Thursday, March 7, 2013

What’s IN, What’s OUT—for Midlifers

I was browsing the Harper’s Bazaar website for a costume detail I needed for my novel under construction. Suddenly, up popped the magazine’s list of what’s hot and what’s definitely passé for this spring. It occurred to me that it was time to inaugurate this blog’s annual thumbs up/thumbs down feature. It focuses on our generation and isn’t restricted to fashion, though it kicks off that way. are some of my personal cheers and boos with an invitation to contribute your own.

1. OUT: Shoes with seven inch heels. Decades back, when (in Bass Weejuns or Doc Martens) I took to the barricades for women’s rights, I couldn't have imagined we’d ever again be hobbled by something we chose to wear.
In the 21st century, females are tottering back to repressive attire in what one online store markets as “slut stilettos.” Incredible. Women of all ages unite! We've come too far to give up our soles (and our souls)

IN: High heels, if you elect to wear them. But of respectable, and not dangerous, heights. My podatrist recommends high-ish heels for her patients with plantar fasciitis. Good for the arches. And I appreciate the extra height and the shapely way my legs look in heels. But never, ever, the ankle-breakers.

2. OUT:  Lots of Jewelry Worn Simultaneously. At a reunion I recently attended, one woman had decked herself out like a Christmas tree. She wore a thick gold necklace, fussy earrings, a large pin, and multi bracelets and rings. What was she thinking? Maybe she wanted to flaunt her grown-up success to the junior high classmates who tormented her decades before, but bling overkill does not equal revenge. Or elegance.

IN: Statement Jewelry: One interesting or beautiful piece (plus earrings and watch, if desired) does the trick. Too much suggests you’re trying to distract from body parts that are not what they once were.

3. OUT: Phoning your kids more than once a day. Enough already. Your children (grandchildren are another story) should no longer be the primary focus of your life. They’re grownups with lives of their own. Give the young’uns breathing space. Play with friends your own age who will not inherit. They’ll actually tell you when you’re boring them to bits.

IN:  Texting and Facebook. The kids are great about calling, so I show my gratitude by trying not to over-phone. Instead, I text with my  daughter and daughters-in-law. In quick exchanges, I establish that they’re wonderful (with or without communication) and they conclude I’m thriving. When I worry about them getting home safely through a snowstorm or just want to check out their adventures, I go to their Facebook pages.  They don’t even need to know I’ve dropped by. Very CIA.

4. OUT: Reading a so-so book to the very end. Certainly, give it a chance. Some authors clear their throats, as my writer friends say, taking a while to set up the story. Feel free to skim. If, however, by chapter three, the book hasn’t hooked you, fuhggedboudit.

IN: Book clubs. You’re corralled into reading books wouldn’t normally choose. My couples book club has done The Art of Fielding, The Geography of Bliss, Steve Jobs’ bio, Unbroken. We’re all over the map. New experiences create new brain cells.  And it’s so much fun to trade critiques.

5. OUT: Emails that contain poetic treacle celebrating the winter of our lives. These depressing odes began pouring in on my fortieth birthday. Oh, puh-leeze. Every morning, I wake up healthy is a renewed spring. The trick to growing older is to make each day a year.
IN: Emails that direct you to YouTube for doo-wop renditions by The Platters, or Yo-Yo Ma playing the prelude from  Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1. Messages from long lost cousins. Tips about new uses for vinegar. Supposedly, you can make your nail polish application last longer if you first wipe your nails with a cotton ball soaked in distilled white vingar. Now that was a helpful email.

6. OUT: High impact aerobics. Until two years ago, I was taking classes with women barely out of puberty. I am very competitive; I kept up.  Problem was, my knee didn’t. I limped into the orthopedist who said,  “You’ve got what I call scaloppini cartilage. Pounded very thin. My dear, you have zumbaed your last zumba.”

IN: Aqua Zumba. You dance in a heated pool. No pressure on the knee and  the water’s resistance makes for a super cardio workout. So, not quite finished yet, Doc.

7. OUT: Procrastinating. As businessman Victor Kiam said, “Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.”  We postpone because we’re afraid of failure. Which brings me to my favorite quote of Kiam’s: “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.”  Brilliant.

IN: Getting it done. I recently heard a rabbi say to his congregation, “God can get it perfect. You’re not God. All you have to do is get it done.” My new credo? Do it. Then edit.

8. OUT: Twenty-and early-thirty-something actors. So confident. So boring. So predictable with their smooth skin and oddly named children.

IN: Acting in the extreme. I give you Maggie Smith and Quvenzhané Wallis.  Terrence Stamp and Suraj Sharma, the boy from Life of Pi.

9. OUT: Canasta, Rummykub, and Mexican Train.

IN: Words with Friends, Kindle Scrabble, Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies.

10: OUT:  Long-winded Blog entries.

IN:  Your own Ins and Outs. Looking forward to your sharing them.

Toby Devens



  1. Luv, luv, luv these great thoughts on what's in and out for us ladies "of a certain age." Very savvy advice and thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. I recognize that woman have made remarkable strides in the past fifty years. But how can we keep striding in seven inch heels? You write wonderful novels set in the Victorian era. Back then women were tightly laced into wasp-waist corsets that literally left them breathless and frequently in pain. Like the ancient chinese women with bound feet,their dress limited their freedom. We just have to be careful not to backslide on the details that cumulitively send the message about what we value and who we are.

  2. Who was it that said dress, and then remove one piece of jewelry? Sound advice your party friend apparently never got. Or perhaps she did - now there's a thought. How much more did she have on before she left the house?

    Terrific post, Toby!

    1. As a petite (read "short") woman, I'd be overwhelmed by all that bling. The lady in question is a handsome, large boned woman, but even she couldn't carry so much gold and gemstone freight. IMHO, where jewelry is concerned, less is more.
      Glad you enjoyed the post, Willa.

  3. Glad Runnykub? is out--I don't know what that is so don't need to worry about it now! Ditto 6-inch heels, though I have not worn anything higher than 2-inch since in my twenties (unm, a while ago). I became convinced men invented heels to partially disable women, plus I just didn't care than much for pain :-)

    1. Well, bridge and mahjong will always be with us, but some of the trendy card and board games have given way to electronic challenges. I, for one, am addicted to Scrabble on Kindle. And some colleagues are fiends for Words with Friends. Nice that we have choices.

  4. As they say in the South, bless your heart, Toby. You hit almost all of my hot buttons and a few I didn't know I had. I used to say no more three-inch heels because they and my plastic and metal knees were incompatible. The truth was at my age I felt like an idiot in super high heels. And when your feet hurt, everything hurts! And the bling? Hard on the eyes of the beholder. So my gratitude, m'dear. Somehow I don't feel as old as I did a half hour ago.

    1. Yes, I agree, Chassie. Women past the bloom of youth just look silly in towering heels, besides being horrendously uncomfortable. I'm not saying we should walk around in sweats and tee-shirts all the time. But age-appropriate, attractive, even sexy clothes and accessories are more and more available as the population ages. There are even stores (ie: Chico's) dedicated to them.

  5. You are making me think about my aunt who loved buying expensive pieces of jewelry and wearing all of it whenever she went out. As you said, "the Christmas tree look."

    And heals? I was never much for them, even though I do acknowledge the way they make my legs look.

    Also, as you know, I gave up dying my hair 40 years ago.

    1. Silver hair--I'm looking at your photo--can be dazzling. You don't see many blue haired ladies walking around these days as you did a few decades ago. I had a third grade teacher whose gray was rinsed in purple, which absolutely fascinated me.

      I'm all for options. Hair color is fine; going au natural is great (and a lot less expensive).

  6. Or is it heels? I also gave up on spelling years ago.

  7. So much truth to what you wrote. High heels shoes....I'm just so glad I can wear two of the same shoes, right now. Clarke's are my new best friend. Hope you don't mind being 2nd just this once. As for my hair, I will continue to highlight, or as you said in your first book, "the hygienist with the frosted hair."

    1. Sharon, this is your first time posting! Welcome. For all readers, Sharon is my longest-lasting (we never say "oldest") friend. Our moms wheeled us in baby carriages down the same street. Sharon was gorgeous as a young woman, and she's still a head-turner. Beautiful inside and out.

      About highlights: I think touches of different shades add dimension to the hair, pick up the light, flatter the face, and prevent what one of my former stylists called "that dead beaver look."