In conversation with an acquaintance recently, I remarked that I was getting ready for retirement.
“You’ve been getting ready for retirement for three years,” he said. “You’ll never retire.”
“Oh yeah?” I answered with my usual snappy repartee. “I will so retire. One more year, tops.”
But he was sure I wouldn’t. “You can’t retire. Instead of thinking about doing nothing, you should be thinking instead about what you want to do NEXT.”
Well, I know what I want to do next. I’m already doing it (part-time anyway): WRITE.
But I think this guy may have meant something that pays money.
And I don’t really have much hope for that by writing. I actually wrote something that made the New York Times bestseller list for a week or two – and still didn’t get paid one cent.
But a second career after retirement?
There are lots of careers I considered before I accidentally fell into Accounting.
The first thing I ever wanted to be was a movie star. First it was Shirley Temple. Then there was a long stretch of time where I thought I could be the next Hayley Mills. But even though I could cry at the drop of a hat (and often did – just ask my sisters) I see now that this would not be a good time to start a second career as an actress. There are only two movies per year for an actress over sixty, and Meryl Streep plays both parts. And she has an advantage over me. She can act.
I briefly toyed with the idea of becoming a nun. I was feeling that enormous stress of life’s responsibilities that comes with turning nine. So I didn’t want to be the kind of nun that I saw teaching in my school. No, I wanted to be a cloistered nun. Where your only job was to pray. That would be easy. I would just pray. And maybe iron. There’s a lot of material in those big dresses and veils. I liked the convents where the nuns wore white, not black.
And although I still see the appeal of a life of serenity and simplicity, none of the nuns (cool nun pun) wears those flow-y veils anymore. And I also see now that along with all that praying, there is also a vow of obedience. Well, the first time someone told me what to do (gave me an order in the order, so to speak), well, that would be the end of my vow of silence.
After high school, I attended nurses’ training for one semester. My mother is a nurse, but I did not go to nursing school at her suggestion. No. Her suggestion was that I would hate it. “It’s mostly drudgery,” she said. But I knew that underneath, she really liked Nursing. And underneath all my teenage angst, I really wanted to be like her. So I went. And just like I figured I’d pick a convent by the prettiness of the veils, I picked a nursing school with a very pretty uniform. And cap. And just like the nuns, no one even wears a cap anymore. So it was a good thing it didn’t last.
My mother was right. It was drudgery. But not the actual working in the hospital so much as the classroom part. I was so bored. When I decided to quit, my advisor agreed that it didn’t seem like the right coursework for me. “I don’t really understand why you didn’t opt for college and medical school instead,” she remarked.
And she was right. I think I would have made a fine doctor. I excel at noticing everything that’s wrong with everyone. What a great diagnostician I would have been. And I can just see myself striding down those hospital corridors with a name-tag and a stethoscope and a clipboard. I’d look great. Not in scrubs. There is nothing attractive about the cut of those drawstring pants. And a short sleeve top with a boxy cut makes your arms look heavy and your stomach big. But a nice white lab coat would be great. With a pencil skirt and stilettos.
But as cute as that outfit might be, I don’t want all those years of medical school at my age. I need something that I can get right to doing a little quicker than that.
There’s Hairdressing. I can still wear a white coat if I want to. And I have a great sense of style. I can pick hairdos for people. I don’t want to stand on my feet all day though. I won’t spend the rest of my life – or one day for that matter – in Crocs.
I went to college after the nurses’ training fiasco. And when I finally graduated – I changed my major upteen times and finally ended up with a teaching certificate, but I knew during my student teaching that I didn’t want a life of hollering at kids to sit down – I had a hard time finding a job. But I finally landed a position that entailed typing names and addresses on purchase orders. I actually liked that job. But I saw a guy every day who not only liked his job – he LOVED his job. It was the mailman. He told me he was the luckiest guy in the world. Because he got paid to walk around. So that’s something to consider. What a great second career! Walking around! However, I would stick to June only. And maybe the beginning of September. Is there a walking-around job with that schedule?
But realizing that my happiness is weather-dependent has inspired me, and after a lot of consideration (as you can clearly see – this post is more than a thousand words, for god’s sake), I have come up with the perfect job for me.
I cannot think of one other job in the world – not air-traffic controller, not auto mechanic, not bank teller, not even grocery-bagger – where you can consistently be WRONG – and you still get to keep your job.
And I can do it. I know I can.
I can stand in front of a map and be wrong.
I have a few opinions.
Some who know me might be saying “No kidding” under their breaths.
That’s okay. I’m not hurt. They do know me. And they appreciate all my helpful advice. I’m quite sure.
So here’s some of my indubitable (I love that word – my maiden name is Dube) opinions on style and beauty:
1. Hair color.
Changing your color is wonderful. Mother Nature doesn’t always know best. However. One should keep one’s haircolor within the range of hues that are at least remotely possible for human beings. Not that purple bangs can’t be cute. It’s just that no matter how plain you may think you face is, you really want people to look at it when they are speaking to you. Not your cotton candy do.
(Or your boobs, for that matter. Try to limit your boobage overflow in public.)
The older I get, the more I recognize that eyebrows are an important part of that same face you want people to talk to. I realize that I am slightly obsessed with eyebrows, especially since mine seem to be disappearing – or perhaps migrating to other spots on my body, one hair at a time.
Eyebrows truly frame your face. They enhance your expression. Just look at this guy – his eyebrows convey such earnestness and melancholy.
Because eyebrows have the power to communicate so much, however, you need to be really careful about the message you are giving. Too close together can look kind of mean. Too far apart might make you look childish. Too much arch and you’re permanently surprised. And eyebrows can even make people trust you - or not.
How do you know how short you can go? And at what age? I think the big mistake made by style advisors is to talk about skirt length in the context of how many inches above the knee. They are measuring from the wrong direction. It doesn’t really matter how many inches above the knee… it matters how many inches below the crotch.
So I have worked out a little formula that calculates the exact skirt length for you:
Age x Height (inches) /500
Take me, for example: I’m 63 and 5’5″ (65 inches). Multiply the two numbers and you get 4,095. Divide by 500 (I don’t know why 500 works, but it does) and you get 8.19. That’s the length the inches - at the shortest – my skirt should be below my crotch.
Let’s take a younger, shorter person. Say she’s thirty and 5’2″. 30 times 62 divided by 500 = 3.72. A much shorter skirt than mine, but she’s half my age with shorter thighs anyway.
Try it for yourself. And then measure your most flattering short skirt. Aha! They really should give inseam measurements on skirts, just like pants. It would be so much easier.
One caveat: If you have a really droopy ass, you should probably add an inch or two, or measure from the droopiest part, as it may hang down significantly lower than your crotch.
Ditto for extra poufy asses.
4. Bathing Suits.
I have no formula for bathing suits. And I have no rules.
Wear whatever you want. Whatever feels good for you. A bikini if you want. A moomoo if you want.
I saw a meme recently that offered this advice:
How to get a bikini body:
Put a bikini on your body.
It’s the BEACH.
You are there to have fun. So have fun.
There are no rules.
Except for men.
I have a few opinions.
I often say to my husband, “I don’t know why you would ever argue with me, when you know that I am always right.”
With everyone I am not married to, however, I am actually quite tolerant. I know that I’m right, but I realize that other people mistakenly think they are right too. I am a very nice person, so I let them think so. (And I know I would never convince them anyway – I haven’t even convinced my husband.)
But the other day I heard something on the radio that reminded me of just how right I am.
It was an ad for the local airport.
It is my opinion that it is a complete waste of money for airports to advertise. Hearing an ad for an airport does not make me want to go there. I go there when I need to fly someplace. And then I go to the nearest airport that gets me there. In Connecticut we only have on airport. Guess where I fly from? And hearing that ad a few days ago didn’t make me say, “I have to find someplace to go, so that I go to that awesome airport.”
Ditto for hospitals. I will admit that a hospital may want the public to know about what services it offers. But lately, one of our local hospitals has been advertising an app that you can download which keeps track of the waiting time in the ER. If you need to go to the ER, in my opinion, you should just GO. Checking the wait time may be more appropriate for Space Mountain.
Speaking of being in pain, it is also my opinion that tearjerker movies are very therapeutic. Having a good cry about something that doesn’t hurt you personally is a great stress-reliever. I learned this forty-five years ago when I saw “Midnight Cowboy” for the second time. I had seen it with friends, and then gone again with my sister a few weeks later. Knowing how it ended, I started crying about half-way into the movie. Every time Ratzo said “Florida” I cried a little more. By three-quarters of the way through, I was bawling. Loudly. And after the movie was over, I felt wonderful. Euphoric even.
Several times a year, you should pick a movie that really gets the waterworks flowing: “Terms of Endearment,” or “Kramer Vs Kramer” – even “Old Yeller” if that does it for you. Have a fabulous cry. Sob even.
Which leads me to tissue. In this case, bathroom tissue. Toilet Paper. It always should be positioned to roll from the top over the front. Not down the back. Not ever.
You may disagree with me. You’d be wrong. But I’m way too nice to say so.
(Next time: Style Opinions)
Ever since I started blogging, I have posted a new photo on my birthday.
In defiance, I suppose.
This year is no exception.
My husband and I went shopping at this enormous (220 stores) premium outlet. I did have to make a tiny concession to my age, in that we visited ten stores out of the 220. And then I could barely walk back to the car.
My husband had secretly already bought me a present. I had seen a beautiful vintage bracelet of garnets and gold at Christmas time, and so he had gone back to the store the next day and bought it for me. And saved it for my birthday, since he had already spent a fortune. But the outlet shopping excursion was two days before my birthday, and so he didn’t want to tell me yet that he bought the bracelet. Which worked out pretty dandy for me, since he bought me a couple of additional presents.
One was a Coach bag. It’s a gorgeous red leather tote. It’s completely appropriate for my age, but I love it anyway.
And then he wanted to buy me skinny jeans, because he likes my ass. So how could I refuse?
So we went to Armani. I picked a nice warm brown with zippers at the ankles, but they didn’t quite fit. (My husband would argue with that.) So we had no choice but to get the python print.
Yes. Snakeskin Skinnies.
But sixty-three isn’t old anymore. Even seventy-three isn’t old.
The Beatles reminded me of that on Sunday. I mean, look at Ringo.
You can’t get much cooler than this. I actually think he is better looking than when he was kid.
And so am I.
Take THAT, sixty-three!
This is it! The best day ever in my whole life (so far).
Exactly fifty years ago:
February 9, 1964.
There has been a fair amount of hoopla this year, given the 50th anniversary, so you may recognize this date.
The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.
All my friends at school were so excited. For the last month, we had been crazed with Beatles Fever. We had set up a record player in the gym at the Bristol Girls’ Club and played the two singles (four songs) over and over. “She Loves You” with the forgettable “I’ll Get You” on the B side, and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” with the unforgettable (to me) “I Saw Her Standing There” on the B side. By over and over, I mean OVER and OVER. No one said, “Enough!” We couldn’t get enough.
Every girl had a favorite Beatle. And it was easy to know which Beatle any little girl would choose. The cute and popular girls liked Paul. The day-dreamers were drawn to John. The shy, bookish girls loved George. The girls who were most likely to adopt a stray dog: Ringo.
Being the dreamer that I was, I liked John Lennon. Some of my classmates were outraged by that idea. “But he’s married!” they cried. I didn’t really see what difference that would make, since I hardly thought he was going to ask me on a date. But although I may have been a dreamer, I was not a boat-rocker. I switched (at least in public) to George.
And after weeks of anticipation, Ed Sullivan announced that The Beatles would be on his show. On February 9, 1964.
That was not just a day. That was my birthday.
And it was not just my birthday. It was my thirteenth birthday.
I was FINALLY going to be a teenager. In possession of two already-teenager sisters, I had been desperate to be a teenager for the last two years. And with a February birthday, I was always one of the oldest kids in my class. I was the first one of my friends to become a teenager. I had huge bragging rights.
It was my day. I was a teenager. I was an adult. Makeup – here I come!
All my friends were thrilled at the prospect of seeing The Beatles. I was going to see them ON MY BIRTHDAY.
No one else I knew could say that. No one else was becoming a teenager to the tune of “I Saw Her Standing There.” Of course, I didn’t look like a teenager. I looked nine.
But I didn’t care.
The day was perfect. I wore the brown dress my mother bought for me at Lord & Taylor. For church in freezing February, I didn’t wear my one pair of stockings. (Oh, there was no pantyhose in those days. I had a tiny little girdle with garters that the stockings fastened to.) I could not risk having those horrible splintering pews ruin my only pair of stockings. So I wore my bagging beige tights. There was no lycra in those days. Skinny girls like me had droopy knees and ankles every day.But I didn’t care.
It didn’t snow. I had learned early on that having a birthday in February meant that you had a good chance of your birthday party being cancelled. I became philosophic about it by age 8. (I still am by the way; we had a blizzard last year). Back then, I was lucky though – I lived in a two family house with my aunt and uncle and their kids on the first floor. That guaranteed me a minimum level of celebration.
But it didn’t snow, and my other aunts and uncles and great-aunts, and grandparents showed up. They actually came early and I forgot to change to my stockings. I wore my stupid baggy tights to my birthday party. But I didn’t care.
My hair came out okay. Okay for me. I hated sleeping with rollers, and I usually ended up pulling out a couple in the middle of the night. So in the morning I usually had only one curly side. And that day was no different, except instead of a curly side, it was more of a lumpy side. But I didn’t care.
I think I got a nice gift. I think it was the Brownie Fiesta camera I had been lusting after. But I honestly don’t remember. I didn’t care.
My party was still in process at 8:00 PM. We stopped. We adjusted the tin-foil on the rabbit-ear antenna.
My sisters and I stood before the old Sylvania black-and-white television, and swooned at the fuzzy images. (Actually, my oldest sister didn’t swoon – she was way too sophisticated. But she watched carefully.) My fifteen-year-old sister and I swooned.
Oh my God, they were amazing. The Beatles were so cute in their adorable suits and adorable haircuts. And they sang to the screaming girls in the audience. They sang to me. They shook their shaggy heads and smiled. They were so happy. We were happy.
Just a few months before, we were also motionless in front of the television. In shock and in sadness at the death of the President.
And here were these sweet boys singing to us. Telling us it was okay to be happy again.
On my thirteenth birthday.
The fourth in a series recounting the best days of my life (so far) – leading up to my very best day.
Triple Great Days – The Book
An essay I wrote ten years ago provided me with three of the best days of my life – over a span of seven years.
One day while surfing the net, I came upon a call for entries for short essays for inclusion in an anthology. A few years before, Marlo Thomas has published a book of essays written by a hundred famous people (like Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali, and Steven Spielberg), The Right Words At The Right Time. Each short essay told the story about the difference that can be made in one’s life by hearing just the right words at the right time.
The book was a best-seller and all the proceeds went to St. Jude’s Hospital. So a few years later, Marlo Thomas and her editor wanted to publish another edition – this time with non-celebrities.
Well, I am certainly a non-celebrity – probably I’m in the very top echelon of all-time non-celebrities.
And I had a story.
So in 2004, on a plane, I wrote my essay in the tiny notebook I kept in my purse. And when I got home and typed it up, is was twice as long as the maximum length, which was a measly 1,500 words. That’s nothing for a meanderer like me. So I edited, and edited, and edited. Which I know now is a very good thing to do after you write (although I hardly ever do it).
I sent in the story and I didn’t hear anything for a very long time. I forgot about it.
In the meantime, I quit my job and was feeling pretty low.
And then a YEAR later, I got a phone call. It was Bruce Kluger, Marlo Thomas’ editor.
“Remember that story you sent us about a year ago?” he said. “We are finally getting around to that book, and your story is one of our first selections.”
My First Fabulous Day!
It took a year to get the book published. It came out in May, 2006. I went to Barnes and Noble on the day it was released, and THERE IT WAS! On the center table. With my story on page 69.
I bought five copies and at the checkout, I said to the clerk, “Look right here! That’s my story! I wrote that.”
My Second Fabulous Day!
I had written about my sixth grade teacher – who was the very first person who made me believe that it was okay to make a mistake. One of the most important things a teacher has every taught me. I shared this story on my blog in celebration of teachers after the Newtown tragedy. (“Teachers”)
It was amazing to see my story in print. And I figured I had it made. That was the first bit of writing I had done in thirty years, and it was published. Writing is EASY, I thought. Ha, ha on me.
But anyway, I had published a story. Life went on.
And FIVE YEARS later, in 2011, one night I received a phone call.
The caller asked, “Is this Nancy Roman, who wrote a story about a teacher named Sister Regina Marie?”
When I said I was, she said, “I have someone who would like to speak to you.”
And there on the line was Sister Regina Marie!
She said that a few years before, an acquaintance found the book and the story, and showed it to Sister. Her order of nuns had long since gone back to given names, and she was now called Sister Anita LeBlanc. But she knew the story was about her. And Sister said she’d been bragging about it ever since – telling everyone she met that a story had been written about her. And the day she called me, she was bragging to a new resident in her retirement community, and her new friend suggested they find me. And so they did.
She was ninety-two, and had taught school until well into her eighties. She had been a teacher for sixty years.
Imagine all the children who experienced the kindness she showed me.
My THIRD fabulous day. And the best of the bunch. I got to say Thank You.
The third in my posts leading up to the best day of my life:
The Day Of The Goat
I am not even sure what day this was, never mind what year. If I had to guess, I would say sometime in August around 1995.
My husband and I went to the beach in Rhode Island. This is our favorite day trip.
We have our favorite beach – not fancy, but also not too crowded. And I especially like it because it has a decent bathroom.
It’s a long drive from northwest Connecticut, so we hardly ever get there before noon. So a beach day for us is really a beach afternoon. But most afternoons there are perfect.
My husband likes to lay in the sun. He doesn’t read, or walk on the beach, or swim in the water. He just likes to lie there. Absorbing.
I also like to feel the sun on my skin. But I also like to read and walk and swim. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about my valuables left unattended on the blanket, because my husband is always there. Absorbing.
When he opens his eyes, he likes to watch scantily clad women. I don’t particularly mind. This is a family beach, not Rio. Most of the ladies look like me. Although the teenagers mostly look great. And they don’t seem to mind being looked at. Let him look, I say.
He also likes to feed the seagulls. Some of our beach neighbors are usually not happy about this. But we like to make friends with the seagulls. They like potato chips.
I also like potato chips. My favorite beach lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and potato chips. That tastes so marvelous on the beach, I can’t even describe it. And for dessert – a peach. And that’s what I had that day – so that was part of what made that day so perfect.
It was in the high 80′s, but with a nice sea breeze and not a cloud in the sky. I alternated between reading, walking, and swimming. By husband alternated between lying on his back and lying on his stomach. (with a small amount of seagull-feeding and bikini-ogling.)
We were both very happy.
But what made that day absolutely perfect was the drive home. It’s such a long way, and after all that sun we are usually pretty tired and the drive seems unending.
But not that day.
We have a nice rural route to get back to the highway. It’s a winding road that meanders all over. But there’s not much traffic, so you can make some decent time even with the twists and turns.
And as we were heading back on this road, and discussing the general state of bathing suits, we passed a farm. And from the driveway of this farm came a goat.
This goat began to chase the car.
We watched and laughed as he ran behind the car.
Then – just when we thought he had given up – he turned it on. He kicked up his heels and suddenly he was running alongside our car. Keeping up with us. Effortlessly. With that big goofy goat-smile.
And then he turned it up another notch. He sped past the car like we were standing still.That goat could FLY!
He veered off at the next driveway and he was out of sight.
He was amazing.
That goat was having his perfect day too.
All these many years later, we would never think about going to the beach by any other route.
And we keep an eye out for goats.
I’m posting this week about the best days in my life. Here’s another one of those days:
My Wedding Day. November 30, 1991
(Yeah, I know. Not very original. But true.)
I was a forty-year-old bride – and pretty close to being a forty-one-year old bride at that.
I wore a traditional bridal gown. I had been worried about looking foolish wearing a wedding gown at my age. I even felt foolish at the bridal store. I only tried on two gowns (both samples on sale) and bought the one that fit me better. My mother wanted me to try on more but I refused. I said that I just loved this one and the price was great, so I didn’t want to second guess myself. But in truth, I felt silly. Like any moment someone would snicker behind my back. I only had one fitting, and the feeling persisted, and I cut the appointment short. I didn’t try on the veil until the day before the wedding.
My father walked me down the aisle of a lovely old church while a big pipe organ played some wonderful piece that I don’t even remember now. But I do remember how everyone I loved was there. Everyone I loved was smiling. My mother was beaming. (She certainly had long before given up all hope that I would ever marry. Faith restored.) My boss was there and he gave me a little wink.
All that painful self-consciousness left me at that moment. All that worry about looking foolish trying to be bride at my age. Gone.
The gown was not foolish. It was gorgeous – and for the first time I acknowledged that it was gorgeous - and so was I.
In the whole preceding forty years of my life, I had never once felt beautiful. And now I did.
And there at the altar was my very-soon-to-be husband all scrubbed and polished in a nice tuxedo. And he was smiling.
And now at those (frequent) moments when I really want to kill him, I remember that amazing, transforming walk down the aisle and I give him just one more chance.
Next week I’ll be celebrating the anniversary of one of the best days of my life.
Just thinking about that day led me to consider what other days I would choose as my favorite days.
So leading up to The Big Event, for the next couple of days I’m posting some of the runners-up.
I can’t rank these really – they are so different from each other. But here goes:
PERFECT DAY NUMBER ONE:
Happy Unbirthday, Summer 1963
I was a gawky 12-year-old. Skinny, undeveloped, and a little tall for my age, I was impossible to buy clothes for. A dress that was small enough for my tiny shoulders and non-existent bosom was too high-waisted and much too short – and this was way before miniskirts. (And way, WAY before a girl could wear pants anywhere except the backyard.) There was one store in my town that carried what they called pre-teen sizes. Sometimes they had as many as two dresses to choose from.
On the outskirts of Hartford there was Lord & Taylor. Most of my clothes up to that date had come from the Montgomery Ward catalog. We’d been shopping at Lord & Taylor a handful of times. Mostly just to look. It was as remote and glamorous to me as Paris. They even had a restaurant right inside the store.
And one day that Summer of ’63, my mother took me shopping at Lord & Taylor. Just the two of us. No older sisters, no little brother. That alone was sweet. We had lunch in the restaurant, which was called The Birdcage. And I had a Reuben sandwich, which I had never had before, and which I still love like crazy. And a cup of coffee. Just us girls.
And they had a BIG pre-teen department, and I bought a dress that actually fit me. And was cute too, and didn’t look like a little-girl dress. It was brown, which I thought was incredibly sophisticated (not to mention that it matched all my shoes). I almost looked like I was in high school. (Well, not really.)
As Mom was at the register, I browsed around the nearby counters. They had odds and ends - gift-y type stuff displayed on tables with actual tablecloths. And there was an awesome jewelry box. It was a little upright piano – white, decorated with flowers. And when you opened the top it played a song – “Fascination.” It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I stood silently admiring that extraordinary jewelry box for a very long time.
My mother came over the table and picked up the little piano box. I didn’t say a word. But Mom said the most the amazing thing:
“Isn’t this pretty? Let’s buy it for you.”
And she did!
We weren’t rich by any means, but my parents had always done their very best to give us kids wonderful Christmases, and there was always one special gift for our birthdays. But an expensive present for no reason at all? Never!
My beautiful mother bought me a beautiful jewelry box just because she loved me.
I kept that box on my dresser long after I should have outgrown it. All through high school and college, and for many years after, it played “Fascination” for me every time I opened it. Twenty years later I gave it to my niece, and it was still perfect.
And that day was perfect.