What Not to Say to People When They Are Sad

Hello, Fabulous Person,

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Today’s #morningswithmadge video is all about what not to say to people when they’re sad. Humans have a natural tendency to want to rush in and fix things, to smooth wrinkles, to make sad stuff happy, dark stuff light, and bad stuff go away. There are two sides to this impulse. It hurts us to see other people in pain. On one hand, this is because we genuinely love and care for them and we want them to feel better. If we’re being honest, on the other hand, other people’s struggles act as a mirror that reflects our own fears about struggles we’ve endured or struggles we perceive as being possible for us. Fear is a powerful emotion. We live in a society where death and loss are denied, where people are deemed worthy based on professional ‘success’ or unworthy based on professional ‘failure’, where depression and other mental illnesses are stigmatized, where we don’t honor grief, sorrow, anger, and other complex emotions. We define success and failure in definitive and limited ways. Everything is filtered through our own experiences, colored by our lenses.

If you are going to be free, your freedom means that you do not avert your eyes from anything, in yourself or in anyone else. Freedom means to sit in awareness with what is. No aversion, no attachment.
— Ram Dass

When something is lost, be that a person or a thing or a dream or a job or our health…when we lose something, the grief that results from that loss is a process. Grief is how our brains deal with loss and help us process the fallout so we can release our attachment to the thing that has happened and move forward. If we don’t have the space to grieve, we are not able to release our attachment. This results in the emotions from the fallout becoming stuck, we’re still attached to the thing that happened. There is an intrinsic value in sorrow and anger, but our fear of other people’s sorrow and anger often results in us negating it. What people need while they’re grieving is compassion and unconditional love. They need to feel safe to dive into their sorrow and anger, to feel their feelings, and know that while they’re doing that we’re there for them. Just being there for someone else is the most powerful gift we can give them. When we see people, hear people, and love them as they are in any moment, we give them permission to work through the loss and find their way back to their joy. When we negate or dismiss people’s grief, often those feelings get shoved down and bubble underneath, never having been processed they can re-emerge in negative, destructive ways.

“I know exactly what you’re feeling! The same thing happened to me. I am going to tell you all about it now.”

When we respond to someone else’s loss with a story about our own, we’re making their situation all about us. It isn’t about us, it’s about them. We may have experienced something similar, but every person processes their emotions differently. We really don’t know what they’re feeling. However, having experienced something similar, we can offer them our empathy and allow them the space to process their emotions in the way that works best for them. Our stories are best served for another time, when it actually is all about us or when we are sharing stories with people about shared experiences.

My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.
— Tom Robbins

“When one door closes, another opens.”

Does it, though? Are you sure? It’s entirely possible that another door will not open. People become terminally ill, people die, people experience extreme physical limitations through illness or accidents. Their lifelong dream may not unfold. Sometimes a door just closes. Doors don’t open and close by themselves, and it may take considerable effort to find an exit and pry that door open. There’s nothing useful in this comment when someone is grieving.

“Cheer up! The sun’ll come out tomorrow! It’s okay! You’ll be fine!”

Everyone knows these platitudes hold truths, but sometimes it’s not okay, they’re not okay, and they aren’t going to be fine. Can we sit with someone in the truth that maybe it’s not okay and they’re not going to be fine, but love them and be there with them in that uncomfortable place? Can we honor their grief and allow them to be who they are in that moment, without rushing in to fix it?

To give and not expect return, that is what lies at the heart of love.
— Oscar Wilde

“Try to be grateful for all of the good things in your life.”

Of course, we should all feel gratitude and try whenever possible to focus on the good things. When we’re knee deep in the shit, though, this is another insidious way of negating our feelings. How dare we feel sad when we have so much about which to be happy! Can we feel gratitude and also feel sadness at loss? Yes, yes we can. Both things can be true simultaneously.

“It could be worse. Think about that person over there and the horrible things that happened to them.”

Yes, it could be worse. It could also be better! When we’re knee deep in processing grief, it can feel completely overwhelming. What we don’t need to add is guilt for not having had something worse happen to us. The bad thing that happened to us had impact, and we have every right to feel bad about it.

Fear is a powerful emotion that drives a lot of our reactions to difficult situations. It makes us say and do things that don’t reflect our intentions. Most of us are sincerely trying to be there for people we love when their dealing with loss. It’s good to take the time to evaluate our reactions, and adjust them to be more compassionate when possible. When we offer our friends our unconditional love, we are giving them and ourselves a powerful gift. We don’t have to fix them. It’s okay to sit with the sadness, to dive into the darkness, to feel the difficult feelings, this is how we process grief and release attachment. When people are sad, what they need more than anything is to feel connected, cherished, honored, seen, heard, and loved. Sometimes the best thing we can say is nothing, and the best gift we can give is our presence.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
— Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Love is practiced in deeds, not words.

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Smashing the Beauty Myth

Hello, Fabulous Person!

I made a video this morning diving into The Beauty Myth, but this topic deserves far more contemplation than one can provide in a short video on social media. I shot the video multiple times to get it under ten minutes in length. There was so much to impart, so much to explore, so much to unpack when it comes to the limited construct that has been built around what society deems beautiful. That construct informs so much of how we view ourselves and treat other people. It starts when we are infants, and it continues to inform us as we age. It’s pervasive, pernicious, and powerful, and it can be poisonous when you exist in a realm that is far outside of the parameters of what is considered beautiful and therefore worthy of adoration/success/attention. It’s informed by biases that reflect a toxic cocktail of sexism, racism, gender discrimination, ageism, size-sim, bias against people with disabilities, and the myriad of ways that we impose arbitrary rules about what is and what is not beautiful.

Ask yourself, what is beautiful? Then think about how your answer reflects your bias and how that bias is informed by cultural mythology.

Then ask yourself, what values you subscribe to physical beauty? Then think about how that reflects your bias and how that informs the way you perceive and treat other people.

Are you uncomfortable around people who are different from you? Do you feel uncomfortable around people with physical disabilities or deformities?

Do you feel disdain or disgust for people who you deem to be physically unattractive?

Do you feel physically unattractive and does that make you feel less than?

As I grow older, I’m finding myself digging deeper into my own biases. Whatever the rules may be, if they are limiting people from coming into the fullness of who they are, they are rules that should be defied. There are as many ways of being in the world as there are people in the world, none of them are more valid. When I say this, I am referring to physical being, because behavior is a whole other nut to crack.

When I was very young, I didn’t think about being pretty or not pretty. I didn’t know pale skin was a problem or cellulite was bad or not having the right pair of shoes and shirt made me look poor or weird. I didn’t know that I had to dress a certain way because I was a girl. It wasn’t until the world told me that I was ‘ugly’ that I doubted my beauty. It wasn’t until the world told me that I wasn’t ‘doing things right’ that I started to feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t until the world told me I was wearing the ‘wrong’ clothing, that I started to care about fashion. It wasn’t until people made fun of my appearance, that I began to see parts of my body as flawed.

Aidy Bryant’s new show Shrill on Hulu is a thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a woman who is not skinny in our skinny obsessed culture. It’s about far more than this, but it really pushes and pokes at the pervasiveness of size bias. The show is based on the memoir Shrill by Lindy West. I could not stop watching it until I’d seen every episode. There’s a scene in the show where Aidy’s character Annie goes to a pool party with other fat women, only fat women. As I am considered fat by the tables that determine this crap, I feel comfortable using that word. Annie wears jeans and a blouse, but eventually feels comfortable taking them off and wearing her bathing suit. Her tentative comfort is eclipsed by unbridled joy when she swims and then dances in full celebration of her feeling of freedom. I related to this on a cellular level. I’ve never felt comfortable in a bathing suit in public. Almost every time I’ve worn one, someone has made a point of telling me that I need to get a tan. I was a skinny person until I hit menopause, but my tits were too small and my skin was too pale and people were relentless in pointing this out. Now that I’m older, curvier, lumpier, and still pale, I’m even less inclined to wear a bathing suit in public. The last time I did was at a small gathering with relatives, and someone STILL made a point of making fun of my skin. Seriously. I cannot imagine being in a space where I could not only feel comfortable in a bathing suit, but comfortable enough to dance in my bathing suit.

We can thank Coco Chanel for the pale skin bias, and the real truth is that like many biases, it’s rooted in racism and classism. Until Coco got a suntan on the French Riviera in the 1920s, the prevailing Beauty Myth was that extremely pale women were the height of beauty. Extremely pale women were wealthy white women. Poor people were either born with darker skin because they were not white people, or they were suntanned because they had to work outside in the sun. Being pale was a status symbol. Rich white people could stay inside or under hats and parasols, and maintain their lily white skin. Then the suntan, thanks to Coco, became a status symbol. People of color were still not included in this Beauty Myth, but white people who got suntans were. This is because they were from a social class where they could afford to vacation in tropical locations and cultivate tan skin. The myth here was that it was okay to turn your skin brown in the sun, but it wasn’t okay to have brown skin naturally, and that’s some fucked up racist bullshit right there which is further reflected in the popularity of products designed to help brown skinned people make their skin lighter.

We can’t even be comfortable in our own skin.

The Fashion and Beauty industries are built on convincing people that their lives will be better if they can afford this brand or that shoe or this lipstick or that haircut. That’s how they sell us the newest thing. Trends are an illusion created to instill a sense of urgency that convinces and compels us to spend money. This plays into our desire to fit in and be accepted. Fashion and beauty are also informed by male fantasy and the binary gender model. The Fashion and Beauty industries are built on convincing women that they’ll be happier and more successful and more desirable if they just make themselves more ‘attractive.’ As we get older, we are also told that we need to look younger to remain relevant.

What we think is attractive is learned, and in America a Euro-centric, youth focused model of beauty informs our media and our bias. That youthful thing, that’s interesting too, because it’s male gaze/fantasy informed. There wouldn’t be millions of children across the globe being sold into sexual slavery if there weren’t men eager to have sex with pubescent girls and boys. Is this biology or cultural mythology? I’m not sure, but it’s worth exploring and dissecting, because if you look at fashion magazines and runway shows and beauty ads, the models are often in their teens but being dressed up to look older, and thereby sexualized and objectified.

I’ve been told by men more times than I can count that women want to see ‘beautiful, young women’ in magazines, ads, film, and TV. Do we, though? Aerie figured something out that Victoria’s Secret missed. I think everyone wants to know that moment at the pool party being surrounded by people who make us feel like it’s okay to not reflect a limited idea of what is acceptable, beautiful, or relevant. I think we ALL want to see ourselves reflected in the media and marketing, to live in a world where we don’t have to fear being shamed or bullied just for existing. How can I imagine myself needing your bra or jeans or lip gloss or wrinkle cream if your advertising only shows impossibly perfect airbrushed and digitally enhanced people wearing your products?

Beauty as a life goal is a myth, and that myth needs to be smashed. Being ‘pretty’ is not an accomplishment, it’s genetics. You are beautiful, exactly as you are, and however you choose to dish it out is entirely your business. I wish Aidy Bryant could star in a show that didn’t have to focus on her size or how she navigates the way other people react to her size, because that’s some fucked up size-ist bullshit right there.

Digging deeper, when we do see a more diverse reflection of people in the media, especially in TV and film, they are still being filtered through our cultural (Eurocentric, youth focused, binary gender) ideas of what is beautiful. This means that most people are not reflected. We see diversity, but the diversity is still limited.

My current life experience involves not seeing women over 50 in the media, or if I do, most of the women over 50 look like they’re in their 40s or have had extensive amounts of surgical and chemical intervention. I don’t have a problem with that unless it’s being presented as the only acceptable way to age. Women should age however they choose. But I do ask myself, “What’s wrong with looking like a woman in your 50s?” When we do see an aging face reflected in the media, it’s shocking, because it’s so rare.

If a woman in her 50s wants to wear make-up, no one is showing her how to do that addressing the changes that happen as we age. Our faces fall, our skin wrinkles, our pores expand, shit happens to our faces. Most of us can’t afford Botox and lasers and Ultherapy, and even if we can, we should not feel that we have to do these things to be beautiful.

Why can’t the beauty industry embrace more naturally aging faces? Why don’t they see the value in that? Beyond that, why can’t a beauty influencer not be ‘beautiful’ according to our limited and biased view of beauty?

Is there a beauty company willing to do for the beauty space what Aerie did for the lingerie space?

I’ve decided I’m no longer buying new clothes at retail with the exception of some essentials, because it’s far more fun having no limitation to what colors or patterns or styles I can choose. I get to wear what I like, and reject the idea that I have to conform to the ever shifting whims of the fickle finger of fashion. It’s like playing dress-up every day, or not playing dress-up if that’s what feels good. I am wearing makeup when I choose or feeling comfortable enough without it that I can make videos and share them online of my makeup free 55 year old face. That feels amazing.

I’m trying to catch and correct my biases as they arise, and to smash my own beauty myths.

Collectively, we can smash all of the myths that separate and limit us. We are all worthy and no one else gets to define us. I want to know that unbridled joy of being surrounded by people who accept and embrace me exactly as I am, and I want to offer that to everyone I meet. I want to keep striving for a world where we are all free to be comfortable in our skin.

(If you like this post, you might enjoy my book Fifty and Other F-Words: Reflections from the Rearview Mirror. I’m just sayin’.)

Shifting Terrain

Hello, Fabulous Person!

There’s an old saying, “A smile is the best face-lift.” I would like to add that it’s also the cheapest face-lift. Faces fall, eventually, unless one holds back gravity with a little architectural preservation. (For the record, I think one should do whatever one pleases with their face.)

32 year old ME  Photo Copyright Margot Potter

32 year old ME

Photo Copyright Margot Potter

As a younger gal, I pouted my way through a series of modeling photos and head-shots. Lips slightly parted, eyes wide, head tilted slightly downwards.

Serious model and classical actress Madge.

Then something shifted.

That something was my face.

It’s funny because I don’t see it as much in a mirror as I do in a photo or video. Since I take photos of my face for my Instagram feed and make videos for my Facebook page, I spend time editing these photos and videos. When I’m smiling, I recognize ME, but when I’m not smiling it’s a bit of a shock.

55 year old ME meeting SHE  (Photo copyright Margot Potter)

55 year old ME meeting SHE

(Photo copyright Margot Potter)

Who the hell is THAT and what the hell has SHE done with my face?

I am fully aware that the subtle shifts in the terrain are going to continue, and that eventually exterior SHE will have taken full ownership of the exterior ME I recognize. For now, I’ll keep smiling and coming to terms with SHE, who is just ME in a new package. I’m still ME, after all, the consciousness residing within. I am not the exterior, and it does not define or limit me. I get all of this and I love ME.

I am willing to embrace SHE.

I’m not willing to age gracefully, which I believe is code for disappear. Some women are cool with this directive. There is power to be gained by becoming invisible and there are other things lost in the process. We should all do what makes us happy.

Dialing up the volume makes me happy.

In my aging DISgracefully agenda, I still wear makeup and have hot pink hair and enjoy wearing an eclectic array of thrifted fashions. On the physical level, I like to ice the cake, as it were.

Sure, someone left my cake out in the rain. I don’t quite know how to make it (up), and it took so long to bake it, and I just can’t use that recipe again.

I need new recipes, galdangy.

Smile face-lift in progress.  Photo Copyright Margot Potter

Smile face-lift in progress.

Photo Copyright Margot Potter

Those fabulous eye shadow tutorials on Insta and YouTube don’t look quite as fabulous on a sagging older eye. We don’t have a smooth canvas waiting to be shaded and highlighted into a work of 3-D Technicolor art, we have creases, folds, sags, wrinkles. Too much powder sinks into our pores, liquid liner doesn’t glide into a cat eye with ease, creamy shadows crease and fade. I’m navigating this shifting terrain, but it’s challenging.

The conventional wisdom is to wear less makeup as we age. I think it’s a matter of wearing different make up differently, and that’s only if you want to wear makeup. I recently disagreed vociferously with a friend who insisted that older women who wear colorful makeup on their eyes look like “hos.” Sheesh, lighten up Sister!

I like color, as evidenced by my hair and the colorful frocks I wear and the colorful decor in my home. I am not interested in fading away into shades of beige and khaki. When you have porcelain skin with blue undertones, browns, beiges, and khakis look muddy, dirty, and drab. If I want to decorate my lids with a rainbow of happy, other people’s opinions are not required.

As I enjoy make up, color, and doing what makes me happy, I intend to continue. I’m going to figure out this shifting terrain and embellish the ever living fuck out of it. This is why I want to join the #SephoraSquad, because I think we need more voices over 50 sharing their new recipes for icing their changing cake. And more than that, I think we need more voices over 50 encouraging people to age as they please and allow for the endlessly fascinating facets of growing BOLDER.

Let’s do this, people!

(IF you like this, you might like my book Fifty and Other F-Words. I’m just sayin’.)

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(I Can't) Do All the Things!

Image Copyright  Hyperbole and a Half

Image Copyright Hyperbole and a Half

Hello, Fabulous Person…

…reading this blog post. I hope all is well in your corner of the universe.

I’m finding myself feeling more than a skootch overwhelmed. I’m trying to do all the things, but the truth is, that’s not possible. No one can do all the things. Yet, I beat myself up endlessly for not doing all the things all of the time with all of the efficiency and efficacy and appropriate level of enthusiasm.

Why can’t you just do all the things already?

Sheesh.

Mind you, all of the things I am not doing with enough efficiency and efficacy and enthusiasm are arbitrary. As I am making this up every day, I get to decide what the things are that I am doing. One would think that would make my life a fun filled adventure of unfettered thing doing.

One would be incorrect.

The internets are insatiable. The right things prove elusive. At least some of the things I am doing every day have to make some of the money that might pay some of the mortgage. Yet, most of the things I am doing every day are not making all of the money and some of them are making none of the money. This means that my thing doing needs constant evaluation and adjustment. This results in the need for me to continue to do as many of the things as I can, while simultaneously beating myself up for not doing more of them.

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In the space of the past month I have conceived, created, and launched a new jewelry line, shot and edited five Mornings with Madge videos every week, entered and attempted to promote myself as a potentially absolutely FABULOUS make up and skin care LOVING member of the #SephoraSquad (I’d be honored to have your testimonial, I cannot see it but I appreciate it), started a new Instagram for my DIY project, haunted thrift stores in search of tins to use to make more jewelry for my new jewelry line…and yet, there’s the nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough. Why can’t I also post at least one thoughtful blog each week, do a better job on social media, make viral videos, finish my new book, attract tens of thousands of followers…

…DO ALL THE THINGS!

So many things…so little time.

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These are strange times, our pressures are strange. The things we think we have to do are strange. The ways in which we measure our successes and failures are strange. The old ways of making a living and making it work are slowly morphing into new ways, strange new ways that lack road maps and clear directives.

And then there’s the marching of time and the fucks slowly slipping from my basket making it more difficult to define my trajectory or maintain my enthusiasm for things that seem lacking in substance. All of this leads me to seek the deeper meaning behind the things I am doing (or not doing as the case may be.)

Yet, undaunted by the contradictions, I shall continue to do all the things I can do and do my best not to worry about the things I can’t do and hopefully it will all work out the way it is supposed to work out. I can’t do all the things, but I can do some of the things with all of the moxie and chutzpah I can muster.

That’s all any of us can do.

xoxo,

Madge

Margot Potter Designs

Hello, Gorgeous!

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Welcome to my little corner of the world. I hope this blog post finds you well. I’m busy as a little bee here in my studio creating jewelry. I’ve decided to call this jewelry Margot Potter Designs. Some pieces are crafted from old tins, some from beads and bits I’ve gathered over the years, and some are minimalist hand stamped creations. As time progresses, the work will progress with an ever evolving series of micro-collections. I create pieces with a vintage flair but a modern spin. I am focused on sustainability, using upcycled and recrafted materials when possible. I’m keeping it simple and straight forward with easy to wear, delicate, romantic, feminine pieces that compliment the wearer but don’t steal the show. After all, jewelry should be the icing on your delicious cake.

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There is no official launch, no fanfare or frippery. This is what one might call a soft launch. I am not reinventing the wheel, just putting my spin on things. I am not taking credit for making jewelry from old tins, beads, stamped charms, or other materials that may capture my fancy. I’m doing my thing and encouraging everyone to do their thing, too. I will be creating a jewelry-centric Instagram that you may follow if you want to see what’s new with Margot Potter Designs. Stay tuned for that. I’ll also share sneak peeks into my process via video on #morningswithmadge on Facebook and blog posts here from time to time. These sneak peeks may evolve into offering DIY tools and supplies so you can create your own jewelry. I don’t know yet. I’ve decided to let things unfold as they will instead of making grand plans and forcing square pegs into round holes.

For this first week I am offering 20% off of your purchase using the code HAPPYVD. More pieces will be appearing every day, so come back to see what’s new!

US only for the time being as I fine tune the logistics of packing and shipping. That may change in the future, so please give me time. Thank you, in advance, for your patience as I bring this endeavor up to speed. To start, I’ll be shipping USPS Priority, this insures your purchase in case of loss or damage. I want to be sure you get your jewelry safe and sound and can enjoy it right away.

There’s much more jewelry to create, decisions to make about themes and formats and presentations. I need to refine the photography, retool the website so it’s more retail friendly. Therefore, this is a soft launch. It’s a work in progress. You, dear reader, are cordially invited to join me on my adventures… or mis-adventures as the case may be…we’ll find out together.

What fun!

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Be Better

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There is nothing more insidious than the politics of fear. The more people become distrustful, distracted, divided, and disturbed, the easier it is to prevent them from rising up together to demand change. We are living in a fearful time, a hateful age, and it feels as if the fear is winning.

However, the fear is not winning. Fear can never win. Fear may hold sway for a time, but eventually it eats itself and love returns. While fear holds sway, we have to hold on. We have to love each other harder, lift each other higher, and fight more valiantly for everyone’s right to be free to live fearlessly.

I will not allow the world to turn my love into fear.

I will not let those who died fighting for good die in vain.

As long as I have a voice, I will use it.

I will shine my light in the darkness every single day.

We may never ‘be best’, and surely the fear mongers who toss cynical platitudes alongside hateful rhetoric will not.

The rest of us can strive in every way, and every day, to be better.

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Let It All Go

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Hello, Fabulous People,

Happy Monday!

Yesterday, I let go of tens of thousands of emails.

They were all read, but not all deleted. I saved them because maybe I might need them some day. Yesterday was some day. I didn’t need them.

It was both exhilarating and terrifying letting go of these emails. In fact, I’d resisted moving to a new email host because I didn’t know what to do with them. I had spent hours deleting years of them, realizing it was an impossible task. I didn’t want to download them to some absurdly large file. I didn’t want to shift the problem to a new location. So, we changed email hosts, and I let it all go. Today I have five emails in my inbox. Five! I have unsubscribed from a variety of daily drivel! I’m managing the mischief! Feels damn good. Sure, there was that one email I meant to save and immediately regretted deleting. Oops.

There will likely be more.

But today, I’ve got a clean slate.

Well, kind of, because I have two other email addresses that are basically spam folders and they need managing. Then there are PMs on social media sites lingering in inboxes, texts dallying on my cell phone, comments loitering on my walls, digital detritus lurking in every corner of the internets.

Damn it, digital detritus.

Sometimes I just want to walk away from all of it. I don’t want to be a slave to other people’s demands on my attention. Our constant connection can feel like a prison. We live in an age of endless distraction. Ding, beep, squawk! Feed me! Feed me!

I’m feeling the rush of hitting delete, the pull to unplug, and the sweet, sweet release as I let it go.

Let it go.

Let it all go.

More of less, less is more.

This.

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Opinions Are Not Truths

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When confronting our opinions, it’s important to ask ourselves, “What is the truth?”

I’m going to be honest here, much of my opinion is formed from what I feed myself, and therefore is a perspective on truth, but likely not the whole truth. I try to glean information from a variety of sources and not just the sources that tell me what I want to hear. Still, I’m not even sure if it’s possible to know the whole truth in our era of relentless micro-targeted electronic transmission. Our corporate media may present itself as being liberal or conservative or centrist, but the insatiable 24 hour news cycle is ever seeking the sticky stuff, and that means sensationalizing and exaggerating to keep us glued to the screens. That’s how they sell the soap, folks. We are all being manipulated by media and marketers and politicians. Our every click, view, and move is being tracked and the information we’re fed is being carefully orchestrated to appeal to us on a visceral level.

If I believe something to be true, that doesn’t make it true. It makes it my belief. If I’m not constantly challenging my beliefs and their sources, then how can I be sure of their validity?

I’m fascinated by the ways we come to see our opinions as truths. People will fight relentlessly with someone who holds and opposing view, and get nothing more from that exchange than the belief that they were right and the other person was wrong. Maybe they were both wrong, or both a little bit right, or maybe one of them was wrong and the other one was right. Some of that depends on your perspective, but it seems these days that everyone is clear about one thing, they are right and no amount of evidence to the contrary, however strong, matters.

I’ve been watching people begin to ratchet up the rhetoric as we approach the 2020 election, and to be honest, it’s disheartening. This isn’t a two sided coin, it’s fragmented further. Take, for instance, the Nancy Pelosi conundrum. Liberals, moderates, and conservatives alike will insist she’s the devil incarnate. Ask them why, and they’ll offer a variety of firmly held opinions, swearing they are truths. Yet, pin them down for facts and they elude.

Are their opinions truths?

Is Nancy Pelosi the devil incarnate?

Would you say the same thing about her if she was a man? Is there inherent bias in the way we view a powerful older woman? If so, how does that bias inform our opinions of her? If you feel she’s ‘evil’, can you dig deep to figure out exactly why you feel that way? This satire article shines the light on this bias and the ways in which we are manipulated into believing things that may or may not have any basis in fact. Women are suspect, especially powerful women, and most definitely powerful older women. Therefore, any negative narratives written around them resonate, on an archetypal level, with our collective unconsciousness.

When a steady drip, drip, drip of negativity surrounds someone, some of it starts to stick. I don’t know what it is about this person I don’t like, but I know I don’t like them. If you dig a little, can you get to the center of that thought? Is it based in truth, or is it an opinion formed from the calculated air of negativity that appears to surround them?

Beyond the complexities of gender bias, what about the other firmly held opinions we hold based on what we feed ourselves? Do any of us know the absolute truth? Does it even exist? I am confronting my convictions, my truths, my beliefs, and opinions. What do I know to be true? What is formed by the information I’m feeding myself. Are the biases inherent in the source of this information or in the way I am processing this information? How can I stay flexible, a word I’m finding has a lot of resonance this week, and be open to the distinct possibility that my opinions may be lacking in a factual basis?

Food for thought.

Our opinions are not facts, they’re beliefs based on the information we feed ourselves.

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Hello, Gorgeous!

Wow. I have not posted here since November 28th. Seriously?

I’m entirely unclear as to how this most egregious situation transpired. I mean, really. I don’t have much else to do beyond creating content for the internets and thinking too much, which of course results in more content for the internets. There are also rants, which I perform for the dogs, or my husband, much to their chagrin.

Oh Lort, ma’s gone all ranty again.

Yet, here we are, three days into a brand spanking new year and I’m finally tapping some drivel into my keyboard. I have no idea what might transpire. I have nothing more than my synapses firing randomly and my fingers acquiescing to the electronic impulses. Therefore today’s essay is brought to you by Random and Disjointed, LLC.

I was contacted by multiple social media coordinators for multiple brands over the holidays looking for me to create content in exchange for free things OR allow them to provide me with content in exchange for…this is fun…back links and affiliate marketing.

This is all, essentially, free advertising.

Even if they offer to send you a sample, it’s still pretty much free advertising.

I don’t work for glitter unless it’s really, really, really sparkly glitter that I really, really, really want.

Glitter of that caliber is almost as elusive as my formerly svelte ass. Speaking of my ass, my husband and I exchanged a hug recently, and he grabbed it with both hands and said, “Ba donk ka donk.”

Seriously.

I am sure he found this amusing or perhaps he meant it as a compliment.

I was neither amused nor flattered.

Yes, my trunk is packed with a generous portion of ba donk ka donk, but I’d prefer any memo regarding said junk be sent in a more thoughtful way.

Like say, “Oh, my, that’s a sassy ass you’ve got there.” or “Now that’s a bodacious booty!”

Grabbing someone’s booty and saying “Ba donk a donk” is like squeezing a boob and saying, “Honk” or twirling a nipple while saying “Tokyo, Tokyo, Come In Tokyo.” The latter I do find amusing. Go figure.

I’m a conundrum wrapped in a riddle stuffed with a quandary and a generous helping of ba donk ka donk. But let’s not dwell on these things, there’s so much more to ponder as we boldly march into the new year. So. Much. More.

Like this feeling I have that ‘this is the year.’ THIS IS THE YEAR! I declared at midnight whilst sipping champagne with my husband who wisely did not make the mistake of shouting ‘ba donk ka donk’ at that moment.

THIS IS THE YEAR! Those 55 other years, they were practice years! This is the year I’m going to make the stuff happen! Not that I haven’t made stuff happen before, because looking back objectively I have definitely made stuff happen, it’s just that the stuff hasn’t resulted in a healthy bank account balance.

Did you know that you can’t pay your mortgage in glitter?

Someone please explain this to the social media outreach coordinators for brands. Thank you.

This year, I plan to crack the code for making all of the stuff that I make happen also make money happen. I have big ideas. I have plans. I may even make a schedule and a master plan. It could happen! Or maybe I’ll continue pulling random rainbows out of my bodacious booty.

Stay tuned, we’ll find out together.

xoxo,

Madge

An American in Paris (with Butts and Stairs)

This young woman, amazing.

This young woman, amazing.

We just returned from a week in Paris, visiting our daughter Avalon who has been attending Sciences Po for fall semester. It was incredible. She is incredible. I am so proud of the young woman she’s become, and so impressed with her fearlessness in navigating a city that is not easy to navigate. We are home now, spanning two time zones, feeling out of time and pensive. I have lots of thoughts about Paris. I am sure this does not surprise you. I have lots of thoughts about everything.

Where’s Madge-y? Just a small smattering of the stairs in Montmartre.

Where’s Madge-y? Just a small smattering of the stairs in Montmartre.

If you don’t like stairs, you may not like Paris. Somehow, without meaning to do this, I managed to climb the stairs to Montmartre, again. There was a point in the ascent from the Metro when I considered living on the stairs for the rest of my life. I have asthma, so hundreds of stairs are incredibly challenging for me. I did it. I climbed all of the stairs in Metro station after Metro station, at the Louvre, in Montmartre, in our small apartment three circular flights up from ground floor. I did not complain…much. Between the stairs and the walking for hours and hours and hours every day, well, it was not easy. It’s a tough city for anyone with mobility issues. I am glad I got new orthotics and brought the right shoes. I’m also thankful for portable nebulizers and patient family members.

It’s no secret why Parisians are slender…stairs.

However, if you budget for Ubers or Taxis, you can skip the Metro and the walking everywhere. Though you will miss so much. Whether you don’t mind stairs, or you avoid them altogether, if you like fresh baked culinary delights and inexpensive delicious wines and overpriced incredible meals in cozy cafes and being surrounded by stunning architecture and fascinating history, you may like Paris. You may even fall in love with Paris, which I did, again, despite the challenges I faced physically.

Palais-Royale, in the rain, doing my best impression of a statue.

Palais-Royale, in the rain, doing my best impression of a statue.

Paris is a magical city, but it’s also a stinky, dirty, smoky, pickpocket friendly, stair riddled city. It’s an endless array of contradictions. Wonderful, weird, frustrating, fabulous contradictions await you on every block. Cool street art and crappy graffiti abound. There is a homeless problem in Paris, and it is sad. There’s no sugar coating it. There are also rats, they scamper around the bushes and along the edges of the Seine. There are painfully persistent people trying to sell you trinkets at every tourist attraction. There are flim-flammers and ne’er do wells, hoping to scam unsuspecting tourists. You must keep your wits about you, as they say. Don’t be too loud, don’t act or look like a tourist. This is hard to do when you are the only woman in Paris with hot pink hair. Yet, I managed.

There are many dogs in Paris, but the Parisians do not want you to pat their dogs. Non. NON.

I was none too happy with that.

Le pinch.

Le pinch.

The Parisians do not pick up le poo de chien. You have to be aware of this as you traipse about the city. I feel that the least they could do is let you pet their dogs if they are going to leave poo everywhere. However, I am sure they do not much care about my feelings concerning dogs and dog poo.

When in Paris, it is best to try to speak some French. I ordered everything in French, and entered and exited every shop or attraction with a greeting in French. The French appreciate your effort. If you walk in and start talking English, this is not going to win you any prizes. Even when annoying French people with dogs, I did so in French.

“OH! Petit chien! Le petit chien mignon!” I said. One must remember that French dogs also speak French. The dogs seemed as nonplussed as their owners. At least I annoyed them in French.

“Hohn, hohn. Hohn.” I say, whilst twirling my imaginary pencil thin moustache.

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There are also butts. Lots and lots of naked butts. Statues with naked butts. Paintings with naked butts. Pottery and objets d’art with naked butts. I find this tres amusant, therefore I must pretend to pinch these butts whenever possible. I do this discreetly, as the French may not find my obsession with naked butts as amusant as I do. Who can resist a naked butt? I mean, really. I pinch your butt. Le pinch, pinch.

Tangentially, I’m still mulling over the idea of failure. It is being funneled through a juxtaposition of cultures and attitudes, after a week abroad. My views on failure and success are filtered through a uniquely American lens. We don’t savor here. We don’t stop to exhale. We race from thing to thing, eyes on some elusive destination, ever focused on making the grade, winning the prize, having it all. Europeans take four weeks off every year for vacation. They linger in cafes and savor meals. The preponderance of patisseries, wine vendors, bakers of crusty baguettes and vendors of fresh fruits, cheeses, and vegetables speaks to a different attitude about food and drink. I found it weird that so many people smoked in Paris, considering the focus on fresh, organic, simple food, and there you have it, more contradiction.

Statue and pigeon in deep conversation.

Statue and pigeon in deep conversation.

I am home now, making plans for new directions and still thinking, thinking, thinking about failure and how to sit with it, embrace it, savor it. I am thinking about how to see failure differently, and in doing so see myself differently. Life is not a race. Life is not a monologue. Life is not a competition. Change is the only constant. Life is an evolution. There is no there to reach, there is only here, this moment, now. Painful, joyful, dirty, delicious, stinky, and sometimes poo covered now. Life, like Paris, is full of contradiction. It is all of the things.

I don’t have to race towards some perfect moment, because this moment is perfect, even if it’s filled with imperfection and contradiction. And yes, there are stairs, always stairs, always a climb to the next moment. Still, it’s okay to sit on the stairs and exhale sometimes. Maybe sip a glass or two of inexpensive, delicious wine, enjoy a warm from the oven crusty baguette with salty French butter, and be fully invested in now.

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Merci beaucoup, Paris. Merci.

Fail Better

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I have been thinking a lot lately about the ideas of success and failure. What do they mean in a big picture sense and what do they mean in my small picture?

Fame, money, success, stuff, recognition, a sense of self-importance based on external measures are all illusions. Pretty illusions, yes, but illusions nonetheless. We all want to feel special, extraordinary, important. But in the relentless pursuit of these illusions something gets lost. Life is mostly chopping wood and carrying water. If we can do whatever we do with the same enthusiasm, the same love, the same joy and find a way to be present in the moments of boredom and joy and sorrow and anger and hope and fear, without becoming attached to these emotions or stuck in these moments, that’s where the magic happens.

I have spent years trying and failing and trying and failing and succeeding occasionally before failing spectacularly again. This summer, I hit a wall. I retreated. It’s hard to fail spectacularly in public, I’m not going to lie. It’s difficult to let go of the concern about what other people think about you. It’s tough to accept that maybe things are not going to work out the way you planned.

I’m finding myself less relentlessly driven to keep searching for some elusive moment when I can say to myself, “Oh! There! Yes! You made it!” Because buried in that, lurking underneath, is the desire to feel important. So that then the people I love and the world at large will say, “Oh! There! Yes! She made it!”

I don’t think I need that any more. I don’t think it matters if the world at large celebrates me or recognizes me or cherishes me. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My value is simply in being me. That’s it. I’m already there. I may never succeed in the conventional sense of success. I may never be popular on the internet, write a best selling book, host an award winning TV show, be crowned the Queen of DIY, or act in an off Broadway One Woman Show. I’m okay with that.

I won’t stop creating or reaching or being insatiably curious, but I’m letting go of my attachment to the outcome of these things. Life goes as it will, not as we will it. It’s okay to fail.

I watched the Mr. Rogers movie today. Towards the end of his life there was some backlash on his messaging, the idea that everyone is special, which I also believe. The negative spin on this was that it made entitled adults and didn’t prepare children for life’s disappointments. That’s a cynical spin, indeed. His message was about love, acceptance, kindness, and inclusivity. Everyone matters. Everyone counts. Everyone deserves to be loved. Fred Rogers clarified the meaning in his message beautifully in a commencement speech.

“You don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you.”

Fred Rogers

This shot straight into my core essence. I burst into tears, big soulful down to the marrow tears.

Oh! There! Yes!

Exhale.

I already made it.

I don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love me. People who matter, the people in my day to day life love me exactly as I am. I don’t have to be popular on the internet or write a best selling book or host an award winning TV show or be crowned the Queen of DIY. I don’t have to worry about failing, because the people who love me, love me anyway.

All I have to do is show up, with an open heart and an open mind and be the fullest expression of who I am. The fullest expression of who I am is revealed when I practice love, acceptance, kindness, and inclusivity.

I am enough.

And you know what, gentle reader? So are you.

You don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

“Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

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Love Trumps Hate

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As the unrelenting onslaught continues from the #worstcircusever, it’s hard to keep both feet on Terra Firma. But, that’s part of the evil plan, right? Keep us distracted and ratchet up the fear, anger, and vitriol! Leave us in a state of shock, then gaslight us. Respond to our outrage with denial and half-assed calls for ‘civility in these trying times.’ Lies are truths, truths are lies, goes the doublespeak. Our current president is goosestepping boldly into a Facist dictatorship. Every day is a fresh assault on the foundations of our republic. The institutions in which we held faith are failing to stop him. Then there is the willful failure of the folks in charge of both houses, who are so giddy with glee over dismantling regulations, attacking ‘entitlements’, stealing the Supreme Court, eroding the Affordable Care Act, dismantling voter rights, rolling back civil rights, and making sure the 1% and their corporate donors get white glove treatment in the form of tax breaks and rule changes while the rest of us poor schlubs sink into the miasma of the rigged economy.

What are you whining about? It’s the economy, stupid! It’s going like gang busters! Don’t you know?

Meanwhile, inflation is rising, wages are stagnating, and the cost of living is increasing exponentially. You’d think there was a war on the middle and lower classes.

Because there is.

Back in DC, Scrooge McTurtle and Ayn Ryan roll up their sleeves and get to work. The richest of the rich are making off like bandits. Yet, millions of unwitting minions, who are disproportionately affected by these reverse Robin Hood policies, are so brainwashed by the toxic propaganda of Fox “News”, micro-targeted social media manipulation, and The Big Lie, that they’re heading towards the cliff at a breakneck pace. Watch the red hatted masses cheer “MAGA!!!” while they leap into the abyss!

How insidious the deception that pits the poor against the poor. How twisted the narrative that shifts the blame to the elusive “other”, fueled by fear and loathing and endless lies. How strange that the Man with the Golden Toilet has convinced the disenfranchised that he’s one of them.

One wonders how far the GOP will let him go. Will they be shocked when he devours them and spits out their bones on the gilded altar of his greed? Because, left to his own devices and unfettered by laws and rules and codes of conduct, he will devour us all. The only loyalty he has is to himself and the almighty dollar. He’s sold his soul to the Russians and the Saudis and sold us out in the process.

Here’s the thing, though, folks. The #worstcircusever is a misdirection. As long as the media keeps shining a spotlight on the rhetoric and Tweets and insanity, it keeps us all from seeing what’s actually happening behind the curtain. The plan is to make and keep us outraged, and it’s working. Chaos is a game plan. Division is a game plan. Misdirection is a game plan. We have to stop reacting to his vitriol.

The only way to defeat this monster is to stop feeding him. He survives on a steady diet of our constant attention. Turn the cameras off. Stop reacting to every toxic Tweet. Pressure our elected officials to stand up to him or threaten to vote them out. VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. Demand that our VOTES be held sacred. Remind them that they work for us. Remind him that he lives in OUR house. FOCUS on what’s really going on, because it’s not even being concealed.

Remember that LOVE TRUMPS HATE.

Fight fear with compassion. Fight hate with love. Fight lies with truth. Fight violence with RESISTANCE. Stay strong. These are trying times and they’re not likely to get less so for a while.

We can do this, people. Together.

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Conscious Consumption

Hello, Gorgeous,

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Yesterday I finally managed to get my ass in gear and edit a new Crap I Found at Thrift Stores Video. The crap was starting to pile up and it was time! I do have big plans for this series and this concept. All will be revealed. The truth is, I don’t wish to keep most of this crap, but I do love finding it and sharing it with folks. As I’ve said before, I think of it as urban archeology.

We have reached a critical point environmentally and socially. Our mass consumer culture is wreaking havoc on our planet, the inhabitants, and our collective psyche. Where things were once made to last, they’re now imbued with planned obsolescence. Most things are designed to fail. Therefore, we are perpetually in search of the shiny new thing. The cycles of fashion and trend have become so accelerated that things become irrelevant moments after they are purchased. The detritus of our existence is mounting at an alarming rate. Our trash is running out of places to hide. Our consumption may well consume us. Then, there’s the human cost of mass production. People are suffering so that we can have that endless stream of cheap and shiny new things. One can only ignore this for so long. It weighs us down, even if we aren’t fully aware of why we feel so heavy.

I have been thrifting for decades. Much of what I own, which continues to be pared down on a regular basis, is thrifted or flea market-ed or estate sale-d or handcrafted and fairly traded. I have always been intrigued with history. I love ephemera. I find it fascinating to ponder where something has been and what it has seen. I also love the idea of giving an old thing a new life, instead of buying a mass produced thing. I do make exceptions, even I am sometimes swayed by the siren song of a quirky Target bargain. I am striving, though, to be more mindful of how I spend my money. That has implications. It is also true that some things are best purchased new, however these can be made with more sustainable, mindful, socially responsible practices. We can slow down, and reject the fast fashion mindset. We can practice conscious consumption.

I’d like to think of thrift shopping and buying handmade, fair trade, and recycled/upcycled as the antidote to our current reality. It’s the anti-mass consumer mindset. There is already so much stuff on the planet that can be given a new life with a little bit of vision and effort. Things made with care and craftsmanship feel good to buy and own. They have an energy that is palpable and positive. Taking an old thing and re-purposing it gives the owner a stronger sense of ownership.

20 years ago my husband and I opened a fair trade gallery called Oroboros. The Oroboros or ouroboros is the world snake, the serpent that eats its own tail. It represents the end as beginning, the cycle of life. We were making something out of nothing then, and we’ve spent the past 21 years together continuing on that journey in many different iterations. Back then we sold odd, unusual, funky, beautiful fair trade and handcrafted goods from artisans in the US and around the world. Many of the items sold were being made to help lift people out of poverty and train them in new jobs. We were different from Ten Thousand Villages, because we focused less on the ‘airport art’ designed to appeal to the Western Consumer, and more on the unique and interesting things that reflected the cultures from which they came and also items that reflected emerging and fascinating creative dialogues between cultures. Our focus was on making the world a little better by helping our customers become conscious consumers. Everything we sold told a story, created a connection to someone, made a difference. We hand selected every item, and sometimes sold items we made ourselves alongside things discovered at local thrift shops. I’m older and wiser and more savvy now, I see where we failed and were we might have done better. I think there’s a space opening up for this kind of approach to retail. I think people are growing tired of mass consumption. Less really is more, especially when it makes the world a better place. I want to return to this mission. These kooky videos are part of that plan.

I’m thinking deeply about conscious consumption, and how I can transition away from the mass consumer culture and towards a more mindful, sustainable, positive way of being in the world. I have plans. Things are happening. Watch this space. More to come.

Oh! And check out my latest Crap I Found at Thrift Stores Video! It’s a hoot.

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What Boy Has Not Done This?

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Millions of boys and men have not done this. Millions of boys and men have not sexually assaulted women or other men. I married one. I’m friends with many of them. This idea that men are incapable of controlling their sexual or aggressive impulses is a perniciously persistent fallacy that must be put to a permanent end. Alcohol is not an excuse, it does not turn non-rapists into rapists. Boys will be boys’ or ‘locker room talk’ or ‘youthful indiscretions’ or ‘she asked for it’ are all part of this fallacy. Women who make excuses for this shit need to do some serious soul searching, because if the men they know do these things, they are hanging out with the wrong men.

For the record, I do not make excuses for this behavior for partisan purposes. I find it disgusting if a man is a liberal or a conservative or a moderate. I do not make excuses for women who participate in sexual assault or the cover up of sexual assault. There are no excuses. The abhorrence of this behavior is not negated by an expiration date or a political party or a social class or an ethnicity or a religious affiliation. Sexual assault and harassment are crimes, regardless of who commits them. However, I do believe that the mere suggestion of impropriety is not enough to condemn anyone, serious allegations deserve serious scrutiny.

“I don’t want to ruin his life over an accusation.” Lindsey Graham

You are not ruining his life by shining a light on a series of accusations. If he did do the things suggested by his accusers and witnesses, he ruined his own life. He ruined his life and the life of those involved if and when he chose to sexually assault another person or did not report sexual assault that he witnessed. When a person shows a pattern of deviant behavior in their youth, it shines a light on their character. If they got married, had children, rose to prominence in society, and did good deeds, that does not give them a free pass. A person who is the victim of sexual assault lives with the trauma of that experience for their entire life. These allegations merit investigation. If he did not do these things, then an investigation should help to clear him of suspicion.

In the early 1980s, I worked at a popular restaurant and bar called The Laundry Works in downtown San Jose, California. Many of my co-workers were students. Several of them were members of fraternities and sororities. Multiple female co-workers told me deeply disturbing stories about being sexually assaulted at fraternity parties. The most disturbing story came from a young woman who had been drugged at a party and woke up to find herself being gang raped by a group of young men. This is called a train. There is a name for gang rape of young women at parties. That is because it happened and still happens at campuses across this country. She was too ashamed and afraid to speak out to authorities. She had been drinking. She wasn’t sure but she believed that she’d been drugged. Since time had passed and any physical evidence was no longer accessible, she remained silent. I was appalled, disturbed, heartbroken for this young woman. I was angry for all of the young women who told me that they had been sexually assaulted at parties and were afraid to speak out for fear of being shamed, humiliated, threatened or harassed.

Fraternities are powerful and protected by universities, even when serious and sometimes deadly illegal events occur. Members of prestigious fraternities at prestigious schools like the ones Brett Kavanaugh attended go on to become prominent elected officials, judges, and even presidents. The alliances and connections created in these institutions last lifetimes and any illegal and immoral behavior by members of these fraternities which is denied, concealed, and protected has serious implications for our society as a whole. Private, prestigious schools feed students to private, prestigious universities who join private, prestigious fraternities and go onto lead prestigious, protected lives of privilege. The Good Old (mostly white, male, privileged) Boys Network is still firmly entrenched. When politicians bemoan the undue influence of the ‘elites’ and the corruption of ‘the swamp’, this is where the focus should be placed, on the Good Old Boys Network and its insidious influence on our government. Everyone should be held accountable for their actions, regardless of their status.

Why did she wait 37 years to speak up about this?

I was date raped at 19, while living in Sacramento, by a friend of a friend of someone in my family. I was ashamed, confused, humiliated, and terrified. I did not go to the police. I did not tell anyone. This does not negate the seriousness of what happened or the lifetime impact this event had on me. Women don’t come forward for a litany of reasons. To suggest that not coming forward implies consent or complicity is absolute and total bullshit. If a woman speaks out years later, it’s because she feels it is crucial that her story be heard in the light of the set of circumstances that compel her to come forward. No one gets to dictate that to her or belittle her experience because of the passage of time or the prominence of the accused.

If it is even remotely possible that the current candidate for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court sexually assaulted a woman, sexually harassed another woman, was present at parties where young women were drugged and gang raped, or may have participated in gang rape or shown a lack of willingness to intervene during such an event, then it is incumbent upon our elected officials to put their partisan politics aside and seriously investigate these claims. If, in fact, the GOP knew there were multiple claimants regarding sexual improprieties and Judge Kavanaugh and opted to ignore their claims in an attempt to force this nomination to vote, then they should be held accountable for their actions. He also accused of lying, under oath, multiple times, and that also merits further scrutiny.

Sexual assault is about power and control. Giving a man who has shown a pattern of sexual assault the power to change laws that would control the bodies of millions of women is unacceptable. There is also a pattern of rulings by Judge Kavanaugh that show an impulse to control the rights of minorities, immigrants, handicapped, LGBTQ, and non-Christians, which are also disturbing. Then there’s the matter of a letter signed by 1000 Yale alumnae and professors condemning Yale University for the enthusiastic support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Brett Kavanaugh was singled out and groomed by the GOP (along with fellow conservatives Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, George Conway, and Matt Drudge) and by a cabal of conservatives who have spent millions of dollars working to stack our courts with judges who reflect their ultra-conservative agenda. Donald Trump was given this list to use while selecting Supreme Court Justices, and has consulted with The Federalist Society on a series of lower court appointments all designed to subvert the will and the rights of the majority of citizens in favor of the agenda of a powerful, wealthy group who has spent years attempting to take control of this country. That in and of itself should disturb every citizen. Add to that the questionable character of this current nominee and the willful subversion of the rule of law by our elected officials, we’re in deep, folks. It’s not just the Supreme Court, the wealthiest and most powerful conservative families have spent years and millions of dollars influencing our elections, laws, and policies. We, the people, lost control a long time ago and as gerrymandering, voter suppression, court stacking, the unraveling of civil rights, environmental protections, student rights, protections for minorities, women, LGBTQ and the handicapped, and the dismantling of government agencies, continue at a breakneck pace, we are losing more control with every passing day.

We have a president who has been accused by over a dozen women of sexual assault and aggression. He admitted on tape to this behavior. He has shown a complete disregard for the rule of law, decorum, civility, and the rights of the citizens of this country. Yet, elected officials from the party in power (who are fully aware of his authoritarian impulses and his corruption) do nothing because they are more concerned with getting the agenda of those who financed their campaigns firmly entrenched to secure absolute power. The same party that held our former president’s Supreme Court nominee in limbo because it was ‘an election year’ are racing with the clock to avoid the results of the mid-term elections from thwarting their ability to confirm their nominee. The ramifications of this nominee being approved would be epic with decades of influence, and they know this.

It’s time to tear apart the Good Old Boys Network, for good. That time has been up for a long time. The American people deserve to know the truth. The American people deserve a judicial branch and elected officials that reflect the will and protect the rights of the majority of our citizens. We, the people, need to rise up and demand it, before it’s too late.

Crown Yourself(ie)

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Hello, Gorgeous!

#crownyourselfie because you are a queen, a goddess, a magic maker, a creatrix, a light bearer, a sparkle spreader, and a wonder. There is no one who has ever been or who will ever be exactly like you. That’s your super power.

Don’t wait for the world to tell you that you’re worthy, tell the world. You are worthy. You will not be silenced, shamed, belittled, or demeaned. You are not too old or too fat or too weird or too loud or too much. You are not less than, you are infinite.

Yesterday, after another attempt at shooting some ‘fashion’ pics for my Instagram, I took my hair down, tossed on my tiara, and shot this picture as an afterthought. This whole taking fashion pictures thing is weird for me, even though I have done it throughout the years as a vocalist, actress, and TV person. I’m not a model. I’m 55 and overweight and…blah, blah, blah… insert self-deprecating bullshipoopy here. Pointing a camera at yourself and posing feels so narcissistic. It can be, but it can also be so freeing. Because the manner in which you see yourself is a big part of how you move through the world. Why not own it, your fullness, your beauty, your scars, your wrinkles, your saggy bits, your fluffy parts, your messy, wild, weirdness…the wonder-full-ness of being YOU?

I crowned myself(ie) WAY back when. Never have been much for following rules or fitting in.

I crowned myself(ie) WAY back when. Never have been much for following rules or fitting in.

I used to say that every girl needs a tiara, but in retrospect I disagree. Every woman needs whatever she feels she needs. She should be able to move through the world as she pleases. Now I think of that tiara as more of a symbol, a symbol of self acceptance and self love which once achieved allows you to accept and love everyone you meet as a uniquely beautiful expression of being. The tiara is virtual, or it can be literal. I prefer the idea of a crown now, because that’s more powerful. Owning your power, that’s something right there. And a crown is not limited by gender roles or social mores or binary constructs. Anyone can crown themselves, anyone can step into their power.

From the moment we are born, people begin to limit us. We are herded into a binary set of rigid rules that tell us how to act, think, dress, and behave. Yet, we are not binary beings, we are not limited beings. Our limitations are self imposed. Our rules are self created. There are as many ways of being in the world as there are people being in the world. Who we are is not limited by our physical appearance. We are not our bodies, we are the consciousness residing within, and that consciousness is limitless.

Life can be a process of becoming the fullest expression of who we are, but the journey cannot commence until we let go of the need to be who we think the world wants us to be. Crown Yourself(ie), strike a pose, color outside of the lines, be fearlessly fabulous and encourage others to do the same. Life is a glorious illusion, stop taking it and yourself so damn seriously.

I’m inviting you to #crownyourselfie. Begin the journey to becoming you. If you want to share a pic on social media and use the hashtag, maybe we can start a ripple that becomes a wave.

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Bangs, the Eternal Struggle

Bangs, the eternal struggle.

Serious bang attitude.

Serious bang attitude.

We cut them off, we grow them out. Again and again and again. If you look to your right in my sidebar, you can see my bangs being secured by a sparkling barrette three years ago. That was the last time I grew my bangs out. This was before the last vestiges of Botox faded and I developed a triangular shaped set of lines between my eyes. I do not like these lines, not because they make me look old, but because they make me look angry. Grumpy Madge is not my best look.

In my lifetime I have had all manner of bangs. Bettie Page inspired shorty bangs, Mod style longer bangs, swept to the side bangs, weirdly choppy bangs, subtle piece-y bangs, frizzy perm bangs, and the dreaded solid wall of bangs that weighs on my forehead like a bag of bricks.

I said bricks, get your minds out of the gutter, people.

I like bangs, when they’re banging, but not so much when they’re not…so much.

My daughter had bangs cut recently. It took months of careful consideration. She bought fake bangs and wore them around to see how people reacted. She asked me at least twenty times if I thought she should get bangs. This is a tricky question, because if you say yes and it doesn’t work out, you risk becoming the villain in this hair-story. Yet, I took the risk and suggested she go for it.

“What’s the worst thing that can happen? Other than complete hair failure and months of headbands? Hair grows!” I said, knowing this is cold comfort when you are gazing at a chopped up mess hovering defiantly above your eyebrows.

Thankfully, the bangs were a success! Perfect for her fall semester in Paris peeking out from under a jaunty beret, accentuating her large electric blue eyes, giving her a gamine appeal with that certain je ne sais quoi. She was worried they’d make her look younger, but they gave her a new sophistication instead. Hooray for bangs!

Feeling the rock and roll vibe here.

Feeling the rock and roll vibe here.

I decided to trade my side bangs for straight across bangs last week. I needed a change, but not a drastic change. It’s amazing to me how a small change in your bangs can have such a big impact in your looks. Bangs give you a lot of bang for your buck, folks. Pun intended. Groans ensue. But seriously, depending on your face shape, adding bangs really frames things nicely and shifts focus from forehead to eyes. This can be a very good thing.

Cutting your own bangs, though, can be a very bad thing. I have done it many times and every single time I have immediately regretted it. I have very strange hair, and it’s difficult for hair stylists to cut, let alone me with whatever scissors I dig out of a drawer in my craft studio. Yeah, that happened…more than once. I have no excuse other than temporary hair-sanity.

I like the new bangs, they have a 60s into the 70s appeal. For now, they’re working. I may change my tune as time passes. It’s just hair after all.

Speaking of hair, I just finished a new video with an essay from my new book Fifty and Other F-Words all about my lifetime of bad hair. It’s funny, give it a watch!

What about you? Do you like bangs? Have you had a bad bang experience? Do tell!

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Stop Telling Women Over 50 What to Wear

I love this apron found on clearance at Target. Would I wear this in public? Yes, yes I would. Photo by Avalon Potter

I love this apron found on clearance at Target. Would I wear this in public? Yes, yes I would. Photo by Avalon Potter

Seeing that I have never bent to the rules of fashion, it's not shocking that I am not bending to the rules of fashion over 50. These rules are almost always articulated by a 20 something or a 30 something or a man or a woman over 50 who is conservative in dress and mindset. Even women over 50 who are rule breakers often make rules for other women:

You can be weird, just don't be THAT weird.

You're only authentic and brave if you embrace your gray hair.

You should dye your hair because the gray makes you look old.

Women who opt for plastic surgery look hideous.

How could a woman give up like that?

She's too old for that outfit.

Oversize plastic jewelry, vintage neon smock, hot pink slip-ons from Target, sassy side pony tail. Photo by Avalon Potter

Oversize plastic jewelry, vintage neon smock, hot pink slip-ons from Target, sassy side pony tail. Photo by Avalon Potter

I have opined this topic many times, including in my new book about being a woman over 50. (Shameless self-promotion alert.) I believe that women over 50 should wear whatever the hell they want. They should opt for whatever hair color or style they want. They should have or not have plastic surgery if they want. They should be able to be comfortable or outrageous or conservative or understated or over the top or all of the above depending on the day and their ever shifting moods. What a woman wears or how she presents herself to the world is entirely her business. Period. 

As a society, we want women over 50 to fade away. We ask them to "age gracefully." We suggest that they refrain from trying to look "too young" lest they appear "desperate." We tell them not to wear mini skirts or too much make-up or candy colored hair...or we tell them to seek the fountain of youth through anti-aging potions, serums, surgeries, and hair dye. These are the two sides of the same coin, the coin of shame. You are old now, so these are the new rules. Follow them or risk being judged. Try to look younger but don't try to look too much younger. Do this, do that! Wear this, don't wear that! You are OLD now, act your age!

I think it's high time that we stop telling women over 50 what to wear. It's time that we stop making grand declarations about what is and is not acceptable. It's time to stop demanding 'authenticity' as if you know what that is for someone else. Let's make a new rule, shall we? Do what makes you happy, allow others to do the same. Period.

Thrifted tunic, vintage bracelet, earrings and necklace designed and made by me, glitter glasses Kate Spade. Photo by Jennifer MacNeill Photography

Thrifted tunic, vintage bracelet, earrings and necklace designed and made by me, glitter glasses Kate Spade. Photo by Jennifer MacNeill Photography

Here's some unsolicited fashion advice for women over 50. When deciding what to wear you might ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does this make me happy?

2. Do I feel good when I wear this?

3. Do other people's opinions matter to me?

If it makes you happy, makes you feel good, and you don't give a flying fark what other people think, wear it. If it makes you feel sad or uncomfortable or you are concerned what other people will think, don't wear it. What is in or out or cool or uncool or pretty or ugly are subjective, arbitrary, and mostly irrelevant matters. After 50, you have earned the right to wear what you please. You always had that right. If someone feels compelled to piss in your cornflakes with their unsolicited opinions about your sartorial choices, feel free to tell them to kiss your sassy ass, sister.

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How I Approach Fashion After 50

Thrifted Talbots dress and Steve Madden platforms, glasses EyeBuyDirect, hoops from LouLou Boutiques, necklace from Forever 21 years back, and gifted one of a kind glass bracelet. Photo by Avalon Potter

Thrifted Talbots dress and Steve Madden platforms, glasses EyeBuyDirect, hoops from LouLou Boutiques, necklace from Forever 21 years back, and gifted one of a kind glass bracelet. Photo by Avalon Potter

Hello, Gorgeous!

I've always found the articles that tell women what to wear at a certain age insipid and ill advised. Women should wear whatever the hell they want to wear. Period. Still, it can be frustrating trying to navigate fashion as we get older. Most of the clothes sold at retail are designed for younger women and clothing that is designed for older women can be a little...boring, safe, figure concealing, blah. Then the challenge becomes finding clothing that makes us feel stylish instead of dowdy. My secret? I don't shop much for clothing at retail, because there's so much good stuff at the thrift stores. This means I'm not always wearing what's 'in' and I don't give a hoot about the idea that you can't wear a style if you wore it the first time around. I wear what pleases me.

Once you reach your 50s, you likely have a sense of what works for you and what doesn't. You have, subsequently, cultivated your own sense of style. Style transcends fashion. If you were to define my overarching style, it would likely be vintage inspired with a modern flair. 

Thrifted dress and BCBG shoes, gifted jewelry designed by Daniel Espinosa.  Photo by Avalon Potter

Thrifted dress and BCBG shoes, gifted jewelry designed by Daniel Espinosa.

Photo by Avalon Potter

It's challenging dressing a changing body, and mine has changed significantly over the past 7 years. I'm still figuring out what works and what doesn't, in terms of cuts and styles that flatter my significantly curvier frame. Mass market clothing is cut/designed for smaller sizes and just making the same garment larger doesn't address the different proportions of a curvier body. Often the tops of dresses are too big on me because my breasts are not big enough in proportion to the rest of me to fit the standard measurements. Sometimes skirts, pants, or the bottoms of tops are too tight, because my curves tend towards my lower half. Some might say that I'm a pear, but I find the whole fruit comparison insulting. I'm not a pear, I'm just a woman with her own unique body shape, just like every other woman. 

I've never taken myself or fashion that seriously. The goal of fashion is to sell you clothing, the key to doing this is to make you feel compelled to buy the latest styles. What's in? What's out? In the age of fast fashion, it's becoming more difficult to discern. There's no need to be a slave to rules or trends or the unsolicited opinions of other people. I'm a big believer in doing what makes me happy and allowing other people the breathing room to do the same. I don't care what someone else wears or doesn't wear. That's their business. 

Photo by Avalon Potter

Photo by Avalon Potter

What do I know, for sure? I know that accessories are everything. They can take a simple outfit and elevate it immediately. I'm a fan of big and bold or delicate and simple. I don't do in between. I also make my own jewelry. I've written 7 books about the topic and created some easy to follow YouTube videos if you're interested in learning how! A great bag, fabulous shoes, a statement necklace, a wrist full of bodacious bangles, a printed scarf, a jaunty beret, I love a great accessory or three or four. I do try to edit, but I'm with Iris Apfel, "More is more and less is a bore!"

Thrifted Target dress, earrings H&M, bracelet was my grandmother's. Photo by Avalon Potter

Thrifted Target dress, earrings H&M, bracelet was my grandmother's. Photo by Avalon Potter

If someone were to ask me for fashion/style advice I'd suggest they lighten up and have some fun. Life's short. Fashion is fickle. Wear what makes you feel confident, happy, and beautiful, or wear what makes you feel bodacious and bad ass or wear what makes you feel comfortable. You do you! One day you may feel like a saucy minx, the next like a sophisticate. Some days you want to stand out and other days you want to go incognito. (This is not easy when you have hot pink hair...just sayin'.) You don't have to fit in or look like everyone else. Letting go of the desire to fit in is deliciously freeing.

When we were young, playing dress-up, fashion was fun. Then we got older and people started telling us what to wear. Dress codes, style rules, people who feel compelled to tell us how they feel about what we're wearing...

You can't wear that in public! Egads!

This is even more pronounced as we hit middle age. Every fashion expert with a blog or an Instagram is ready to tell us what to wear after 40 or 50 or 60. I prefer to blissfully ignore their directives. Regardless of the arbiters of style, fashion can be fun at any age. When we reach mid-age and we realize that rules are absurd, it's the perfect time to play dress-up again. 

How do I approach fashion after 50? With a healthy sense of whimsy and a complete lack of concern about how other people feel about that.

"Glitter up those eyelids and rave on, darling." 

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Facing Rejection After 50

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While I was working on this graphic recently, I received an email rejection. It happens. Getting an email is better than hearing nothing, which also happens. I'm sending out energy in every direction right now to promote the book. Or, to be blunt, I'm tossing as much a shit as possible at the walls and hoping some sticks. Yup, looking for the sticky shit. Unfortunately, this shit was not sticky.

As a creative, my entire adult professional experience has been about setting myself up to be rejected. As an actress auditioning for shows and then awaiting the reviews, as a TV talent auditioning for on-air spots, as a vocalist fronting bands, as a design expert writing books, articles, and creating DIY designs to inspire creativity, and now, as a writer. I could share all manner of stories about the humiliations and indignities I've endured. 

"They", the proverbial they, will say that you cannot be thin skinned and be a performer, writer, artist, or on-camera personality. The truth is, for all of my bravado and braggadocio, I'm a sensitive person. Creatives are supposed to just take rejection with a smile. We're not supposed to admit, out loud, that it hurts to put everything on the line and be casually dismissed. Well, guess what? It hurts to put everything on the line and be casually dismissed and I AM SAYING IT OUT LOUD. So there. 

When faced with rejection, I feel all the feelings. I have a good cry and beat myself up and start to think maybe I'm not worthwhile. It may take a day or so for me to dig myself out of the self pity pit. Yet, I grab a shovel and get to work. Rejection doesn't really get easier, but you get better at getting over it. 

I can focus on rejection, but that would grind down my resolve. Instead, I am going to focus on the feedback I am getting from women (and men) who have told me how much they love my new book. They love the honesty, the humor, and the painful truth about what we all experience as we grow older. They love the way I'm able to articulate the things they're feeling, and my willingness to talk about the things women mostly keep to ourselves. If the gatekeeper from the company that sent this email can't see the value in that message, that's their loss. 

Being a woman over 50 is to know rejection at a cellular level. Making it to your mid-century mark means you have survived. You know what it means to keep fighting the good fight even when you're bruised, broken, and beleaguered. You know what it takes to get up and get moving in the face of the worst that life might toss in your pathway.

That's what my book is about, surviving the rejection from a world that wants me to become invisible. I categorically refuse. There are millions of women over 50 who are struggling with the same rejections. They may be finding it harder to find a job, or facing the end of a partnership, or feathering the empty nest, or swimming through the pause that is meno, or finding the resolve to embrace the loss of their youth. Whatever they're experiencing, their experiences matter. 

We're here. We're over 50. Get over it.

We're not going anywhere, in fact, we're just getting started.

Rock on, 
Madge