Archives for posts with tag: old babes

Judy Trammell, the choreographer of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and Kelli McGonigle Finglass, the director, mesmerize me as champions of the Texas avatar of femme performance.

Choreographer Trammell (L) and director Finglass, both former DCCs, judge auditions for Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Now the texts on this, as I’m sure you all know, are the three Scholz sisters’ memoir of their time on the cheering squad (’78-’85), and the Channelview, TX tale of tiger mom Wanda Holloway, who was convicted in 1991 of plotting a murder-for-hire of Verna Heath, the mother of Shanna Holloway’s greatest rival for the cheering squad, Amber Heath.

The Scholz sisters’ mama taught them how to dress, a terrifying process in which bags and shoes must match and hair must be high — a mean girls’ Texas aesthetic whose persistence can be sussed today by seeing Finglass in her orange sheath or the terrifying female VP of the Cowboys, Charlotte Jones Anderson (daughter of the owner), who looks like a ravening, Stanford-educated ferret in poufy little Prada dresses.

Mean girls doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Trammell was a DCC from ’80-’84, and Finglass from ’84-’89. I figure they’re both in their 50s, and I am always thinking about what makes an Old Babe and what Old Babes do and wear. I think Finglass is and Trammell isn’t. What made Finglass a babe — her smile — still makes her one today, as mean a pimp as she is. (For the smile, check out the GIF third from the top, left, for the pimpin’ watch CMT’s show.) Trammell’s hair — and you know that hair whippin’ energy takes the place of jiggle on the DCC — is the same do she was whippin’ in the ’80s, very long and prematurely blonde. Even the black girls on the squad have long whippy dos. I am trying to deconstruct the Trammell/Finglass eyeliner — completely surrounding the eye with a black line after 50 is an aesthetic choice of the kind I deemed some time ago, deciding to be an old woman who paints, with Louise Nevelson as the Old Babe Who Paints avatar. The paint becomes your face, instead of your face being your face.

Sculptor Louise Nevelson

Iris Apfel, who is the captain of the Old Babes team, sometimes paints and also is a polychrome old babe, one trope of how to dress as an Old Babe. Please note use of I.M. Pei glasses as eyeliner.

Iris Apfel, captain of the Old Babes team. She replaces Princess Lilian of Sweden, who died in March and evinced an entirely different style. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Lilian,_Duchess_of_Halland

Here we see Apfel, painted, hustling her own line of MAC cosmetics. Note there is nothing natural about the colors, such that the paint once again becomes your face.

I am trying to deconstruct Trammell’s hair — it’s the 2013 version of her 1980’s do, which Finglass has most cleverly left behind. Her hair in the 80s was the biggest poufiest and poodly-est of all, and now it’s cool MILF hair. As Trammell’s is not. I have to think about it some more. I wonder if Trammell thinks of whippy hair as part of her dance costume?

Judy Trammell, ca. 1980s

The makeover editions of the aspiring cheerleaders, in which Finglass supervises their haircuts and teaches what not to wear, has to be one of my greatest drag learning experiences, as if the Scholz sisters’ mama had survived into the 21st century to teach us all how to get closer to God with our hair.
http://www.cmt.com/videos/dallas-cowboys-cheerleaders-805-appearance-counts/1714824/full-episode.jhtml

Advertisements

I have been married twice, once at 23 in church, to somebody my own age, and once at 30 in the courthouse, to someone 13 years older. Both outfits were carefully chosen. I was amused to see another bride of my vintage, the Parker Bowles, reiterate the unspoken rules I followed on both occasions when she married Prince Charles — once at the courthouse where they were actually hitched, and later, in a different outfit, for a blessing in the church which would not marry them.

 
What the mature bride — not a virgin, or married previously, wears is an essay best addressed by the late, wonderful Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Fortensky.* Except, and this is a huge caveat, that one is not a movie star, whether one is being married in church or at city hall because doing it in church would be over the top. One is a woman taking a serious vow in front of the community to which she is also pledging allegiance. Modesty — humility would be the appropriate response to reality, I think, but is perhaps also over the top — is the semiotic sartorial respect one pays to this vow. One is conferring honorable personhood upon one’s self by standing up for one’s life as a parent, a member of a social and economic unit, and captain of one’s own happiness. You take a stand.

 
The number one thing wrong with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, and this is essays too, is that it referred to a movie star, Grace Kelly, and a Catholic one at that. The number two thing wrong with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was that, as a mature bride, the veil over her face was as impudent as her sister’s butt in another inappropriate dress. What white lace means to a Catholic bride like Grace Kelly, who was more famous for her unvirginal behavior in Hollywood than she was as a Catholic, is essays too, many of them referring to the exquisite handworked lace on priestly vestments and altar cloths. It is a Catholic trope, a most unwise reference for an aspiring Hanoverian, as thoughtless as the veil.

 
Now me, I hadn’t been shacked up with my boyfriend for eight years before we were married in a church. I’d only been living with him for three years. I knew I couldn’t pull off either an Indian bedspread wedding — the 60s were over — and nor could I wear a veil over my face. Clothing has a meaning; I was taking a vow. To do so pretending to be a virgin, even one so well-known as Grace Kelly, would have been a dishonor to the vow, to the people I was doing it in front of, and to the honorable person I was declaring myself to be by volunteering to undertake such a vow. Repeat after me: I am not a movie star.

 
I choose Tricia Nixon’s two-tiered wedding veil, in the same spirit I had registered to vote as an independent two years earlier. For ethical reasons. She’d been married three months earlier one block away. The actual Priscilla of Boston hat part was more cloche-like than Tricia’s. It was retro, it was foxy, it was a hat in church, and there was no veil over the face. I read you, Tricia.

 

Tricia’s.
Mine. It was a power hat.
Unlike Tricia, I did not choose more lace to go with this very elaborate head dress. I wore a simple, long-sleeved, floor-length linen dress with a modest v-neck, belted just above the natural waist. My many bridesmaids used the same pattern to confect flowered cotton dresses. They wore big straw hats. My bouquet matched their dresses. Theirs matched mine.
I married for a second time seven years later, older if no wiser. This was in the courthouse. It was long-sleeved. It was short, just below the knee. It was white, because it was the groom’s first wedding, if not my own. It was Halston, heavy white silk, with a bias cut skirt which, quite frankly, hugged the boots, and a kimono-esque wrap top, loose,  tied with an obi-esque white silk belt, with a gaping V neck, carefully and invisibly pinned together, which required there be not only no veil, but no bra. Over each temple I wore a tiny bunch of orange blossoms. It was foxy, it was not retro but it did allude to another culture rather than another era, it was white, it was armored, it was formal. My shoulders and arms and knees, if not precisely the heart chakra, if that’s what you’d like to call it, were covered. I wasn’t a big cleavage person in those days; there wasn’t any. There was no hat because of the orange blossoms. It was not a cocktail dress, it was a power suit. He was already mine.
Twenty-eight years later, I was interested to see that the Parker Bowles followed the same formula. Short for civil. Long for church. White for the civil. Blue for the blessing. No veil, bien sur, could hide her diffidence, and the big question for the semioticians was, was the luxurious and remarkably discreet embellishment of the white ensemble impudent, festive, or appropriate to the station to which the Parker Bowles had so long aspired? The hat, as she has proved before and since, was to the Parker Bowles what the lapel pins were to the Queen. The billboard of her status. The Parker Bowles’ hats are always bigger and more assertively embellished than any one else’s in the country, except the Page Three girls vying for photo opps at Ascot in showgirl hats, and Kate Middleton’s. Middleton’s hats are smaller but more agressive, the Queen’s own hats are venturing into the Philip Treacy realm of assymetrical beefeaters with trimmed coq feathers and spirals.
Susannah and Trinny discuss the Parker Bowles short civil bride’s dress, 2005.
But the Parker Bowles stated her intention to spend the prince’s money and to take up his space with the I’m-here-get-over-it-Philip-Treacy-launch hat she wore to a 2004 garden party at Holyrood House on her first official appearance as the elderly live-in companion of the elderly Prince. Her civil marriage hat was almost as big, and her civil marriage outfit was almost as white as that first apparition. With this power hat did she stake her claim, to the man, to the plan, to the canal.
The Parker Bowles’ first engagement as the Prince’s live-in, June, 2004, Edinburgh, previous to their engagement.

Her hat will always be bigger than the Queen’s, and Duchess Kate’s.

 
Still, she observed the rule for all brides, old and young. No knees, no arms, and no shoulders. Short is civil. Long is religious.

 Short of it.

Long of it. Check Singer’s A Crown of Feathers for further semiotics if this picture doesn’t say it all.

Now, as we all know, Princess Lilian, duchess of Haland, is the captain of the Old Babes team.

In 1976, the king of Sweden finally gave the faithful Briton, who had been living with Bertil, the king’s uncle, since he was the naval attache in London in World War Two, permission to marry him. For her faithfulness and discretion, the king made her a princess of Sweden over and above the title she acceded to upon her marriage. As you would suspect, this mature bride has the very best wedding dress ever. Were I a betting man, I’d wager the Parker Bowles modeled her church dress on Lilian’s. Blue, armored, long, long-sleeved, with a big whacking diamond brooch and veiled pillbox hat. A power dress, not a sexy dress. She is asserting her personhood, her royalty, her standing to take a vow.

She is not asserting, having hung on to her prince well into her 60s, her seductiveness.

She is not asserting a right to be the cynosure of all eyes. Repeat after me, I am not a movie star.

She humbly covers her arms, chest, and head. The killer? Her sweet and humble bouquet of lilies of the valley.

Bonne chance, Lilian. You are the One.

King Carl Gustav, Princess Liliane, Prince Bertil, Queen Silvia, 1976.

________________________________

*Hilton, 1950, big poufy white dress and veil.
Wilding, 1952, organza-collared suit, flowered hat.
Todd, 1957, short-sleeved chiffon to the civil, hooded sleeved chiffon to the religious.

Fisher, 1959, long-sleeved, hooded brown chiffon for the religious.

Burton, 1964, 1975, long-sleeved short yellow chiffon with hyacinth hairpiece; caftan

Warner, 1976, matching suit, coat, and turban with fox trim, possibly Halston.

Fortensky, 1991 long-sleeved, floor length yellow lace
There is one constant here. Sleeves. Even at the eighth wedding, where Michael Jackson was the maid of honor, sleeves were worn.

I’m thinking about a certain kind of older woman and wondering, for reasons that aren’t very nice, if they can be an Old Babe.

The boiler room girls are the prototype I’m thinking about, old groupies, kind of, and Esther Newberg is the only one who could possibly be considered an old babe. Mimi Alford, the well-bred intern who slept with JFK and recently wrote a memoir, is not one. Old Babes do not dine out on who they slept with in 1961.

The meditation is inspired, as so much is, by the femme edition of The New York Times, with a piece called “Starting Over at 48” about Kim France. She is the founding editor of Lucky magazine, a revolutionary — not least because it is making money — format for fashion mags, and one of the many revolutions caused by Jane and Sassy in the ladies’ mag market. I find it unreadable. One good reason for her candidacy as an Old Babe is that, like the graduates of Sassy, France claims she doesn’t mind being called a feminist.

The nail in the Old Babe coffin for Kim France is when she says, “I’m 48, but I’m an immature 48. There are people in this city who work in creative businesses whose interests are still very youth-ish. They like rock music, looking cool, but they are not kids anymore. They don’t, you know, respond to crotch high skirts on a style blog, no matter how cute they look.”

Kim France has left Lucky and started over, in her West Village apartment, as a blogger.  She calls her blog “Girls of a Certain Age.” I am thinking in this unnamed sub-species of Old Babe, inspired by Kim France, of Vivienne Westwood, who always appears to be a candidate for an old babe, but is not, and the Guardian’s Invisible Woman, who is not, but writes about it.

As you know, Princess Lilian of Sweden is the captain of the old babe team, along with Iris Apfel, and we must consider both what Lilian and Iris, the floral life leaders, would do about Kim France.

What binds Vivienne Westwood, the Invisible Woman, and Kim France together is being old rock chicks, still trying, it seems to me, to make it on those terms.* The terms are murky, one of them being one’s former career as a groupie, and dining out on who one slept with in 1961. I can’t say for a fact that any of these ladies but Westwood was an actual groupie. I have read the memoirs of Pamela des Barres, Patti Boyd and Bill Wyman, so there’s nothing I don’t know about groupies, including a close encounter when Stephen Tyler and I were young and I was interviewing him for the Great Metropolitan Daily. He thought I was a groupie because that’s the only kind of women he was meeting.

I don’t think Vivienne Westwood is an old babe. While she looks like a chewed rawhide bone with orange hair, and what she wears is old but not babe, she’s not emanating fashion, but rather parroting the 50-year-old rock epigrams which passed for revolution in the 60s. She is, in a young friend’s immortal term, a rock gorgon, mimicking half-a-century old hipster gestures.

Westwood looks 100 per cent better than usual here, in this Guardian video clip, because her Gorgonesque ’70s orange Three’s Company ponytail is covered up in a chic black do-rag, and she’s not wearing a slogan t shirt. She looks chic, but her garrulity, and the idiocy of what she says, which was cute when she first said it in 1964, has worn rather less well than her eyebrow pencil. She did not wear underpants when she went to collect her OBE from the Queen, which is just about the feeblest non-punk gesture I can think of. Any self-respecting punk or Old Babe would omit one or the other, preferably the OBE.

The Invisible Woman excited me with her Ralph Ellison reference, but basically writes,  timidly and 30 years behind the times, about the issues. The Land’s End tugless soft cup tank suit, for example, is known to every woman who put away the bikinis at age 21, because a black tanksuit on the beach where everybody else’s greasyass stuff is all dangling in the sand is 10,000 times hotttter. Trust me.  But not to the Invisible Woman. The Invisible Woman is broken by the tragedy of having to put the bikinis away at 50 — which there is no reason to do, whether or not your breasts and your belly hang down to your knees. Unless you want to be chic and not have the decolletage of a baseball mitt. The Invisible Woman is British; the British are sun whores; think an Ibiza tan is paradise; and must be forgiven. Or Jade Jagger NSFW, perhaps not. (Pippa Middleton, this is your future.)

She writes about bullshit fashion panels convened to discuss the pros and cons of Botox and diet — except there are no cons, and the prospect of old age anorexic and on the needle is clearly and uncompromisingly promoted. There’s a pressing-her-nose-on-the-glass-of-youth tone which is neither old nor babe-ish. Truthfully, I suppose I’m a bit put out because I feel a tiny bit excluded but if I can’t make a grand entrance perhaps I can sneak into the party by the side door? Oh Jeez. She really wrote that, and her circling about parties is at the core of my revulsion. An Old Babe doesn’t go to parties, unless they’re for the arts of seated conversation, business, or ceremonial purposes. She is the party.

Princess Lilian, our leader, emerges briefly, on the arm of her great-nephew, to celebrate the millenium.

Which brings us to the case of Kim France, who, having been at the helm of the hot fashion rag quit Planet Conde Nast recently to become a blogger. She had daily migraines and felt she had to quit. Her blog is for women who wanted, she says, to be Tatum O’Neal in Bad News Bears, whatever that might mean. I think it means ’90s feminism as per the Australian-founded magazine, Sassy, a mesmerizing feminist girl power magazine of the ’90s edited by Jane Pratt. It was famous for enterprising girl reporters, and much more than its one true take on the groupie disaster that is Courtney Love, and I miss it.

Sassy discovered Chloe Sevigny, which may have been a mistake. And now they’re all grown up, or grown old Kim France and the Sassy girls, reading the Janedough on line, secretly praying to Tien Hou their grateful thanks that their Rielle Hunter/Mr. Big instincts didn’t work out, and quitting a real magazine gig for the pale simulacrum of the Bohemian life in the West Village, where rich people live. Kim France jokes that she’s starting a Tumblr page called “I Preferred the 90s”, because, as France says, “it sort of was the last time before things started being super adult.”

I don’t know if the manic pixie dream girl is a version of Candace Bushnell’s famous Peter Pan boy — in her immortal piece on the Manhattan biciycle boy — or if the Kim France Peter Pan Girl of a Certain Age  is a new breed — the 21st century version of the Boiler Room Girls. Who stayed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long at the fair, kicking around Georgetown, doing married men a la Rielle, pretending to be connected. Getting drowned at Chappaquiddick. Esther Newberg got the hell out of Dodge, left for New York, reinvented herself as a ball buster, and started a whole nother non-Kennedy, more or less, life. That’s what an old babe does.

You can become a Bohemian at age 48. And I have hope for Kim France, based solely on her post about the immaculate white cloth flats worn in sooty early summer Manhattan by the girl who waxes her eyebrows.

They’re $6.79 from K-Mart. Princess Lilian and Iris Apfel would say, I think, there was a glimmer of hope here. ________________________________

*I’m still thinking about whether Gracie Slick is an old babe. She has famously retired from the stage, let her hair go white, gained weight, and paints pictures. She says, we didn’t have to be good-looking ’cause there were no music videos. She says, repeatedly, that performing is not for rock gorgons. “God bless The Rolling Stones, but I think old people doing rock and roll is kind of pathetic.”

 I think she’s getting there; much depends on the quality of her paintings and whether or not she’s hiding. I don’t think she is.

http://blog.discoversd.com/san-diego-entertainment-blog/grace-slick-dishes-on-sex-drugs–rock-and-roll.html

I’m very interested in y’all’s take on granny chic, or, as my sharp-eyed London friend stipulates, The New Frump.

To sum up your insights, a combination of crowdsourcing comment from my private blog and FB:

  • wearing skirts is a backlash against the boomer feminist Hillary pantssuit
  • no real granny would wear droopy cuffs, as they interfere with her “generational duties” — this, I think, emphasizes the fashiony and slacker/pixie aspects of The New Frump
  • it’s a scenester look pegged, at least in London, to drinking too much, not eating enough, and having a cool dead-end job
  • its untidy hair and orthopedic shoes connote disability, perhaps of slacker origin
  • the twee is manipulative rather than sexy
  • the sexy aspect of hand-crafted clothes is partly based in feminist, peasant, artisanal, upcycling, frugal/poverty-stricken origins of the proletarian women’s work the punk knitters are honoring, and
  • its heroic, art-therapeutic properties for its makers to
  • enliven, dignify, classify and nationalize prole surroundings and their bodies with signs of their artistry
  • the sexy/manipulative range of motion much depends on whether the look is defiant (clothes as armor) or insouciant (clothes as vulnerable/flirtatious).

I think the twee is armor, manipulative, and not sexy. Think about Warren Jeffs’ 50 Mormon wives in identical, baby girl/Jordan almond colored, dresses, with sexy, shiny, pinned-up hair in big Elvis quiffs. I think they’re definitely clothed for Eros and scrubbing floors. They have anti-feminist agency. And are probably sexier than The New Frump girls, who seem armored and yet insisting on disability, as if they were playing dumb blondes and their fingernails are too long, and too crusty, to type. The twee thread of Granny Chic — the manic pixie dream girl aspect — also subverts feminist agency — no second-wave feminist pantssuits for me — without substituting corn-fed prelapsarian Mormon randiness.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2024150/Warren-Jeffs-trial-Paedophile-gets-life-sentence-50-brides-photo-emerges.html

Whussup? Y’all are being very smart about these readings. I think there are a couple of threads: the difference between

  • the New Frump and the 50 year trend of vintage wear;*
  • the New Frump and artisanal punk hand-crafted/upcycled/retailored “granny” wear
  • the twee pastiche vs. the polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel pastiche
  • the defiant, Mormon granny/prairie sexy look vs. the twee/disabled/slacker/manic pixie dream girl manipulative look.

I have to add the heroin chic aspect that mitts, sleeves (tatts or textile), cuffs, shrugs, all hide needle tracks and the tecatas, at least in New York City, all have an entire wardrobe of shrugs. This was one of the fashion messages of Rent.

Heroin chic: Daphne Rubin-Vega and her latex sleeves in Rent: Rock that navel but never ever reveal your brachial arteries.

Am I getting it right? Tell me more. I’m also getting the strong sense that the twee is partly anorexia armor, its droop calculated to replace secondary sexual characteristics in the way polychrome Old Babe wear asserts a third gender, if not a third age.

What is the New Frump’s art school claim? It is carefully curated, people.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Polychrome Old Babe Iris Apfel. By Chester Higgins Jr., The New York Times

___________________________
* For example, early ’60s body con modernist vintage, tailored, well-groomed, knee-length, now all the rage on account of Mad Men, is also called Granny Chic:


http://glamcanyon.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-heart-granny-chic.html

There’s a permutation known as Grampa Chic, which has to be thought through on its own terms. Depending of course on whether it’s a girl or a boy who’s wearing it.
http://www.etsy.com/search?includes%5B0%5D=tags&q=grandpa+chic&page=1

I have a deep, deep, Boho streak which would have me dressed in lacy white ruffled cotton petticoats, bright colored prairie skirts, rose-embroidered off-the-shoulder peasant blouses and buckskin fringe, with orange and magenta embroidered touches, perhaps on the handknitted stockings, from the Estonian crafters on the island of Muhu, Frida Kahlo earrings and do rags and perhaps a Day of the Dead rose garland with rainbow colored ribbons over the ears? Or a room which looks like this. I have a deep deep resonance with Natalie Chanin and her boyfriend’s visionary art aesthetic, Dixie Boho, if you will, and African-American yard art.

But there are several caveats.

When I was young, I dressed for the office. And not as a hippie, either. I had to be six feet tall and bullet proof; peasant lace and hand hammered earrings would have had them stabbing me in the front, and not just the back.

Now that I am an old babe, I am sensitive to dressing for the office and the — negrifying effect of not doing so. You want to look hip, and there is a way of doing polychrome hipster Old Babe, as personified by Iris Apfel, which is genius, carefully curated, and requires a flat chest if not the entire substitution of clothes for secondary sexual characteristics — the number one aesthetic reason for going polychrome.

But imagine what Apfel’s trademark brutalist jewelry would look like on Stephanie Seymour’s chest.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

Iris Apfel, co-captain with Princess Lilian of Sweden, of the Old Babes team.

The immortal Stephanie, mother of four, in her see-through Chanel dress.

Now you need to turn to imagining what obloquy an old hippie chick gets from Britain’s highest paid journalist. A.A. Gill is Murdoch’s TV critic at the Times of London and has twice reviewed television shows by the Cambridge classics professor, 57-year-old Mary Beard, as unviewable on account of her appearance. The first time, Gill wrote:

…for someone who looks this closely at the past, it is strange she hasn’t had a closer look at herself before stepping in front of the camera. Beard coos over corpses’ teeth without apparently noticing she is wearing them. The hair is a disaster, the outfit an embarrassment. If you are going to invite yourself into the front rooms of the living, then you need to make an effort.

Mary Beard, in the ancient Roman latrines at Ostia.

Gill is as famous for his feral attitude toward women and shooting baboons, as he is for his alcoholism, his dyslexia, his lack of a college degree, his salary, and the 62 complaints that have been filed against him with Britain’s toothless Press Complaints Commission in the last five years.

This last time, as Beard hosts “Meet the Romans”, a well-received BBC doc on ancient Rome, Gill reviewed the show by saying that she is too ugly for television, except as a contestant on “The Undateables”, a British Channel 4 series about disfigured and disabled people who can’t find partners.

Mary Beard, professor of classics, Cambridge University.

While Beard does not dress in the kind of elaborate Boho chic I like, imagine the screams of obloquy she’d get just walking down the street in a prairie skirt. Virginia Woolf radiated vulnerability and Bohemianism; according to her husband, people would literally point at her and laugh as she walked the streets of London.

Only young ladies want to inspire that kind of derision, one of the real reasons for the young, and not just the old, to have blue hair. To annoy the bourgeois.

I think Boho chic is the purlieu of the rich, the young, and the unemployed. Real Bohemians, like de Kooning, wear work clothes, paint-spattered jeans. Which brings us to exhibit A of my manic pixie dream girl find of the day, a Boho chic costume, shot in Instagram, by the manic pixie dream mom who freaked me the eff out this morning.

Given my love of Boho chic, tell me what is wrong with this outfit? Why is it not making me lust for it? The last person I saw in a fab Boho chic outfit was Jericho Poppler Bartlow, the old surfer girl, at a meeting of the Surfrider Foundation in Long Beach, and it was awesome, moving into the Talitha Getty zone.

Jericho Poppler Bartlow, surfer chick.

Rock on, Jericho.

But so here is the outfit that is So Wrong. A friend elsewhere has weighed in on my private blog. You do the same. It has to do with the infantilization — the replacement of the secondary sexual characteristics with clothing that is — ohhh grrrl, just say it. Limp. The young lady’s granny chic pastiche, unlike Iris Apfel’s masterful polychrome Old Babe collage, is …Not Sexy.

I am thinking about my last boyfriend, who inspired a world of numinous solitude much amplified by the self-soothing I learned as an only child, and about the boyfriend who inspired my Old Hell Freezes Over Friend (OHFOF) to get into girls.

There is a tipping point, in geriatrix dating, where powerfuckers — of career, money, or girth, the space you take up — can change your gender as well as your class identification. Susan Sontag, in a little noted phrase, said that at some point in her middle age, men stopped fancying her and Lesbians were the only people who made eye contact. The Guardian got her on the record, denying, by the way, that she and Annie Liebovitz were an item:

She will talk about her bisexuality quite openly now. It’s simple, she says. “As I’ve become less attractive to men, so I’ve found myself more with women. It’s what happens. Ask any woman my age. More women come on to you than men. And women are fantastic. Around 40, women blossom. Women are a work-in-progress. Men burn out.” She doesn’t have a lover now, she lives alone.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/may/27/fiction.features

I’m not sure that men burn out; Eddie Said’s Late Style indictates that it is possible for a philosophical and stoic (git your Montaigne yayas out) man to become hotter than ever as he shrivels. I met one such man in the garden section of Lowe’s the other day, an old Chicano with a Yorkshire terrier in the child’s seat of his grocery cart. Those teeny teacup dogs are the Baby Girls of all the scariest Hispano gangsters here. You see 400-pound Breaking Bad narco terrorist XXXtras stomping down the street with five pound Chihuahuas on a leash. This Yorkie’s brown eyes were as calm and alert and playful as Don Juan’s own. You don’t often see a two-pound meat loaf dog carrying herself with gravitas; you do here, and it may be the finest thing about the Land of Enchantment. (There are also a lot of Hispano guys resurrecting shelter pit bulls with fringed cartileges into lovebirds.)

Columbia professor Said throws a stone at an Israeli guard house.

Maybe white men in the chattering classes Sontag was cruising burn out. Maybe men of color who live to be old are hotter. I proffered the back of my hand to the Yorqui Princesa to sniff, and we talked a little. He said she helped him in the garden. I said I bet she did.

Clearly I’m not into girls.

Well, about the man who inspired my OHFOF to give up white boys. He was “separated” from his wife? Or, come to think of it, not. One way the dating pool of white boys grows skanky for the geriatric dater. He was married. He was Catholic, and always would be married. God was forcing him to cheat. But, as amenable as he and his rusty gentlemen’s pneumatics were to my OHFOF’s liberated sexual mores, there was one thing he would not do. He would not come. It kept him faithful to his wife. The minute OHFOF stopped counting the ill-gotten Monopoly money of his amazing stamina, she flipped the fuck out. And went out and procured herself butch blue collar Catholic girls twenty years her junior, frighteningly smart tranny dominatrixes whose loving lashes did not assuage Ms. Tran’s paranoia about getting a passport. Lack of European travel finally put the kibosh on loving women. OHFOF was truly courageous and went back to boyz after a while not just because women are poor, and trannies have this problem with papers, but because — well. As one happy femme bisexual explained it to me once, while girls may be the only ones who rilly know how to do it, they don’t have anything to do it with.

I’ve known of another Catholic cheater with the something like the same ontological problem as the gender-shifter, and this loser — who could also not afford a dirty weekend away, or flowers, or dinner out — kept another geriatrix dater friend of mine in sexual torment for months. (Part of the geriatrix dating deal is, erhm, patience.) My friend was afraid to confess this to me. As well she should have been. I was mean. I said to myself, Wait. He’s married? He’s broke? And he can’t get it up? MARRY THIS ONE.

(c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved.

Jacob Bernstein, who is, I believe, the son of Carl Bernstein and Nora Ephron, has written in the best tradition of his parents’ candor the story of the suicide of Bob Bergeron, a Manhattan therapist who wrote a book about the bright side of gay life after 40.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/fashion/the-life-and-death-of-the-therapist-bob-bergeron.html?scp=1&sq=bergeron&st=cse

Bottom line is, if you have made your way through life as a beauty, or, even if you haven’t and yet were granted the privilege of the good-looking, there is a point in life when it goes away.

Peoples’ eyes slide off you. Dinner party invitations — unless work-related or you are part of a couple — slide off too. New friends are hard to make; you get stood up for the first time in your life. And that’s all at age 45, before the invasion of the skin tags, the hearing aids, the night guards as well as anaphrodisiacs such as inflamed toenail beds and contempt for the young and their narcissism. (I actually had someone, a practicing, tight-lacing femme who was grinding her teeth in her sleep to the degree she was loosening their roots, filing off the edges of her molars, and scalloping her tongue, say to me about night guards: But are they feminine? My answer: rather more so than no teeth.)

The last rat-fuck I went to was an enormous soccer-related cocktail party. I walked through the crowd of 200 from end to end looking for friends; and became aware of serious eye contact. It was coming from one of the professional soccer players in a far corner, and it was laser-sharp and as aggressive and hostile a sexual gaze as I have seen. Of older women, it is written, on the walls of urinals, They don’t swell, they don’t tell, and they’re grateful as hell.

I was not surprised when he was later arrested for rape.

The encounter reminded me just how sexualized the universe is, how American social events are now held together by sexuality, how interest in conversation is mistaken for sexual interest rather than an entirely disinterested separate category of art, and how mostly unaware of it I had been until I stopped being cute. Here I flash on the dinner parties of my childhood in South America — at the Yugoslavians’ house where we girls stamped grapes with our perfect little feet. All three generations lived around the courtyard. One big table in the courtyard; grama at one end, grampa at the other, and everyone else in the universe in between. Candlelight, politics, the stars — all discussed by everyone. My mother plays the guitar.

There is a point — Germaine Greer wrote a whole huge book about menopause when somebody laughed at her when she took her clothes off — when somebody says something to you about wearing a miniskirt which you had thought was just a skirt. Your clothes stop suiting you. A stranger calls you on it. At a friend’s 60th birthday party, we touched upon some of these things until one of the ladies said, rather bitterly, But if you weren’t good-looking to start with, it’s not anything like a blow. So. You can fall on that sword early. Or late.

That sense of not being in your own body is the killer, I think. The proof is that it works the opposite way as well. I remember some epic hangovers and other traumata in which my body did not betray me. Looking at myself in the mirror and saying, Jesus, I feel like a typhoid-bearing barnacle on the underside a garbage scow in the Ganges, when it is going to show? When I dream about myself, I’m always about 30 years old and in fighting trim.

Erving Goffman, the great sociologist, wrote a book about the management of spoiled identity, including race and handicap, identifying status markers and society’s gatekeepers, among many other fascinating guideposts. I think it was the poet Alexander Pope, whose spine had been deformed by TB, who said it took him 20 minutes of talking to people before they forgot his hunchback. Virginia Woolf, the scion of three generations of women famous for their beauty, said society was exhausting because you had to put all your energy in your face — and not, presumably, your genius or your pants. Ralph Ellison famously wrote, of being black,

Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.
Invisible Man

There is a way, as Ellison documents, that lack of eye contact becomes soul murder.

I remember the belly rush I got, as a lady of a certain age, meeting a celebrity for lunch and discovering he was unfortunate in the face department. I was feeling anomalous about the post-cigarette weight. (Quitting your vices, along with the miniskirt, and investing all your disposable income in your teeth, is what Nice People do in their forties.) He’s ugly!, I thought, and my stomach plunged as if I were on a roller coaster ride. It was a huge relief. And an unprecedented ambush of an emotional transaction which still embarasses me. I felt something like it the other day when I walked into the senior center to get my taxes done. Somewhere, someplace, I remember a sociable and attractive octogenarian saying he could only “emerge” — put on his beautiful, well-chosen clothes as well as his unrapeable, unkillable social personna — and leave the house about once every three days.

Far from being a matter of vanity, to sustain the gaze of one’s fellow humans is a matter of life and death. Terrence Des Pres writes that one survivor technique in the concentration camps was literally to become unkillable by working to remain “recognizably human”. People who stopped washing and mending their rags and polishing their blistering wooden clogs with carbonized motor oil simply died; all the survivors noted that when somebody stopped washing themselves, they’d soon be dead.

There’s no mystery as to what the solution is. Wash. Polish. Oxytocin detox. Self-soothing. Generativity. Altruism. Spirituality. Pull on jeans. A tailor. A gym with nobody in it under 50.

(c) 2012  Jeannette Smyth. All rights reserved.

I need to define my terms here. Or Ellen Barkin’s terms about what not to wear over 50.* I know exactly what she’s getting at, and it’s not laying down the law for etiquette purposes.

To be fwee to expwess myself, by dressing inappropriately and having no hair cut, only attracts favorable or neutral response, if my face and body meet the very rigid sexual and age standards of cruising and outsourcing society. Diverging from those standards in any way, including color, gender identity and so on, is punished every day in a million wordless sidewalk encounters up to stone job discrimination.

It’s about signifying that you are employable and not easily knocked over. That you’re in the running because you’re paying attention — why hair cuts are better than hair do’s, and both are form-conferring as opposed to fatal droopy long grey hair. A woman I know stopped dying her hair at 65, and she said people instantly began to treat her like an idiot. Compare and contrast pix of Mary Sue Coleman before and after her presidency of UMich. It’s not about sex, it’s about power.

Mary Sue Coleman before her university presidency.

Mary Sue Coleman after her UMich presidency.

Losing your teeth, as my friend F pointed out long ago, is more than a cosmetic problem.** It is passage out of the middle class. And that means invisibility except to predators, especially for women.

And Ellen would know, because she came up out of Brooklyn. She did lose her front teeth in a stickball accident when she was 10. Brooklyn, where the sharpest old babes in the world get their hair done every week, even if they have to wear their bunny slippers to the beauty shop.

We’re going for ambulatory here. Not respectable. Respectable kills.

_________________

*Ellen Barkin’s 10 Rules for Life After 50

from O magazine, 7/07/ p 207

1.
Don’t wear your hair longer than your collar bone.
2.
No red lipstick, unless you have olive or dark skin. It’s aging.
3.
No blue jeans to dinner out. (But black jeans are okay.)
4.
Don’t expose your knees. And cover up. Don’t try to compete with 20-year-olds. A woman between 40 and forever looks great because she has style, not because she shows off her body.
5.
Don’t ever wear anything strapless.
6.
But at the beach, if you have a toned body, rock that bikini for as long as you like.
7.
No miniskirts. A short skirt is okay with black tights.
8.
Don’t ever revisit a trend you’ve lived through once before.
9.
Don’t wear hats, except to keep the sun off your face. A hat makes you look as if you’re trying to get noticed.
10.
Wear fewer accessories, and keep your look clean.

I agree.

I think these are good rules for everybody over 23, actually. Except the red lipstick and the blue jeans and the strapless.

They have strapless wedding dresses now. Holy shit.

**My dentist’s office is full of baby boomer guys who haven’t brushed their teeth since they left their mother’s home. His woman complains of his horrendous bad breath and won’t give him any. He goes to the dentist, and she REMOVES ALL 32 OF HIS ROTTEN ABCESSED UNFLOSSED TEETH. Sexy.

Originally published 2007.

Copyright (c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved.

People’s eyes start sliding off you when you hit about 50. Man or woman, one becomes invisible, negrified, and it requires some assertion to be seen and heard at all. My Old Hell Freezes Over Friend and I decided 25 years ago to make non-threatening eye contact with every person of color we passed on the sidewalk, for those very reasons. I remember running into a guy sitting on the steps of my apartment building in D.C., hundreds of people passing him within inches on the sidewalk, well-dressed, not exactly panhandling but in obvious distress, not least of it around his invisibility. He said to me, You’re the only person who has looked at me all afternoon. I remember walking Acey on the pedestrian path in Rock Creek Park, and stepping off the path as a clot of runners came toward us. They weren’t running together, and the guy at the head of the pack was a black man. He was frowning as he approached, apparently because a white woman and her dog had lept off the path as he approached. I made appropriate eye contact and said, Good morning, and his face broke into a smile like the sun’s.

It’s one reason, I have realized, for the decision some old babes make to become polychrome — Iris Apfel being the goddess of the polychrome old babes. I think she probably dressed like that all her life. It’s a way of making yourself exist by getting people to look at you. The old babes street fashion blog, Advanced Style is just getting to that ontological point.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

It can be clownish, however. It certainly violates Edith Wharton’s sharp-eyed stricture to the effect that dressing as if you were ugly is just as wrong as dressing as if you were beautiful.

Certainly no one need have confessed such acquiescence in her lot as was revealed in the “useful” colour of Gerty Farish’s gown and the subdued lines of her hat: it is almost as stupid to let your clothes betray that you know you are ugly as to have them proclaim that you think you are beautiful.
http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/ewharton/bl-ewhar-house-1-8.htm

It gets harder to leave the house. Everything is beautiful in here.

%d bloggers like this: