year old beach days when sun screen and shade weren’t deemed essential by scientists or Moms alike). Even though I’m older and heavier the beach still offers a place of acceptance and equality regardless of size, age, income level, color, or even species. I write a lot about the plight of Lady Boomers (women of the baby boomer generation). Women of this generation have and continue to wear a lot of hats and are simultaneously professionals, Moms, daughters, grandmothers, volunteers and board members alike. Multi-tasking all of these roles can lead to “multi-taxing” our spirits. So my Rx for quieting our chatter-brains and addressing all this multi-tasking is a retreat to the beach or whatever destination affords you a place for meditation and contemplation. Imagine you are driving across the bridge to the beach. Feel and smell the humid, salty air as you allow the ocean breeze to penetrate the schedules, to-do lists, and deadlines that live inside your overworked brain. During your time in the sun, envision yourself.. *reading a novel (non-fiction not allowed) *frolicking in the water, delighting as you dive into the foamy washing machine waves, just like you did when you were a kid *scouting for seashells and sand dollars *walking along the water’s edge at low tide Escaping your to-do list should be on your to-do list this weekend. Now, why don’t you go from imagining this scene to acting on it? What would you ideal day off look like?At least ten years ago I created this clay sculpture which I entitled, "Beauty and the Beach".
Looking at my curves, it probably will not come as a shock that I don’t really follow the fashion fads-to-be during fashion weeks in Milan and Paris, for size 0-2 twiggy figures. The only reason fashion week is even on my radar is thanks to an interview I heard recently with Tim Gunn on NPR. Tim Gunn, of Project Runway fame, and fashion expert extraordinaire, was railing against the fashion industry. The theme of his rant – wait for it – “It’s a disgrace designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women”. Now, I’m not a fashion blogger (and I met more than a few at last week’s blogging conference), but this headline grabbed my attention. He cites a Washington State University study indicating the average size American woman now wears between a size 16 and 18. There are 100 million plus size women in America (although I do not understand why women have not revolted against designations such as “plus sized women”. There is no such comparable label for sizes on the other end of the spectrum. What would that designation be- minus sizes?) Googling the question- “What is the average dress size for women?” - the response is size 14, 140 pounds. Gunn says this is 2004 data and is no longer accurate. “Far more women in this country wear a size 16 than a size 6, but the industry seems not to have noticed.” Gunn argues there is money to be made to the tune of $20 billion, but...
“Many designers, dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or too cowardly to take a risk- still refuse to make clothes for this 100 million strong demographic.”The selection of + size 12 clothing in stores such as Nordstrom (8.5%) and J.C. Penney’s (16%) is paltry compared to the varied selection for size 2 figures. Nike.com shows only five items. I guess curvy women are not expected to dress well. I guess curvy women aren’t allowed the opportunity to experience the confidence a well-fitted article of clothing affords. While I found this interview fascinating, as I write this post, I’m furious. (Sometimes I don’t know what I truly think until I write it down). What message does this convey? Society’s definition of beauty is a size 2 female? Seriously? I don’t want my 18 month old granddaughter growing up with this definition. And, the issue goes beyond being insulting and humiliating. The New York City Girls Project is tackling the issue of girl’s self esteem and body image. Their site notes:
Over 80% of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat, and, by middle school, 40-70% of girls are dissatisfied with two or more parts of their body. The goal of this initiative is to help girls believe their value comes from their character, skills, and attributes, not appearance.I hope there is a climate change on this issue. I do appreciate someone like Tim Gunn getting out front on this issue. BBLB, as I've noted in previous blogs, advocates bravery. I think it took courage for Tim Gunn to criticize his fashion family. And to do it so publicly on NPR and in the Washington Post takes guts. To be sure, his friends in the fashion industry are not happy with him. But I am.
I'm kind of a political junkie. I've been avidly following the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer. I've watched the speeches, kept up with the delegate count, and cried over the appearances of a Gold Star Mom and the mother of one of the Pulse Nightclub shooting victims. My husband and I have a political consulting business in which we conducted polls and focus groups for candidates and causes. So, I guess it's natural I would be reading political blogs and watching interviews on news networks. Today as I readied myself for a meeting I listened to Andrea Mitchell’s interview with Missouri Senator, Clair McCaskill. She said something that made me smudge my mascara application. McCaskill, who is 63 years of age (exactly my age) said, "I miss my Mom". The poignancy of her statement pierced my heart. I knew precisely what she meant. Regardless of what people think about Hillary Clinton (and there are very few people who don’t have an opinion positive or negative), I’m moved by the magnitude of this moment as the first woman in the history of the United States accepts the presidential nomination of a major political party. My Mom died more than 30 years ago at 49. She was born into poverty in a small South Georgia town. I have no idea where or how she found the resources in Omega, Georgia but somehow she developed a love of literature and opera. She was a voracious reader and received her Masters degree in English weeks before she died. She used to tell me something I also heard Hillary Clinton say in her acceptance speech- “It doesn’t matter where you grow up, it’s what you grow up to be”. My Mom grew up to be a writer. Like my Mom, I’m a writer. My daughter Tracy just graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing and Publication. At the risk of sounding “like a girl” I do feel a sense of sisterhood as it looks increasingly like a woman may be elected president in November. And, like Claire McCaskill, I’m missing my Mom. I wish she could be here at this momentous time with me. I’m thankful for her inspiration and guidance. I’m so thankful I have my daughter with whom to share this moment. As Clinton said, “We are mothers’ daughters and daughters’ mothers. My mom would have been so proud.
My friend, Cynthia, attempted to introduce me recently to one of her friends. I saw a slight hesitation flicker across her face as she struggled with a label for me. This did not surprise me in the least as I, like so many Lady Boomers, wear a lot of hats. At an average age of 60, Baby Boomer women have lived multiple roles and occupations over the course of their varied lives. I too am confused about what to call or label myself. I love being a Mom to my adult children; my husband and I own a market research firm conducting survey and focus group research for campaigns and companies; and I am director of the Jeremiah Project, a creative arts program for at risk kids. But what I really love is writing this blog. This blog is evolving into a book and accompanying journal entitled, “Be Brave. Lose the Beige”. I’m a clay artist and enjoy creating clay sculptures, some of which illustrate this blog and book. So what is my identity exactly? I feel like such a hybrid of several different roles. I think many of us Lady Boomers feel the same way. My husband came up with a fun label for me – Claywriter. I really love the term. It describes at least two of my roles (clay artist and writer). Why not try creating a fun word to describe yourself and your pursuits? Don’t let the English language limit your choices. Post a comment to share your new found I.D.
I created a clay sculpture entitled "I Hate My Purse" for a Power of the Purse silent auction event to benefit women and children’s issues. The piece was inspired by a chapter (titled "I hate My Purse") in Nora Ephron’s "I Feel Bad about my Neck and other Thoughts on Being a Woman." I was reading this chapter aloud to my husband, while we were on an airplane. I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my face. I could barely speak the words. Every woman I know could relate to these words: (the following is an excerpt) "Here is what happens with your purse. You start small. You start pledging yourself to neatness. You start with the things you absolutely need...but within seconds your purse has accumulated the debris of a lifetime. The cosmetics have fallen out of the shiny cosmetics bag (okay, you forgot to zip it up), the coins have fallen out of your wallet (okay you have forgotten to fasten the coin compartment), the credit cards are somewhere in the abyss (okay you forgot to put your VISA back in your wallet after you bought the sunblock that is now oozing into the lining.." I created my "I Hate My Purse" piece to illustrate the kind of "purse chaos" described by Nora Ephron in her hysterically funny essay. Here is an outside and inside photo of it.