Saturday, April 7, 2012

Signs of the Times

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Happy Saturday!  I noticed the other day that my ankle was puffy.  (I promise this has a point.) So I looked up puffy ankle” (in Web MD, as usual) to see if it was maybe malaria or dengue fever or something horrible that hasn't been discovered yet. Turns out, in all likelihood, it has to do with, um, getting old.
Really? A puffy ANKLE? Are you KIDDING ME? It went away, but I fear that...well, we shall see.
Anyway, I am delighted to tell you I am not alone in the REALLY? Are you kidding me? neck of the woods. My dear pal Laura DiSilverio (who is much younger than I am, just saying) has been thinking along the same lines.
Those lines being, sadly, in her face. 
Wanna talk about this? And, just because it might help--wanna take a QUIZ???   
LAURA DISILVERIO: Hello to everyone in Jungle Red land, and thanks to the brilliant Reds for inviting me back.  Or course, I’m here in part to publicize the release of ALL SALES FATAL, the second in my Mall Cop Mystery series, but I’ve got something else to talk about, too, so let’s stipulate that ASF is funny, engaging, and a great read, and that you’re going to pre-order it at once, and move on. (You can read more about ASF at the end of this post, if interested.)
What I really want to discuss today, and get your thoughts on, is aging.  More specifically, aging gracefully.  I’m coming up on the big five-oh and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing “graceful” about the way I’m doing it.  Hallie’s sister Nora wrote a hysterically funny collection of essays on the subject, I Feel Bad about My Neck, and I’ll admit those essays resonate more now than they did when I first read the book.  
 I feel okay about my neck, but I think it’s grossly unfair that I’ve been re-afflicted with acne as my hormones go menopausal.  Wrinkles are bad enough, but wrinkles with acne is just wrong.  I’m also not fond of muscles that take four times as long to recover from a hard workout, or the way the flesh around my knees sags like it’s trying to visit my ankles.
To facilitate this discussion, I’ve put together the following short quiz.  Take it and see how you score on the “Graceful Aging” scale.
1.        You notice a few more wrinkles around your eyes.  Do you
a.       Smile at your reflection and think how great it is you’ve laughed and smiled enough to carve happiness into your face
b.       Trot down to the drug store and buy some retinol cream
c.       Try a do-it-yourself face lift by pulling your hair back into the tightest ponytail possible
d.      Rifle your kids’ college funds, sell your plasma at the blood donor center, and race to the nearest plastic surgeon

2.       Your joints ache after a little exercise.  Do you
a.       Give thanks that you’re still mobile
b.      Wander down to Walgreen’s to get some of that chondroitin you’ve been hearing about; it’s worth a try
c.       Schedule a massage
d.      Use it as an excuse to give up your gym membership (and apply the money saved to your tummy tuck fund)

3.       Someone tells you, “You look great . . . for your age.” Do you
a.       Thank them sincerely and feel good all day
b.      Buy another lotion or potion to fade age spots, diminish wrinkles, brighten your complexion, plump your skin, and raise your IQ ten points
c.       Put this person in your WIP . . . as the murder victim
d.      Try to patent the phrase “for your age” so no one can use it without your permission under threat of prosecution and a lengthy prison term

4.       You put on five or ten pounds that just won’t budge.  Do you
a.       Think, “That’s why God invented elastic-waist pants and skirts!”
b.      Invest in the entire Spanx collection
c.       Work a half-hour walk into your daily routine
d.      Try the latest fad diet and learn to subsist on nothing but kelp, raisins and Metamucil

Scoring:  Give yourself one point for each A, two for each B, three for each C and four for each D answer.
0-4:  The “Let Nature Take Its Course” Gal (or Guy).  You’re undermining the economy with your refusal to purchase any of the lotions, ointments, dyes, teeth bleaching kits, diet pills, vitamins, or services devoted to making you look and feel four months younger than your calendar age.  Your aging celebrity counterpart is Jack Nicholson. 
5-12:  The Do What You Canner.  You have staked out a reasonable middle ground between letting yourself go completely and obsessing endlessly about each gray hair and wrinkle.  Your aging celebrity counterpart is Jamie Lee Curtis or Betty White.
13-16:  The Interventionist. You’re well on your way to becoming Joan Rivers.  You regard the words “aging gracefully” as an oxymoron and are doing more than your share to keep the economy afloat with beauty product, spa, and plastic surgery purchases.
So, Jungle Reds, how gracefully are you aging?  What’s your biggest complaint about aging?
HANK: Sorry. Still laughing. Luckily I'm really bad at math,so I can't properly calculate the bad news. And even if I knew the score, I would forget it soon.
How about you, Reds?  
In All Sales Fatal, wounded-vet-turned mall cop Emma-Joy “EJ” Ferris finds a dead gangbanger in the Fernglen Galleria parking lot.  When her boss then disappears and his three ex-wives insist he’s met with foul play, she searches for a link between him and the dead teen.  With the help of her octogenarian Grandpa Atherton (a retired CIA agent), currently working as the mall’s Easter Bunny, she must track a killer with little to lose before the murderer puts her out of business for good.  Critics loved the first mall cop mystery, Die Buying, naming it to several Best of 2011 lists:  Suspense magazine (Top Four Cozies of 2011), the Seattle PI (Top 10), (Top 12). 


  1. If the book is as funny as the survey it will be a runaway hit!

    I'm definitely in the Jamie Lee Curtis camp: I work out, but don't dye my hair, and am not ever going through any kind of surgical intervention. But I'm 60, and a grandmother, and not in the public eye in any way. It would really make no sense to try to stop that runaway train.

    In February I was at a fun party where the host and some of the guests were Scots, as in born in Scotland, with a heavy helping of verbal catarrh. In a conversation with the oldest of the Scots he for some reason tried to guess my age, and he guessed correctly. Most people guess much younger, but he said his mother taught him to observe the hands and the neck--both places that are very difficult to change as we get older. Nora Ephron was right! So why bother changing other things when the most visible parts of your body are screaming something different? It would be like trying to hold sand.

    I say work on it, but age gracefully. And only lie about your age if you're going to tell people you're OLDER than you are. Then you really do look "good for your age". :-)

  2. Laura's writing IS as funny as her survey! Congratulations on the new book, Laura.

    What I find truly scary is aging movie stars whose plastic surgery has transformed them into mannequins with a single stunned expression. Let's hear it for gutsy actresses like Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren (they're both not American - I guess that says something) who use their age to play the part of real women.

    How come men are allowed to age naturally and women aren't??

  3. Hey Laura welcome back. As someone who used ot work in a mall (Waldenbooks) and knowws that malls are small, dysfunctional cities unto themselves I'm looking forward to the new book!

    I'm a do what you canner - a sucker for every magic cream and vitamin combo that gets written up promising to ward off the ravages of time. I use them religiously for a week or so until the next article I read.
    BTW...I watched Prime Suspect 2 this week and Helen Mirren doesn't seem to have aged since 1994. She's my idol!

  4. Karen--I'm with you and Rosemary in the Do What You Canner camp. I think Jamie Lee Curtis looks great. I occasionally wonder where the line is between "letting oneself go" (and becoming unhealthy) and "reasonable measures." It's a moving target.

    Thanks, Hallie. I love Helen Mirren, too. She's taken some brave roles. Why are men considered handsome without make-up throughout their lives, but women "aren't making the most of themselves" or "don't look professional" without make-up. The inequity continues into aging.

    I didn't know you worked in a mall, Rosemary. You can give me some good stories next time we meet! My newest serum is a Murad one for brown spots and (drum roll, please) it's actually working as advertised. Color me flabbergasted.

  5. How funny! I've not read the Mall Cop books yet, but I can tell I'll have to get them, Laura.

    I got a 6 on the survey, putting me barely into the Do What You Can camp. Only because I answered question 3 with "C. Put this person in your WIP... as the murder victim."

    I hate it when people make those judgmental statements about appearance. For example, if I'm fixed-up and looking good, someone inevitably says, "Oh, you've lost weight!" Usually, I haven't, but if I look good, surely it can only be because I'm skinnier, right?

    I'm really a Let Nature Take Its Course girl--and I look like it. This old barefaced hippie's big concession to age is putting on lipstick and a little mascara for dress-up. Though I admit I look at gorgeous Hank and think, "Maybe you should do something to fix yourself up, Linda?" But then I realize it's her great genetics, which are not mine, and I decide lipstick's enough for me again.

    And yes, men are allowed to age naturally without paying the kind of price women do, especially in Hollywood where anyone over 28 is considered "old."

  6. I must say I'm with Rosemary. I was going to do a blog recently about all the things I did to myself before I go to bed, but then it was embarrassing so I dedided not to admit it.

    Sorry about the font! Reallly, its times new roman 14, but your eyes are just going. Aging... :-)

  7. And then there's the internal debate when you find out someone you've just met is your age, and you can't help wondering whether you look younger or older, or just as good or just as bad!

    See you at Malice, Laura! (And I once worked at Waldenbooks in a mall, too, so we can talk!)

  8. You make some great points, Linda. I admit to choosing some phrases for comic effect in my quiz. In reality, aging gracefully is about what makes you feel comfortable in your own skin, although I think maintaining good health should also be a consideration. BTW, I like your red lipstick in the photo; it adds punch, pizazz--you and Hank have that in common.

  9. Hank--Whatever you do to yourself is working wonderfully, so you should let us all in on the secret!

    Leslie--Looking forward to seeing you at MD and getting your thoughts on the Maass course you took.

  10. Hi Laura,
    I LOVED Die Buying and I look forward to buying ASF!

    Where am I on the quiz? I DO work out but my gym program was created by one of my doctors and my you could say I do it for "medicinal purposes". (I inherited back and neck problems. No money in my family, just interesting orthopedic problems!) I have been coloring my hair for twenty one years and have no plans to stop any time soon! I just turned 63 and found my first grey hair when I was in high school. It was down hill from there! My hair was quite white/grey at an early age and I was tired of it!

    Other than going to the gym and coloring my hair,I don't do any age "hiding". Nowadays, people seem to think I'm younger than I am. I think a lot of that has to do with something beyond my control - I have one of those young-sounding voices, something I was not aware of until someone pointed it out to me.

    Some people, probably the ones who observe necks and hands, are aware of my age. I am NOT ashamed of my age and I never lie about it. I feel that each year is a gift and I'm grateful for each year that I have been given. I have been blessed with good health,and just have some minor problems that can come with age(or heredity,in my case.)

    And haven't all of us said of someone else at one time or another "how can that old person be MY age?" An elderly friend once told me that the secret to aging gracefully is to never look in the mirror! She said "I still feel the sme way I did when I was 21. When I look in the mirror I have definite proof that I'm NOT 21. So don't look in the mirror,and you'll feel young!"

  11. Hi Laura,
    Great post! Your book sounds terific.

    My mother at 80, on her deathbed, was considering laser surgery for her eyes.

    There is no hope for me, as I tell my daughter, we come frmo a long line of vain women.

    Every bone in my body hurts pretty much every day, but the older I get, the more I love physical exercise. Go figure, I was fourteen years old and skipping gym to smoke cigarettes....

    But the thrust of your quiz questions, I think, are we should be grateful fo revery ache and pain that's not terminal! Well, if not grateful, accepting.

    And Hank, I'll take a puffy ankle over a puffy face!

    Apologies in advance, I'm typing on an IPAD

  12. Hi Laura:
    Boy did that quiz hit home. I'm with Hank--I'm a sucker for trying new creams that promise instant success. And I confess I'd have a face lift if it didn't involve peeling back my skin and then restapling it to my head.
    I looked into Thermage until I read the pain factor was 5 (that's out of 5, ladies). I don't do pain.
    So I guess I'm stuck with smiling a lot, not looking worried and dressing fashionably.

  13. Deb--don't look in the mirror! Brilliant!

  14. My solution to the problem is to choose my friends very carefully. For example, my sister had a number of friends among the idle rich. Since they were idle they spent a lot of time looking in the mirror, and since they were rich they all went for expensive improvements. Every now and then my sister would say maybe she should get her face lifted, or her eyelashes tattooed on. To my horror. I loved her face the way it was. Anyway, I have no rich friends that I know of, and the friends I have like my face, as I like their faces. (My neck is another matter, but if you wear big earrings no one looks at it.)

  15. My aha moment was looking at my mother's picture as I was seeing myself in my makeup mirror, years back, and an artist friend, sketching me, asking about the lines on my throat, which I hadn't yet noticed.
    I've accepted the changes in appearance (though I once did a hands-by-eyes facelift for a young customs woman who looked puzzled by my passport photo), but I am determined to stay mobile. When pain gets aggravating, I channel Katherine Hepburn's, "It hurts, but it works," and work out the stiffness. Aqua-aerobics classes worked so well for my recovery (from the fall at the police station) that now I teach the classes -- no excuse to skip a class . . . ;-)
    For special occasions, I apply the lip stain Karen introduced us to, and feel quite dressy enough . . .

  16. My aha moment was looking at my mother's picture as I was seeing myself in my makeup mirror, years back, and an artist friend, sketching me, asking about the lines on my throat, which I hadn't yet noticed.
    I've accepted the changes in appearance (though I once did a hands-by-eyes facelift for a young customs woman who looked puzzled by my passport photo), but I am determined to stay mobile. When pain gets aggravating, I channel Katherine Hepburn's, "It hurts, but it works," and work out the stiffness. Aqua-aerobics classes worked so well for my recovery (from the fall at the police station) that now I teach the classes -- no excuse to skip a class . . . ;-)
    For special occasions, I apply the lip stain Karen introduced us to, and feel quite dressy enough . . .

  17. Oh, and VERY MUCH looking forward to a second trip to that particular mall!!!

  18. Wow, I slip out for an hour at the gym--really!--and the blogosphere goes crazy. Thanks to all of you for commenting today.

    Deb--I never lie about my age either. What's the point? My mom's hair was totally gray/white by the time she was in her early thirties, but that gene seems to have missed me. I experiment with dying my hair on occasion but only with products that wash out over time because I'm too chicken/lazy to commit!

    Jan--Your mom sounds like a hoot. I'm devoutly hoping I don't give a damn what I look like at that age, but what are the chances?

    Rhys--I like your dressing fashionably approach! I'm weak, weak, weak when it comes to new jackets (in great colors) and shoes (ditto).

  19. Kate--LOL! I've got to dump some of my friends and find some older ones with worse genes.

    Good for you, Mary--what a great attitude! What's even worse than looking in the mirror is looking DOWN into a mirror. Don't try it if you're over 40! Thanks for looking forward to ALL SALES FATAL!

  20. First time in my life I'm a middle-of-the-roader!

  21. PS, Laura: I love your gorgeous dog! Soul dog.

  22. Hi Reine! That's Marco. He's a Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, a hunting dog by breeding, but we don't hunt so he's reduced to keeping the yard vermin-free (squirrels, cats, voles, etc.)

  23. A wire-haired pointing Griffon? I LOVE it. It's so--Harry Potter.

    My dear sister Nancy lies about her age all the time--she tells people she's OLDER than she is. Then they say-wow, you look GREAT!

  24. Hank, next to Marco, I think I love your sister best. I'm 65.

  25. Hank--What a stitch! Of course, it must be a pain if you're older than Nancy because if she bumps her age up, then yours goes up, too, by association.

  26. True, Laura, but no one in my family can do math, so it doesn't matter.

    And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Red JAN BROGAN! WHo, happily, never ages at all.

  27. Happy, happy birthday, Jan! May the rest of your life be long and glamorous!

    Laura, I love you for comparing me to Hank in pizzazz, no matter what a lie it was! (At my age, I take kind lies gratefully.) And I love your wirehaired pointing Griffon, Marco. He looks the opposite of my Plott hound, Dyson, but they're fellows under the skin. Dyson was bred to hunt bears--picture a mastiff head on an antelope's body--so he must make do with squirrels, rabbits, and possums in our yard.

    Hank, however many potions you use, keep it up and don't feel bad about it. Whatever you're doing is really working. (Though I'm sure a lot of it is simply that you won the good genetics jackpot.)

  28. Happy Birthday Jan!

    Laura, congratulations on the book.

    Like Rhys, if I wasn't afraid of pain I'd try Thermage, but I am a big chicken. How does 5 out of 5 compare with shutting one's hand in the car door? That's how I rate all pain.

    And Hank, if you know of a good cream for the frown lines between my eyes please share.

  29. Happy birthday, Jan! I hope you're doing something fun to celebrate.

    Darlene--I've never heard of thermage. I'll have to Google it, although if it hurts, I won't do it.

    (I'm hating the stupid letter combos I have to type to prove I'm not a robot--haven't gotten one right the first time all day!)

  30. Happy, happy birthday, Ja-annnnn! Can you hear me singing? <3

    My 17th try at captcha- giving up soon. Glad to see the email thingy back, though!

    PS: Laura, everything good hurts at first.

  31. Hank, I had to give a talk the morning after my 25th high school reunion, an event about which I had fretted for weeks. But after seeing some of my classmates I realized I was doing pretty well, and as I told my audience, that's when I decided to lie about my age, adding 10 years. You never want anyone to think you're OLDER than you actually are, after all.

    What KILLS me about people who have so much plastic surgery done that they are unrecognizable is that they don't even give themselves a chance to be a lovely older person. And further, they no longer look like their own genetic heritage. Why does everyone need to look the same, anyway? And what kind of message does that send to younger women and girls?

    My brother just turned 50 in December, and he just told my mother the other day that he's in great shape and looks 35. Which sorry, but he doesn't. Men have a WAY great capacity for denial than women have, I think. With the singular exception of gay men.

  32. Reine, I've never bought into that "no pain, no gain" thing. Maybe I'm just a wuss.

    Karen, you are so right about men! We'll leave it at that (without providing examples that prove your point). I'm not sure they don't have a healthier perspective on body image than women, though. Any men out there want to weigh in?

  33. Karen, you look terrific! Honest! Absolutely fabulous! YOU fretted?

  34. I love all the wonderful comments.
    I am 71 years old and never dreamed that being in my seventies could be so great. Yes, I color my hair, walk around the block with my grandchild, laugh a lot and hope to make it to the next day. I was afraid of aging and mostly dying but I realized how ungratelful I was. I think that I have been lucky to live this long and the rest of life is gravy so I say, bring it on!!

  35. Oh, Marie, so lovely to hear your perspective. I'm with you: gratitude is key. Bring it on.

  36. Reine, you're too kind. And yes, I did. I was a big geek in high school, skinny, buck teeth, and thick, ugly glasses.

    But then at that same reunion, one classmate who had never been to one before finally came to grad night, a woman who had been absolutely the most beautiful girl in all 12 years of school, and who dated college guys while the rest of us hoped to get asked out by anyone. I asked her why she'd never been, and she said "I had SUCH a horrible time in high school." And I replied, "YOU? If you had a bad time, there was no hope for any of the rest of us!"

    It's all perspective, right?

  37. Thanks so much to the Reds for having me here today and to all of you for the delightful conversation. A blessed Passover and Easter to all of you.

  38. And to you, dear Laura! We are so excited for your book...and delighted to know you.
    And the winner of your book is... is..well, we'll wait til a bit later to make the random selection!

  39. Marie, I love your attitude! So great! I think that's the healthy way to age. I'll bet you have a gorgeous face because attitude is way more than half of real beauty, I think.

  40. Happy Birthday,Jan!

    Marie, I love what you wrote about aging.

    Reine:Your captcha experience today was far worse than mine. When I posted earlier today,I was grumbling to myself about THREE sets of words. Seventeen! My gosh!

    Thanks again,Laura,for the laughter and the food for thought today. I've been thinking about today's blog all day. I spent much of my life being self-conscious about my very imperfect body. At some point I finally realized that there is only so much I have control over, and that I don't even want to be around people who judge others by the appearance of their bodies. I have no desire to ever have any sort of cosmetic work done. One of my sisters was badly injured in a car accident when she was nineteen. She complained, only half jokingly,that it was a shame her nose wasn't injured;she always hated the shape of it and now she didn't even have an excuse to have it redone. And why, she wondered, did all of her siblings have "nicer"noses? Now,years later,she says that she loves her nose because she inherited the unique shape of it from long-gone beloved relatives, and she's reminded of them whenever she looks in the mirror. (I know:a different approach to looking into the mirror!)

    Okay,I will reread today's blog still another time. Cannot get enough of it today! (And I will reread Die Buying to get ready for the next book,which I eagerly anticipate!)

  41. Laura, I'm headed out to look for some of that Mrad, right now!

    Marie, you are one of my absolute favorites. I hope you know that. xoxo

    Karen, you know me better. I am not too kind. You are too polite. xoxo

    Linda, you are so right about those weight/looking-good statements. Hate that. Oh god... I was just thinking about breaking down and buying some liptick. xxxxxxxxx

    Hallie, I love Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren. xoxo

    Deb, I have to let Captcha off the hook a teensy bit. I twitch a lot with muscle spasms... especially when I'm trying to do something. OK... when is that never always!

  42. Reine--lipstick is a good thing! Sweet dreams, all, xxxx