Thoroughly Modern Marge

The moment Marge walked into the birthday celebration for my former husband, Douglas, she got my attention.

Petite and slender, she wore red slacks that perfectly matched her bright lipstick, which looked smart with her lacy-sleeved white shirt, triple-strand pearl choker, pearl earrings, and nicely coiffed short, silvery gray hair. It’s easy to tell that Marge is meticulous about the way she looks.


The Magnificent Dinner Party Where No One Showed Up

I went to a magnificent dinner party at the Brooklyn Museum, but none of the invited guests attended, and not a single morsel of food or drop of drink was served.

That’s because this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill dinner party; it was Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, completed in 1979 and regarded as “the most significant icon of 1970s American feminist art,” according to the description. It took five years for the artist, author, feminist, and educator, along with hundreds of collaborators, to create the large-scale work, which celebrates the achievements of 1,038 real and mythical female figures to Western civilization over the millennia. Most of these women had been neglected by history until they were recognized by feminist scholars. (more…)

Georgia On My Mind

I’ve never been a devotee of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art. I like the colors in her classic flower paintings, and her realistic representation of Southwest animal bones, but I’d rather see fresh flowers on my dining table, and the only animal bones that fascinate me are those of dinosaurs. But, after spending a couple of hours at the recently mounted Georgia O’Keeffe Living Modern exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum, and learning how the artist carefully constructed her identity outside of her studio, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for her aesthetic, if not in all of her art, certainly for how she dressed and lived.

Born on a Wisconsin farm in 1887, O’Keeffe rejected the staid Victorian world into which she was born, and “absorbed the progressive principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which promoted the idea that everything a person made or chose to live with–art, clothing, home decor–should reflect a unified and visually pleasing aesthetic,” the essay continues. “Even the smallest acts of daily life, she like to say, should be done beautifully.”

Her clothing, like her art, showed her preference for simple lines, fluid silhouettes and hardly any ornamentation. She was obsessed with easy wrap dresses, for example, and had them in a virtual rainbow of colors, beautifully displayed in the exhibition. An accomplished seamstress, O’Keeffe made her clothes early in her life, with fine details and quality workmanship. Her homes also were spare, from her austere New York City apartment to her two houses in New Mexico.  

When she was an art teacher in Texas, O’Keeffe ignored the textbooks that instructed artists to copy nature, and asked them to let the beauty of pattern and design become an influence.   

Magnificent photographic portraits of O’Keeffe abound in the exhibition, and reveal how meticulously she dressed and posed for her photographers, including her husband, renowned photographer Alfred Stieglitz.  She leveraged  photography to help shape and promote her public persona as a woman with “quintessential American toughness, plainness, and individualism, tempered by age into a state of grace,”  and it has played a pivotal role in establishing her as an “icon of feminism and fashion.”

The popular O’Keeffe exhibition is housed at The Brooklyn Museum until July 23.  If you can’t make it there, following are some of my favorite pieces of O’Keeffe clothing, photography and art. I even included one of her paintings of animal bones and another of flowers (above).

Well, Are You IN Or Are You OUT?

I know a married couple  (she’s 68 and he’s 70) who go out practically every evening of the week. Non-stop dinners with friends and family; parties; events of all kinds, from art openings to Broadway opening nights. They’ve been going out at a frenetic pace for decades, with no signs of letting up.  I’m not talking about going on “date nights” once or even a few times a week, where just the two of them enjoy romantic dinners or take in a movie. This couple surrounds themselves with groups of people almost everywhere they go, mostly all the time.

I don’t see this couple any more, but if I were to ask them why they go out so much, they’d most likely tell me they love doing it. I don’t doubt that they enjoy the company, but why is it constant? Don’t they like being in the company of each other, with no one else around? Do they need others to make them feel “alive?”    


How She Survived Auschwitz

I am inspired by vibrant and impassioned octogenarian women. It’s wonderful to see them lead meaningful lives, and they give me hope that I can stay active, even in my eighth decade (if I’m blessed to be alert and alive).

Some people let challenges stop them cold in their thirties; others wouldn’t dream of being thwarted by the challenges associated with aging. Grandma Moses developed arthritis in her seventies, making it hard for her to continue embroidering, which was her passion. Her sister, Celestia, thought that painting would be easier for her, so Grandma Moses began painting in her late seventies.

Renee Feller, now 85, was ordained as a rabbi when she was almost 70, but this woman’s life has been anything but conventional for as long as she can remember, and not always by choice.


A Cool Course To Help Inspire The Course Of Your Life

Once many of us enter our mid-40s and 50s, we’re finally–and hopefully–starting to feel more secure about ourselves and our abilities than we did when we were in our 20s and 30s.


Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

If you live in an apartment building in Manhattan, you may barely know the person who lives in the unit 10 feet from yours. Technically, he’s your “neighbor,” but the two of you hardly are what you’d call “neighborly.” That’s just the way it is there, maybe not always, but often.

If you live in a rowhouse in Brooklyn’s Bedford Stuyvesant section (Bed Stuy, to those in the know), being “neighborly” is the rule, not the exception. This probably is nothing new to those of you who have lived in houses most of your lives (except if you live on a fancy estate and your nearest neighbor is acres away). I, on the other hand, haven’t lived in a house since I left my parent’s home when I was 21, and became a married woman, so this is a brand new experience for me.

I now live on Lexington Avenue, between Bedford and Nostrand Avenues (coincidentally, I also lived off Lexington Avenue in Manhattan). My house sits on a ridiculously long block that’s about ⅕ of a mile, and has about 60 houses, but it feels more intimate than the upper east side co-op building where I lived, which had only 22 apartments, three on a floor!  I meet neighbors when I walk Rigby morning and evening, when I take out the trash (I’ve become a religious recycler here, where everyone follows the rules to a T), and when I move my car from one side of the street to another to abide by alternate-side-of-the-street parking regulations. (more…)

Why It’s Especially Important For Women To Vote

“There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.”

― Susan B. Anthony

On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once. But on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

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Do You Have A Good Working Memory? Do You Even Know What Working Memory Is?

The last two weeks have been among the most frenetic in my life!

I’ve moved from the section of New York City where I’ve lived for 48 years; I’ve started renovation on an 1899 house with overgrown front and backyards, absent a kitchen or a single bathroom; shuttled back and forth, sometimes five times a day, between a temporary rental apartment and the house, and worked every single day on my biggest passion, FabOverFifty. I have always prided myself on being able to multitask with the best of ‘em, but I’ve been juggling multiple projects like I’ve never juggled before.

Last night, minutes before going to bed, I suddenly realized my handbag wasn’t in sight, and since I’m currently living in a 400-square foot studio apartment, I knew I simply hadn’t misplaced it. I became frantic. My life sits in that bag. Keys to all the doors of the house; a few hundred dollars in cash; checkbooks, and my wallet with every conceivable piece of crucial ID. My mind started racing. I got back into my temporary home a couple of hours earlier, so I had those keys. Surely, I had to have left my bag in the car. I popped on a blouse (sans bra) and shorts, and raced out of the building, running most of the three blocks to the blue VW Golf.

There it was, resting comfortably on the back seat, where I had obviously tossed it on my last outing. I grabbed it, held it to my chest, and thought, “You’re doing too much, Geri.”

But am I?


This Lady Sure Knows How To Toot Her Own Horn

Louise Baranger first put her hands on a trumpet in the fourth grade.

“Someone came to the school so we could learn to play band instruments. My best friend’s brother had a trumpet in their attic, so she had to play the trumpet. Of course, I said ‘I’ll play the trumpet.’ I immediately realized this was me. The trumpet was really cool,” Louise told me.

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