Having it all, Obama style

Women are encouraged to ‘have it all’. I believe we can have it all but it doesn’t have to be all at the same time.

A healthier way to experience life is to properly savour the different phases as we go through them – marriage, career, motherhood, creating a home, giving back to the community – rather than try to juggle them all. Ok, so occasionally some will overlap but we’ll feel happiest if we focus on what is most important to us at the time.

Michelle Obama is a prime example of putting this into practice. Right now, she’s not afraid to call herself ‘mom in chief’. Keeping family life as normal as possible for her kids is her top priority. She gave up her own job (gasp!) to support her husband but doesn’t look as if she’s doing it under duress; in fact, she looks as if she loves every moment. She has embraced the role of First Lady and refashioned it to showcase her warm, exuberant personality.

Before this she had a hugely successful career as a lawyer and you can bet that when her husband is no longer president she will emerge, stronger than ever, ready to embark on an exciting new venture.

Of course I do realise that Michelle Obama has a much bigger support network than most women. So it’s easier for her to choose the things she wants to focus on (I can’t see her doing the housework in the White House for starters!). Nevertheless she’s a great example of the new approach to having it all.

She sums up today’s woman – one who is proud of her abilities, confident in her choices, open to new experiences, prepared to take risks, keen to make a difference and willing to learn.




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Why I’m ageing backwards

I’ve decided to age backwards like Benjamin Button. Why? Because I was recently told that “fifty is our cut off”.

I’d just written a tongue-in-cheek piece for a magazine about a bickering couple (hubby and me), how misunderstandings can arise when men and women perceive the same situation in different ways.  All very funny and covering a universal theme. I honestly didn’t think that age would even come into it. Turns out I was wrong. Apparenty I’m a bit old to be writing about this kind of stuff.

But couples don’t mysteriously fade away as they enter their fifties. We don’t suddenly self-combust. We’re not programmed to ‘expire’ like the replicants in Blade Runner. We don’t get corralled into a special fifties only enclosure where we are stripped of all our contemporary music, clothes and magazines. Although I suspect that some would welcome any of these as an ideal baby boomer solution.

This is terrible news for me because I’ve always been a late bloomer.  There I was happily moseying along, thinking that the best part of my life was just getting started.  So to find that my path is now “cut off” is a huge inconvenience. That’s why I’m adopting my ageing backwards policy. At least that way I’ll still be able to wear, talk about, listen to and read anything I want.

And maybe when I hit thirty (again!) in my parallel age dimension I’ll be allowed to write about our experiences as a married couple. Mind you, assuming my husband continues to age forwards, he’ll be in his seventies by then. Perfect! I’ll write about my sugar daddy syndrome.

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Bring out your inner sorceress

Do you have lustrous, waste length hair and perfectly applied smokey eye makeup? Are you wearing a long, sumptuous velvet gown with a bodice that is straining to contain your ample bosom?

Yes? Ok, so you definitely have the potential to be a sorceress. On the other hand, you could just be a matronly Stevie Nicks channelling the medieval songstress look in your latest music video.

Let’s investigate a bit more. Are you able to transform yourself into shapes? Do you scare the living daylights out of any man who crosses you? Can you mix a hallucinatory potion that, once drunk, enables you to see into the future? Do you occasionally….oops….there goes another one…poison a man?

No? Well then, you’re only playing at being a sorceress!

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High heels; help please!

Could my days of skyscraper high heels be over?

High heels are about walking tall, feeling fabulous and exuding red carpet glamour. They are Sarah Jessica Parker. Kitten heels are elegant yet girly and fun. Think Michelle Obama in a prom dress. Mid heels, on the other hand, are suitable, safe, middle of the road and (yawn) boring. They belong with Hillary Clinton, Susan Boyle …. and now me? God, I hope not!

Last weekend I attended a smart graduation ceremony. The venue was Ely Cathedral so I decided to dress up especially for the occasion. It was a great excuse to splash out on a new outfit and of course, as usual, I left everything to the last minute. Just two days before the event, I found the perfect va-va-voom dress in a fashionable boutique in Saffron Walden (yes, there is such a thing!) but then realised I didn’t have a pair of navy shoes to go with it.

It took all my investigative journalism skills but I eventually tracked down a pair online. I wouldn’t usually buy shoes without trying them on first but I figured that, as they were so reasonably priced, I wouldn’t be too out of pocket if they turned out to be a disaster. I did think that the heel sounded a teensy bit high, even for me, but I was swayed by a favourable customer review from A Fifty Year Old Fashionista (or something to that effect) who said she had “danced the night away” in them. Hah! What a barefaced lie. It was more like swaying the night (and day) away as I tried desperately to keep my balance and not topple over.

How were they to walk in? Murder!! Which caught me by surprise because I had actually practiced at home first. Mind you, my practice consisted of going up and down the stairs once and a lot of posturing in front of the mirror. If I had strutted up and down my street, or better still, tried the ten minute walk into the village then I’d have realised my mistake. These shoes are NOT made for walking. They are for hobbling along slowly whilst clinging on to the arm of the nearest male for support. I managed to make it through the day but only because my friends, in a remarkable show of compassion, adopted a similar snail’s pace as I negotiated the pavements of Ely.

What have I done with the offending shoes? Have I got rid of them? Well, no. In a hissy fit, I flung them to the back of the wardrobe. They’re lurking in there with two other pairs of seldom worn shoes of exactly the same heel height. I may not be able to walk in any of them but I can’t bring myself to throw them out. They are so lovely to look at.

This whole sorry tale has forced me to examine the contents of my wardrobe. And I now realise that I’ve been deluding myself all along; my wardrobe is stuffed full of mid heel shoes! How could I have let this happen? I’ve been slowly morphing into Hillary C without noticing. I seriously need to halt this process. That’s why I’m keeping the towering heels for dinner with friends. At least I’ll only have to walk from the front door to the table and then remain seated for most of the night.  For more challenging events (the type that requires actual walking) I’m investigating how to look sassy in kitten heels. Miaow!!

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Simon, the pantomime villain

What’s going on? First Dannii’s out. Now it’s Cheryl who’s been dumped from the X Factor – on both sides of the pond! They’ve been swept aside in an act more brutal than any ministerial Cabinet reshuffle. This looks like sexist behaviour at its worst. After all, it’s only the women who are being shuffled out the door. Cue the booing for Simon Cowell on his first television appearance since returning to the UK!

When Dannii was replaced as a judge on the X Factor we were told it was because the auditions clashed with the finals of Australia’s Got Talent. There you have it then, a simple explanation – she couldn’t be in two places at the same time. But didn’t fall for this con. We suspected that there was a dark force at work – Simon – who had been planning to jettison her all along, once he’d tired of her.

Then there was the whole Cheryl Cole debacle. The public’s fascination with Chazza’s unceremonious dumping from the US version of the X Factor shows no sign of abating. What on earth happened? We, the viewing public, don’t really know but we believe that Simon, the pantomime villain, cast her aside like a discarded toy when television executives decided she wasn’t going to cut the mustard with the American public. Victim and villain. Someone has to be blamed; someone must have been wronged. That’s how we see things these days.

So for the last few months we’ve been scanning every tweet, blog and press announcement, trying to decipher what actually happened. We’re trying our best to pin something on Simon. And if we can’t do that, then we can always move on to character assassination of the women we initially supported. We’re already paving the way for that one with talk of Cheryl’s unreasonable, huffy behaviour such as refusing to return Simon’s calls whilst simultaneously demanding a huge pay rise to return to the UK version of the show.

It’s just unsubstantiated speculation driven by viral gossip and it has spun totally out of control. I’m at fault as much as anyone because I was quick to point the finger of blame at Simon Cowell. Then I thought a bit more about it and realised that the true villain of the piece is human nature. Continue reading

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Keep pedalling

Hubby told me that he burned 1000 calories on his last cycle ride. He revealed this just as we were both about to tuck into our dinner. Maths wasn’t my strong point at school (I scored marginally higher than dunce) but even I could work this equation out.

Dinner – cycle ride = 0 calories.

So last weekend I legged it to the local bike shop faster than a whippet chasing a hare. And I’m now the proud owner of a new road bike (black, white and red, as you’re asking) with matching helmet.

You can’t just walk in and pick a bike ‘off the peg’. No, this is serious business. For starters, it has to be the right frame size for your height. Then the saddle has to be adjusted to suit your inner leg length. Who knew?

The first stab at setting the saddle height didn’t go too well. I was perched so high that I couldn’t put one foot on the floor to stabilise myself as I got off. I didn’t so much dismount as keel over and land in a heap amongst the other bikes for sale. The sales assistant suggested I may want to practice off road first and helpfully gave me the directions to a disused air field.

When I turned up on Sunday, there was just me and one other novice cyclist … and he was six.  “That’s it, you’re doing well. Remember to keep pedalling. KEEP PEDALLING. Oh dear!” The little kid came a cropper despite these words of encouragement from his gran. Is it wrong that I felt smug in a “watch and learn, son!” kind of way as I speedily pedalled past the sobbing child. Hah! At least I know how to keep the bike moving.

The next step for me is to venture on to a BIG road and try to negotiate the traffic and potholes. There might be a slight problem with that: I haven’t yet learnt how to steer using drop handlebars. I wonder how long I can go without turning a corner or coming to a stop?

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I’ll be your ‘little lady’

What’s so wrong about a man holding a door open for you? Or making sure you get the best seat at a restaurant table – the one where you’re looking out at other diners rather than staring at a blank wall? Or offering to place your (way too heavy!!) holdall in the overhead locker of a plane, not watch you struggle to hoist it up yourself?

Call this behaviour what you like – courteous, well-mannered, gentlemanly – I love it! But these thoughtful gestures are becoming rare. Why is that? Is it because men now think that such behaviour would be interpreted as patronising in a “whoa there little lady, let me help you with that!” kind of way?

Frankly, I don’t care. If it means I get a good deal out of it, then I’m all for it. Now, I wonder if hubby would brave the scrum at the bar and fetch us a couple of drinks? I’ll stay here and keep our seats.

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