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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Too bad Eleanor Roosevelt wasn't hot

Aging, Beauty, It isn't easy, Oprah

One of my fondest childhood memories is sick days. My mom would give me fresh pajamas--in winter, warmed in front of the fireplace if it happened to be going or in the dryer if it wasn't--and tuck me in. She'd bring the radio into my room. This being in ancient times, not every room had one of those. And I'd spend the day dozing in and out of soap operas and advertisements.

So when I was sick the other day, I fell into old habits. I tucked myself into the couch and turned on the television. There, at least during the daytime, you wouldn't really know that the world around us is in crisis.

But you'd know that we, the women in it, are.

Dr. Phil's knife-blade thin and excruciatingly nervous wife, Robin, was touting her book, What's Age Got to Do With It? Since the book has been out awhile, the show must have been a repeat. The idea, though, is timeless, at least in the realm of mass media. Even if you are over 40, you too can be Beautiful from the Inside (whatever that means), and then you will be Happy, and all you have to do is Buy This Book/Treatment/Product/10 Step Plan.

(Ok. So it's not "all you have to do." It's a lifetime of militant dedication and discipline.)

Like all the promises of a healthier and happier life, Robin's advice quickly jumps over all that vague "inside beauty" stuff and moves to the outside. Ordinary women who've written to her "desperate for skin and nutrition advice" are "transformed" through hair color, eyebrow plucking, and repackaging in tight sheaths and high heels. Their husbands, frozen in the audience like deer in headlights, express uncomfortable delight and gratitude with the final product, and all's right in the world. Now is time for the Best Life to begin, finally, or resume where it left off when you got married, got left, or got fat.

If there's a theme for 2009 in daytime TV and lady magazines, it's meeting the challenge in this comment from one of Robin's satisfied readers: "It's funny how easy it is to let things go." This year is the year to finally get it right and stop letting things--thighs, skin tone, hair color, diet, energy, self-esteem--go.  No matter how old you are, no matter how busy you are, this is the year to round up all those escapees and put them in prison where they belong.

Aging, apparently, is not only bad but optional. And so is maturity. That's why we love Sarah Palin and mock Hillary Clinton, admired Princess Diana and feared Margaret Thatcher.

I thought about Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, women whose lives were dedicated to making a better world. How would they have done following the "best life" routines of Robin and Oprah? Imagine them sweating on eliptical machines, getting facials and laser hair removal, having their wardrobes fussily altered by "glamor boy" fashion critic Cojo. Would they too emerge looking a bit like drag queens, and would their self-esteem soar as a result?

Would they have even heard of self-esteem, for that matter? Would it have mattered to them?

Would they have had time left for the work of justice, equality, statescraft, and humanity?

Would Eleanor have been happier if she'd been as pretty as Lucy Mercer, her husband's mistress? Would Franklin have been loyal to her if she'd been prettier? Would Golda have stayed in Milwaukee and remained married to Morris? Stay tuned for the next installment of the Bold and Not-so-Beautiful.

I suspect that the answer to all those questions is no.

And I can't help but wonder, if this is going to be our best year, shouldn't we be spending our time, our gifts, and our energy on something besides ourselves? If nothing else, it would be less boring.

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