We lead our lives with…

photo by David Sillitoe 3
photo by David Sillitoe

Once upon a time, I adored Ferragamo shoes. Their squat heels, little grosgrain bows and metal buckles suited my conservative style at the time. I bought them in 12 colors. I tired of the style and the shoes. Bruno Magli next grabbed my attention because its open-toe, high heeled shoes were sexier. (I decided I was too.) Today, a single brand no longer suits my somewhat-funky style, and that’s not only true of shoes. I’m out of Chanel mascara, I try mascara from Mac or Cover Girl.  I may have loved my Laura Mercier body wash, but when I’ve rubbed on the last drop, I’ll try one from Olay.  We run out of Cascade dishwasher capsules, I buy Electrasol.  And who wants to go to the same hotel or restaurant over and over?  We’ve been to Turks & Caicos five times and stayed in five different resorts, each one a different experience.

My mother and father were brand loyalists.  We were a Tide house.  Bought chicken pot pies only from Horn & Hardart take out shops. Marketed only at Waldbaum’s. Dad drove nothing but Chryslers. Mom bought all our back-to-school clothes at A&S.

We like lots of choices
We like lots of choices

Members of my parents’ generation solidified their brand preferences by the time they were 40.  My generation is experimenting with new brands into our fifties and sixties.  I’ve heard over and over again from Fab Over Fifty women how much they like to choose individual pieces of clothing from different collections.

If variety is the spice of life, we’re sure a spicy bunch. Wait till you see how spicy when faboverfifty.com launches in a few months.

Head and shoulders below the rest

It’s taken me 15 months to accomplish, but I’ve learned how to stand on my head. It’s one of the most challenging yoga poses, my instructor explained, and the most beneficial to our minds and bodies. Interestingly, it feels sensational when all your weight in on your head and you’re defying gravity. Your brain empties out, your chest opens up and your head and shoulders become powerhouses of support.

Maybe I like the position because the world is upside down too and it helps me to keep my focus on what’s important.

headstand
I don't look quite like this

Learning what really counts and what really doesn’t count is the consistent refrain of Fab Over Fifty women across the country: “My friends who are over fifty have been through many stages in their lives and have learned from their experiences. We know what is worth fighting for and have figured out when to let it go.  That includes friends who are sapping your energy instead of adding to the quality of your life. I feel that the over-fifty crowd is freer in a sense, not accumulating any more stuff but striving to live a simpler lifestyle,” wrote Barbara D. from New Jersey when she signed up for faboverfifty.com

…”You are past the child rearing age, you are free to contribute your wisdom, knowledge, and energy to what matters, because by 50 you know what does (or at least what doesn’t) matter to you, “ said Kathy G. from California.

“We have learned from life what is important, what isn’t. We don’t need sports cars, boats or other toys to prove our worth. We can just enjoy the sun or a rainy day for what it is, not what it isn’t,” wrote Louise B. from North Carolina.

Just like these great women, I like to think I have my head in the right place…..even when I’m not standing on it.

Mothers of Reinvention

We are a driven generation of women and many of us have reinvented ourselves over and over since we began our careers.  I spent the afternoon with Catherine Del Spina, who started a sales rep firm in the home furnishings business when she was 23. Now 58, Catherine is working as hard as ever in a new career as a product developer specializing in sustainable products. (“You know, we’re a very green generation?” she said.) Although Catherine lives in a magnificent home, has a loving husband and two grown daughters, a world of interests from travel and cooking to collecting art and enjoying her garden—and she doesn’t need to work financially—she isn’t retiring anytime soon. “I can’t stop moving. I often wake at 5 am and start working,” Catherine told me. When she sold her rep firm almost a decade ago, everyone told her how lucky she was, but she was busy conjuring up what she’d do next. “People need to constantly change,” Catherine said.

cds headshot
Catherine the great

I totally agree. I’ve been a magazine and newspaper editor and publisher my whole life, but saw that my generation of women was using the Internet big time. That includes me. So here I am, at 62, soon to launch a website, faboverfifty.com, for a group of women second to none.

What could be more exciting than inviting millions of phenomenal women to come together and share the things we love, the way we live and why we just keep getting better.

There will be no stopping us.

Big Shop of Horrors

Photo-Macys-HeraldSquare-NewYork-500
Once upon a time, there was a store called Macy's...

Every time my husband suggests we go into Macy’s, I tell him I have a headache.  I don’t really have a headache, but I know if I step one foot inside the store, I’ll surely develop one.  It’ll probably be a migraine, as a matter of fact.

I once loved strolling around the famous Herald Square store, looking at the glorious estate jewelry department, the endless selection of socks, and, of course, the housewares department in the basement.  The Cellar was stocked with goodies worthy of Julia Child.  I can’t forget the spectacular designer apparel department. Sales people knew their stuff, the displays were beautiful, and so was the clothing.

Today, Macy’s feels and looks like one big bazaar, or should I say flea market. Only I’m not in Morocco or Paris and I would be hard pressed to find the goodies that I surely would discover in either place.

Now you know why we boomer women are falling in love again with specialty stores: We appreciate their service, their product knowledge and their selection. GNC for vitamins, Sephora for cosmetics (although I was just introduced to Blue Mercury by a friend and I like it better), and the neighborhood shoe store, among others. It’s also more and more fun to meander around drug stores, which are jazzing up their selections and displays.

If we don’t have time to go to our favorite specialty shops, we head right to our PC or Mac and buy on line. Sally Hilkene, owner of Churchill in Kansas City (and one of the great shops that will be associated with faboverfifty.com when we launch in January) told me women are even purchasing expensive jewelry on line.

I remember when department stores thrived in every major city: J.L. Hudson in Detroit, Marshall Field in Chicago, Burdines in Miami, I. Magnin in San Francisco. Over the years, stores either went out of business or Macy’s gobbled them up. Speaking of gobbling, about the only thing remaining of Macy’s past is, you guessed it, The Thanksgiving Parade.

Ageless Beauty

The real deal
The real deal

I love Ellen DeGeneres. She seems down to earth in a world of celebrities who are definitely in orbit. So it’s refreshing to see her in Cover Girl and Olay Simply Ageless ads and commercials, not just because she’s genuine, but because she’s 51. Although scientists at Procter & Gamble have advised me that a woman should start an anti-aging regime way before her 50th birthday, I’m tired of seeing only stunning young women with flawless skin touting these products.

Sleeping beauty, the fantasy
Sleeping beauty, the fantasy

Look at the sleeping beauty in this Estee Lauder ad. When she awakens after using her Night Repair lotion, what do you suppose she looks like?

A real beauty
A real beauty

While I applaud Cover Girl for choosing Ellen, I wonder what stops beauty marketers from using “real women” (perhaps even one with a line or two) for their anti-aging campaigns. Paulette Martsolf (who designs beautiful clothes under her own label called Allie-Coosh) is not looking for a modeling assignment, but wouldn’t a woman as beautiful as she make sense in the Estee Lauder ad?

Barrels of Estee Lauder Night Repair and weeks of sleep aren’t going to make me look like sleeping beauty.  But if Paulette says she uses Night Repair, I’d run out and buy it.

P.S. Paulette is one of the women you’ll meet at faboverfifty.com. I invite you to sign up right now.

Our Collective Weight

Exercising Our Influence
Exercising Our Influence

If only I could have been sixty when I was forty.

I’d have trusted my instincts more and my boyfriend less, been a smarter mother and a sweeter daughter, a calmer boss and a quieter critic, a nicer sister and a greater listener, a bigger reader and a smaller drinker, a wiser judge and a humbler achiever.

But my have I learned.  So have millions of Fab Over Fifty women, including Forrest from Northern California: “I am 61 years young, have a wonderful career in which I am able to mentor others with all my experience and a family that thinks I am fun to be with. I cannot see slowing down until my body tells me I have to. Today, I know myself, and am comfortable with myself more than any other time in my life. Life is good!!”

Our generation of women is the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women in history, according to Mark Miller, a consultant, blogger and journalist on the Fab Over Fifty segment. We control a net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation’s financial wealth, said a 2007 report from the MassMutual Financial Group.

The time has come for faboverfifty.com. Youth really is wasted on the young.

Prima Facie

I don’t know many women who look in the mirror and say: “Bring on those wrinkles” or “Love those wrinkles.”

Up to her chin in turtles
Up to her chin in turtles

Katherine Hepburn wore turtlenecks and sunglasses as she aged. Today, sales of anti-aging skincare products in the US are soaring: Growth during the last two years was 13 percent, to $1.6 billion, according to consumeraffairs.com. Market analysts predict that those of us who want to remain as young looking as possible, for as long as possible, will drive this growth 20 percent through 2013.

The key phrases here are “young looking,”  “as long,” and “as possible.”  It’s hard to argue with this goal, unless of course you’d prefer to look old quicker. That doesn’t mean taking the Joan Rivers approach. There is, after all, a point of no return with plastic surgery, no matter how much your disposable income or how skilled your surgeon. Our skin can only take so much.

It does mean buying creams, lotions and serums that help protect the outer layer of our skin, keeping the moisture in and the toxins out. If we can eliminate a bunch of crow’s feet and laugh lines, I say yes sir. We have so many choices today, so we can experiment to see which products work best. That includes giving some of the drug store brands a try.

When faboverfifty.com debuts at the start of 2010, you’ll learn about Our Skin liked you’ve never learned before.

This is the way we look!

Exquisite Gerri Shute, one of the Fab Over Fifty women from Chicago, dressed in an exquisite ensemble by Maria Pinto.  She will not be appearing in an upcoming issue of AARP's magazine.  ,
Exquisite Gerri Shute, one of the faboverfifty.com women from Chicago, dressed in an exquisite ensemble by Maria Pinto. She will not be appearing in an upcoming issue of AARP's magazine.

It’s a pity that the somewhat interesting articles in the AARP magazine are sitting next to some of the most depressing advertising created on or off Madison Avenue. Let’s see, there’s a harvest gold and blue ad that screams: “You are eligible for quality life insurance—GUARANTEED!” The ad for Keebler Club Crackers may have been designed during the Great Depression. And The North American Menopause Society put together a real stunner telling me www.menopause.org has the facts. I also couldn’t be cold enough to wear “The Ultimate Parka” touted for $29.99.

What’s more, the photos and illustrations accompanying the articles are as dreary as the ads, featuring people who looked like they were frozen in 1962.

It’s bad enough that AARP invites us to become members at 50. Does its magazine have to insult us further by associating age with awful taste, bad eyesight and misguided messages? Have these people looked around at the class and intelligence of our generation? “AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50 and over improve the quality of their lives as they age,” it says on one of its websites. “As the nation’s largest membership organization for people 50+, AARP is leading a revolution in the way people view life after 50.”

If the AARP is helping me view and improve the quality of my life through this magazine, I am in deep trouble. I am not impressed that it is the “world’s largest circulation magazine.” If it has such a powerful platform, it should use it more wisely.

Please let me know what the AARP has done for you lately.

Cool it, lady!

Cool daughter Ellen, cool mom Joan, who run ultra cool Philly shop Joan Shepp
Cool daughter Ellen, cool mom Joan, who run ultra cool Philly shop Joan Shepp

Back in the day (don’t you just love that expression?), we were taught to respect our parents. No one said anything about thinking they were cool. We certainly weren’t our parents’ friends.  At least not where I grew up.

Today, many of our children think many of us are pretty cool. I won’t pat myself on the back (even if my children have let it slip on occasion that I have a cool factor), so I asked my 30-year-old pal Lina to talk about Terry, her 64-year-old mom. “My mom never stops learning and isn’t afraid of new experiences. She listens to the college music station, goes to the theatre every week, and is always discovering new restaurants. She’s constantly reinventing herself.  She takes care of her body. I trust her advice and think it’s so much fun to talk to her.”

Sure, the calendar says we’re older, but our minds are as fertile as ever. We look pretty good too. And many of us continue to have energy to burn. We didn’t stop relating to the world when it started moving faster than the speed of lightening. We embraced it. Five years ago I was creating magazines (remember them?). Today, I’m creating faboverfifty.com for women just like Terry and me.

Now, I’d say that’s pretty cool.

"Honey, was it good for you too?"

Mirren Mirren on the wall, among the fairest of them all
Mirren Mirren on the wall, among the fairest of them all

Adam, my 31-year-old yoga instructor, is adorable. So is Peter, my aunt’s 41-year-old oncologist. I also know more than my fair share of attractive men in their early 50s.  Even in my fantasies, I can’t see myself sexually with a single one of them.  I’m 62 and no young man in his right mind could possibly think I have a great bod.  I actually have a pretty good shape for a woman in her sixth decade, but it’s a far cry from how I looked years ago when I weighed 130 pounds and my body fat was around 3 percent. Even if a much younger man was attracted to me, I wouldn’t be anything more than flattered.

If my body isn’t the same as it was in 1989, neither are my sexual desires. Sex, simply, is not a big-ticket item with me, or with the majority of women in my generation. When I say sex, I don’t mean affection and intimacy…embracing, cuddling, kissing or a little fondling. Nor do I mean comfort, caring and love. Those acts mean a great deal to most of us.

I’m not suggesting that all boomer women either shun sex or feel ambivalent about it. (A divorced, 65-year-old friend adores it.) It  just doesn’t consume or preoccupy us as it did many years ago, notwithstanding hormonal changes. What’s more, we don’t think there’s anything wrong with less frequent sex. Of course, we want to look attractive, often even sexy, and we do.  I feel better about myself than ever. So do the dozens of women I interviewed for faboverfifty.com, which will launch in January.

If I needed or wanted sex to be a bigger factor in my life—don’t forget, I didn’t say affection, caring and intimacy—I could log on to http://longevity.about.com/od/healthyagingandlongevity/tp/sex_tips_women.htm for 10 tips on a better sex life for older women.

Or, I could just continue to feel great about everything else I’m doing to make this the most thrilling time of my life.