I saw the obituary for Dell Williams while the MiddlesexMD team was gearing up for our fifth anniversary. Realizing how many women have come before us, paving the way for straightforward conversations about women’s sexuality, we decided to start our sixth year with a series on those women pioneers. This is the first in that series.
The courageous pioneer Dell Williams died in March at the age of 92. She spent the second half of her life on a crusade to help women “define, explore, and celebrate” their sexuality. Back in 1974, she founded Eve’s Garden, the first store in America where women could buy vibrators and other sexual aids in a safe, private environment. All these years later, it’s still going strong.
Dell Williams grew up in the Bronx. After thriving as a WAC, in show business, and as a New York advertising executive, she made an unexpected career move, precipitated by a march. As she put it, “I stepped into the Women’s March for Equality in 1970 like a lamb and I walked out like a lion.” She joined the New York chapter of NOW, and “another chapter in [her] life began.” It was an intoxicating time, when women were giving each other the strength to redefine what their lives could be.
In 1972 she helped to organize the Women’s Sexuality Congress, which set her on the path of her life’s work. More than a thousand women gathered at a New York high school to talk about sex in a brand-new way. About the sex educator Betty Dodson, Williams said, “Her forthright talk transformed women from body-shy to body-proud.” Dodson recommended the a device that was supposedly for muscle massage but was highly functional as a vibrator. Inspired, Dell Williams went to Macy’s to buy one. The male sales clerk asked what she was going to use it for. The embarrassing encounter led her to think, “Somebody really ought to open up a store where a woman can buy one of these things without some kid asking her what she’s going to do with it.”
So she founded Eve’s Garden, first as a mail-order business in her kitchen, then as a store nearby on West 57th Street, discreetly upstairs. She wanted it to be a place where women could “celebrate the joy of their own sexuality” in comfort, at first with no men allowed. The mission was “to encourage women to take responsibility for their own sexuality, honor the sacredness of sex, and clearly understand that bodily pleasure and spiritual joy are one, and an inalienable right.” Kim Ibricevic, the current manager of Eve’s Garden, said that Williams “wanted to focus on the spiritual side of sex and felt that if every woman had an orgasm, there would be peace in this world.”
In a video made when she was well into her 80s, she is as warm and enthusiastic as ever. Flanked by two doctors, women whom she was introducing as sex counselors, she describes how empowering it was for her to learn that she could take responsibility for her own pleasure, and how she had spent decades fighting for “women’s awareness that they had a right to enjoy themselves.”
As she put it, after so many years of studying the subject, “Sexuality is the biggest mystery of them all.”
According to celebrity hair stylist Philip Kingsley, female hair thinning is becoming a widespread problem among women. The vast majority of women who visit his clinics in New York and London are complaining of thin hair, fine hair, lack of volume and general hair lifelessness. It’s a problem that many women are forced to face as they get older. If you’re one of them, you’re in good company.
Female Hair Thinning Problems
Kingsley himself used to fix Audrey Hepburn’s hair. He says that as many women are complaining of hair loss problems as men. Of course, women complain a little more quietly. The lion’s share of the hair market is dedicated to male hair loss. Yet women struggle with hair loss just as much as the males. Female hair thinning does behave differently, however. Fewer women go completely bald, the way men do. Female hair thinning is a phenomenon you notice overall, not a little a t a time.
And it’s happening more often. This may be due to the high-stress lifestyle that most of today’s women lead. There’s more pressure on women than ever in these modern times. Not only do women have to work harder and longer hours than men in order to prove themselves, they’re also making less money than their male counterparts. But that’s not all. Women must also look stylish and just project authority, work hard and still find time to spend with family. There are demands on you all the time, and if you’re like a lot of women then you usually become the last priority on a very long list.
No wonder so many women are experiencing female hair thinning problems. There are many ways to hide these problems. A volumizing haircut with layers gives your hair lift and life, and it creates the illusion of thickness. Using the right products and tools on your hair can go a long way, too. Stick to lightweight mousse instead of heavy styling products that will pull your locks out and make them look limp and flat.
Wearing very long hair can make the problem worse. Try a mid-length or a short haircut that won’t put too much weight and pressure on your hair. Wash your hair regularly, because when your roots are oily everything will look limp and drab. Hairstyles for thin hair work best with clean hair.
Take good care of your hair to keep it looking good, and some of your female hair thinning problems may even reverse.
Sparse brows after 50 may be a symptom of an underlying health issue. In the VN Beauty Guide Great Hair After 50, author Lois Joy Johnson quotes New York City dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt who says that “sparse brows or half-brows with missing tails are often a sign of thyroid issues.” So if your eyebrows are thinning, the first thing you’ll want to do is have your endocrinologist check for a medical reason for the hair loss.
VN member MUM is a case in point. Five years ago, at age 57, MUM discovered that she had hypothyroid (slow thyroid). “I am now on medication and my eyebrows have come back to life – so much so that I need to pluck them regularly! My advice [to women with thinning eyebrows] go to the doctor and get your TSH levels checked.”
VN blogger Dr. Dorree Lynn adds, “Start with a blood test to check your hormone levels first, then see what other type of professional may help you.” Prescription medications are only one option. “Sometimes, a good nutritionist can prescribe supplements that help. Diet and exercise have also been known to help as well.”
The conversation about women’s sexual health that ramped up with FDA hearings in October has continued, sometimes with heat, sometimes with light. For the first time I can remember, the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health, of which I’m a member, responded directly to a New York Times op ed piece, calling it false and demeaning (The New York Times published a number of responses this weekend).
I’m grateful to my colleagues who are setting the record straight.
As a practicing physician, I have conversations every day with women who are navigating changes in and challenges to the intimacy they want.
Some women have no problem wanting sex. They may encounter pain with intercourse, diminished capacity, or more difficulty experiencing orgasm. As a doctor, I have plenty of treatments options I can recommend and see what works best. Many of the options are neither prescription-only nor pharmaceutical: moisturizers and lubricants, dilators, and vibrators can do a lot. If those don’t work, there are some drugs that could.
Other women, though, come to me because while they love their partners, they no longer get the sexual urge. They find it difficult to respond when their partners initiate. If I close my eyes, I can see their faces, hear the grief in their voices. They’ve told me about their own sense of loss, of incompleteness; they’ve told me their concerns about the unintended messages their partners are receiving; they’ve told me about their fears for their relationships.
And of course I do the obvious assessments, ask them the obvious questions, make the obvious suggestions. I check their overall health to see if there’s an underlying condition that could explain their loss. I check out—and ask them about—medications they’re taking, which sometimes have unintended consequences. I probe for signs of depression. I inquire about their relationships, alert to any clue that one may not be healthy.
And sometimes, I do find an underlying cause. I’m able to treat a medical problem, make a referral for counseling, provide compassion to a woman who acknowledges that a relationship is over.
But other times, there’s no apparent reason for a loss of desire. And for those women, it doesn’t occur to me to say “Nothing is wrong with your sex drive,” which is what the New York Times op ed piece asserted. If nothing were wrong, they wouldn’t be in my office, asking—sometimes pleading—for help.
There’s not a lot in my toolkit to respond to those women. And I’d like some options, because I think women deserve them (check out #womendeserve on Twitter for more discussion). There have been very few silver bullets in my line of work—solutions that work all the time for every woman. I don’t expect that. I do firmly believe that women—with support from their health care providers—can make decisions about what might help them and the trade-offs that affect their quality of life.
Each woman can decide. For herself. From among options not limited by lack of priority or double standards at the FDA. And not limited by the opinions, however well-intentioned, of other women or men.
For the last year or so I have been working on becoming a vegan. I use the phrase “working on becoming” because this isn’t something one does on a whim. This is an extreme change in lifestyle and beliefs, and I knew that if I just dove into it, I would be overwhelmed and feeling like I was denying myself in the same way that starting a new wonder diet leaves us feeling deprived after a few days. Becoming a vegan is about more than just what is on your plate. It is also about what is in your heart.
I find it curious, now that I think about it, that my interest in going vegan began to surface about the same time I discovered my love of gardening. If this isn’t all a masterful example of synchronicity, I don’t know what is. It is only in the last year, however, that I have taken the time to really do my homework. I have spent countless hours on YouTube watching haunting videos and reading the latest books and research on the subject. I’ve perused every online vegan recipe site I could find.
Yes, there is some measure of feeling like I have to give things up, especially things I am fond of. I do love a nice serving of grilled salmon, a yummy, cheesy egg dish, and my all time favorite – ice cream. So I am still looking for ways to satisfy the desire for those taste experiences, but like anything else, if we want to create new habits, it takes time. Rome wasn’t the only thing not built in a day. A lifetime of beliefs and traditions wrapped around food aren’t changed over night. We were all raised with: “Eat your meat, drink your milk.” My religious upbringing, such as it was, never asked me to think of animals as thinking, feeling, sentient beings. You just did what you were told because that was the way it was done.
For those that might be asking what changed my mind about eating animals and the products they produce, I won’t go into lured details about the unthinkable cruelty that goes on at factory farms, or the health benefits of eating a plant based diet. If you want the gruesome details, go on over to Netflix or YouTube and take a look at some of the documentaries (Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc.) or read the New York Times article about what goes on at factory farms. All I will say is that it is my wish that no other living thing should have to suffer or die for my benefit when there is another way. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change my participation in it. Evolution didn’t stop with Darwin. As my mentor, Louise Hay, is always saying, a belief is only a thought that you think over and over … and thoughts can be changes.
I recently read a book review recounting one woman’s harrowing passage through perimenopause. The Madwoman in the Volvo is a graphic and humorous account of emotional upheaval, distress, seismic life changes, and finally, the author is cast gently upon the slightly less fraught shores of menopause. Perhaps sadder (or more thoughtful), probably wiser, and definitely optimistic about the future.
So, in response to this season, which is guaranteed to nudge all but the most stoic among us off the ledge, I have two messages for all of us hot-flashing, sleep-deprived, hormonal gals.
If you feel as though you’re losing your mind, you aren’t alone. Hear that? You are not alone. In fact, you are legion—there are many of us.
Google “crazy menopausal women.” Read the forums. Check out the articles here on Vibrant Nation. Take heart. You’re in abundant, albeit somewhat unhinged, company.
There are, in fact, a silent (or, more likely, howling) army of women who feel just like you. I recall the patient who was referred to me by her new therapist, who had refused to treat her until she got her hormones straightened out. (Previously, she had been told to see a therapist by the police.)
I recall a close friend, the very picture of motherly benevolence, who hissed in my ear, “If that kid doesn’t stop yammering at me, I’m going to tape her mouth shut.” She was referring to her sweet but talkative adolescent daughter. I was shocked. A few years later, I was feeling like that myself.
You can assess your lifestyle and experiment with healthy change. You can eat kale and take vitamin B12 and black cohosh. You can meditate and do yoga. You can stop smoking and reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake. You will feel healthier, and your symptoms might become more tolerable. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big advocate of healthy lifestyle choices.
But, if you, like many other women, continue to feel like you’re hanging on to sanity with bloodied fingernails, and those you love are suffering right along with you, by all means see your doctor and find out what pharmaceutical options might help you.
I read an article in the New York Times Magazine by Cynthia Gorney, a woman with access to all the current research on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and an enviable journalistic pedigree. Here’s what she has to say about her decision to go back on HRT:
I would like to be able to tell you that I weighed these matters thoughtfully, comparing my risks and benefits and bearing in mind the daunting influence of a drug industry that stands to profit handsomely from the medicalizing of normal female aging. But that would be nonsense, of course. I was too crazy. I went straight to the pharmacy and took everything they gave me.
Perimenopause—the hormonal roller-coaster years preceding menopause—can be a long and bumpy ride. It usually begins somewhere between 45 and 55, but can start much earlier. These are the years of unpredictably cresting and crashing hormones, when the crazies come out in all their glory. This stage can last from 2 to 10 years.
Menopause officially beings in the thirteenth month (one year) after your last period.
Which doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Many women still have hot flashes and emotional turbulence. But life should slowly settle down as your body adjusts to its new, post-hormonal self.
So, that’s my second mid-holiday message: You aren’t crazy, and eventually you’ll be okay. Wiser, maybe more self-actualized, and really, really okay.
With that, best wishes for sailing through the rest of the holiday season and into the new year. And as the Madwoman in the Volvo said, “Have some cake, for God’s sake.”
Most of you are used to getting a Pap smear during your annual visit to the gynecologist, but now some health authorities are recommending the age-old Pap be replaced by a new test designed to detect cervical cell abnormalities just about the time they start up.
So, although the Pap test, which has been the gold standard for diagnosing cervical cancer since the 1950’s is still around, there might be something new on the horizon. You might be asking yourself, ‘why,’ since the National Cancer Institute says the Pap, named after Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou, has helped reduce certain cervical cancers by up to 80%.
The NCCC (National Cervical Cancer Coalition) says that cervical cancer is very preventable and in fact can be prevented through early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of certain cells that become abnormal when impacted by the human papillomavirus (HPV); this is a process which begins long before the actual cancer develops. The Pap has been the topline test for HPV, but there are other, perhaps even better, options to spot the troublesome cells in women starting at an earlier age, according to one government agency.
The FDA has recommended a replacement screen to detect gynecological cancers, suggesting that the Pap is soon to become a thing of the past. Does this mean that the days of lying on your back, scooting your bottom down to the end of the table, putting your feet in stirrups and waiting for the swab might be coming to a close? Not necessarily.
HPV is not very common after the age of 30, but if you test positive for this virus, you may have gotten it many years before and your immune system is still showing positive. HPV causes changes at the cellular level only after it’s invaded and been in your system for a while. That is why testing after age 30 is beneficial.
Recently, the FDA issued guidelines indicating the agency is ready to recognize the Roche HPV DNA test as the frontline check for women over the age of 25. According to the FDA, this specialized DNA test provides not only a current snapshot of the health of your cervix, which is located at the bottom of your uterus, but also provides important information about your risk for developing cervical cancer in the future. It works by detecting DNA from 14 high-risk HPV types, identifying HPV 16 and 18, as well as 12 other types of high-risk HPVs. Doctors get the DNA by swabbing your cervix, much like the traditional Pap.
If you test positive for HPV 16 or 18, the agency recommends a colposcopy, which lights up and magnifies your cervix, so that your doctor can more closely observe what’s going on with your cervical cells. If you test positive for one of the other types of HPV, then it’s recommended you have a Pap test to determine your need for the colposcopy.
One study, the ATHENA (Addressing the Need for Advanced HPV Diagnostics) found that taking a random biopsy at the time of the colposcopy was even more effective in detecting cervical cancer, whether there were visible lesions, or not. In other words, the Pap smear might become just a part of, and not the centerpiece of, your annual pelvic exam.
But Wait—There’s More
Now several groups of physicians believe that bimanual palpation of your uterus and internal organs (when your doctor inserts two fingers and feels around your abdominal area) is not only unnecessary in most cases but also intrusive enough to cause some patients anxiety.
Those same guidelines do recommend regular exams of the cervix such as Pap smears because the Pap is still very effective in detecting cervical cancer in early stages. However, the actual exam during which your doctor inserts two fingers into your vagina and checks the abdomen is not necessary, with ACP co-author Dr. Linda Humphrey stating specifically that it, “Rarely detects important disease and does not reduce mortality and is associate with discomfort for many women, false positive and negative examinations, and extra cost.”
The ACP, which is the second largest physician group in the country, agreed that the diagnostic accuracy for detecting cancers utilizing this method is very low.
The American Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics (ACOG) had a varying viewpoint insisting that women should continue to get annual pelvic exams including bimanual palpitation, but acknowledged that the decision to include all components of the exam rested with both the patient and her physician. ACOG, the leading group of physicians providing healthcare for women, says these ‘well-woman visits’ are an important part of the patient physician relationship and along with breast exams, immunizations and contraceptive care discussions help nurture that relationship and ensuing trust.
I chatted with Dr. Rebecca C. Brightman, assistant clinical professor OBGYN and Reproductive Science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, who says, “It is very important for women to realize that the Pap smear is only a portion of the annual gynecologic examination. An annual (and for some patients semiannual) evaluation of a woman’s thyroid, breasts and pelvic organs remains essential.”
Dr. Brightman also notes that for some women, their OBGYN might be the one and only healthcare provider. She further explains, “As an OBGYN, we frequently screen for and diagnose other medical conditions. Women confide in their OBGYNs and seek advice in many areas from mental health concerns to social problems. So, it’s way more than just a pap smear!”
Once again, the patient-doctor relationship is so important to a healthier you!
Which Way Should You Go?
Like anything else in life, it pays to be informed about your own gynecological health, although it can be difficult to find a blanket one-size-fits-all answer. Some experts say that if you are a woman with an average risk of cervical cancer, then this is the route to follow:
Ages 21 to 29: a Pap smear once every 3 years
Ages 30 to 65: Pap smear every 3 years or/combination Pap smear and HPV test every 5 years
Over age 65: routine Pap screening not needed if recent tests have been normal.
Bottom line—it’s all up to you whether you’ll stick with just the Pap or ask for the HPV diagnostics, as well.
As always, check with your doctor and reach a collaborative decision. It’s the best approach to feeling good and staying healthy, all the way through the ‘change.
Finished chemo a year and a half ago. Husband passed after his own bout with cancer from suicide almost three years ago. I was lucky enough to go through chemo at my sisters. She and her husband offered to help so I didn’t go through it alone. Now I have moved down from New York to Florida out of fear of a reoccurrence. I’ve been here 8 months and I hate it here. I have no friends. People aren’t friendly. I feel so depressed. It cost me so much to relocate and I’m an artist and can’t find the work I need. I feel so lost… so scared… and so useless. Any suggestions? How long to give a place till you fit in?
Warning: Look out below! Fan girl spasm of love for all things Castle is commencing!
The Castle season seven premier is Monday, September 29th, and I’m beyond excited. There are so many things to love about this show! If you’re a fan of this delightful series please join me in my blubbering happiness and anticipation for the new season. If you’re not a fan, would you like to be? Read on, Buttercup! Let’s see if I can convince you.
First off, the hubby and I were latecomers to Castle. We ignored it until it went into syndication and began showing up in the early evening in back-to-back episodes. We watched it the first time out of desperation for new viewing because our favorite shows were in between seasons and we had Law & Order SVU-edourselves out. One episode into Castle, we were hooked. We hunted it down on the internet and began our own Castle marathon from season one, episode one, until we were current. That was about two years ago, and I never tire of watching this show.
Here’s the gist: Mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) traipses around behind New York City detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) ostensibly doing research for his novels. Naturally, they solve crimes together and romance and shenanigans ensue. And in a humorous play on the mushing together of names (i.e. Brangelina) they call themselves Caskett, a moniker fans embrace with giddy delight.
That, of course, is the stripped down blurb. The show has more to offer than that little paragraph implies. The writing is great, the secondary characters engaging, and the two leads have tons of onscreen chemistry that is so awesome it allows for the suspension of disbelief surrounding the absurdity of the premise. At its core it’s a romantic dramedy, comic but earnest, with enough realism thrown in that relating to the characters is fun and easy.
As a romance writer, I’m an obvious target for a show like this. But even my husband, who would rather sit through two hours of the International Paint Drying Competition than suffer thirty minutes of a rom-com, enjoys the crime-solving escapades of Caskett and company as they exchange witticisms and arrest murderers. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Stana Katic, who plays Detective Kate Beckett, is drop-dead gorgeous and looks hot stalking after the bad guys. If everything else fell apart, my hubby would watch the show for that reason alone. And Nathan Fillion, who plays mystery novelist Rick Castle, is adorable. Some of his expressions are priceless. The man doesn’t even have to talk, although I’m glad he does because he’s talented enough to slip from funny to serious and back to funny again without missing a beat.
One of the great things about the show is that they didn’t consummate the romance until several seasons in which allowed for a lot of sexual tension—a staple for romance—and then after they did the deed and declared their undying love, the writing and chemistry between the lead characters remained strong enough not to screw things up, sort of like a marriage between Gorilla Glue and duct tape. How many other TV shows can say that? (Remember Moonlighting in the ‘80s after Maddie (Cybill Shepherd) and David (Bruce Willis) got together? Gak! No Gorilla Glue or duct tape . . . more like crepe paper in the rain—in a word, ruined).
Castle just keeps getting better and better. The only thing that worries me going into season seven is that the actors might be getting itchy to move on to other projects. This rumor hasn’t reared its head and I hope it doesn’t, because I’d love to see this series run long enough to get the characters through a couple years of marriage and at least one adorable-but-precocious offspring before it disappears into the sunset. Then maybe they can bring it back a few years after that using the same lead characters. The premise could be a married couple, passionately in love, who drive expensive cars and solve crimes.
Oh, wait. That’s already been done. It was called Hart to Hart and it starred Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, waaaay back from 1979-1984. Well, if they ever want to reprise that show and update it for this century, I know just the two actors with the chops and onscreen chemistry to pull it off. In the meantime, we’ve still got Castle and I can’t wait for Monday to get here. You don’t have to ask what I’ll be doing on the 29th at 10 p.m. EST: My hubby, a glass of wine, and Caskett.
It’s time to love Mondays again!
Are you a Castle fan? If so, what do you love the most about it? If not, what’s your never-miss-it TV show and why do you think it rocks?
One of the perks of living in upstate New York comes around this time of the year. As soon as the first nip is in the air and the first leaves start to turn, you can be sure that it’s apple harvest time. Local orchards open their gates to let folks pick there own and even post on their web sites which variety of apples are currently ready to pick. Every village and town holds their yearly apple festivals and you can be sure that all of your favorite apple desserts will be ready to sample like apple pie, apple crumb, apple turnovers and muffins and, of course, apple cider freshly made. Every kind of apple you can think of is also available from the old standbys like Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Gala, to McIntosh and Honey Crisp. Living just a few miles from the home of Cortland apples makes me feel kind of proud to be a part of it all.
Now folks are pretty particular in these parts concerning which apple is best for which kind of dessert. Some say the Granny Smiths are the best apples for making pie, while others would choose Cortland apples. Does a Gala make a better baked apple than a McIntosh? And which one is best for just plain eating (the vote is still out on that one but I prefer a good old Red Delicious myself). Whatever your needs are, there is an apple to fill the bill.
This reminds me of the diversity of humankind on the planet. Everyone has a purpose, a talent, something that they are better at than others. Some folks make really great doctors while others were born to write the Great American Novel or find a cure for cancer. Maybe you enjoy having your head in the stars while your neighbor would rather have his head hovering over a microscope. Whatever your talent or passion, there is a reason that you are here and a gift that only you can share. If someone asked me to solve a complex math problem or write an equation, I would be completely and totally lost. But if you asked me to write a story or crochet a baby blanket, I’d be on it like a flash. Not all apples are created equal and neither are people. Celebrate your uniqueness and share your talents with the world.
As for me, I know one thing I am very, very good at … eating apple pie! So if you’ll excuse me, I hear a slice that is calling to me ….
I began this series on clutter clearing with two thoughts in mind. One was that I wanted to let go of those things that no longer served me and that were keeping me from moving forward. I intended this on both a material and a spiritual level. The other was that all of my favorite teachers advised when you clear your home of unwanted things and clutter, you make room for new and wonderful things in your life. My intention here was to manifest a new home. Ah, but here is the most important point: I wasn’t just trying to manifest a new home anywhere. My intention was to manifest a home in a very special, very particular place.
Those of you who have followed by blogs from the beginning know that a little more than 20 years ago I packed up my old ’76 Chevy with only necessities and my favorite things and headed out to a new life in a little village in upstate New York. I took up gardening for the first time and learned to grow myself along with the flowers, herbs and vegetables. For seven very happy years I lived in the kind of peace and sense of community that small towns are famous for. Alas, the economy knew nothing about peace, community or gardening. It only knew that the jobs in my area were few and far between, and businesses were either closing or laying off in large numbers. I had to go out farther and farther to find work, and when you live in what is referred to as “the Syracuse Show Belt,” driving 54 miles round trip in the winter for work can make for a long and stressful week. So I reluctantly and tearfully left my happy home behind and moved closer to my job. However, I never, never gave up hope that I would go home some day to stay. To cement that intention in place, I made some prayer ties in the Native American tradition and buried them along the river bank under a tree that my granddaughter used to call Grandma Willow after the the grandmother tree in the Disney version of Pocahantas. The prayer ties all said that I would some day come home to stay. Then I filled two small jars with river water and stones that I have kept on my mini alter at home for the last 15 years.
A few weeks after I began my clutter clearing, I found some photos from back home and put them in small frames that I sat on my desk so that I would see them every morning. Two weeks ago I received a phone call from the lovely folks who were my landlords when I lived in my little piece of heaven. They had also left the area for a few years as one of them had been transferred for work to Buffalo. He had retired and they returned home where they purchased a new house. When I saw them in April at the Annual Maple Festival, they asked me when I was coming home. I told them, “you find me the perfect place, and I’ll retire and start packing.” Two weeks ago they called. Their tenet was moving out to take care of her aged father … the place was mine if I wanted it. I hung up the phone and cried, great big tears of joy. I am finally going home. In three weeks I will be looking out of my window at valleys filled with Mother Nature’s patchwork quilt of fields and trees, barns and silos, and the blessed silence that is only interrupted by passing geese and visiting birds. Home.
Some dreams just take a little longer to come true. Maybe they might have come true sooner if I had trusted my intuition and hadn’t let fear and uncertainty cloud my judgement. Or, maybe I just wasn’t ready until now. No matter. I learned that when I keep my eyes on my goal, set my intention and trust that Creator has bigger and better plans for me than any I could conceive of myself, dreams really do come true. So what can you dream up? Think big. You deserve it!
A recent New York Times story clarified the brave new age of young adulthood: It looks a lot like childhood.
According to the Times’ Adam Davidson, “One in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. And 60% of all young adults receive financial support from them. That’s a significant increase from a generation ago, when only one in 10 young adults moved back home and few received financial support.”
While this information is consistent with what Vibrant Nation has been researching for years, I thought that some of these trends would change as we climbed our way slowly out of the Recession. Surely, these children would do everything possible to move out on their own; surely, parents would begin weaning these “grown-ups” (and that’s what I call someone in his early 30s) from the economic teat.
But the Times tells us not to expect this result, and defines a new life stage: early adulthood. Affected by trends that include the Recession, together with longer-term trends like globalization, student debt, technology, and later marriage ages (and non-marriage), psychologists now say we should simply expect childhood to last longer.
Who knew that the Boomers would leave this kind of legacy, and not just in the children themselves but even the name (“boomer-angers”) of the new generation they spawned?
Marketing to the Boomeranger Parent
Since the Recession began, I have been surprised at the swift pace of change in parent-adult child relations. Three years ago I wrote here about the expanded role the Boomer mom is playing in paying for her adult children’s bills, up to and past age 30. And we documented the unexpected degree of influence she has over adult children who grew up with a generation gap.
In the 1970s, the last person a Boomer turned to for advice was her mother or father. Today, the first person a 20-something turns to for advice may be that special BFF: her Mom.
Marketers need to stop speaking to these two generations not just as though they lived apart, but with messages and offerings that recognize how their budgets and decision-making are intermingled.
She’s Still an Empty Nester – in her Dreams
After reviewing some of these statistics, a smart marketer might ask whether they should think of Boomers as anything other than innkeepers, running an open house and open checkbook for their ailing parents, unemployed children, and helpless grandchildren as well.
Wrong. A majority of Boomers are still achieving that desirable state of empty-nestedness, and even those who don’t live there in reality probably do so in their minds.
Even a Boomer who is unexpectedly entwined with her boomeranger child has gone through some important changes in her own life. She is no longer a full-time mother; she has survived menopause and finds herself with a new surge of energy to devote to her own future and disposable income to spend on herself. She has spent decades juggling the needs of others against her own and she does not want to give up this great chance to invest in herself.
Marketers who recognize this desire, even if her boomeranging children make it more elusive, will win her heart and dollars.
Even if she can’t fit her household in it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a Mini Cooper and the freedom it represents. If her house is full again, travel may represent even more than adventure to her; it may represent a new way to be alone (or have quiet time with her spouse). And even if she is covering an unexpected range of expenses for her 27 year old, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want a financial advisor who can speak to her alone.
At every age, the things we want the most may also be the hardest to obtain. Good marketers help us understand that these goals may be easier to achieve than we think. For mothers and fathers whose overachieving children have suddenly become non-paying tenants in their own homes, marketers may be the only ones left who can offer them all the things that an empty nest represents: independence, freedom and themselves.
Here it is July already. I took a blogcation for a month, enjoying a little road trip, a family visit, and just allowing myself some off time, doing pretty much not much. Isn’t that what summer is for?
One of the things I saw on our road trip was Lake Erie, an incredibly sized body of fresh water. There are five Great Lakes- Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron – that impact Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and Wisconsin. It was hard to believe that Lake Erie is the smallest of them in volume though the fourth in size. Quite impressive. Lots of people were enjoying the gentle waves and the warm water on this hot day; a serene respite from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday living.
But it wasn’t always this way. The Great Lakes have their problems. Lake Erie is a case in point. The native peoples revered the lake for its purity before the area was colonized. Then things changed with the new settlers. By the late 1960s it was polluted by industries spilling pollutants into it, sewer water being released there, and agricultural runoff. Algae flourished and the fish were all dying. Instead of Great Lake it was called Dead Lake. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River, which feeds into Lake Erie, caught fire. It was time to rethink our use of the lake.
In 1972, the United States and Canada signed The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to establish guidelines for a cleaner Great Lakes environment. The International Joint Commission (IJC), in a final report in 1999 on the Great Lakes, recommended wetlands restoration and water quality research and monitoring. There are still periodic quality warnings issued for beach use but at least Lake Erie has its watchdogs now.
I was saddened when I learned about Lake Erie’s history. I wish I could have seen it in its original state; if it is so impressive now, how incredible it must have once been. We need to think of consequences to nature before we plow ahead with our plans. We aren’t separate from nature – it is us.