Saturday, April 26, 2008

Look Younger and Hotter or Your Money Back

There are a lot of fashion and beauty companies catering to us these days. Women over age 40 are emerging as a powerful economic force. And though we may be getting smarter, wiser and even richer, one thing’s for sure – we ain’t getting any younger. Many of us have mixed feelings about aging, and the beauty industry is poised to take advantage of our insecurities.

A book that’s getting a lot of buzz right now is called “How Not to Look Old - Fast and effortless ways to look 10 years younger, 10 pounds lighter, 10 times better” written by Charla Krupp. Krupp, a veteran beauty editor and style expert for NBC’s The Today Show, provides detailed advice for women over 40 regarding clothing, make-up, hair, and skin care. While she offers some good suggestions, I wouldn’t exactly call them effortless.

If you’re too busy to develop an intimate relationship with your hair stylist and refuse to wear those tight tubes of constriction known as Spanx, then my rules are the ones to follow. They are guaranteed to make you look younger and hotter – or your money back!

1. Ditch Your Younger Friends
Hey, we only look old compared to people who are younger than us. So don’t hang out with them anymore. Would you have hung out with high school kids when you were in college? No way. We’ve always had more in common and better conversations with people our own age. And compared to them, we look as good as ever. If you want to branch out and make new friends, consider the older set. And remember, you’re still a sweet young thing for a big portion of the male population, even if they are in the AARP.

2. Dim all the lights.
When my friend Lisa enters a party, she marches straight past the cocktail bar to the nearest dimmer switch. And she’s right; we all look better when the lights are low. So whether you are entertaining at home or dining out at a restaurant, seek out flattering lighting and candlelight. In addition to softening the lines on your face, it’s romantic.

3. Put a smile on your face.
No matter what age you are, you’ll look younger and more vibrant when you are smiling. Do the things that make you happy - and learn to tell a good joke. Everyone has smile lines when they’re laughing, and a good sense of humor is the most attractive thing of all.

4. Get into the trenches.
I’m no stylist, but one thing I’ve learned is that a great trench coat can disguise almost any fashion blunder or figure flaw. I’ve worn my Burberry trench coat to the grocery store over my pajamas and people assumed I was on my way downtown to the office. A classic trench coat is universally flattering and, especially if worn with sunglasses and tall boots, is sexy and mysterious. Forget the designer wardrobe, accessories and shapewear - all you need to look hot is the right coat.

My tips are 100% guaranteed to work. If you have any foolproof suggestions for looking younger and hotter, please share them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sizing up my Competition

I started playing tennis four years ago and now I play on a mid-level women’s doubles team (4.0 level for you tennis players). There is a lot of variation in skill at this level. You’ve got former high school champs getting back to the game after twenty years. There are women in their sixties who have been playing tennis their whole lives. And enthusiastic middle-aged newcomers like me. So when my partner and I walk out onto the court for a match we really don’t know what to expect.

The first thing we do to size up our competition is check out how they look. Now, I’m not a physically intimidating person. By that I mean I am short. And not particularly buff. Almost everyone I face on the court is either taller or more muscular than me. So if you walked onto a tennis court and found that I was your opponent, you probably wouldn’t feel too worried. But in tennis, looks can be deceiving.

I found that out the hard way when my partner, Susan, and I were matched against a pair of wealthy-looking babes in their late fifties. Lipsticked up, with diamond tennis bracelets dangling from their wrists, the gals limped onto the court with their knee braces and ibuprofen. You knew they wouldn’t be able to do much sprinting. “Let’s just have fun, girls” they called as they popped open the new can of balls. I grinned confidently at Susan and murmured, “Let’s move the ball around. Make ‘em run.”

Yeah, right. Our opponents may have been older and less agile, but we were the ones doing the running. They placed their shots with the precision of surgeons. If I charged the net, they lobbed it over my head. If I hung back, they executed a perfect drop shot. They had spin, they had angles, and they had strategy. By the end of the first set, Susan and I were panting and dripping with sweat while our opponents’ lipstick wasn’t even smudged. After that match, every time I faced an older woman with a knee brace I knew I was in deep trouble.

So, now, when I meet my competition and see that they are 34 years old, six feet tall and as toned as Maria Sharapova, I tell myself not to worry. I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve that might surprise them. I’m even thinking about getting my own knee brace.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Too Old to be the Next American Idol

In our forties, we often get a second shot at pursuing dreams we’d put on hold to focus on careers, marriage and kids. For me, one of those dreams was to become a singer. But according to American Idol, the national showcase for emerging vocal talent, it’s too late. I am just way too old.

In 2004, American Idol decided to increase the maximum age for contestants from 26 to 28 years of age. The minimum age, 16, remained in place. The reason for the change, explained FOX programming chief Gail Berman, was that the network felt too many talented “older” people had been turned away in prior seasons.

What I want to know is this: why must American Idol impose an age limit at all? Musical knowledge and ability don’t peak at age 28. According to Joni Wilson, renowned voice trainer and performance coach, "There is no reason for the voice to age except for poor voice technique." And American Idol knows this. FOX’s Berman stated, "I'm sure there are people who are tremendously talented above that age, but we're talking about people who hope to have pop careers afterward."

So, according to FOX, people over age 28 can have tremendous talent. They just can’t expect to be pop stars. Well, I guess no one told that to Sheryl Crow, Daniel Powter, or KT Tunstall, all successful pop artists who each had their first record released when they were past American Idol’s age limit. Older touring acts are some of the industry’s top sellers – just look at the Police, the Rolling Stones and Madonna. They’re all over 50 years old, practically geriatric by American Idol’s standards.

Age is the single demographic characteristic regulated by the show. The only other requirements are that a contestant be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and not have a recording contract at the time of his or her audition. A contestant can be of any ethnicity, income bracket or sexual orientation. They can even be (like this season’s David Hernandez) a former male stripper. They just can’t be “older.”

Winning American Idol doesn’t guarantee a successful pop career anyway. Yes, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have been hugely successful. But Ruben Stoddard and Taylor Hicks haven’t fared as well. Does that mean men should be barred from the competition?

Of course not. Musical stardom is a chancy dream for anyone to pursue; the odds of making it are miniscule. But making predictions based on a contestant’s age is plain discrimination. American Idol should accept contestants on the basis of their talent, not their age, and let the audience decide who has the most appeal. Only then will we really know what Americans want from their pop stars.

And only then can I audition.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Should I Ground Myself?

As a mother of a tween and a teen, I'm the maker and enforcer of many rules. I monitor my kids’ diet, television viewing, Internet usage, homework, chores, manners, activities, grooming and grammar. It’s my job as a parent, but still, it’s exhausting. So exhausting, that I tend to slack off when it comes to my own behavior. I’m doing a pretty good job managing Emma and Nick, but no one is holding me accountable to the same rules I set for them. And I’m breaking a lot of them. So I’m wondering, should I ground myself?

In the last couple of weeks, here are just a few of my infractions:

1. Excessive use of the Internet
I’m addicted to my computer. Unlike my kids, I don’t play games or chat with friends, but my activities are just as frivolous. I google acquaintances, check out gossip websites, window shop online. I check my email, watch funny videos on YouTube, download songs from itunes and plan imaginary vacations on I know it isn’t good to waste so much time online. I wouldn’t let my kids do it. But no one tells me when enough is enough.

2. Partying
A few weeks ago, my husband and I went with friends to the House of Blues to see a really fun band called the Subdudes. We thought that they would start around 9pm, but the band didn’t take the stage until close to 11pm. By then, I’d definitely had a cocktail or two too many. By the end of the concert, I was in the front row, banging on the stage and screaming at the drummer “more tambourine!” I think he was a little scared of me. Was this appropriate behavior for a grown woman? I’d say not. But who was gonna stop me? At least we took a taxi home.

3. Late Homework
In my house, I’m in charge of the bills and administrative stuff. If I dedicated an hour or so a week to the job, it would be no big deal. But I’m not that disciplined. I stuff all the mail in a big basket and hide it in a cabinet until the last day of the month. By the time I get to the huge pile, I’ve inevitably missed deadlines or incurred fines or am rudely late in responding to things. If I were being graded on my work, I’d get a C-. If one of my kids got a rotten grade like that, I’d be calling an emergency parent-teacher conference. But no one around here has noticed my weak performance.

I break a lot of other rules too. I eat junk food, stay up too late watching trashy TV shows, forget to write thank you notes, say bad words. My closet is a mess! Nick and Emma would get in big trouble if they behaved as I do. Luckily they haven’t called me on it. And my husband isn’t the type to criticize. Looks like the only one I’m accountable to here is myself.

I guess I’m grounded.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

You've Got it, I Want it - Taming my Envious Ways

Now that I’m in my forties, I think I’ve got myself pretty together. I like who I am; I like my life. But sometimes there’s this tight little knot in my gut that tells me that you’ve figured it out far better than I have.

Sometimes you’re a stranger and other times you’re my best friend. I see you at the grocery store and you stand out with your perfectly styled hair, diamond earrings and designer coat. I call you up for a chat and you’re baking tarts and practicing French with your six year old. I glance over at you in the locker room and see that your stomach is as taut as a trampoline. We’re giggling over drinks when you share a bedroom secret about your sexy husband. You just bought a summer home in Michigan. You’ve been asked to speak at a conference in Vegas.

Good for you, girlfriend, I’m sure you’ve earned it. But why does your success feel so bad for me? Why do I end up feeling frumpy, stupid, lazy, and unsuccessful? And why am I so mad at you?

It’s envy.

According to The Psychological Bulletin (2007), envy is best defined as a “state in which the desired advantage enjoyed by another person or group of people causes a person to feel a painful blend of inferiority, hostility, and resentment.” Oh, yeah. That’s me.

To try to deal with my envious feelings, I’ll make a list of all the things I have that the other woman doesn’t have. Melissa may have started her own business, but her house is a shambles. Eileen is as fit as an aerobics instructor, but she hasn’t read a book in over a year. Telling myself that myself that I’m better organized and more literate might ease the knot in my stomach a little bit. But not much.

Because I shouldn’t have to put another woman down to feel better about myself.

You’re not my competition because there is no game being played that either of us can win. Your success doesn’t take away from my ability to succeed. But, your accomplishments might just be a signal to me of what I really want.

So here’s what I’m going to do when that envious knot starts its twisting. I’m going to recognize that you’ve achieved something that matters to me and I’m going to stand back and admire you for it. I think it will make me feel a lot better about both of us.