Good news, bad news

Posted: August 27, 2012 in beauty, health

The good news is that I went to my first MWF noon-hour spinning class.

It was sponsored by Ye Olde Salt Mines’ wellness program, and it was free! And I did great! (For me, anyway…)

The bad news is that I am SERIOUSLY going to have to rethink my hair post-workout.

HagRags: All mixed up

Posted: August 16, 2012 in beauty, fashion

When I was six or seven, I had a cherry red sleeveless polka dot top that I delighted in wearing with a pair of red-and-white plaid shorts. I remember looking at myself in the big round mirror of Mother’s 30s-era dressing table (the one that came with its little matching stool) and thinking that I was all that and a side of fries.

My delight, alas, was to be short-lived.

“You can’t wear that,” said The Older Brother, who, at 11, already considered himself the absolute Last Word on what was fashionable or cool. “That looks dumb.”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I think it looks good.”

“You can’t wear two patterns together,” he said. “Gosh, you are so STUPID.”

I was crushed. I had no sisters to consult (and Mother was no help), so I swallowed his opinion whole and never wore that lovely little ensemble again.

(Fast forward about, oh, 50 years…)

AHA! I AM VINDICATED! One CAN wear two patterns together! Even plaids and polka dots! ESPECIALLY plaids and polka dots!

Actually, pattern-mixing has been around for a long time. I remember reading a biography of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that scandalous pair, and the author mentioned that it was the Duke’s penchant for wearing paisley ties and striped shirts with his discretely plaid suits that ramped up pattern mixing, at least in menswear. Also, those wonderful ladies at over at Advanced Style seemed to have no qualms about mixing things up, and they appear pretty practiced at it.

While it’s  taken a few extra years for the trend to catch up to me, or me to it, I think the past six months on the street fashion sites and fashion blogs have been a particularly delightful time.  I may not be as brave as the fashionistas on Everybody Everywhere when it sponsored a pattern-mixing day, but I’ve been dabbling in combining this scarf with that top, or that dress with this jacket. And it’s been FUN. Isn’t that the whole point of fashion?

If you’re still not quite convinced, let me offer some of the best advice I’ve gleaned about mixing things up (with examples from my own closet):

Start with stripes.

This is the safest and easiest route I’ve found, and it helps that I already have lots of striped pieces to work with. Polka dots also work well as a more “neutral” print.

Use accessories. Hey, you already wear jewelry, don’t you? Layered necklaces and bracelets can be viewed as a pattern, and a cute patterned scarf or pair of shoes can be a low-risk way of bumping up the volume. (And, when your children make fun of your outfit, you can always take a shoe off and beat them soundly with it or strangle them with the scarf.)

Mix a large pattern with a smaller print.

This tones down any competition, and helps avoid making you look like you got dressed in the dark.

Stay in the same color family.

This is my most daring combo so far — and it completely breaks with the previous suggestion, which probably should tell you something about following rules in the fashion game. To make it a little less jarring, I used the next suggestion —

Cool down the combination with a block of color or a neutral shade. This is a trick I discovered on my own, and it makes me a little more comfortable with my combos.

A little separation, a little blank space can often quiet any sartorial noise. I mostly use black, because I have so much of it in my closet, but I’m trying to use other shades.

And lastly: Have fun, but don’t push it.

I remember driving by the ESL (English language) instruction labs on campus last year and watching the  Asian chicks stroll to class in their random mixed-pattern outfits, which looked strange to me but that (as demonstrated by their body language) clearly made them feel fabulous. I can’t quite carry that off, and I probably shouldn’t try. (This photo is from StreetPeeper, a fun global street fashion site.)

So now, I’ve opened up a host of new combos from my closet, and I can finally reassure my seven-year-old self that I was right all along. Just file this one under Finished Fashion Business.

And to Older Brothers (and fashion critics) everywhere: PFFFFFFFFFT!


Posted: August 10, 2012 in discrimination, women

Those of us who have been glued to our big-screen quad-sound televisions — or whatever’s handy — for the last week or so should remember that the thrill of watching the U.S. women’s soccer, beach volleyball, and gymnastics teams win gold has been brought to you by legislation that, at the time it was enacted in 1972, was wildly controversial.

The ruling had its roots in the civil rights foment of the 1960s. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation website, Title IX is really very short and simple: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Sounds reasonable, no?

As a result, high schools, colleges and universities were forced to provide for women’s sports programs, in many cases sacrificing smaller men’s programs to make room, both physically and financially.

“While Title IX was never meant to be an overhaul of athletics, in many ways, that’s what it became,” writes Amy Donaldson in the Deseret News. “It certainly bolstered educational opportunities for women, but it was sports and the creation of women’s teams and leagues that made Title IX so visible, so controversial and so impactful.”

“While it opened doors for women that had not only been shut but non-existent, it was also used (some would say as an excuse) to dismantle and reduce the number of athletic opportunities for men — especially at the collegiate level,” she said.

At my college, wrestling and men’s gymnastics were phased out, and I remember that their fans and alumni were really vocal in their disappointment: How could women athletes possibly make up for such a loss? Who would ever want to waste their time or —GASP — pay money to watch a bunch of girls play? The legislation would effectively ruin college sports, critics predicted.

It was the beginning of a long period of transition for women. I had older brothers who were stars on their high school football, basketball, and baseball teams during the Sixties, and my father avidly followed their games and bragged to his friends about their plays and points. Me? I was never encouraged to try out for anything but choir. It simply wasn’t a consideration. My parents pointed me firmly in the direction of academics, arts, and homemaking. The basketball hoop installed at the end of the driveway wasn’t put there for me. I got piano lessons. If I dreamed of gold, it was in a tiara accompanied by a big bouquet of roses and Bert Parks singing, “There she is… Miss America!”

And I think I was the worse for it. I didn’t learn the sort of team-building skills my brothers acquired on the field. I never learned how win graciously, or — more importantly — how to lose, how to shake it off, congratulate the victor, and move on.

I remember at the time the legislation was enacted listening to former U.S. Congresswoman Karen Shepherd describe watching her son and daughter play basketball.

“Why did you keep giving the ball to _____?” she asked her son. “I thought you all hated him.”

“Oh, we do,” said her son. “He’s a jerk — but he’s our best shooter.”

Later she watched her daughter play. “Why didn’t you give the ball to _____?” she asked her daughter. “She’s your best player. You might have won the game.”

“We were mad at her,” her daughter replied. Discussion over.

We girls just didn’t get it. We often couldn’t separate our personal feelings and fears from the possibility of achieving a greater good, and I believe we carried that lack of understanding into our jobs and our relationships. I’m sure I could have learned something  really valuable, even life-altering, from sports.

After 40 years, the benefits to women have been impressive. Consider the following stats, courtesy of ESPN:

  • In 1971, the year before Title IX became law, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports, about one in 27. Today, the number approaches 3 million, or approximately one in 2½.
  • The number of women participating in intercollegiate sports in that same span has gone from about 30,000 to more than 150,000. In the last 20 years alone, the number of women’s college teams has nearly doubled.
  • Before Title IX, only tennis and golf had established professional tours. Today, there are also women’s professional leagues for soccer, volleyball, bowling and two for basketball. Women have even made inroads in the traditionally male sport of boxing.

Don’t forget that, for the first time in U.S. Olympic history, the 2012 team had more women athletes than men. And, as of this morning, CNN was reporting that, of the 39 U.S. gold medals won so far, 26 of them went to women. WOOT!

Despite all these gains, Title !X has yet to be fully realized. The arguments and numbers vary depending on what side of the debate you’re on, but 40 years later, women’s sports program still fall short of the 50 percent mandated by the federal legislation. (If you’re interested, it’s all on the Google under Title IX controversy.)

But I’m not going to worry about that right now,  I’ll think I’ll leave enforcement to the feds — and go back to basking in the glow of all those gold medals. You GO, girls!

From the Hag’s Bookbag

Posted: August 9, 2012 in books


What I’m reading now, and the way I read them:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley— Sounds like Fannie Flagg down home Southern homespun, eh? (Well, it did to me, anyway.) Not so. This is an English countryside murder mystery narrated by a precocious 11-year-old girl with an addiction to chemistry. She’s absolutely hilarious, and plucky without being cloying. (If I were her older sisters, I’d hate her, too.) A complete surprise, and a delight. Good for book clubs. Paperback.

Afterlife by Rhian Ellis — A re-issue from Book Lust Rediscoveries headed by Nancy Pearl. The book opens with a young medium living in a community of spiritualists trying to decide how she’s going to get rid of the body resting in her old bedroom at her mother’s home. Not so much a whodunit as a WTF-happened. I found the narrator compelling if a little maddening: Her passivity about her life seemed to be emblematic of her generation. And it never occurred to me that spiritualism (seances, readings, tarot) is an attempt to answer the very question that religion grapples with: How do we deal with death? Kindle.

The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman — I loved her A Distant Mirror about the Middle Ages, so it’s about time I read this work by the Pulitzer Prize winner. (She’s so good that Streisand wanted her to write a screenplay, but Tuchman was “too busy” and wouldn’t even meet her.) I’m semi-obsessed with the whole WW1 era because of the cataclysmic changes “the war to end all wars” brought to society. Tuchman examines the progress of the war during its first month, August 1914, that set up the tragedy and bloodshed that was to come on the fields of Flanders and France. Very compelling. iBook.

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear —The most recent title in Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mystery series set in post-WW1 England. (See? I am obsessed…) Born working class and employed as a maid in a great house, young Maisie is “discovered” by her employer, who sets her on a path toward Cambridge, a stint as a nurse on the front lines and a career as a private investigator. A few conventions aside, she is a fun character throughout the novels, a real “new woman” of the age. And I always like reading all of the titles in a book series. The characters become friends. iBook

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty — When silent film star-to-be Louise Brooks first went to New York as a teenager to dance with Denishawn (the modern dance company founded by Ruth St. Dennis and and Ted Shawn), she took a chaperone with her. Moriarty weaves fact and fiction, contrasting the wild young Brooks, who has come to New York seeking her decadent future, with the fictional, conventional Cora, who is looking for clues to her past as a child in one of the “orphan trains” that left New York destined for placement with families in the Midwest. I got a bit annoyed with the placid Cora and the bratty Brooks at first, but, as their stories were spun, they grew on me. Experience is everything. iBook.

Right now I’m not reading anything because we’re obsessed with the Olympics at our house.

What are you reading?

My new mantra

Posted: August 7, 2012 in wisdom


Apropos of yesterday, when I complained about all the “gottas” in my life, this seems fitting, even necessary. We could all use a little more bliss in our lives, couldn’t we?

Actually, the full Depak Chopra quote reads:

If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.

Update: WordPress was hiccouging all over the place this morning, and my original post had some weird copy errors. Corrected. Thanks.

Getting rid of the ‘gottas’

Posted: August 6, 2012 in blogging

Okay. So, here’s the deal. (I hate conversations that begin like this. I always figure I’m going to be handed my fanny in a frying pan. No worries, however. It’s safe to read on.)

All bloggers will likely tell you that their blogs have evolved over time. Hagfest (which began as Metafootnotes and somehow morphed into Adventures at Midlife before going on an extended hiatus and re-emerging here) is no exception. I loved all the book bloggers out there and early on hoped I could join their esteemed company. But I quickly discovered I wanted to write/blog/rant/whine/pontificate on a great many other subjects. So I altered the blog’s focus and appearance and happily joined in the conversation with the mid-life blogging community.

But somewhere along the line, as Mother would say, I “got my head turned.” I discovered metrics — those insidious tools and sites that claim to measure your blog’s “worth.” Things like “followers,” “unique viewers,” “cross-posting,” “Klout scores” and “ratings buttons” insinuated themselves into my blogging consciousness. I became obsessed with a whole new set of “gottas”: gotta blog every day, gotta respond to every comment, gotta get on other blogs, gotta get those numbers up, gotta appeal to advertisers, gotta have a new design, gottagottagottagottagottagottagotta. (Like a ratty old out-of-sync engine.) And the more I tried to raise my ratings, the less I enjoyed blogging.

So I quit, but not all at once. Adventures at Midlife just sort of dribbled down to nothing, and I finally went dark for nearly a year. But I continued to read and comment on those beautiful blogs I had met out in the ether. And, after a time, I finally found something I wanted to blog about, and Hagfest was born.

But this time, I’m trying to get  away from the gottas. Merciful heavens, I have been driven by gottas all my life — gotta be smart, gotta be pretty, gotta be thin, gotta be rich, gotta be married, gotta be good, gotta be FREAKIN’ PERFECT — and I can’t bear the sound of it anymore. I have blogging friends for whom blogging is a major and very necessary income stream, and friends who are driven to make a difference in the world for women, the elderly, the not-traditionally-beautiful. They’re all fabulous, and I wish them well. But that’s never been my motivation.

I didn’t start blogging to gain a million followers or to make money, as lovely as that sounds.  I just wanted to join in the conversation, and I was reckless enough to think that I might have something significant to say. Many of you have encouraged me in this delusion, and I sincerely thank you. You are the ones who make me want to keep posting.

So I shall. I just don’t gotta have to post every day, y’know. (And if I don’t respond immediately to your comment, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it, because I really do. I’m probably just blessedly away from the computer for a spell, y’all.)

Do you/did you ever find yourself blogging more and enjoying it less? What made you keep going?

I’ve been mulling over a rant about body image and cultural expectations, but ohmygoodnessheavensforsakes Tish at Une femme d’un certain age has a post up today that articulates many of my own feelings. (It’s part of a larger discussion with the Duchesse at Passage des Perles.) Tish espouses the more relaxed attitude taken by the French toward body image, and posted some rather remarkable images of full-figured models from French Elle. But what a dust-up she created in the comments! While many agree with her relaxing the so-called rules for what size can be considered fashion-forward, several of her readers (who are also of a certain age) seem to cling fiercely to the thin-is-in ethos and reject the models as being far too zaftig to be stylish.

(Le grande sigh…) I’m 60 freakin’ years old, and I have worried (and dieted and then overeaten) myself to death since I was, oh, NINE, about the terrible state of my thighs (and stomach and arms, etc. etc. ad nauseum). It’s always lurking somewhere on the edge of my consciousness, this sense that I am not acceptable.

I’m not advocating stocking the freezer with ice cream and throwing away the treadmill. But isn’t it time to give it all a rest? After all, as Tish mentions, Frenchwomen would agree that after a certain age, women have to choose between their faces and their butts figures, and I think I’d prefer to put my best face forward.

I’m considering stitching her last paragraph into a sampler:

Life is short.  Eat real food, move around whenever you can in ways that you enjoy, and re-evaluate your beliefs and values periodically to be sure they’re serving you.  Question and discard those that aren’t.  In the end, a little roll of fat around the middle doesn’t say anything about the kind of person you are or how much you loved and were loved.

Where do you stand in the ongoing battle?