Monday, October 21, 2013

Blog Redirect!

If ever you are looking for my blogs... which would of course be so flattering to me-- they are no longer here, but are on Wordpress... so, just go here--

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Growing up in the sixties as a Roman Catholic was no easy feat, despite my father leading the way.  I attended Mass every Sunday at St. Gabriel’s in Brooklyn.  I fell to my knees on cue to the nuns' clickers and ate broiled flounder on Fridays. I went to religious instruction classes on Wednesdays while all my Jewish classmates stared in envy as I left school early.  On Saturdays I went into that scary, dark booth to confess my sins and say penance (though this always was unsettling to me).  I even went on retreats regularly, becoming quite friendly with the nuns and priests.  And, I became president of the Catholic Youth Organization. The sixties was a time of great unrest in the Catholic Church with many clergy members throwing in the constraints of celibacy and marrying or having healthy yet forbidden relationships. We won’t discuss the dark places that some went to, because that is not what this is about.

I cannot say that I loved the church or its doctrine.  I cannot even say that it brought me great sustenance or comfort.  The message was mostly punitive; where if you did this or that, punishment awaited you.  It was always hard for me sitting through Mass though because my mother, a raving Atheist, gagged in disgust, whenever she came to church (why did she come?). My father was excommunicated because he had divorced his first wife who cheated on him.  I suffered interminably seeing him unable to receive communion when my sister and I, along with our friends, did receive the blessed bread of Christ.  I hated that and I visited many priests begging them to find a way to forgive this honest, giving, and somewhat depressed (being married to my mother!) man.  I never made any headway with that plea, and he continued attending church but not receiving sacraments, much to my chagrin.  I suspect that he died believing he would be punished in eternity forever.

For me, receiving communion was always the highlight of the service and I imagine that is the case for most folks who attend church.  It was solemn and soulful and when I returned to my pew, I got to close my eyes and pray fervently for God’s good graces to be bestowed upon me, and those I loved.  I was always struck by the beauty of repeating all the elements of the Last Supper right there in front of me, in which I got to participate.  This ritual brings comfort to most. 

Like many, I wandered away from the Catholic Church when I was in my late teens and early twenties.  None of my college friends were attending church, after all.  I was married in what was called a con-celebrated ceremony with my husband’s Episcopal priest and my Catholic priest sharing the service.  That seemed right at the time and it pleased my father.  However, I lived in Texas when I had my first child and had him baptized in the Episcopal Church.  It wasn’t a particularly deep decision made for any particularly ecclesiastic reason. Truth be told, I really liked my childbirth teacher and her husband was an Episcopal priest, so this made perfect sense to me!

In the eighties I moved back from Texas to Long Island, and attended an Easter service in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hampton Bays.  It was lovely and the priest was fun and contemporary.  When we went to communion, he had jellybeans in the chalice and he thought is was great fun.  I did too, and after the joke was over and he served communion in the normal bread and wine fashion, I knew I was hooked.  Imagine a church with a sense of humor and one where the priest was not only married with kids, but in the process of getting a divorce! I attended that church for the next 12 years and was confirmed as an Episcopalian as well.   Each of my babies was baptized there and I grew to love the liturgy and the modernistic, sophisticated, nurturing, all welcoming ways of the Episcopal Church. 

So, here is my complaint.  All are welcome at God’s altar.  This is said in most Episcopal Churches before anyone comes to the altar rail.  Some priests mention “all baptized Christians” but many do not, and communion is for everyone.  This makes complete sense to me, because Jesus would not have been picking and choosing who can and who can’t have some bread and wine. 

I understand the whole Catholic “transubstantiation” thing and that Catholics believe that this wine becomes the “precious blood” but do they really, really think they are drinking blood?  Of course not.  So, when a Catholic priest stands up on the altar before serving Eucharist and announces that only “Catholics who have received First Holy Communion are invited to receive communion” I am deeply insulted.  I am insulted not for myself, because disregarding my “conversion,” I am in fact a legitimate “Catholic” under those stipulations.  But, how dare any man, despite having been ordained and gaining four “magic fingers” deny anyone the symbolic bread and wine that represents this historical last meal of Jesus and his 12 best friends?  I mean, where did this designation come from?  It is certainly not in any bible I’ve ever read. Why would it be?  After all, would Jesus have said, “Hey, you can have some bread and wine tonight, but not you or the guy next to you. Only certain ones of us qualify.” This is an arbitrary man-made rule and I say, “all are welcome at God’s altar. “

So, when I march up to communion along with my Anglican husband and I suspect many a Lutheran, Presbyterian and who knows who all else, know that I mean business and I will not be denied the bread and wine that symbolize the goodness and generosity of much of what is right in this world.  So far, I have yet to see an authenticity checker at the Catholic altar, so only God would know who is who and I believe with all of my heart that no matter what, He is so glad to see you and honored to have you share  in His meal.  

Friday, February 8, 2013


My 25 year old niece Katie’s best friend was found dead this morning. It was a shocking, tragic death of a 40 something year old man whom she worked with named, Lee.  Katie spoke of him often and tinkered with the idea of moving from North Carolina to New York with him or traveling through Europe with him and vising his family in the UK.  Recently, when Katie visited some friends in New York, Lee was texting her constantly throughout her stay.  She relied on him for feedback, for laughs, for encouragement.  I noticed when she got back here, that he was the first person she called and spoke to as she went to sleep that night.

Katie is a waitress-supreme.  She is the waitress you always wish you had; one knowledgeable about the food and wine offerings and one who makes sure you are well taken care of for a perfect dining experience.  She does this in Wilmington, North Carolina’s only authentic French bistro and is well loved by her customers, co-workers, and restaurant owners.  Lee was also a waiter and by far one of the most popular in this dining establishment.  Most of the time, he and Katie worked together, laughed non-stop, made life plans, commiserated and drank together after work.  However, Katie was well aware that Lee drank too much and was clearly on his way to full blown alcoholism.  She was concerned and encouraging him to beware or at least to be aware. It seems his death was closely related to his alcohol abuse last night on his birthday.

Lee and Katie were truly best friends and though I questioned her about any possible romantic nuances, she clearly and vehemently denied saying, “He is my brother!”  I believed her.  And though I only met Lee once and very briefly, I felt that I knew him somewhat through Katie’s descriptions and joy in knowing this man. 

So, when Lee was found dead in the most shocking of circumstances this morning and Katie was there instantly to convince herself that this might be real, she became inconsolable saying as we all say many times in our lives, “I cannot do this.”  Ironically, I remember sitting next to her sister Maddie in the emergency room, as her father lay dying a few years, hearing her say, “I cannot do this.”  And then again, when Katie came home to see her father in his casket and decided she did not want to go into see him like that her saying, “I cannot do this.”

There really are so many moments in our lives when we do say, “I cannot do this” and we mean it with all our heart.  It is as if to say, “Someone please take me away from this horror, this unbearable pain, and protect me from this so I do not have to participate.”  The cruel reality is that there is no turning away and there is no protection from the worst that life has to offer and whether or not one thinks they “cannot do this” they will have to anyway.  Rarely, can one be protected and if they are, it will only be for a short while until the water begins to leak through the crack in the vessel. 

So, my heart breaks for the tender and vulnerable heart of this young and beautiful niece of mine who means so very much to me, because I wish I could protect her and her sister, and all of my sons as well, from the angst of life.  But not only is that not possible, but it would not be a life lived in truth and honesty either. Because the reality is such that if you have suffered, then you have also known joy and they do not exist separated from each other.  To know one, is to know both. To not know one, is to know none.  And don’t we elders all wish we had the language that we could use to describe how this flaming pain of love and loss will feel and to prepare our youngest ones for this? But, the words do not exist and each of us seems to have to go through these moments of life changing intensity in order to grow and become wiser and to develop the depth of understanding that enables us to become. 

So when Maddie reacts by asking, “When is this going to stop?” as if magically one day we will all be in the Emerald City and be done with the sorrow, the disappointments and the sometimes terrifying events, my answer is probably not the one she wishes to hear.  As long as we are living, “it” does not stop. The sadness and the joy keep on coming, side by side, in sync or totally imbalanced, but they are life forces and since no one promised us a rose garden, the thorns continue to grow on the vine.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Nickel for a Coil

My sister, Alice was the most darling, little girl with a head full of red ringlet curls and creamy skin dotted with freckles.  As little girls go, she was spectacular and in the age of Shirley Temple she met all criteria for cuteness!  Wherever we went, folks would stop and comment about her adorableness.  I remember boarding the Decatur Street bus one day in Brooklyn.  The driver of the bus stopped everything to carry on with his passengers about this "Little Red" with the head full of ringlets. My crazy mother loved the attention. I, on the other hand, always felt like the gawky, skinny, plain, straight-brown-haired sister on stand by. I simply got none of the attention or glory yet, I loved Alice so much that it was almost okay for I too, enjoyed the spectacle of her!

My grandmother lived at 10 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.  It was one of the more posh, Brooklyn neighborhoods and she lived in a formal and desirable pre-war building right across from Prospect Park and the lake. Most of the residents of this fancy building were older Jews, and they spent the majority of their time sitting in lawn chairs in the front of the building, kibitzing about all that was right and wrong with the world. Having these Irish Catholic granddaughters had to be material for fodder, but we never really heard about it and the flaming red hair that Alice brought into the picture, really sealed the deal.

Mr and Mrs. Halem were amongst my favorites because they always pinched our cheeks and carried on about our sweetness. Mrs. Halem sported a pair of classic piano legs that slanted outwards.  I was always afraid that her legs would just completely bow out and leave her flat on the ground. She wore these huge, clunky black shoes referred to as "Old Lady Shoes" at the time and she groaned, "Oy" a lot. Mr. Halem had the most wretched, wet, crackly cough and his habitual throat clearing could really be sickening. To make matters worse, he had been a Kosher butcher and had chopped off one of his fingers which left just a stub, which always grabbed my eye and fascination.  However, he was madly in love with my little sister to the point where he would stop dead in his tracks every time he laid eyes on her and say, "Hey Red, a nickel for a 'coil'! Look at all those 'coils."  Lemme have just one for a nickel, eh?"  We would all laugh and feel a little scared that he might actually abscond with one of those curls of Alice's.

So, the irony of ironies here is that yesterday, Alice shaved her head and all but the very least of her red hair remains. She has officially crossed over into wig wearing territory and is donning a wig that really looks great on her and is a lovely strawberry-ish color.  Yes, she is yet another woman with breast cancer and has just begun the journey of chemo, surgery, and radiation. Her trademark for all these years, into her mid-fifties has been "Hey Red!" so this is particularly poignant and emotional for her.

In many ways, we look alike or have similar features, though she is more fair with the curly red hair and blue eyes, and I always donned the straight dark hair with green eyes.  So, seeing her with a shaved head makes me see myself in the same light. My hair is not special, it is not my main or best feature and I am not sure I even have one.  It is an odd and entangled emotional experience beginning this breast cancer journey with my sister. I wish we lived physically closer than the two hours there is between us.  And, I wish that she wanted me around her more, but I am trying hard to respect her boundaries and her wishes, hard as it seems to be for me.

One day when this wretched journey is over for her and she has recovered, I know her hair will begin to grow back. One never knows just how thick, or curly, or straight, or red, or white the hair will be, but Alice, will always be Alice and perhaps, she will always be, "Hey Red!"

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Wednesday with Jen

Wednesday with Jen  8/22/12

It had been a few months since I visited my old friend, Jen in her assisted living residence (aka nursing home) in Hillsborough, NC. I don’t know how the time passed this spring and summer, but it did and in the meantime, Jen had turned 81. I felt bad about not visiting all summer.  I had an appointment at UNC Chapel Hill in the dental school, so I decided I would just head to Hillsborough following that.  Guilt came along with that decision, since it was my twin sons’ 14th birthday and we had a dinner party planned for that night.  I knew I would be racing against the clock to make it home for dinner in time, but something pulled me towards my visit to Jen and there was nothing that could stop me, it seemed.

I always get this nervous feeling as I approach a residence like this and I daresay, the fact that I have to go into the Memory Impaired section, a locked unit, makes me even more anxious.  But, there was Jen sitting in a wheelchair at the nurse’s station.  She had shrunk even more since I last saw her and with her sunken deep set eyes, grayish skin tone, and swollen feet and legs, she appeared frail. I had been warned by my friend, Lesley (who visits weekly) and told that Jen really was “ready to go.” 

So, immediately, Jen recognized me, lit up and hugged me saying, “Oh Ann, I’m so happy to see you. Let’s go outside!”  Okay then, I thought, and I pushed her wheelchair to the outside garden, pulled up a chair and sat close.  Looking into Jen’s lovely grey eyes, I saw a glaze and a blankness that I didn’t remember being there.  She told me frankly that she was tired and ready to die.  I asked her what that felt like and she said that the TIA (doctor jargon for “small strokes”) were taking their toll and that as soon as she would get back her memory and word recall, she would be hit with another TIA.  “I cannot tell my children this,” she said, “because they want me to live and they are afraid of my dying, so I don’t tell them, but I am telling you.  My daughter in Connecticut thinks she cannot go on without me and that she won’t be able to make decisions without me, but she is smart and I reassured her that she would be fine.”  I sighed and some uncontrollable tears rolled down my cheeks.  I fought hard to be strong and just listen, unbiased and unemotional, but that proved impossible.  However, I really was accepting of what she was telling me and she seemed to appreciate that. And then, we moved on and our conversation grew cheerful and sharp.

We spoke of fashion and of shoes and of styles. Of I Miller shoes and how she wished she had a good pair of size 10’s but that she was sure they were out of business by now. They are indeed, and have been since the 1970’s.  We spoke of my sons and their problems.  We gossiped about people we knew from Raleigh and Jen would just cover her eyes, head in hands over the most outrageous of the behaviors. Then, when she was finished with her moment of disbelief, we would throw our heads back, laughing.  She remembered the minutest details.  We spoke of the widowed deacon whom I suspect many older women hoped to become involved with.  I did not realize that Jen had brought him dinner a few times.  “Yes, she said, “he so clearly did not want to get involved with me.  Why I even brought him salmon for dinner and well, that was the one time he invited me to sit down and share the meal.”  We spoke of the rector from the church we’d both attended and how her life had so drastically changed as a result of a stroke as well.  Jen confessed that in actuality she never really felt as though she was in the inner circle of the rector and her close friends.  It was indeed, a popularity contest, we agreed.

She raved about the women who come to visit her every week and the “small sandwiches they bring.”  “After all,” she said, “who wants to eat a big meal when you’re just sitting around?”  I agreed. She told me that they are fun and nice and care for her and that it means so much to her. Then, she said to me, “Don’t ever feel bad about not coming to see me often.  It is really okay.  I know you care. And, I know you “always show up.”  This has been our mantra of connection.  We have both always respected that about each other – we knew that at every event, at every funeral or wedding, we would both show up.  We would look at each other and nod in acknowledgment of “Yep, you showed up again and so did I!”

I asked her, “Jen, what do you miss most?”  She sighed, closed her eyes and said, “I guess my freedom would be it and my car and driving. But I am really okay being here.  I am not angry and am not fighting it. It is okay. I have had all these strokes and this is how it is.”  I asked her about her husband whom I had never heard of.  They have been divorced for a very long time and when I asked her why, she said, “He really didn’t care about me at all.  He is 86 and has Alzheimers now.”  She smiled a smile of irony.

Jen told me that when she heard about a family moving to Raleigh (in 1993,) coming to her church from Southampton, Long Island, she thought to herself, “Wow, they must be very rich and very chic.”  She was surprised to find that we were neither!  One thing we can always laugh about is the fact that when she came to help me with my newborn twins in 1998, she asked where the babies’ cribs were. “Cribs?” I asked.  “We don’t have cribs. We co-sleep.”  She never got over the shock and never stopped relating this story to others.  We have laughed about this many times and yesterday she said, “Truth be told, I couldn’t believe that you didn’t ‘crush them”  I roared laughing this time.  “Crushed them???  Oh my!” I said.

We talked some more about our old friend the deacon to whom she had brought a salmon dinner and how eloquent he is.  He was an English professor and I believe that he is almost tortured by his mind and his language that is so far beyond the average person.  Jen said, “I used to use very big words, but there is no one here to use them with, so now I am forgetting them.  “Oh no,” I said, “let’s think of some big words and use them right now.  So we did, and we laughed some more.  We decided that we were two very sophisticated women simply by virtue of the fact that she moved from Connecticut and I moved from Long Island.  We really liked that about each other. It was simple and it was pure… just two women, many years apart in age, admiring each other.

We talked about the fat socks she was wearing and of the wrapping on her legs to stop the swelling.  “It is my heart” she said, “it is not working and the water is building up in me – 40 something – liters? Quarts” I don’t know but it is a lot. I looked at Jen and wondered, just when does one begin to deteriorate this way?  When do a woman's breasts deflate or move down to join the belly? Does it happen on a certain day or always gradually?  "I am closer now to my children, because they come and visit me a lot and the daughter in Connecticut is coming soon. My daughter who lives here is so loving, and we struggled with our relationship for years.  But, not anymore. I love her so much,” she said. "I have a great son who I love as well and he will come to visit me soon too.”

I began to worry about traffic as it was getting near 5 pm and I had a long way to go.  “Oh Jen, I said,  I need to go for Sam and Will’s birthday dinner.”  “Of course, she said, “You do need to go. I understand. It is fine. How could those little babies be 14?” I wheeled her back into the nurse’s station area and asked a woman who walked by to take a picture of us.  I hugged Jen so tightly and held her hand. I love the photo!  The woman who took our picture turned out to be the director of the facility and I said, “My friend Jen is a very smart woman.  Be sure and involve her in things that make her have to use her brain and her great vocabulary.”  “Sure will, “ she said. Jen said, “Oh, I love that.”  And then, I hugged her again and made note of the fact that we had matching green lizard watch straps!  We looked deep into each others eyes and I said, “Oh Jen, you’ve been such a good friend.”  She said, “We really connect with each other. We always have. And, I love you.”  “I love you too,” I said, “Goodbye Jen.”  I knew.....

I drove home feeling guilty and rushed and had to take all kinds of detours to circumvent one traffic jam after another.  Instead of 45 minutes home, it took an hour and a half.  I got home in time for dinner and a birthday celebration, so it was fine.

I know now that God led me by the hand to show up one more time on Wednesday.  I am so grateful that I did not wait.  Jen had a major stroke this morning, is unresponsive and is in Hospice care this evening. I will show up one more time, and it seems it will be soon.  Farewell, Jen.  I have learned many things from you……

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crazies in Raleigh


I saw more than enough mental illness this morning.  I mean, it was in full bloom as I stood on Wilmington Street, in front of CafĂ© Wilmoore, waiting to meet my friend for coffee.  There was a quick drug exchange hand to hand. There was a yelling woman who sat on the ground saying she was tired.  I was a bit scared of her as she looked at me and said, “Don’t you dare look at me, sister, I’m f’in tired!”  She sucked deeply on a cigarette butt that had little or no tobacco left.  Smoking on a filter. I looked away.  Then, a man with terror in his eyes and very long dreadlocks, lit up a cigarette and came face to face with me and said, “They found my cousin last night. They found her body, but not her clothes. She was 26 and they found her in Wilson. She’s dead. Somebody killed her.  My relatives are coming from New York. I don’t believe in violence but well, they have to kill the guy who killed her.”  “Oh dear,” I said.  “I drank a bottle of vodka last night because you know, I was crying.  This is a crazy, crazy, angry world,” he said.  I looked at all the keloid scars on his chest that looked like old knife wounds, agreed with him about the crazy world and felt so sad.

The streets downtown, are full of crazies and I wonder why there is no place for them to go? Why is there not a place for help, for beauty, for state of the art help to nurture and help these folks back to life?  Why are the powers that be talking about making a big park on the old Dorothea Dix property?  It was once a psychiatric hospital and should be again.  One that is the envy of the entire country.  One that restores the sanity to the broken and lost.  One that hires all the smart and caring talent who can do just that.  How can we think of doing anything less? Where do I begin?  I know that the bureaucracy will drown me quickly, but don’t I have to at least try?  I’ll give it a try…..

Helen Gurley Brown


No one told me Helen Gurley Brown had died a couple of weeks ago.  I am not sure how I missed that.  Oddly, she is one of those infamous women who I Google periodically and often checked her images to see how she was keeping up her looks as she aged.  It wasn’t pretty and frankly, she was odd looking. sort of all pieced together.  But, I think I knew where she was coming from. A desperate attempt to keep up an image of the “The Cosmo Girl” she had created was required, even when there was not a shred of “girl” left in her.

The 1970’s were my apex.  I was in my twenties in the 70’s, and I was abloom in all ways.  I had graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Buying and Merchandising.  At the time, if you wanted to become “anything” in the fashion industry, this was THEE degree you coveted.  That is precisely what I wanted to do in New York City and in the world. Check. 

I held a job all through high school and college years beginning, in the children’s wear wholesale district.  Although I worked for a depraved, bipolar woman named, Priscilla, I learned important techniques of designing, displaying, selling, and accommodating buyers from large department stores all over the country.  Priscilla had us underlings making these tuna salad plates, for the buyers when they would come to “market”.  I remember plucking out the white asparagus from a can with my fingers, along with cornichons next to pimento on the side, with a plopped can of white tuna in the middle.  We served Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies for dessert with some pink petit fours.  None of this was assembled in any sort of sterile way, but then, food in New York, even in some of the best restaurants, never really is.  Sanitation Grade standards are different for New Yorkers, I suppose.  Anyway, Priscilla would ooze and gush emotion with her customers to the point of making me nauseated.  She was a big, boisterous Jewish New Yorker who would effuse this odd, Texas accent of a petite southern belle, when she felt it appropriate.  It never was.  The firm was Texas based and so this was the connection she made.  Buffy and Jody of Family Affair television fame, were dressed in the company’s Betti Terrell clothing which made Priscilla feel like even more of a celebrity. She would have these mood outbursts where she would go from being your biggest fan to acting like she planned to tear you to shreds.  It was very scary and very unpredictable. Being as I’d lived with a bipolar mother, working with a bipolar woman was not exactly foreign territory for me.

After my children’s wear foray, I found myself much happier in the accessories industry.  All things ethnic were booming, along with bullet belts and Marakesh handbags.  I worked in the showroom for Michael Murray Designs and was involved in some of the jewelry, scarf, handbag, and screen-printing creations.  The head designer was Larry, a drugged out clone of Stephen Tyler, but he was kind and very talented. He and I put bullet belt samples together until our fingers bled and until we had enough samples for the accessory buyers in Macys, Altmans, Lord and Taylor, Saks, Henri Bendel,  Bergodorf, Bloomingdales, and Gimbels. The whole accessory market was a more normal venue and one where I could really learn design and sales in a thriving industry. 

Finding my way in the 60’s and 70’s included getting my own apartment in Richmond Hill, Queens, NY.  I lived alone in a two family house at the age of 16, before I finished high school and continued to live alone in other apartments in Queens for the next 10 years.  I read every fashion magazine and I loved the changes that were happening for women in that turbulent time.  Cosmopolitan was the magazine I waited for each month and devoured from cover to cover.  The Francesco Scavullo photos on the cover were mesmerizing for me.  These were hot models, not celebrities and they were about the same age as me.  I too, loved wearing tight clothes, mini skirts, my favorite pair of “see-through pants,” platform shoes, and anything else that was sexy and fashion forward.  The articles in Cosmo were racy, but not nearly as they became in later years.  They were more typically about “how to hold onto your man” than vivid and detailed descriptions of how to please your man in bed. 

So, Helen Gurley Brown became my guru.  I hung onto her every word.  I loved to listen to her, to emulate her, and to follow her escapades in successful journalism. 
She espoused having it all, but not wanting it all—in that, she never wanted kids, just money, success and sex.  Although she promoted multiple partners, it seemed she had one solid marriage, to David Brown.  So, maybe she was just merchandising an idea or “do what I say, not what I do,” but it sounded so good to me, and it was just where I wanted to go.  Although I was a big fan of Gloria Steinem’s and less so of Betty Friedan (just too hard to look at) and a card carrying member of NOW (National Organization of Women)I think I was somewhat torn. I learned to ask that car doors “not be opened for me,” and requested the saleswoman in Macys stop calling me “Dear” (not sure now why this was an issue.) I still adored the mantras of Helen Gurley Brown.  I was sort of betwixt and between the glamour-girl-say-yes-to-anything-a-man-asks, and the “Hey, stop whistling at me when I walk by” type. I suspect I was not alone in my yin and yang. 

I read “Sex and the Single Girl” from cover to cover.  I bought, Helen Gurley Brown’s Single Girls Cookbook” and produced nearly every recipe she suggested. There were some for enticing your man and some for getting him to leave as quickly as possible. I remember getting fixated on “Braised Adriatic Green Beans” – oddly nothing remarkable.  It was a green bean in olive oil recipe and I actually produced this dish as a centerpiece for a party I threw for New York Hospital’s Gift Shop volunteers and staff.  They must have wondered…

I aspired to be, or believe I was, that Cosmo girl and since I had no desire to have children, this fit in well.  I followed HGB so closely that in fact, I believe this is the reason I have a hyphenated last name.  This of course dates me, since most women do not do that any longer and I often think that I should at least drop the hyphen in the hopes that my age will be slightly less obvious.  Even HGB no longer used a hyphen. Of course my wrinkles will continue to give me away.

So speaking of wrinkles, Helen had far less than typical for her age and perky breasts that were uplifted at the age of 72.  She lamented “her tummy” in her 80’s and still wore high heels, nearly toppling as she walked.  This was a woman who poo pooed Anita Hill’s complaints against Clarence Thomas, saying she should have been “flattered by the flirtations.”  She also diminished the dangers of HIV-AIDS and its sexual transmission. She encouraged “having it all” yet really didn’t have it ALL since she avoided having children, saying she just didn’t have the time.  She espoused trading sexual favors for material goods and believed that money and power were the goal in all cases.  Are these the choices I look up to?  Hardly.

I am far, far from my days of being the Cosmo Girl.  I married the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful man in the world 34 years ago and have six sons who I adore.  I have lost one of my children and feel that to have loved and to have lost in this capacity is the deepest of all possible emotions.  I am a woman who works to help other women and cringes from the loss of feminism in many young women who instead embrace the likes of Rhianna, Whitney,  or similar airhead celebrities who allow themselves to be used and abused.  

But, nevertheless, I learned a lot from Ms. Gurley Brown and I grew when and where I needed to grow.  I also gained some cooking skills, which are never a bad thing, though I haven’t tried those Adriatic Green Beans in awhile.  Thanks Helen – and at 90 years old, I would say, you did a good job offering another perspective and helping us all sort out just who we wanted to be in an era of great change and curiosity.  It was indeed, a learning experience.