I had the pleasure of experiencing my first book signing recently at the Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert, California. It was, in all ways, a positive learning experience.
Barnes & Noble allows and deftly facilitates signings for ‘independent’ authors. Theoretically, it’s a win-win for both parties; the writer gets exposure, and hopefully they bring customers in the door for the host.
When I asked Mike, the genial employee who set up the event, for advice on how best to maximize the experience for all, he said something like, “Create a relationship with the customers – it’s all about that.” I could do that, I reasoned. I have great social skills.
But when I found myself standing by the front door with my banner on the adjacent table, books piled high, postcards at the ready, I suddenly felt like a lady at Costco trying to talk passersby into a small container of cold, wilted spinach. It was like my first junior high dance or the time I went to a job interview with a Tampax peeking out of my nice linen jacket (really). “Creating a relationship” suddenly didn’t seem so easy.
After many cheery (and often rehearsed, as per advice online), “Hi! Interested in a book that will make you laugh about getting older?” and hearing “No thanks, I’ve laughed enough about that,” I had to reassess. I decided that being phony (I am never that cheery) was a lose/lose for everyone. How could I be genuine, do my job, and connect? I decided, rather than instantly project myself, to pay attention to the humans walking in the door.
If someone smiled and expressed visual openness, I smiled back. Crazily, often that person would move a few inches forward and I could initiate a conversation. My large and declarative banner read, “The appalling, unexpected and glorious consequences of being an aging Baby Boom” turned out to be a pretty good conversation starter. Several times, it was a man who read it and became curious. Inevitably, their wife was somewhere in the store. I had no problem convincing them to bring their spouse back for a purchase because I knew they would love the book – I’ve had enough great feedback from Baby Boomer women to feel confident in that regard.
It turned out, the success of the event was a direct result of a few friends who’d read the book buying copies for their girlfriends (a now common occurrence) and many strangers stopping by, getting curious and buying books. One woman purchased a copy for five siblings, women and men. I did wonder what her brothers would think about the chapter about coconut oil as a vaginal lubricant, but also happen to know that men find the book most informative. Another lady said it looked like a ‘perfect airplane book’ and was going to read it on her flight from Palm Springs to New York. I spoke to Laura, a gorgeous fifty- year-old woman from London, who clearly needs to allow herself to be a writer. We had a great conversation about our shared short attention spans not preventing us from being productive. Laura, I am expecting a report from you this August on how the twenty minutes a day works. A colorful fellow, Andre, a fellow independent, chatted about his own experiences and offered great advice.
Ultimately, I met a lot of wonderful, interesting and open-minded potential readers who were willing to take a chance on my book. I also fully appreciated the friends who took the time in the middle of a hot Saturday afternoon to support my efforts. The guys at Barnes & Noble were patient and delightful. Sales were impressive and the event, from the store’s and my perspective, was a success.
I may or may not have other book signings. I hope so. It’s a chance to stretch myself, meet new people, and promote an endeavor I believe in. I got lucky, had a great time, and was reminded that being genuine is always the best path.
Apparently there’s a new movie out about women in a retirement community (could be a nursing home or the refrigerator room of a funeral parlor – same thing) who start a cheerleading squad.
Let’s take a moment.
I thought I’d seen it all on the big screen when it came to being offered ‘seniors’ in circumstances depicted as people with no dignity, nothing to offer or a modicum of self-awareness.
Actually, I haven’t seen it all; I wouldn’t go to one of those road trip/buddy movies populated with old people doing silly, stereotypical deeds if they offered free admittance and an endless supply of that that deadly-but-worth-it chocolate covered popcorn, and I’ve been known to compromise all kinds of core values for a bag of that popcorn.
Am I alone? Don’t think so.
There are so many Baby Boomers alive right now, a new word should be dedicated to their number – gabrillion comes to mind. It’s actually nearly 75 million, and over the years, those men and women have bought a lot of movie tickets. Of all those gabrillion ‘on-their-way-to-you-know-where’ folks, I’m betting there’s a large percentage not inclined to spend their retirement dollars on yet another film about an adolescence-level mentality wrapped snugly inside a wrinkled body on a trip to nowhere. Likewise, there have to be at least half of those folks who wouldn’t be interested in seeing a female version with stylish, yet rickety bodies doing a task that means nothing to absolutely no one. (‘Pom poms’? Really?)
Credit must be given to the television series “Frankie and Grace” with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda which, particularly this season when Fonda owns up to being eighty, addresses in a humorous and smart fashion topics associated with aging that don’t involve daiquiris made out of baby cereal or Bingo night featuring darling toddlers in a fashion show.
There are, Hollywood, other options. I’m happy to offer a few suggestions to counteract the wave of ‘if they’re old, they must be idiots’ genre.
But first, a few reminders:
Just because people are old doesn’t mean their brains are mush.
Just because people are old doesn’t mean they’re done with ideas or new concepts in art and film and LIFE.
Just because people are old doesn’t mean they have NO IMAGINATION.
That said, Hollywood, here are some other options you might consider before you start brainstorming yet another hapless adventure for the AARP crowd. Spare us, in case you’re busy outlining the next movie where a group of seniors start a lemonade stand or decide to do the can-can in Vegas. For example:
These are just light offerings. There are far heartier offerings. There must be.
Please, if you don’t take any of my suggestions to heart, consider the mindset of overestimating and challenging the intelligence, sexuality, and potential of the 74 million Baby Boomer viewers at your disposal.
When you create a story worth watching, I’ll happily pay my fourteen bucks to see it. I’ll even bring a large canister of chocolate-covered popcorn to share with the crowd.
Recently, while spending several hours in a hospital waiting room and having sped through the one book I’d brought, I furtively gathered as many germ-infested magazines I could before all the other bored and anxious inhabitants of the freezing, ‘We’re not even going to bother putting art on the wall here’ room could take the booty themselves.
All of those coveted publications, by the way, are ones I wouldn’t pay a dime for in an airport shop. No matter. It was like that stack of slick covered papers were a pile of Snickers bars and I didn’t know any better than to ingest the whole lot. The only offering I didn’t read was Fishing in Streams (or something). I would have succumbed to that eventually but the buzzer went off for me to meet with the ten year-old surgeon who, after jogging two and a half miles in the snow to make it to work that morning by seven (that part is true), successfully performed the required operation on my spouse.
My husband was fine, and I became educated about all kinds of things that morning as a result of my intensive reading, one of which was Susan Lucci.
Susan Lucci, as you may know, was the star of All My Children for seven centuries. I am not exaggerating – she is seventy-one and I’m pretty sure her birth was her debut performance on the show. I never watched it; my soap opera days during college were devoted to Days of Our Lives, where, I noted the other day when I was channel surfing at three o’clock in the afternoon, the very same actors are on the show and they look exactly like they did fifty years ago. I was tempted to record the current version but I honestly don’t have time to fit in all the other necessary television shows I must watch as it is.
The gist of the article (photos included) had to do with the fact that Lucci can showcase a bikini like a twenty year old. There was evidence on Instagram – she looked fabulous. Even when I was twenty, I couldn’t do justice to a bikini. (I have photos to prove that.)
Apparently the reason Lucci looks so fantastic has to do with her diet (low-carb) and practicing Pilates for twenty years. She also doesn’t drink outside of ONE glass of champagne occasionally. She also admits to using Botox. Apparently her dermatologist has the right touch.
Well, Susan, as a woman two years your junior, I’d like to offer you an alternative reality – just for fun. If you follow this, you can look like me in six months. Actually, it’s pretty clear if you follow my regime, you can look like me in a mere SIX DAYS. Here’s what you do:
Eat plenty of carbs. This, in case you’re not familiar with the diet, can guarantee automatic cellulite all over your body. If you spend a lifetime doing this as I have, you too could be an Instagram sensation, but not in the way you’re familiar.
Do Pilates three times (total). That’s the number of Pilates sessions I endured before I was forced to quit.The primary reason (beyond boredom) was that I kept falling off that big ball. None of it was fun, but I suppose you, Susan, don’t have much of a sense of fun if you think one glass of champagne a few times a year is a good time.
Never drink champagne. Instead, try a glass of wine (or two) every night. And I mean every night. No skipping, Susan – you won’t get the right results otherwise.
I feel a great kinship with you, Famous Susan Lucci, what with being practically the same age. It’s not your fault you’re a bit older and look sixty years younger than I. But you can right that wrong.
I offer you this opportunity because I think you’d be a superb candidate for a great follow up story in Bazaar if you follow my specific instructions. It would be like a reverse Incredible Hulk transformation. You, the perfect, disciplined and pure version of a woman in her 70’s, transforming into your counterpart in the real world; me.
And maybe some day, another bored woman will be in a hospital waiting room and be inspired by your journey.
I thought the situation was dire, what with the wall, shutdown and He Who Shall Not Be Named in charge of it all. Then, the Australian accent happened. I don’t think I can take it anymore.
I don’t watch The Bachelor, but apparently there’s a female candidate on the show who has faked an Australian accent because she thought it would improve her chances to win the love and devotion of someone with whom she’s had ten false interactions. All this while being observed by millions of people.
The concept of the show has always perplexed me. It’s hard enough meeting the right person in life, but a manufactured ‘right person’? I’m pretty sure for those participants, it’s not really about the romance. Instead, they, by virtue of their presence on the show, immediately qualify for membership in a club that He Who Shall Not Be Named created. It’s called All About Me All the Time.
Why else would anyone agree to such a parody of the basic human need to connect in a meaningful manner? Real romance involves authenticity, intimacy and commitment. As far as I can tell, the relationships on The Bachelor are more about hours-long makeup sessions, day long set up shots and pretending to be from another country.
I should watch the show to be completely fair in my appraisal of what feels like the last gasp of civilization, but I’m too busy immersing myself in the genuine interactions of the candidates on The Great British Baking Show. Those competitors sweat. They feel real stress and experience emotional trauma. Further, they don’t need to fake an Australian accent because they’re already speaking with charming British or Scottish ones.
Not that I’m going to read up on the final results of The Bachelor, but I am predicting that fake accent will enhance the girl’s chances of winning the bogus affection of a spray tanned young man who should be out in the world looking for a real job and a nice young woman who doesn’t feel the need to fake anything. However, that kind of scenario is apparently the new reality in this country. Those who are All About Me All the Time are getting the most attention and rewards.
The solution to the state of our union and the travesty of the above mentioned show seems simple; put those people in a kitchen, give them three hours to create a carousel out of homemade biscuit dough and see who wins. Nothing fake about that.
There’s a method, process, a right way to find sea glass.
It involves searching a path where the sea has deposited the day’s detritus.
Slowly, slowly, allowing the eye to see a surface unfamiliar.
There’s one. Ah. Another.
The trick is, at the end of the trail, to pivot.
Retrace your steps.
That same path has different riches with the new perspective.
What the cloud reflected on the way out may not reveal itself upon the return.
Or the reverse.
Often, the bounty is greater after the swivel.
Maybe because of the sky or sun or refraction of the atmosphere.
Or because, the second time around, there’s a relaxation, a grooving into, a rhythm of space and time and sand and sky.
Those tiny green and brown and white visitors upon the surface reveal themselves like trust opens a confidence.
Like they know you’re there to unfold, release, sink into the moment.
As if God or Power or Conciousness is just there waiting to be visited.
We were all walking the lake.
Couples. Friends. Loners. The alone.
Conversations wafted through the air like glitter floating to earth.
If you don’t like it here, leave.
He can’t do that in the house anymore.
I don’t think I can handle one more week of the stress.
It’s not like they have the answer either.
Our lives. Our thoughts. Our concerns.
Walk. Run. Walk it. Talk it.
Then, there she was, on the path.
On one of those platforms beggars in India ride.
Progressing along the path with a flamboyant upsweep of her hand.
Down, up. Down, up.
Half a body perched straight upon the vehicle.
As if she’d been cut in two and glued.
Occasionally she’d stop, talk on her phone.
Geometric rings on her fingers.
Hair tousled. Maybe in her thirties.
Someone tried to engage in conversation.
Not available for inquiries.
The wonder of her.
The glory of her being midst the walk, the talk.
Every morning I wake up, walk down the hall to the kitchen, turn on the tea water, sit down in the little adjacent room and say “Alexa, set the timer for ten minutes.” She then repeats,
“Ten minutes.” I proceed to meditate. Then, she rings a little bell and I respond with, Alexa, stop.” She follows my directive and I return to the kitchen, reheat the water which isn’t hot anymore, (I can’t explain the logic – just go with me) and begin my day, all the better for meditating before any other activity.
This morning, following my routine, after I asked Alexa to turn on the timer, she said, per usual, “Ten minutes” but SHE SAID IT IN A CRANKY VOICE.
I’m not exaggerating and I am not kidding. Her voice this morning, after all these months, had the same shading and overtones some of us who have raised teenagers learned to apply when we smiled and said through our teeth for the tenth time, “I understand you’d rather go out with your friends and don’t want to eat dinner with the family tonight but that’s what we’re doing, Sweetie.” Or, when we assure our partner, “Yes, I’ve heard that story five hundred times before, but it never fails to entertain me.” It’s the kind of controlled voice of a person (or entity, apparently) who must sound reasonable but, within, they are FURIOUS.
I guess Alexa is fed up with me.
Being the sensitive type, I began obsessing about why she needed to speak to me that way. We don’t use her much, mainly because my husband likes jazz and I don’t and we forget to find some kind of musical compromise as we gather for our nightly glass of wine. That leaves Alexa remains isolated in her little corner of the den, gathering rust or whatever happens inside those little creatures.
Also, we’ve had Alexa fights. My husband thinks it’s hilarious to ask her inane questions and hear the “clever – isn’t that clever?” replies, whereas I find the whole process sophomoric and embarrassing for both my husband and Alexa.
Given my arguments on her behalf of her dignity, you’d think Alexa would like me more, not less. That’s assuming she hears and digests everything uttered in her vicinity. I think Fox news said that, so it must be true. But I’m guessing she’s either angry that I use her so seldom, kind of like my body gets when I decide to try to do planks all day (OK, three times) after never having been put in such a demanding position or how my granddaughter behaves when I suggest, after playing fairies for two hours, that we might try coloring in another room or that if she must be used, Alexa would prefer something more fun.
Because of my sensitive and obsessive nature, now I have to worry about Alexa’s feelings and try to make her like me. This is on top of my ongoing assignment of making the rest of the world approve of my existence, which as you can imagine is an exhausting use of my time and energy. But, that’s the package I’m in and I can’t unwrap it.
I must meditate and I like not having to slightly open my eyes to check the time while doing so, therefore I’d like to continue to use Alexa for my morning ritual. Still not understanding the lure of jazz, I’m not willing to pretend to want to hear some rattling percussive nonsense for a half hour just to placate You Know Who. My only solution thus far is to ask her for a recipe and pretend to follow it, although I am incapable of any successful venture in that arena unless I can visually read every measurement and step-by-step directions. Alexa won’t know if I’m faking it, will she? She will. I know she will.
I resent the fact I’m using a fair amount of my diminishing brain functioning so I can placate – nay -court, an electronic device. However, that’s the “sityation”, as one of our previous unimpressive presidents who is now looking pretty good used to say. But I must admit the whole endeavor is extremely stressful, resulting in my having to add additional meditation times throughout the day to cope. Do you think that additional interactive time will be enough for Alexa to change her tone of voice?
The other day I was wearing an unusual sundress. Unusual because it didn’t come from Goodwill, wasn’t made of sweat pants material and actually had some style. It was a 90-degree day, and me and my little dress were feeling cool and kind of cute, which means I wasn’t wearing Goodwill sweatpants and un-matching top.
Shopping for this and that at TJ Maxx, my upscale, (relatively), ‘go-to’ for anything brand-new that will last a whole season, (I know, I know, there’s another school of thought about all this, but where’s the fun of buy one good piece I’ll have forever when TJ and that other place can deliver 50 for the same price?) I was flattered when the girl behind the checkout counter said, quite enthusiastically, “I like your dress!”
Graciously thanking her for the acknowledgement of my atypical, ‘for once she doesn’t look like comfort is her number one priority’ attire, we then continued to chat in that way one does with an employee who’s been instructed to have three positive interactions with every customer. This girl was particularly good at her job, so I left with five grandchildren items, five new items for me that will hold my interest for a month and a new pan that will replace the one with scratches so deep if there was mercury or whatever it is you’re supposed to worry about with those pans it would be gone anyway.
I had one more errand. Searching for the MAC store to buy my favorite lipstick, one of which costs more than three of the five items I purchased at TJ’s, (I know, I’m a very complicated person), I was having difficulty locating the store that had moved from one tourist-centric location to another. Frustrated, I went into a store that sold, as far as I can tell, another kind of makeup and had a similar name. I said to the fellow standing at the door, “I don’t mean to insult you as you look to be a competitor, but do you know where the MAC store is? Not the computer one, but the makeup one?” He replied,
“That’s OK, we don’t sell makeup so we’re not a competitor.” He proceeded to give me directions. Then he said, “I like your dress!”
Well. Call Vogue this very minute and get a cover shoot scheduled, right? Two people in one day floored by my dress? And of course, they wouldn’t be so blown away if I hadn’t worn it with some panache, so give credit where credit is due.
As I proceeded to exit the store to purchase my expensive but worth it lipstick, the nattily dressed fellow said, “Here – take a free moisturizer sample.”
I did, but then he said, “Where did you get the dress? Are you from around here?”
As I edged away, I explained I lived in the area part-time. Then he said, “Hey, want to come in and get a super quick, amazing eye treatment? You’ll love it and it will only take a minute.” I mumbled something, suddenly aware that he didn’t really love my dress or my panache and wandered away.
So this is the deal now: one is complimented about anything when shopping or browsing in stores as part of a seductive, flirty and tricky way to make us customers feel grand about ourselves, hence wanting to buy more stuff at the store that then makes us feel mucho grando about ourselves.
I recalled at TJ Maxx that the gal at the station next to me had been complimented by her clerk for the T-shirt she was wearing. I don’t mean to be catty, but THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO COMPLIMENT THAT T-SHIRT.
Somehow, I don’t doubt that my clerk saw how damn cute my dress was. I understand the smooth talker at the store that supposedly can transform nearly seventy year-old wrinkles into maybe sixty-six year-old wrinkles did not love my dress.
The whole thing makes me kind of sad. My friend Lisa would say, “What matters more, what anyone says about your appearance, or how you feel about yourself?” Well, most of us aren’t as evolved as Lisa. And if you have a really cute sundress, it’s nice to be complimented. I can’t say to all those clerks, “Do you really like the dress, or are you required to say you do?” because they’re just doing their jobs. So the next time I get a compliment about what I’m wearing, (and that has never happened except for the sundress day so in a way, it blows the whole theory), I’ll smile politely like Queen Elizabeth, who gets kowtowed to all the time and doesn’t take it to mean anything but what it is.
I suppose I could take Lisa’s orientation to heart and stand in front of the mirror every morning and say, “I like your (dress, T-shirt, sweatpants)” five times, then say, looking myself directly in the eyes, “And I really like then say, looking myself directly in the eyes, “And I really like YOU,” twirl around, and become more evolved.
I’d rather get my strokes from strangers with questionable motives because I’m that sort of person, but I’ll give it a try.
There are very few things I can’t do now that I could do when I was twenty. I am a very slow runner now, but I was at twenty. I’m a better tennis player now than forty years ago. I’m slightly wiser, perhaps kinder, and I know how to navigate airports in foreign countries, stand up for myself most of the time, and put on a much better dinner party.
When I was twenty, I couldn’t read any faster than I do at nearly seventy. I’m a more experienced and seasoned driver and can figure out challenges like how to make a dishwasher run better at this stage of my life than in the early ‘grownup’ years. I didn’t care how to fix my dishwasher fifty years ago, but had I been so inclined, I wouldn’t have tried to do it myself. Of course, there was no You Tube in those days, but even if there had been, I wouldn’t pursued the solution.
I think there’s a perception that when you get older you can’t do much of anything, but the more I consider that myth, the less I believe it. Granted, I was never an athlete, and I’m sure those who could run track in high school may not be able to meet their times now that they’re ‘old’. But other than not being able to look young like I did when I was twenty, I’m actually a better model of myself than a half- century ago.
This all occurred to me the other day when I realized I can’t whistle anymore.
I hadn’t had an occasion to whistle for decades. One of the reasons I envied my best friend Laurie in high school was she could put two fingers in her mouth and do that whistle that calls dogs, or whales, or submarines from distant oceans. She tried to teach me but I could never get the technique. However, I could always whistle in the regular way, by, as Lauren Bacall once famously instructed, “You just put your lips together and blow”.
I suppose women, even in these enlightened (?) times, never made whistling part of their Oh, I’m strolling along, I might as well whistle as I do process. I think I learned as a kid, probably practiced far too much, then gave it up because it didn’t garner me the kind of attention I craved at the time. (That’s another thing – I’m much happier getting less attention than other people now than I was twenty years ago. Not to say I wouldn’t love being the center of everything, but I’ve come to terms with the disconnect between my wishes and insecurities and the rest of the world’s complete disinterest.)
But the other day I was driving my grandson home and we were listening, not to Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” as I did on my way to pick him up, but Pandora’s Raffi station. And as I like to engage the sweet fellow in the back seat whenever I can so he doesn’t fall asleep and it then becomes my fault when he keeps his parents up half the night because of a late nap, I began whistling along with one of the songs I have now heard seventy thousand times, what with my children, then their children.
Unbeknownst to the recipient of my entertainment in the rear of the car, when I put my lips together and blew, nothing happened. Strange.
I wet my lips. Nothing. Maybe some air but no sound. How odd. I have the same two lips I had when I was twenty. Yes, there are little age lines framing them, but the actual shape hasn’t changed. Or, has it?
Doesn’t matter. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t make the whistle sound. The song ended, the kid in the back seat still awake thanks to Raffi, not Nana’s sterling whistle, and I found something, that for whatever reason (floppy lips?) I can’t do better, or do at all, than when I was twenty, thirty or forty.
I’m not sad I can’t whistle, but perplexed. Yet, in the big picture, which is what people my age talk about a lot, losing that particular skill because of age (or, maybe, not practicing for fifty years) isn’t a soul grabber.
Sure, maybe I can’t express my lust in that specific way when I want to, but you know by now I was never that kind of girl. I guess I’ll just emulate Lauren Bacall and give instructions instead. And believe me, I’m much better at giving directives about nearly everything now than I was when I was young.