Not Millennial but Perennial

As I was looking for articles about older women doing amazing things, I came across this story in the Telegraph. Not exactly what I was searching for, but thought-provoking none-the-less.

The report concentrates on the shift in attitudes of women who, 20 years ago, may have been described as middle-aged. It highlights how older women are generally taking on a more positive approach to aging and being more confident to express a style other than “grandma”.

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This section particularly resonated with me and sent me on the search for more information.

Everywhere we look, highly visible older women are rewriting all the rules. From JK Rowling to Nicole Kidman; Michelle Obama to Anna Wintour, they are at the peak of their power and creativity.

They are engaged, influential and often increasingly political.

There’s even a new term to describe people with this no-age mindset: ‘perennials’

It was coined by US internet entrepreneur Gina Pell, 49, who explains, ‘Perennials are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, and are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded risk takers.’

Hell yeah! I want to be a perennial!

You can hear more about Gina Pell’s idea of perennials in this Youtube video. Not everything she says had the same point of resonance, but I like where she is coming from. 

 

I  think the Telegraph has misquoted her because Nina refutes the concept of being ever-blooming. My interpretation is that age should not be equivalent to relevancy.

Our changing view of paedophiles.

Sexy is here to stayI found this newspaper advertisement in a recipe book my mum kept full of clippings of things she wanted to cook. It’s from 1975. It caught my eye for two reasons. It shows how our attitudes have changed, and it struck me as oddly relevant to my life at the time.

While the  #MeToo movement has highlighted the need for women (in particular) to be treated with more respect and dignity, things were different in 1976.  What we would consider sexual abuse or exploitation was a “normal” part of the landscape.

 

 

When I was 15, I used to walk home from school through the local shopping centre. I could take one of two routes. Either through the arcade (quicker) or up to the end of the shopping strip (more to see). This longer walk went past a butcher’s shop. The butcher, Bill, was a man somewhere between 35 and 40. He used to park is brown Porsche Carrera out the front of his store. I would sometimes slow down to look at it. He must have noticed me, and he would wave and smile. After a few weeks, the wave and smile turned into him coming out to say a few words, and then eventually me going in to chat with him. It all started pretty innocently. Then the talk started getting a bit risque. Flirting, I thought, and I was flattered that an older man with a Porsche would pay any attention to me, a silly school girl in a short skirt. It eventually became outright sex talk, and I felt excited! He was a sophisticated guy, and I felt so grown up! I knew it was “naughty,” but that was the risky part of it, the part that made it fun.

So I kept going by and talking to him.  It’s hard to remember the time frame now, but he asked me out. I was over the moon. Can you imagine how sophisticated I felt! I didn’t tell my mother, but my best friend’s mum was in on it, and she didn’t seem to think it was inappropriate. She gave me no warnings. There was no talk of the age gap beyond “Wow…he’s an older man paying attention to you; be flattered.” Mrs. J helped me get ready in a tight black dress and lace-up boots. I looked fabulous in a 70’s kind of way!

He picked me up from their house, and off we sped in the Porche. First, to a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills, where Bill winked at the creepy-looking maître d’. The maître d’ ran his eyes over me in a way that stopped my breath. This was my first inkling that things were a little more sinister than my naivety had allowed. The nervous, excited butterflies in my gut began to be replaced by more anxious thoughts. I didn’t have a Plan B. Plan B’s were not a thing in 1976; I had no money. I was a long way from home.

He bought a bottle of wine and poured me a glass. The drinking age is 18. The restaurant was breaking the law. “No problem,” said Bill “the owner is my friend.” After dinner, he suggested a movie. Sounded good to me, perhaps a little tipsy.

We went to Oxford Street in Sydney. These days a hip place with lots of bars that cater mostly to the LGBTIQ crowd, back then, about the only place you could see X-rated movies in Sydney. As we walked in, he handed the guy at the door some cash, presumably, a bribe since it was a restricted premise. We sat in the dark seats, I looked around, and  I realised there were not many other women there. The “action” started on screen. I felt sick! Uncomfortable. Scared. I said I didn’t want to watch anymore and would he take me home.

He did.

I’ll give this to Bill; he never tried anything I hadn’t said yes to. He never tried to kiss or touch me. We drove home from Sydney to my place. The one hour trip took less than  30 minutes.  He drove hard and fast in that Porsche, certainly exceeding the speed limit. He didn’t speak. I could sense he was angry.

From then I always went home via the arcade. I never saw Bill again. I had emerged unscathed.

More than forty years on I reflect on this and it stands out so clearly he was a paedophile. That he had been grooming me from the beginning. Starting with slightly rude jokes and working up to porn. Thankfully, he had some principles. It could have ended very differently. I don’t recall hearing words like paedophile then. Sure, there were creepy guys you avoided, but as a 15-year-old, I didn’t feel like a target. I hadn’t heard of books like Lolita. It just wasn’t a “thing”. Not in my world anyway.

“Things” have changed. The findings of the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Child Sexual Abuse shows this behaviour was rampant and people either turned a blind eye or didn’t think it was an issue in the first place.

I don’t characterise myself as a victim. I willingly, although naively, put myself in a place I should have avoided. In retrospect, I am concerned my friend’s mother did nothing but encourage me. I am glad to think this is less likely to happen now.

(Apologies to you mum! Here’s another story you didn’t know about!)

I wrote this post in response to the trial and later sentencing of Cardinal Pell; Australia’s highest ranking priest and a man who has caused misery to many.  If this post has caused you any distress, I urge you to seek help through some of the agencies that have been set up for this express purpose. Just because it happened a long time ago, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

These services may help:

https://www.blueknot.org.au/

https://bravehearts.org.au/

 

THE unwanted wedding dress

I have written about my road to firstly accepting my divorce and finally flourishing after years of wallowing. My final hurdle is the billowing meringue of a 1980’s wedding dress that sits in its box at the top of a wardrobe. The last reminder. The piece I seem not to be able to let go.  The past regrets, the guilt, the hurt and the disbelief have all faded into a not forgotten but a no longer badgering past. But this? This dress…it won’t let go.

I have decluttered that particular cupboard a number of times. It’s not as if it has any use. It is tragically out of fashion with a plunging V-neck, a backless back and layers of frothy white lace and super-puffy sleeves.

My daughter has already married. She doesn’t want it. She quipped “It’s not as if it’s going to bring good luck to anyone!” Ouch!

I could donate it to a charity but I fear it would end up as a fancy dress costume for a 80’s themed cruise or part of a zombie apocalypse parade.

The catch is not so much to do with my failed marriage but more with my Mum’s effort to make it. That and the five bridesmaids’ dresses.

That dress was a labour of my mother’s love. She was a seamstress and wedding dresses were her thing.  We spent many hours designing it. We made visits to bridal stores where I tried on dresses and Mum secretly took notes and made sketches in the dressing room to copy the pattern. She had to make so many alterations because I wanted the front plunging and for it to have no back. Short of using sticky tape to keep it on, this was a major feat in engineering. On top of that, I kept on losing weight – as brides tend to do even though I was already quite thin.

But she did it. My dad cried as he walked past the room as Mum was tying the big wide sash around my tiny waist.

My wedding day was wet. The rain pelted down, the dress got dirty at the hem. I have never tried it on again after that day. Not even for an anniversary. These days I’m 12 kilos heavier than then and a very different shape.

It’s just gotta go….but I can’t make that step. It just needs to vanish without a trace.

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Decisions, decisions.

In a recent blog post I announced to the world that I was going to Broken Hill in far western NSW, for a one year secondment. I was looking forward to it as an exciting but safe adventure. It’s with a slightly heavy heart that I now announce to all and sundry that I have decided not to go to Broken Hill because there’s a new man in my life.

He’s three and he’s my grandson.

When I made the decision to go and accepted the offer, my daughter was visiting Australia but was planning to return to her home in Israel. I thought I would need something to distract me and this seemed perfect.

It seemed like a SMART goal

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R- relevant

T- timely

It had everything going for it in this respect. It was for a defined and specific purpose that was relevant to my current career. It was attainable while offering an appropriate level of challenge and it was time restricted.

Over the last 2 months, my daughter has decided to stay in Australia for good. We talked about me still going and she declared “it’s your decision but I’d like you to stay”

My decision…. yes it is but it’s laced with so many possibilities. I want to go but if I do I will miss my family. I will miss being here as my grandson becomes more verbal and makes up all those funny little sentences. I will miss pointing out hapclapters as they fly overhead and I won’t be able to get excited about planes or trucks.

If I don’t go I will miss out on a once in a career-time opportunity to do something very different. I will have to disappoint the people who were relying on me coming and I will have to tell the person who was so excited about filling in for me they can no longer step into the role.

Family has to trump work so I am staying.

I had to make a few tough phone calls but now it’s done I feel better… more at ease which tells me I have made the right decision.

Now 2019 is a blank slate for other possibilities….I’ll come up with some other scheme to keep this old chook busy!

The Sad Case of the Vanished Cracker Night.

Australia is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Australia – Queen Elizabeth the 1st (She is Elizabeth the 2nd in the UK but only the first Elizabeth we have had) has very little sway these days in terms of our laws, the parliament and that sort of thing but we still get a public holiday to celebrate her birthday. Even though her actual birthday is in April we celebrate it on the second Monday of June. It’s a welcome holiday. By the time June has come around, winter has usually hit and the Indian summer of May has ended with a bang. It’s probably raining and it will be cold(ish) It’s a perfect weekend for inland retreats at wineries or being indoors with a book and a fire and catching up with friends.

When I was a kid, Saturday of the Queen’s Birthday weekend was Cracker Night. There would be bonfires, pretty fireworks and explosive crackers in nearly every backyard. My favourite was the Catherine Wheel which would be nailed to the fence. It would spin around as jets of coloured sparks shot out the sides. The neighbourhood would be shrouded in smoke and the poor dogs would be going crazy.

You could buy crackers at any corner store, regardless of your age. My dad used to blow up our home made letter box every year. He’d fill it with bungers and attach a long wick and then run. The wooden box would get shattered into thousands of sharp, splintery missiles and we would squeal with glee from our hiding spots.

My family must have been a bit more careful than other families. I don’t remember any one getting hurt although my hair did catch on fire once when an ember jumped out of the bonfire. Despite our own personal luck, because in retrospect, I think it was good luck rather than good management, every year you would hear of a another 10 year old boy who had blown his hand off or blinded himself or suffered some other horrific injury because they had taped a few large bungers together or had tried to build a bigger, better explosive.

It became (sensibly) more difficult to buy crackers. You had to be 18. Then it become illegal to sell them in NSW. You could still buy them in the Australian Capital Territory, so people would take the drive down there to stock up for an illicit cracker night party. The firework shops were cheek-by-jowl with the porn shops (Canberra, incidentally also being the only place you could buy X rated movies!).

Many community groups had public firework displays which varied in quality. Over the years, these have petered out too. I guess the expense got too much. Perhaps, the audience got too used to the HUGE New Year’s Eve Fireworks that light up Sydney Harbour. What community groups could afford were fizzlers in comparison.

Last Saturday night would have been cracker night but I didn’t hear one. Not a single one. It’s a shame. Another fun, old tradition that has gone by the wayside.

It made me think, what will today’s kids remember? Oh wow I sat indoors all day playing Total Domination against some random in the US? It was like… So totally awesome!!

…somehow I don’t think so. Will their memories be totally devoid of the types of rich stories that made up my childhood and adolescence?

This year, my Queen’s Birthday Weekend was filled with reminiscences of other kinds. A weekend full of “remember whens” at a 40th high school reunion. Unfortunately, it was only a small gathering. We danced to old 70s and 80s tunes. We argued who was the bigger loss to the world – Lennon or Bowie? We talked about old teachers chasing the girls who were smoking in the playground (not me!!) We talked about those who had not come to join in the party.

Only 10 of us made the journey

Those who had left before the HSC (the NSW matriculation qualification) and had gone into more manual labouring jobs complained that their bodies were beginning to give out. We all complained about our failing eyesight. We compared photos of our adult kids and for some of us, our grandkids. We settled into an easy rekindling of old friendships and lamented that so few had made the journey to Old Bar, NSW.

This one from Primary School

As we tried to put names to all the faces in the old school photos, there was one girl, at the end of a row of the 1C photo that no-one could remember. I’d hate to be that girl. Why did no one know her? We had no special story for her. That made me sad and I wondered if there were other people looking at other class photos who wondered who I was? If there were some people I had never made an impression on? In my own Robyn-centric world I find that hard to believe but I guess I was not the centre of everyone’s universe!

I don’t know if we will have 50th reunion. By then I will be 67. I hope I will continue to enjoy the same good health I have now. I hope I will tick off some more of those bucket list items. But most of all, I hope I can contribute some good memories to the students I teach.

In 2038, I hope some kid says at their reunion, “Do you remember that old chook Ms Lang? She was a bit crazy!” and smile.

Tall tales and true! (Mark and Craig both school buddies since kinder!)

Magical Chanel

The last 5 mL of rich golden liquid had been lingering in the bottom of that “parfum” bottle for a few years now. Chanel No 5, one of the last gifts the ex had given me. He had always been good with gifts. Much more thoughtful than me. I tended to buy very inappropriate ones at the last minute. His gifts were always something I had wanted. Something I had mentioned in passing and forgotten about.

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Jordan, Montana. USA

I am not really a perfume sort of person so the Chanel, while lovely,  and no doubt expensive, was not in the usual caliber of gifts. Probably hastily bought from the inflight duty free. Still it was a nice thought. I tried to wear it everyday to make it become part of my routine but I’d often forget. I don’t like women who leave a cloud of strong perfume behind them like a invisible marker. Of course, I don’t want to smell bad, but I don’t think I should leave a lingering cloud of esters and alcohols behind.

But here is it was,  the last few squirts left. We’d been divorced close to 4 years and this wretched bottle still sat on my bathroom vanity like a beacon of the past. Why was I saving it? At first, when I was in the “we can fix this relationship stage”, I would wear it when he came around. Maybe he’d notice? Then it just stayed. I just let it sit and every time I’d use it there was a pang. A pang that got smaller and smaller and smaller. Mirroring the contents.

Somewhere along the line I bestowed magical properties on this elegant square glass bottle. It begun to represent my progress to an independent life. When the bottle was empty my life would be mine.

And it happened. Rather than using it less frequently I found I was wearing it everyday to get rid of it.  I was ready. I had been ready for a while. That last squirt in December last year was a milestone even if only metaphorically.

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Once in a pink moon

These photos have nothing to do with Chanel. They represent part of my journey to get to here. They were taken on in Montana in 2012. Some on a tripod and some by my travelling companion Bec! (Thanks Bec)

Mothers’ Day

Bah humbug! Today is Mothers’ Day in Australia. The second Sunday in May. I don’t “do” Mothers’ Day. I have told my only daughter not to worry about gifts, or breakfast in bed and all that jazz, because in my honest opinion it is just a marketing beat up. A bit like the diamond lies in this story[1] that is doing the rounds of Facebook.

Mothers’ Day more than any other day epitomises to me the overreach of marketing and consumerism. Hang on, hang on! On second thoughts there is also Easter (buy more chocolate), Christmas (buy gifts nobody really wants or needs because they might get you something), Fathers’ Day, Halloween, Back to School, Valentine’s Day…. the list goes on.

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I don’t think there is a time in the calendar when we are not bombarded with messages to BUY things for the one(s) we love. But more and more scientific and psychological research shows that STUFF is not how we get happy. We get happy by DOING things for and with people.

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Part of an exhibition at the New York Public Library

I have written before about my quest to spend my disposable income on experiences rather than stuff. See my blog post entitled A consuming interest. https://wordpress.com/post/oldchookenterprises.com/1845

 

However, if we stop buying things our economy will come to grinding halt and we will all be in dire straits. What to do? It’s an issue I don’t know how to answer but I am trying to do my bit by not buying stuff. My year long challenge to not buy anything new comes to a close at the end of June. I have not succeeded, as I have bought some new things but for the most part  I have stuck to my rules of nothing new unless it was a replacement for a broken or worn out thing and essentials.

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I ‘spent’ my Mothers’ Day pottering around, not doing much. My Grandson and I inspected the beetles that live in a nearby tree. I rang my own Mother and chatted with her. I wrote a couple of future blog posts and I answered some emails all before cooking a big pot of tasty soup. All in all, a very nice day.

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I am glad to say no flowers were killed in preparing this post!

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oh dear! Spelling and apostrophe fail!

[1] https://www.facebook.com/todayeyewatched/videos/199952127459890/UzpfSTE2NTgwMTU1Mzc6MTAyMDk2ODYyODI4NjgwMTE/

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PS: I certainly I don’t want to devalue the effort of others in celebrating or valuing their mothers. I think we could celebrate it without all the marketing hype and make it more genuine.

 

PPS (Added after publication) one of my friends told me about this article where the founder of Mothers’ Day try to stop the commercialisation pf the day.  https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Family/mother-started-mothers-day/story?id=47333654

 

Making Adult Friends: Trusting your gut instincts

All my planning was complete, and I was stepping on the final flight from Incheon to JFK International and it came to me in a thunderbolt that I had committed to spend three weeks in New York, in the house of someone I didn’t know very well. I didn’t have a Plan B if things went sour and that was an oversight.

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A common interest in photography

My intended host and I had met in a bar on a rainy afternoon in Jasper in October 2016. We spent the afternoon and evening together, drinking, eating and chatting to other hikers who were also trying to keep dry. Did I mention the drinking part? To tell you the truth, we all got smashed together and had a fabulous time. After that RJB and I stayed in touch via Facebook. We had a lot in common.

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We both love Springsteen

It turned out that RJB lives near Central Park on 5th Avenue and she invited me to visit. Sensibly, I said yes and then we spent a few moths planning my visit.

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We both love hiking
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and road trips
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and nature

My sudden concern arose from a fear that in the flesh and sober we might not be so compatible.  What happened if she turned out to have some strange and dark secrets? Could she be a member of a weird, radical religious cult and I was destined to become a captive?

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and the same sort of food!

From her Facebook posts I knew our taste in music, politics and ethics aligned well. Still I had a niggle in the back of my mind. It still might be an elaborate hoax. My worries were of course in vain. RJB was a treasure and although a self-confessed crazy cat lady, everything went well. Her husband was a lovely fellow and we got on well too.

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One of the downsides of being divorced is that your old friends find it hard to take sides and you tend to lose contact. I didn’t have many friends to start off with. The friends my ex and I did have, fell by the wayside as we spiralled down into a very unhealthy vortex of introspection as our marriage collapsed around us.

Since “getting my shit together” I have made a few really good friends. These friendships have in fact be an integral part of that renewal of my life.

As an adult it’s not that easy to make new friends. We are a little pickier and harder to please. We have much higher standards than we did as children.  Even though it is hard, I think we make it harder than it needs to be. I think we disguise fear as pickiness. We are just a bit scared to bare our souls.

This blog, Science of People [1] has some really good tips on how to make friends, but I remember reading somewhere else that how you make friends and them keep them boils down to a few basic things.

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1: You meet by being in the same pace at the same time, so you are already involved in some common pursuit.

2: You spend an intensive period of time with them participating in that common activity

3: You commit to staying in touch and

4: You actually do stay in touch.

It’s not rocket science. Of course, the most important factor is you need to trust and be open.

 

I guess with RJB I should have just trusted my gut. If she was an axe murderer I think I would have guessed in that first meeting. Little bit crazy cat lady I can deal with! 🙂

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High Tea at the Plaza

[1] https://www.scienceofpeople.com/how-to-make-friends/

A very public proposal

There I was minding my own business sitting on the basalt steps at the Pebble Beach between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges waiting for sunset and along comes a man and woman carrying a double sized white rocking chair. They plonked it down and started rocking in the last rays of sun before it dipped behind the skyscrapers.

The sign on the fence said “No pets or furniture can be brought into the park.” When I first saw that sign I thought “goodness who would bring furniture” but obviously it’s a thing.

Next along comes the Photography Tour Group. They set up their forest of tripods in front of the rocking chair. The rocking chair people moved their chair to one of the lower steps, but to the side of the camera group. At first I thought they were together but no, just there at the same time.

As I watched the wedding parties and engagement photo shoots all looking for a divine sunset to silhouette the bridge and provide a perfect back drop, I forgot the chair people.

My attention came back to the them when I saw the original couple slink off away and leave the chair empty. It was soon taken up by another man and woman who sat there chatting, when all of a sudden, he got down on one knee with a ring. The camera club turned in unison and quickly adjusted their focal lengths. At first, the girl looked a bit confused. She seemed oblivious to the hoard of people watching them. Then tears, hugs and kisses. Many, many kisses. She had obviously said yes. The crowd all around burst into spontaneous applause and cheers.

The couple suddenly became aware that they were the centre of attention. More tears, more hugs.

The original chair carriers appeared out of the crowd. There was backslapping and thank you’s from the groom-to-be and “Did you now about this??” from the bride.

It was obvious then that the man had planned this very carefully with his friends. Perhaps he hadn’t expected the camera club to be there but in the end they had better photos than the friend who had tried to take shots from a distance, so emails where exchanged. These photos are a re-enactment. They decided they needed some more photos of their own so turned the chair around and did it again. A bit of over-acting, but still very touching.

The tear-jerking moment for me though was when the girl called her Mum to let her know. You could see (and hear) her waiting for mum to pick up and the call going through to a message bank. She looked so disappointed. Then seconds later mum calls back. More tears!

Floods of happy tears.

There was no spectacular sunset that day. It ended up very overcast and cold, but I felt a little warmer for watching this bit of love. I wish this happy couple lots of luck and hope that the groom stays as thoughtful for the rest of their marriage.