Monday, April 30, 2012

The Boy, The Girl, And Us

Deb: We just came back from packing up the boy in Montreal. He is finished his four post-secondary years. He is now entering the world of work. His New York years were wonderful for him and he grew as a person in many regards. He learned how to pay bills, care for apartment and self, and he gained a huge amount of smarts and independence. And most importantly he learned how to live alone and like it. To live alone and like it is a wonderful thing. In my twenties I lived alone and adored it. Although I am a very social creature I never wanted a roommate and, as a result, the only thing I had to sacrifice to accomplish this was space. I always had a tiny bachelor apartment, but it was blessedly all mine. The value of enjoying your own company is such a boon to your self-esteem. But, of course, no man or woman is an island, so when the boy got lonely, we would go down or he would come up, either to visit us or the girl.

We are a very close, loving team we three. And although I know he adores us and gets along with us, I also know in my heart what he will want after living independently for so long: to have his own place. I figured this would not happen immediately as he would have to save money, but I knew it would be his goal. The concept of this does not hurt me in the least, nor does it hurt my husband. We understand and remember that fresh feeling of adulthood with its accompanying freedoms. I remember like it was yesterday that proud feeling of locking my very first apartment door with my very first key. Those first months after moving out on my own, I walked three feet off the ground proudly knowing I was coming and going as I pleased and answering to no one but myself. I should add at this point that the “apartment” I was bursting with pride over was so small, that if you stood at the end of my pullout couch when it was a bed, you could both open the fridge and do the dishes.

These last four years have been the “holidays” stage of our lives together where the boy would come home “officially” for holidays and breaks between school and camp councilor duties. The three of us always look so forward to these visits.  So we weren’t sure what these next few years would bring. We knew the boy would be working and writing and trying to start his career. We also thought that he and the girl might be traveling. Then the girl got into the University of Toronto for her chosen course and, well ... long story a tad shorter ... they are moving in with us!  Yes, we jumped at it. There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation. Not only does the boy love this girl, but over these years we have grown to love her like a daughter.  Add to that, she is leaving her parents for the first extended period of their lives and I think it may help them to know she is being loved and cared for as they enter their “holiday” years.

I also know that they could get a little apartment somewhere in Toronto together. Some little postage stamp hovel to call their own, and I know at some point, they will. But right now we wanted them to have a kick-start home. We wanted them to know that we are there for them as they start phase two of their lives. We have talked over the pitfalls and potential problem areas, as is my wont. I am a great believer in laying out the groundwork so there are as few surprises as possible. As Colin said to them, “We are now officially roommates and as such we treat each other and the host house with mutual respect.” And I know they will. For our part, we plan to live together and let live together. We are making some changes to the house to make it a larger breathing space. Not a renovation, just some strategic moving around of stuff. We want them to feel that this is their home too, where they can entertain their friends independent of us. And we will savour their time with us because we know that somewhere along the line they will want their own little place and we’ll be fine with that. And we will never regret offering them a loving transition.

So we are very excited because there is going to be lots of giggling and love in the house, and it won’t just be Colin’s and mine.

Barbara: So sweet, Deb! Now that I’m seeing the end of “communal living” here—because that is surely what we’ve come to: our girls now share all the grownup chores and act like adults (most of the time!)—I am watching your next stage with interest. On the one hand, we’ve just brought the younger daughter home for the summer (and it is bittersweet for her: she loves being home, she misses her true independence), on the other hand, when she leaves for university again in the fall, our older daughter, the one who has just graduated, will probably be moving out of her childhood home. Quite possibly (and according to her, absolutely for certain), this move will be for good. And so I face the next year with more quiet, more aloneness, fewer dishes. I am not afraid of it, but it does loom. I am sure I will quietly envy your games’ nights and your family meals. Until the holidays, that is, and my own full house again. In the meantime, I will drink in this summer of noise, mess, and laughter!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Talking The Talk: Full Disclosure

Deb: As promised, I am coming in with full disclosure. If there was ever a topic where this F.D. was shouting to get out, it is the stream of Talking the Talk about women and self-esteem and the lengths we will go to make ourselves look better, younger, slimmer, shapelier.

I had a facelift. A full facelift. A big old facelift. This lift was the take your face off and place it on a table, pull your skin behind your ears, frankenstein bolts in the head  kind of facelift. I was 8 hours in surgery and I had this lift fourteen years ago at the age of forty-five.

I should be clear about the full disclosure aspect of this. This is only “bloggie full disclosure”. Pretty much anyone who knows me, knows that I had this procedure. And not just because I can’t keep anything to myself. They know it because I wanted them to know it. I always thought it was important that women should know that I had a lift and I’ll tell you why. 

After my facelift settled (yes, it has to settle, just like the poured cement sidewalk), women would tell me how great I looked and how young I looked. Often this statement, although coming from a sincerely generous place, was accompanied by a look of wistful longing. I knew they were thinking, “I am the same age as her. Why does she not have jowls or bags under her eyes, and where the hell did she get that taut chin?”  So I felt it was incumbent upon me to tell them that I look this way because I have had a facelift. If I had not had said facelift, I would resemble a very cute and well-meaning Shar-Pei pup. It was important to me that these woman knew that I was not better or younger looking, nor had I sprung from a superior gene pool. I had simply gone under the knife. And if you had seen me the weeks following the lift you would have assumed I had gone under a full set of Ginsu knives, such was my train wreck of a face.

I felt very strongly about being honest about my lift and have never been anything but. My thinking was that women, especially middle-aged women are already beating themselves up without worrying that someone of the same age looks better than they do ... or at least tighter. I know many women who have had lifts and they have sworn me to secrecy and I will keep their secret. I am not even judging them for wanting people to simply think they look better than other women our age. That is part of what makes their facelift resonate with them and that’s their beeswax. For me, full disclosure is more freeing. Any women who envies a facelift on face value and is given the truth can say, “Hey, I can do that too”. Or, “Not worth it to me, I’ll be happy with the way I look”.

I know that by now in the story, many of you are swiftly typing your responses, such is the emotions that facelifts bring about. And I totally see and appreciate all angles on this. I respect all points of view on this one because it is such an intimate choice. But I will tell you my personal take on the concept of facelifts. I subscribe to the SOMEBODY STOP ME rule of facelift. The thing is, you can do your nips, your tucks, or a full facelift, but have the words of The Mask, ringing in your ears. When you think of doing a second, third or forth, just call up your Somebody Stop Me! mantra.

My decision was to do it, and then age naturally. At least that is what I have stuck to for fourteen years and what I intend. I have aged of course, since then. And sagged a bit since then. But I am done. I am done because two things have happened in that fourteen years. I have started to look in the mirror and like what I see, and I have come to realize how very lucky I was to come out healthy and unscathed from elective surgery. I have appreciated that I gave myself the gift of elective surgery, but since then, I have seen too much necessary life saving surgery and I have grown to really appreciate how very lucky I was, and still am.

Sticking to the full disclosure theme, I will tell you my reasons for doing my facelift and how it left me feeling at the time and also 14 years later. I am very tiny-boned with a very tiny face and features. I had too much skin for my face. Even as a sleep deprived toddler, I sported big bags under my eyes in the morning. Family trait on my Mom’s side. After the boy was born and I had been big little big big big and little, my extra skin was aging me beyond my years. It was not helping me work-wise or esteem-wise. I interviewed many plastic surgeons, but only one asked me what I wanted to look like after the surgery. I did not even have to think about it. I wanted to look like a well-rested sparkling forty-five year old, which was my age at the time. And bless his skilled hands, that is exactly what I came out looking like. I don’t think I looked particularly younger but I don’t mind saying that I looked great. At our last appointment before my surgery, the surgeon did try to sway me towards cheek implants and botox as I am sadly lacking in both cheek and lips areas. But I said no. I said I wanted to look like a slightly taut but relaxed Deb. I felt that Mother Nature in her enthusiasm to give me all she could, went a tad overboard. Clearly that extra face skin was meant for a woman destined to reach five foot nine, not five foot nothing.

But in his defense, my surgeon did not want to pull my cheek skin back, as we so often see in Hollywood. He felt it was too pully, and that it made the mouth have that wide unnatural horizontal slash. So he asked instead if he could just inject a bit of fat from my butt into my face.  So we did that, forever giving me rights to the title of Assface. And I wear it proudly. No butts about it. You KNOW I had to go there.

As to the people in my life, my husband said he adored me the way I was, but knew I was hell bent so he supported me. My friends were divided on the idea and I am sure talked voraciously behind my back. As you may know I am a huge supporter of the “behind the back”. Gets the issue out, saves feelings. One friend said to me, “I have never seen one facelift that looked good.” My response was, “But you have seen hundreds of facelifts you did not know were facelifts”. She saw my point.  And I did it. And it was, outside of husband and boy, the best thing I have ever done. Ever. After the lift settled, I looked like me! I looked like the me I knew was there. I looked like the me I had strained to see in the mirror. And so now, I am an older version of Deb, but not 1954 Deb. I am an older version of Facelift Deb and I couldn’t be happier. I reckon that 1954 Deb gave Future Deb this gift.

And before I leave you, dear reader, and in the spirit of the Full Disclosure (shout out to Annette who got the ball rolling), I also had a breast job in 1980. Anyone who has seen photos of me on the blog is saying, “I knew it!!!!!”. But ironically you would be wrong. Truth be told, I had a major breast reduction. Yep. 1980. Grew back they did. Yep. But as I said before, an older and wiser Deb has not only made her peace. She has learned to love her body.

Can a woman say that old loud?

Barbara: Well, I say, yes we MUST say that out loud!! I love my body too. Not in that it looks like my dream body, but in that it is serving me well and I have made my peace.

As for the facelift disclosure: I admire your honesty, Deb. Yes, of course, I knew you’d had one—although we weren’t friends yet when you’d had it done—because that’s the kind of open person you are. Knowing you after the fact, I can fully confirm, it is EXCELLENT work. And the truth is, I used to think I would absolutely certainly get a facelift one day myself. But ironically, over the years, I’ve actually fully lost my appetite for it. Not because of you or your experience, but because of my own. I worry about the pain, about the afterward, about the cost, mostly about not recognizing myself. I want to really get used to this whole “loving myself for who I am/how I look” deal. I want to embrace it. But I am not immune to the lure of a shinier face: instead, I’ve invested much much much money into creams and facials. What’s the diff, I ask you?  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Pause For The Cause In The Conversation

Deb: At this point in The Conversation I thought it might be wonderful to give a tip of the bonnet to those who came before us and paved the way for the rights and privileges we DO have.

Thank you, sisters!

Women's suffrage

U.S. women suffragists demonstrating for the right to vote, February 1913
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage[1] is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or marital status. The movement's modern origins can be attributed to late-18th century France.
Limited voting rights were gained by women in Sweden and some western U.S. states in the late 19th century.[2] International organizations were formed to coordinate efforts, especially the International Council of Women (1888) and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (1904).[3] In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation to extend the right to vote to all adult women, and the women in South Australia achieved the same right in 1895 but became the first to obtain also the right to stand (run) for Parliament.[4][5] The first European country to introduce women's suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finland—then a part of the Russian Empire with autonomous powers—which also produced the world's first female members of parliament as a result of the 1907 parliamentary elections.
In most Western nations woman suffrage came at the end of World War I, with some important late adopters such as France in 1944 and Switzerland in 1971.[6]
Women's suffrage has generally been recognized after political campaigns to obtain it were waged. In many countries it was granted before universal suffrage. Women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the United Nations in 1979.
(From Wikipedia)

I think Glynis Johns said it best, in this great scene from Mary Poppins!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Talking The Talk: How I Look/How I Feel

Barbara: We’ve talked a lot here how we look and feel best, but since we’re focusing on The Conversation, I want to open it up a bit further. Where does the line hover for why we feel best at any give moment?

When I was thirteen I had just begun to wear makeup. I don’t remember it being a big deal, or my parents being against it. My mother was an active arts student at the time and relied on my independence, my dad probably teased me gently about the fact that I was growing up. What I do remember very clearly was my immediate sense that, as far as the big picture goes, I was somehow less when I wasn’t wearing it. It got so bad that I actually refused to be seen in public without it!

One particularly strong memory from that 13th year: my family was driving home from our cottage one lazy Sunday afternoon and my parents decided to stop at a roadside chips’ truck for a snack. I refused to get out of the car—because I WASN’T WEARING MAKEUP!! What did I think would happen? That the chip truck attendants would scoff at my slovenliness? That the teaming throng of hot young 13-year-olds would condemn me on sight because … I was wearing no mascara???!!! My parents, as you can imagine, were aghast. I huddled in the car, determined to keep up the bargain I had made with my self-slash-the devil.

It took many years of growing up to develop a sense that I was okay without makeup. Interestingly, I get as many compliments for my fresh-scrubbed look (“so natural!”) as I do for my makeupped version (“so nice!”). Rather more interesting, these compliments often come from two different sets of people. Hence, the certain sense that one man/woman’s idea of beauty is another man/woman’s “yeah, whatevs”.  To this day, I go without a second thought to the gym without a stitch of makeup, but when I get ready for my day—which is often midday!—I don’t think twice about applying my routine look: under-eye concealer, mascara, eyeliner (on inside of upper lashes), brow brush. If I’m getting more dressed up, say for an audition or a night out: the same, plus eye shadow, blush and lipstick (I never wear foundation).

I—get this—just feel better with that little bit of makeup. Even if I’m the exact same person. I want to know that if I catch my reflection somewhere—in a window, in a mirror—I look a certain way (ie a bit of pop in the eyes, not as much of a dark circle underneath). But the question remains: why do I feel better? Is it because I feel brighter? Or is it because of this engrained notion that my looks must be amplified in order for me to be valued?

I doubt my mind-set will ever change vis a vis my face and its adornments. I will always love a special outfit or a pretty necklace or a lovely fragrance. These things will always make me feel better, even if they don’t exactly “make me”. But why?

These are 2 photos from my files (I'd wanted to do a little session for you, but lost track of time). Sorry for the poor quality: they're with my computer camera, but they are reasonably similar in composition and timing. The first is not a stitch of makeup, at work at my computer, the second is my "day look" (but also showing off the gorgeous necklace a friend gave me).

PS As another point of interest, someone once asked Deb and I how we could dare show our non-makeupped faces on the blog. Not like an insult, but like a truly perplexed, couldn't-undestand-the-logic question. Obviously there was a time when I would NOT! But no more. This is me, baby.

Deb: When I think of makeup it always amuses me that it was men who first started wearing it and women who ended up getting stuck with it! :-) As for me, I am not an obsessed makeup gal either. Like Barb, I will go out without it. When I am in my ‘hood, just shopping around and doing chores, I more than often go out without any at all. I am fine with my naked face and quite comfortable with it. When I am in the house for the day doing house chores, I never wear makeup, but I certainly do my face for events and for anything social. Like Barb, I do not dramatically change my look. It does help to have long black eyelashes and that makes it easy when I am sporting the natural look. As to why we feel better with makeup, I don’t know. I guess it’s because we sat at our mother’s dressing tables as tots while they put on their faces and thought how glamourous it was and how pretty they looked. It was a right of passage, this makeup. Made us feel grown up. And when I am getting ready to go out on a date with my husband and I see a little colour on my cheeks and lips and the depth of my eyes popping, I feel pretty. Can’t help it. I like the naked faced Deb in the mirror, but I also love to see my “Sunday go to meeting face”. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Talking The Talk In The Conversation: Miss Representation

Barbara: This is an extended version of the impressive video about how women are portrayed in the media in North America. I saw the shorter version on FB a few months ago and then Sean’a sent around the extended trailer. This is definitely apropos here this week. Take a look. Let us know what you think.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Talking the Talk In The Conversation: Calling Our Men!

Barbara: I was talking to my dad the other day. My dad is awesome. He’s always been my biggest fan and reads the blog religiously. If he goes away on a trip, then he reads the ones he missed when he was gone. At the very beginning, and once he got the hang of it, he commented a couple of times, but then he got a bit self-conscious: not because he was a man commenting on our blog, but because he was my father and it might be deemed … inappropriate. You know, like when your parents find your diary or something. Funnily, this is the same feeling I’ve sometimes felt from other random people. We’ll get to talking and they’ll mention the blog and they’ll look a bit sheepish, really as though they’ve seen something they maybe shouldn’t have. But, hey, we blog because we think. We want you to peek inside. And so I’ve always shushed my father and told him to go ahead and post comments. And besides we love men over here, fathers especially, and we want them to feel they belong here too. Middle age is for everyone (sorry if that’s a shock), and middle-aged women affect everyone. It’s a fact of life.

So my father challenged me to call out our men. We know you’re reading because sometimes you’ll pop in, or you might message us privately, or you might mention it at a get-together. And here’s the thing: this isn’t a private girls’ club. I know those exist (and maybe must) as do the boys’ clubs (again, no judgment: we sometimes need the safety of private forums). But here we THRIVE on discourse. We love to skew a point of view this way and that until we get a broader sense of things. You guys might have different prisms through which we can look, or you can remind us that we ALL worry about the same things, not just those of us in the female orbit. We value our men. We count on your wisdom, your support, your sense of things.

So the question is: would you stand up here and be counted? Would you let us know what you think—even if you don’t agree with us? We know if you’re reading this that you are compassionate and temperate. If you don’t agree with something, or if you have a slightly different take, we won’t be offended (we only get offended at rudeness).

But most importantly, if over these next few weeks we are taking on The Conversation, if we’re examining how women are being portrayed in the media and how women’s sense of self is compromised or diminished because of it, if we want to change that, and even if we women are to blame for much of it, don’t you think you guys deserve a place at the table, a voice in the discussion?

We want to hear what you think about this stuff. We want your ideas and thoughts. Even if it means we’re forced to accept a “difficult truth” (yes, men do look at “shiny objects”), it helps get us all closer to the real truth (but they usually don’t mistake that for love, or even lust).

So I hope you’ll speak up today. I hope you’ll join us in our search for balance.

I’ll start off by throwing out a specific question—that of course, I’m still hoping our female readers will weigh in on. What do you think of the pervasive sexualization of women in the media? Does it have a subtle, shifting impact on how boys and men (and girls and women) look at women? Or is it harmless fun that doesn’t actually filter into our private expectations or our bedrooms? This isn’t a trick question, I swear! In its simplest sense, many men I know truly prefer their beloved woman fresh-faced, no makeup, no fancy clothes, despite the fact that it’s the rare media image that portrays a woman like that. So what do you think?

Deb: There was an article yesterday in the Globe and Mail entitled “Thinking Outside the Boxers” and it was basically raising this question: “with so much porn and negative portrayals of women in the media, does it affect a young boy’s view of sex and relationships?”. Are these young boys poised to treat women like objects? I was thinking about it from both sides, this very interesting question. I also wondered if some young women start to act the way they think is expected of them, which is why everywhere I turn, in television and the media at large, the skank meter is up to 11. I got to thinking about my own son and his friends and cousins that I know well. They are, of course, exposed to these things but I think a greater force is at work which prevents them from painting all women with the same glitter body paint. I think they see by example in their homes and the homes of their friends how a real man treats a real women and how a real woman treats a real man. They learn by example, respect, and equality. This way they are able to see porn for exactly what it is, and whether or not they engage in watching this type of thing, they are aware of its place in the grand scheme of things. It is not a real way of life. To a degree, it is theatre. Smart boys know this. So do smart girls. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Talking The Talk In The Conversation: Women Dress for Women

Deb: In our ongoing conversation about women and our self-esteem or lack thereof, I started thinking about the source of it. I started wondering what makes us change and nip and tuck and fix and futz with our looks. And more to that point, I started wondering who we do it for.

As opposed to popular thinking, most women do not dress for men. Most women dress for women. I think we have done this for centuries. And along those lines I think that women get “work” done for other women, with the possible exception of breasts. I think a large part of the plastic movement is done to impress our own gender. I think we need to look good for other women and, as a result, we might just be doing each other in. Eating our own as it were.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if every woman would look to a friend who is aging or is less than perfect and say,  “You look great.” There is an oft bandied about phrase which goes, “A smile is your best accessory.” But the truth is, it is! If we feel good about ourselves we look great. Inner beauty has gotten a bad rap for being, well ... inner beauty. Yet there is nothing “inner” about it. If we nail the inner, the outer comes along for the ride.

The world is obsessed with “hot”. We have this burning desire to look “hot”.
What is hot? Really. Isn’t hot chemical? Isn’t hot in the eyes of the beholder? Can we possibly sustain this media image of hot? No one friggin can. But between the “hot” flashes we can, in no particular order, look lovely, pretty, cute, gorgeous, rested, sparkling, happy, sexy, engaged, spirited graceful and ... handsome. I have always been miffed at the use of “handsome woman” as a derogatory term. Some of the most attractive and sexy women I have known have been “handsome”, for the record.

I think Ashley Judd was spectacular, strong and poised in her rebuttal. But thinking forward, what would happen if we all just stopped caring? I know, I know ... but I think we have to spend more time changing our own perceptions of ourselves. And we need to spend conscience time doing this. Like ... equal to Facebook time. We worry too damn much about what others think of us. And people in the public eye have the added worry of what the media thinks of them and as a result, the world.

But here’s the thing. Maybe we have to accept what we cannot change. Because we can’t change what people say publicly or privately about us. But we can change what we put out there. And in the end, the only logical answer is to stop taking the bait. And maybe by doing that, we will change it.

In the meantime, we must find a way to fall in love with the image we see in the mirror. WE MUST! Remember that others do not see what we see. I have a friend who wants to get her neck done. I get it. I see that she has a little middle-aged chin thing going on there. And I admit that when she points it out, I see that. But that is the only time I ever see it. What I usually see is her heartstoppingly beautiful face. And I am not just saying that to ease her saggy chin pain. She is beautiful. But she sees the neck. I know. I have been there. Full disclosure in a later blog.

But the truth is, in the last little while I have worked consciously to not only make my peace with, but to embrace my imperfections. I have been diligent in my attempts to banish them from my psyche. Or at the very least form a truce with them. I have decided to do the best I can with what I have. Because I am aging. We all are.

Jennifer Aniston is going to be an old woman some day.

And it’s not like we weren’t told. This is the life we expected. Getting old was in the offing from the get-go.  And yet we seem shocked and panicked by it. And the media rants and the media belittles and the media mocks.

And they do this because they know that we believe them. And in the meantime we hope they will change.

But I think it’s us who have to.

Barbara: Oooh, so many juicy points here I want to respond to. First off, when you mention how most women dress for women, I know you’re so right. I mean, there is some stuff I wear for Phil, but in the every day sitch, I’m thinking more about “fashion” and “trend” and “style” than I am about, well, sex.

As soon as I read this, I remembered a moment earlier today when I was standing in a bookstore in front of the magazine aisle and a young woman stopped not too far from me—and I was tired and so maybe not as conscious as I would normally be. But I suddenly realized I had literally been eying her up and down for several very looooooong minutes. I am sure—given that my relaxed face now looks (okay, okay, in my mind’s eye, Deb, but I am sure in real life too!) like I am an angry, judgmental bitch— that anyone passing must have assumed I was secretly lambasting her, cutting her up, cutting her down. But the truth is, my face looks like that when it is relaxed!!! And I was absolutely LOVING her outfit. I wanted to drink it in. I wanted to memorize it. She looked amazing. But betchya anything she would’ve been shocked and outraged at my blatant staring, and surely would have misconstrued my utter lack of intent. So there’s that.

But I do also want to say that I take up the noble and brave gauntlet you’ve thrown: that we need to be aware of how we judge our physical selves so very harshly—and that we need to STOP IT. If we go along with the old credo that the media likes to scare us, then them openly playing to our insecurities would surely fit in with that, right? Let’s take away that power. Let’s take our own power back.

Can we do it??? 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Walking The Walk In The Conversation: Annette Shares Her Adventure With Cosmetic Treatments

Annette posted this message to a bunch of us on Facebook the other day (after, btw, she’d linked us to the Ashley Judd article—talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous ;-) ) and we asked her if we could post it here. Always generous, Annette (“gredican” in our comments section) couldn’t wait for us to laugh at her pain. This is the next of our series of posts about women as part of The Conversation.

Annette: O.K. ... as I have the most disconcerting habit of inadvertently scheduling "medical” stuff back to back, I followed up Monday's awful mammogram—that left me bruised and sore after I was twisted and pulled well beyond my range of mobility—with another appointment  yesterday. This one saw me forgoing mindfulness about my health for an encounter with a Doctor that was cosmetically-motivated.

We have an extended vacation in San Diego and Las Vegas approaching and I had determined that I needed to tackle the spider veins that have begun to map themselves on my thighs. I don't have a lot of them but my considerable vanity over what independent sources have deemed my well-turned ankles saw the offending veins bother me in a manner disproportionate to their appearance. Hence, I decided, after mulling it over on and off forever, to have them removed via the injection of a solution that causes them to collapse and fade away.

I checked the cost on the U.S. side of the border and learned that a treatment was about $400.00 and that you need several. (Full disclosure: I had this done after my son was born—22 years ago—and had not been troubled until the last couple of years with their reappearance. But suffice to say, I know the drill.) Put off by the significant expense, I decided to research what it would cost in Canada and was thrilled to learn it would only be $70.00 per session plus $50.00 for the original consultation as I no longer have Ontario health insurance.

Which is how I came to find myself laying face-down, trying not to put weight on my still-smarting and bruised right breast, on an examining table with an ever-so-capable, twenty-five-years-experienced, Niagara Falls, Ontario-based Doctor administering the first treatment of 50 injections to my less-than-toned thighs...

Now I need to digress here for a minute and explain that prior to the appointment I grabbed a late lunch in Ontario by way of killing time before the encounter with our capable practitioner. If you've known me for any length of time, you may recall that men who are down on their luck are inflamed by the sight of me. Ever since I was a little girl, I've had them go off ... totally off ... whenever I've so much as crossed their line of sight. Long ago I gave up trying to understand it.

So yesterday, I was in a Tim Horton's, a phenomenally popular chain of doughnut shops and as innocuous a location as you can imagine, when I heard a commotion. I looked up from my egg salad sandwich and my clearly provocative copy of the new Woman's Day and just had time to think "Oh here we go!" before a homeless guy barged in shouting the odds, modified with tons of profanity, having spotted the irritant that is me through the plate glass. I was gathering my wits to shut him down when he spewed, "You effin' little wh*re of sex toy!" So impressed was I with his dazzling imagery, I almost bought him a coffee rather than giving him a taste of his own verbal abuse but just made a quick escape instead.

But I return us now to the examining table ... I had failed to recall that while most of the injections sting rather than hurt, a number of them proved painful indeed. I tried unsuccessfully to keep count so I could gauge when the unpleasantness might end while giving distracted thought as to whether the ordeal would ultimately be worth it. I was musing over the whole “getting older, expectations for women thing, our female reluctance to go gently-into-that-good-night and its attendant pressure” while the Doctor meanwhile busied himself ripping off huge strips of surgical tape which he used to adhere a giant cotton ball, applied with considerable pressure, to each injection site. When this, the first of three or four treatments ended, he wrapped my now pulsating thighs in thick tensor band-aids leaving my legs, under my trousers, looking as if one of Hollywood's best had fashioned me a fat suit.

It was then I realized two things ... the tensor bandages made it all but impossible to bend my knees, and also that surgical tape is called that because it has a scalpel-like edge which will slice flesh quite handily if you attempt to crook knees when they are wrapped in it. Now all of this could have been put down to a painful lesson learned ... save for the yet-to-come drive home which included a crossing at an International Border heavily manned with people trained to look for the out-of-the ordinary ... say … just as a for instance ... a woman wearing a from-the-waist-down fat suit who can't bend her knees.

Swinging my legs the way you did when playing Monster with a gleeful child, that is say tossing them in an arc to complete a step, I made my way to my car. I have to tell you as I awkwardly endeavored to hoist myself into my crossover vehicle, encumbered by my somewhat useless limbs, I did not bear any resemblance to an "effin little wh*re of sex toy"! Nope ... I did not! Further, I quickly realized that driving while unable to bend one's knees is a challenge indeed.  I had to push the seat all the way back which left my arms completely straight. Picture a stuffed animal with its permanent arms and legs extended pose and you'll get the idea ... In addition to the disconcerting visuals and obvious safety concerns, every depression of the gas pedal or brake caused the surgical tape to behave like Christina on Grey's Anatomy and slice with unencumbered delight deeply and decisively into my punctured flesh.

 At this point, the offending veins, in what I took to be some sort of an objection to the solution pulsing through them, began to burn as if gasoline was flowing through my circulatory system. And so it was that when I approached the border, my face was contorted in a combination mask of pain/feigned normalcy. (It had occurred to me upon approach that should the guards’ suspicions be raised, they would likely make me remove the bandages and that the fresh 'tracks'  from fifty hypodermics would not win me any dispensation with those charged with protecting our borders.)

Sure enough, you'll be pleased to know that our tax dollars have been spent such that the official took one look at me and, his expensive training artfully serving him, asked me to exit the vehicle. "F*ck", I whispered under my breath as I swung my tree trunks to the side and awkwardly hopped out. I saw the young man cast a sidelong glance as he took in my misshapen thighs and, after a moment's indecision, he did the kind thing and searched the vehicle believing, I'm certain, that I had the worst case of cellulite ever seen in Niagara county.

Finally, after hitting every red light therefore finding it necessary to depress the brake constantly, I made it home where I just had to kill time till 10 p.m. when I could remove the offending tensors. After some experimentation, I found the least uncomfortable position was lying flat out on the floor, which is how I spent the five hours, watching the clock the way you do when you are in labor, until the bandaging could be removed. The removal of that tape, with its glue that would probably hold stuff firm in a Level 4 hurricane, is yet another story, but allow me to say I hacked at it with abandon using garden-shear sized scissors such was my desire to get it off me.

So ... what have we learned about vanity and the suffering that we are willing to endure for it? Well, I can't speak for any of you … but I might just start paying a bit more attention to Jamie Lee Curtis and her frequent rants about her abhorrence for the artificial things women do in pursuit of looking good as we age... “Might,” I say ... at least after my next three treatments. Whatever thoughtful consideration I entertain though, I’ll certainly be careful not to cross my milky-white, unlined thighs and risk causing fresh spider veins while I do it!

To your days I leave you ... Fondly, Annette

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Adding To The Conversation: Women And Media

Barbara: So last week Ashley Judd asked us (and by “us” I don’t mean The Middle Ages specifically, but wouldn’t that’ve been cool???) to “join in—and change—the Conversation” about women and how we’re seen and represented in the media. In case you missed it, she wrote this biting piece for the Daily Beast in response to the overwhelming attention she’s received lately based SOLELY on her looks. She’d wanted to ignore it at first, but then she got mad. And then she knew she couldn’t sit back anymore and “take it”. She needed to speak out.

Now Ashley isn’t the first person to speak out against this kind of thing, but I really believe one of the reasons themes keep repeating themselves in our blogs here or in our conversations in life or in society in general is that we need to keep remembering—and reminding each other—to adjust. Because adjustment is so incremental (another common theme here!), we need to practice working and re-working our gears toward the truer and clearest path toward compassion and acceptance.

Why was Ashley lambasted? Because she’d “had work done” … or because she hadn’t. No one (in these articles) talked about how she’d scored a strong lead role in a new TV show, that she was setting a great example for strong female characters, one which didn’t need to be overtly sexualized to be interesting. No, the articles were all about her looks. And the mean-spirited writers of these pieces were usually (maybe exclusively) women! She calls it a misogynistic attitude. Not anti-male, but anti-female. That we are so conditioned to deconstruct each other that this is the only conversation worth having in our media right now: the insulting speculation goes viral, the nasty comments pile up, the media jumps in to ride this next wave of escalating vitriol. Ooh, we love to hate each other!

Now, I almost didn’t talk about this here because I know we’re not of this ilk. I’ve seen it over and over in how we support each other and celebrate our spiritual wellbeing. But then I also realized that if we don’t talk about it here, we’re missing a chance to spread the consciousness of a really important issue. We can put our feelings into words here—and everyone will have slightly different words—and we can make a difference in how women and men talk about women.

As an actor, I obviously have had to give my looks a lot of thought. But I was almost never cast as the “beautiful” girl, was almost always as the sweet mom. And so I didn’t really feel the onus of needing to look a perfect way. That said, the “beautiful” girl roles are usually the most exciting. And I do remember the whole “is she fuckable” question that was applied to who would eventually be cast in any given role. And, yes, this question gets applied to male actors too. But I’ve never been in a position where my looks have been scrutinized, picked apart, and spit upon like Ashley Judd has. People say Ashley was “asking for it” because she chose a career that puts her in the public eye. I have news for you: people who want to be actors are almost never in it for the fame. Is fame seductive, can it twist you around? Most certainly. But fame is really only part of the equation for an actor because if you’re famous, well, then you get to work—and actors want nothing more than to work (you can’t perform a little show by yourself, for yourself, the way you can, say keep a writing or drawing journal or dance or sing). People become actors because they have a deep-seated need to communicate with other people, to help share the human experience by showing you yourself. We’ve needed actors as story-tellers since the beginning of Man. Why would we excoriate them for not looking like some increasingly bizarre notion of "perfect"?

As a now “middle-aged” woman, I see my role in society shifting, my looks changing. Of course, I ask myself from time to time if I would ever get “work done”.  Funnily, this is probably the one instance when I have been guilty of deconstructing a woman’s looks: when she’s had so much work done, her face looks like an unnatural mask. I don’t know where to look; I blurt out how “great” she looks because I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. And what am I doing when I do that? Implying that in her natural state, the one where she looked utterly like herself, she was somehow not lovely?

I had lunch with an acquaintance a little while ago. I had only met her once when we’d had an amazing dinner together years before. When we got together the second time, I was delighted to see her again. She asked if she looked different; I said no, she looked exactly the same! It was just so great to see her! But she was disappointed. She’d lost a lot of weight, changed her hair colour, and felt like she’d shed some old unhappy, unhealthy version of herself. I was gobsmacked. I swear, my connection with her had been through her eyes, through her spirit that one night, through her stories. I guess how she looked hadn’t made as strong an impression on me as how she WAS. Sure, she looked great the second time, but she’d also looked great—to me—the first.

I think, like with health and wellness issues, how we look is only important as far as how it makes us FEEL. And we all need different things to make us feel good, don’t we? But we’re also making it harder to FEEL good about ourselves when so much focus seems to be on how we LOOK.

By reading or passing around the nasty garbage about how this person has cellulite and that one has wrinkles and the other one is “puffy-faced”, we are giving this kind of discussion weight. We need to stop valuing each other and ourselves for how good we look (or not). It’s not “innocent banter” or “silly gossip”. It insinuates. It snowballs. It corrupts. It undermines. And it is so IRRELEVANT.

Think about it: the people we really admire, the ones we really love, the deepest, realest connections in our lives have nothing to do with appearances.

Maybe if we practice believing it, we might actually one day believe it.

Deb: This is a subject I have wanted to tackle for some time and have had in my notes and on my mind.  Thank you, Barbara, for bringing it up. I have continued to marvel these last years about the continued and growing attack on woman—by women. I have much more to say on it, but it will be for another time. Right now and for this post, you have nailed it. But I must say, I think the conversation should continue at The Middle Ages. I think we have just landed on a theme that deserves some length of time. I might even suggest a spring theme if you will. I will build on what you have written if you like and you do the same. A great dialogue will ensue, I am sure. For women and for men, we MUST start setting new ground rules. We must. It has lost its way ... mostly, but not entirely. Not by a long shot.

Barbara: Yes, let’s do it!!! 

PS Tomorrow, Annette is going to guest-blog here about her own hilarious encounter with trying to walk this delicate line!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

101 And Still Driving!

Deb: This is what I want to be when I grow up. This is what I pray I am when I grow up. Drive on. The road is endless. xo

Monday, April 16, 2012

Therapy Browner

Deb: I am happy to report that at the ripe old age of 57, (COLIN JUST SCREAMED “57???” ), I have found another thing I excel at. Therapy. I am not only good at it, I am a therapy browner. When I was in grade five, the smartest girl in the class would dress up to get her report card. Party dress. Really. I, on the other hand, tried hard on report card day to look as much as I could like my parents’ signatures.  At this stage in the game I have given up on the dream of academic prowess. My academia fantasies are all drawn from my anniversary copy of Love Story.

I have gone into therapy to help me with the pain, issues, guilt and stress around my parents’ transition in life. I am a very in touch with my feelings kind of person, as you may have noticed, so one would think that I would serve as the perfect therapist for me. But try as I might, I could not find my old psychology degree anywhere, so I thought it was best to call in the big guns. And by that, of course I mean a registered legal therapist.  What therapy has reminded me (yes I’ve been there before) is that the “physician heal thyself” does not work even for the most introspective among us.

I go in to my sessions knowing exactly what I want to talk about, focus on, target. One question or comment from my therapist can take me down a whole new path of discovery. It is a kooky journey. It is sometimes painful, but it is always freeing. And always uplifting. Because it reminds me that I can always change. I can change it right up to the year, week, or minute before I die. And my therapy sessions are little treats. I never have to rely on my dogs to eat my therapy homework as I am always excited to get to it. I have been applying these lessons to everyday life and I am nailing it, I am kicking its ass. I AM therapy. 

It’s funny how I grew up thinking about the concept of therapy. Growing up in the 50’s was all about “what happens in this house, stays in this house”. The idea of therapy was for weaklings, for the rich, and for the rich weaklings. A “quality” person would take pride in conquering one’s own problems in the privacy of one’s own head. They would pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get on with it. “Be grateful for what you have. Stop whining.”

When I first went to therapy I felt a little like that. As soon as I walked through the door, I felt I had failed myself. I was walking through this door because I could not handle it myself.  It was like when I first got a cleaning lady. I did not grow up with one. Well, actually we did—called her Mom.  But for years after getting a cleaning lady myself, I would still leap to my feet when she came into the room, hiding my Instyle magazine under a cushion. Partly it was my shame of allowing myself this gift of help. And partly it was the thought that I could bloody well do it myself, as I was brought up to believe. The same with therapy. But after I started therapy, I realized that it was my own emotional intelligence that brought me there. I was clearly an emotional genius!

My problem however is that once I get started, I don’t want to leave. Previously, my therapist had to politely kick me out. She said, and I quote, “You know at this point you are paying me good money for us to sit here, talk and laugh.” My response was that I had hoped she hadn’t noticed. It is nice to delete your trash with someone who did not have to hear it as a friend, who was expecting to spend a fun evening with you.

And part of me wants to stay because I am a great student. Top of the class. First time in a long time I have done well in school and I cannot wait to get back there! Sadly, I am left wanting for a gold star or even a seasonal sticker. I do feel that the “professional” therapists are lacking in that area. No stickers, no stars, no chewy candies of any sort. But I know I deserve a star. And so does my therapist. I am rockin’ it! Sticker or not, we’re not fooling anybody.

Barbara: Well, Deb, you certainly get a gold star from me (I’ll bring one on our next coffee date)! And, while it’s been years since I went to therapy, and while I did accumulate a fair collection of real honest-to-goodness gold stars in my childhood until I started to … not (cough, math, cough, history, cough, chemistry), I totally relate to your sense of excited accomplishment from the School of Couch.

I had what I like to call my midlife consciousness crises when I hit my late 30s. Nothing had turned out the way I’d imagined and everything felt wonky, false, contrived, exhausting. I finally realized I needed some help. Smartest thing I ever did. I never understand people who rail against therapy, who are insulted and demeaned by the very thought of it. People who, in fact, would probably benefit a really really lot from it.

But I—get this—actually have a little bonus point for you all here, a brownie point beyond my full endorsement of Deb’s charming post. I just finished a wonderful book called How the Brain Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge—it was, in fact, so interesting, I was going to blog about. I probably still will, but one of the many impressive points he makes is that because all our bad habits, emotional and otherwise, come out of the basic science that when our “neurons fire together, they wire together” (ie: I’m sad, I need to eat; something goes wrong, I feel guilty, and on and on), and in order to undo that network (which you CAN do: “the wires that fire apart, wire apart”), you need a kind of systematic mental exercise, like push-ups for the brain. Therapy gives us that exercise. A good therapist will illuminate your weak spots and remind you of them over and over so you can breathe away from the habitual old responses … until the neurons have, quite possibly, finally, wired apart.

I congratulate you, Deb, and I wish you continued success. You are pure gold all the way!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fashion Forward

Barbara: So last night, my daughter Stefanie was part of a fashion show presentation of the graduating class of her university program—Ryerson University Fashion Design. Four years of work, four years of growth, four years to prepare for this moment: the next phase in her life, the one where she faces the world and, hopefully, finds her passion and talent fitting nicely into the market and demand.

For me it was an emotional moment, sitting in the semi-dark in the audience, Phil and Stefanie, Deb and Colin, and my sister at my sides as we waited for the show to begin. Oh, let me just interrupt my unchecked tears here by adding that thanks to a perfect storm of Deb’s computer somehow deleting Colin’s e-ticket which prompted a contrite visit to the box office combined with Colin’s shall we say Recognizability Quotient, instead of all of us being seated in a hodgepodge throughout the auditorium (each of our assigned-seat tickets had been purchased separately and so we were all seated apart), we were graciously whisked to THE FRONT ROW and seated all together!! Yes, fame does have its privileges. And I was happy to partake thereof! Thanks, Colin *mwah*!!

Okay, back to my maternal sobbing. For the record, I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed with emotion. I don’t know why. One would think, given my close relationship with my daughter, knowing that this would be her last school-inspired fashion show, that she would be facing her future and most probably one involving a move out of our city and most likely the country, I would’ve been inclined toward heavy emotion going in. But I think I was too elated and excited. More distracted by the promise and potential and—because I know her collection so well—so filled with parental pride about how it turned out that I forgot to be wistful. Instead, we all met for dinner before the show and feted Stefanie and laughed and caroused and I was just feeling so so good.

Flash forward to the lights going down and us sitting side by side in that theatre and the music starting up and my emotions suddenly and unexpectedly swelling and shifting to those of the proud mom who’s watched her child grow from a baby (who at 18-months would routinely pull herself out of her crib to change into elaborate outfits then crawl back into bed where we would find her later, sound asleep, peacefully donning—over pajamas—layers of swank tops, several posh necklaces, and a bedazzled headband or two) to a crayon-carrying child (no blank page would go left undrawn) to a fashion-curious teenager who HATED to sew, to a first year fashion design student (who had to turn down an opportunity to go to a top American university and who shouldered the disappointment with grace and determination) with lots of talent but only basic skills, to a mature and dedicated young woman who works two jobs (one as a paid design assistant at amazing Canadian fashion house, Greta Constantine, and one at super-cute retail store, Frock), designing several illustrations for online mags, while also going to school full-time, honing her sewing skills, developing her creative talent, and designing and building the extremely work-intensive collection you see here.
Stefanie and I holding the gorgeous programs--yes, those are her dresses in the spread.
Behind the mag, Deb, Colin and my sister,  Nicole.
It all came rushing at me as the music started and the show began and I had to literally hold myself in my seat to prevent myself from grabbing my daughter and clutching her to my chest and sobbing out loud.

But the show did go on—and it was a magnificent display of talent and vision. Every student was required to design and create 5 outfits from any category they chose. There was everything from ballet tutus to Shakespearean costumes to bondage-wear to wearable art to men’s and children’s fashion to outfits for the fashion-conscious woman of today. Stefanie chose to design for women—and that’s the market she sees herself designing for in the future. Clothes that are classy and still sexy, that are beautifully and lovingly crafted, that are timeless while also being fashion forward. I know I’m her proud mother, but I also know what I like—and I LOVE her collection.

I also love the girl, this daughter of mine, who never stops dreaming and creating and pushing herself, no matter what the obstacles. Both my daughters constantly remind me that this is the joyful and courageous way we all should—and can—be living our lives every day.

Deb: I was praying that Barb was going to blog about Stefanie today. If she didn’t, I would have. Colin and I love Stefanie and have always stood in awe of her considerable talent and grace. Stefanie was nervous last night although you would not have known it until she said so. That is part of her charm. I had seen the sketch designs and knew they were good. I started to realize just how good, when we got there and found out that her designs would be closing the show. Then we saw them and knew why. They were ethereal and wearable, fanciful and edgy, sophisticated and sexy. They were Stef.

As I sat in that theatre I had my own feelings ruminating in my head, as this was the school that I had attended for four years, and we were in the theatre where I had done all my shows.  And for the record it did not look smaller. And I remembered how it felt after the last show I was in and how, although scared, I felt I had the world at my feet.  I hope Stefanie feels that way. Because she does. 

The dresses are all silk chiffon, with details in leather and wool.

Us at the end of the show (Nicole took the pic!).
All photos: Philippe Ayoub, all dresses by Stefanie Ayoub. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Child’s Imagination

Deb and Barbara: Rigel sent us this amazing video the other day—she knew right away it would be a great fit for one of our Tue/Thurs posts. The moment we saw it, we knew it was a keeper. This is one of those sweet stories that first of all shows you the resourcefulness of a young boy when encouraged to use his imagination and turn his vision into reality, and then shows what happens when word gets around and people rally to make his vision a dream come true. What most impressed us was that even when it seemed no one would come to play after all his work, he never lost sight of his goals. He refused to give up. He proves in a huge way: If you build it, they will come. We dare you not to tear up!

Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Deb: Throughout these last years as the care of my parents has become a more regular part of life, I have made some tragic observations. The most distressing of these is that my bright, funny, interesting, charming parents have become invisible. They have quite faded away in the eyes of most people.

I have been watching this with growing sadness at every social function we attend. As befitting their age and stage of life, they are always greeted by everyone in attendance. I have watched people ritualize them as if they are a King and Queen. They are treated warmly and enthusiastically, but also like figureheads who must be welcomed and respected but not lingered over. The respects are paid with very good intentions. But there is no “engagement”. They are no longer the people with whom you have an “interesting” conversation. So “hello” becomes enough. They aren’t up on pop culture references and what they have to say is outdated. So instead they are asked, “How are you doing?” in a loud voice. They are asked if they can be given more food or beverages. They are asked what they think about the weather and how they are enjoying the early spring. Of course there are those who go beyond this cursory greeting, but I would be lying if I said these were not the rarer breed.

I am not angry as I write this rather; I am heartbroken. I have noticed more and more how people just look right through Mom and Dad and other people of their age. I find it even more distressing given the contrast of my own experience.

When we were growing up, our grandparents were the centre of the visit, the reason you looked forward to going at all. I remember visiting my Granny, her Scottish tablecloth laden with sharp cheese, crackers, bread, canned corned beef, scones, jam, raisin bread, shortbread, and tea. Always tea, lots of tea. And that was just when I visited alone! Every visitor would have the same feast laid out before them. I can feel, smell, and taste those visits. I remember the light from the kitchen window and the sounds from the alley as we sat at that table, Granny and I. We would talk about life and her garden and the family gossip and when I left I felt that we had visited, really visited.

When I see any grandchildren of the invisible, it makes me so sad to think that they are not getting this visit of my past. And they are not learning about their past through these wonderful people who love them so much and just want to be loved in return. They might be surprised to learn for example that the things they think their grandparents are out of touch with are the very things their grandparents are fascinated and in awe of and would love to hear more about. And these grandchildren, without really truly knowing their grandparents, might never be able to say, “I do that, just like Papa” and be proud of their lineage, their connection.

I do know this. Paying respects to your elders at the beginning and ending of an event does little towards building a bond. The most painful thing to observe in these moments is the invisible noticing that they are invisible.  And you can scramble and rush to their side and try to fill the void. But it’s too late. They have already noticed and the hurt of it makes them a little harder to see.

Easter weekend, Colin, the Boy and I hosted an 85th birthday for my parents. We had a casual afternoon gathering and it was lovely. The only gift asked for was one of conversation with each of them. Now this particular gathering is what I would call, preaching to the choir. These are people in my parents’ lives. But even so, they took the invite to heart and chatted ones and twos and threes with Mom and Dad. And as a result, each of them who engaged my parents came away with a new story about their lives or an experience that had previously been unknown to them.

My parents for their part, had the best night. I could tell. Because at that party, on that day, they were the first people you saw when you walked through the door.

**One of my favourite John Pryne songs ends with this lyric:

“So if you’re walkin’ down the street sometime
And you should spot some hallow ancient eyes
Don’t you pass them by and stare as if you didn’t care
Say Hello in there. Hello.”

Barbara: As my parents and their spouses aren’t yet of this age (and by that, I mean they are still mobile, which means they can control their engagement), and as my grandparents, who are older, live so far away, I’ve never consciously observed this heartbreaking trend from centre-of-attention to invisible. But I can feel the truth of it, especially if people are in the mindset of not knowing how to greet our older generation—or even that they should and MUST. Have I engaged Deb’s parents before this celebration and Deb’s gentle request? Of course. And I have loved speaking and laughing with them. But there was something sweet—and not the least bit forced—about doing it consciously at their 85th. In fact, this is an excerpt from the thank-you letter I sent Deb after the party:

Thank you so very much for the absolutely lovely celebration for your parents. It was a gorgeous and wonderful day. Your parents are such loving and amazing people and deserve every bit of revelry and honour they get! You are a doll and wonderful daughter to always make sure they get their due. I love that you asked us to chat with them and I love that they had so much fascinating stuff to share. I had no idea your dad was such a Western buff and how he only really has patience for non-fiction. He regaled me with some great facts and stories about the wild west! Your mom is just so lovely and honest, telling about her frustrations and concerns, but also her love of life and for her family.

All this to say that by consciously making an effort, by consciously being aware of engagement and taking interest, I got so much out of the experience, so much more than just a superficial exchange of greetings or observations. And I think it’s a worthwhile bug-in-our-ears to make sure people like Deb’s parents get more than just a courteous greeting, but get their real and deserved due. And I guess in order to do that, especially as we get older and older ourselves, we need to remind and teach each other and our children to be aware of it. Open ears, open hearts. It’s another one of those win-win situations we love to embrace here!