• Wed, Feb 29 2012

Bullish Life: O Magazine Can Make You Feel Awesome About Turning 55 in 20-30 Years

Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.

A friend recently told me that a mutual acquaintance of ours is in massive debt, despite having a good job. (Dude buys a lot of things that go zoom.)

When questioned about his debt, he ultimately said something quite self-aware: “It’s just that I resent my future self depriving my present self of pleasure. Why should that guy have all the spoils?”

Of course, I regularly tell people the reverse: delayed gratification is very important. I also regularly tell high school students that all the fun they deliberately don’t have in high school in order to get ahead is like money in the bank, earning compound interest: adult fun is better. You can drink scotch in nice places and chat with European bartenders instead of chugging wine coolers in a chilly parking lot while some guy who’s failing algebra tries to get in your bra.

I’ve written regularly in Bullish about being kind to your future self (see Bullish Life: Breaking Free from Terrible Situations), especially if you are the sort of person who has a hard time standing up for and improving the situation of your current self.

I also suggested in Bullish: How to Age with Panache and Strategic Awesomeness that my “inner age” was at least 42. If I am an “old soul,” surely I am older inside than Jennifer Aniston. In fact, I perceive myself as somewhere between Gandalf the Gray and Gandalf the White.

So, allow me to take a pop-cultural turn today and share that, although I am a decade or two younger than the target market, Oprah’s O Magazine is a great way to really look forward to being sixty (or at least fortysomething).

This month’s O — which I actually read on paper, so as to better unplug from the Internet and enjoy glossy photography — is dedicated to the theme, “De-Clutter Your Life!” A quick look through the stack of magazines I save for long plane rides indicates that this is an annual theme. Some other regular themes I have detected:

Wearing and looking at colorful stuff will make you happy! (But not too much stuff — let’s de-clutter together!)

Seriously, my main thought about aging when I read O Magazine is, “Those wedges are really colorful! And I will arrange all my most meaningful dishes and teapots in a meaningful way that brings color and meaning to my life!” According to O Magazine, a splash of color makes everything better.

Oh, and one contributor became a perfume addict.

It is important to forgive your family members for anything that happened before about 1980.

What’s worse than getting molested? Getting molested and spending your fifties being all angry about it while your pervert uncle has Alzheimer’s at this point anyway.

Society doesn’t think you’re sexy? That’s OK! Gay men still think you’re fab. They will dress you and remake your closets!

Tina Fey famously said, that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one want to fuck her anymore. O Magazine is, in a way, a paean to the love affair between women and gay male aesthetics.

From 7 Secrets of a Master Organizer — a peek into the cottage that organizing guru Peter Walsh shares with his partner — I took a tip to put my condiments and cheeses in clear plastic trays in the fridge! And DVDs in an ottoman! (Personal pet peeve: visible remote controls! Like a monument to time wasting! Put them away someplace where you have to think before you take them back out and start losing huge swaths of your life!)

Interior designer Nate Berkus’s partner died in the 2004 tsunami — from an interview full of home decorating tips:

When Fernando died, his brother allowed me to take whatever I felt a connection to. So the majority of his library, I have. And one of the things that he and I always used to do together was sit down and go through these books. He had stuck little Post-it notes on all the pages because he was always wanting me to see something I hadn’t seen before‚ a brilliant quote or some amazing place he thought we should visit or the pattern on a tile wall in Morocco or maybe just an incredible face. Now a part of what he collected lives on and is celebrated by the way I live.

So, when Berkus tells you how to create serenity in your space, he fucking knows how to create serenity in your space.

Oh, and a whole team helped Oprah’s BFF Gayle clean out her closet. Complete with lovingly bitchy comments! (“So, Gayle, are we auditioning for Star Trek?” and “Generally speaking, Gayle, your dress should not be three years older than your assistant.”)

Don’t Think About Your Jowls

In general, I think the sanity-making effect of O Magazine is in expressing that aging isn’t so bad if there’s a club to join.

In this month’s issue, the beauty column (Ask Val) answers a question about sagging jawlines by (correctly) suggesting that creams and potions won’t help, running through the options (fillers, facelifts) and ending with, “If you can’t justify paying for treatments that work (or you can’t afford them), I have a few ideas. Have your brows shaped for an instant lift. Play up your lovely eyes. Or get really radical and quit focusing on your sagging jawline. I have one, too. I don’t think about it. And as far as I can tell, no one else seems to think about it, either.”

I strongly support the “make a reasonable and intelligent effort and then move on to more important things” school of beauty. (See Bullish Life: Gentlewomen Don’t Crash Diet and Bullish Life: Sometimes It’s Best Just To Not Think About It.)
While spending all day obsessing over the last ounce of fat below your belly button is a way to end up hamper the development of an otherwise gentlewomanly life, so too is obsessing over how much the media Photoshops pictures of women, and then spending lots and lots of time “empowering” yourself by calling attention to your imperfect body parts and pointing out that it is very feminist to love yourself. I mean, it is, but it’s not a full-time fucking job. If you had a not-that-cute child, of course you’d love it, but it would probably be best if you didn’t constantly say, “I really love my baby despite the fact that it’s not that cute.” You should probably just forget about its appearance and teach it to speak French and stand up for itself.

Oh, by the way, it is also from O Magazine that I learned about King Peggy, the Washington, D.C. secretary who became an African king (yes, king).

In closing…

We live in a youth-obsessed society, and watching the Real Housewives desperately try to combat the aging process is just sad. Watching Meryl Streep pick up a third Oscar is the opposite of sad. Reading Angelica Huston’s “Aha! Moment” is the opposite of sad. (Quite frankly, I would happily read Angelica Huston’s grocery list.)

Remember back when you were in high school, how much of the world was meant for older people, and how much you looked forward to those things, or at least to going off to college?

Why not think that way about your adult future? Some people spend their teens with a UMichigan pennant on the wall, just hoping they’ll get in. Why not look forward to your fifties, and beyond, in the same way? You’re getting old no matter what, but I’m pretty sure you want to be let into the club with the awesome, wise, prepared fifty-year-olds, not the dumb bitches who got by on being cute and helpless and are now less cute and equally helpless.

Want more? Try designing your career, defining your values, reducing stress to help you move forward, and a healthy spate of extreme advance planning. And see last week’s Bullish: How to Be a Lone Unicorn for more on the value of doing hard, risky, forward-thinking things when others think you’re crazy.

Send in your questions to bullish@thegloss.com. See a Bullish archive here.

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  • Kj

    …I can’t tell which parts of this article are sarcastic and which are not. You have meaningful colourful teapots? I mean, if you do, more power to you, but you don’t seem like the kind of person that finds inspiration in porcelain. But I could be wrong.

    I used to luuuuuurve me some O Magazine. I have a giant collection of them somewhere that I am loathe to throw out, (I am blessed with an abundance of free storage) and am still planning on someday making that “special pasta of love” featured in the February 2007 issue. I loved that it featured lots of WOC and celebrities’ favourite books, and that it tried to go a bit deeper than your usual ladymag dreck.

    I can’t remember why I got tired of it – I think I just got sick of Nate Berkus’s goofy grin and hipster sensibilities, not to mention Dr. Phil and certain other columnists that left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m pretty sure that the last issue I bought featured JLo’s latest fashion collection – “gorgeous and affordable!” – so that might also help explain my current indifference.

    Anyhow, I think I’m gonna go ahead and blame to society’s “cult of youth” thing for the inability to postphone gratification. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking you have the right to live large now. You see people who make it big while they are young, and it seems easy. You want to be young AND beautiful AND rich… never mind that some of these early successes turn out to be Lindsay Lohan. There’s something to be said for character building in your youth!

    Anyhow, thus concludes the mega comment, which ironically has been me procrastination from studying for my immigration policy exam. Huzzah!

    • Elizabeth

      I have some young female friends who are of the opinion that success only counts if you’re still hot when it happens. You can make a billion dollars and become a pillar of your industry and have people clamoring to write articles about how great you are, but if they don’t mention that you’re beautiful, you’ve still just managed OK.

      Blech.

  • Jennifer Dziura

    Hi KJ,

    I don’t have meaningful teapots, but I accept the fact that my fiftysomething self will probably like different things than I do now. And I think that the attainability of some of those things (colorful objects, arranged well) is a cause for optimism. After all, when I was a teenager, I thought that owning something big like a washing machine meant you were “tied down” and “dead inside” (I used to say that!) Now, I think owning a washing machine might be nice; if I wanted to move, I would sell it or put it in storage. No big deal. I’m also much more interested in arranging root vegetables in attractive bowls than I ever have been before.

    I wasn’t being sarcastic; I’ve actually written before about working to overcome constant sarcasm. Much of the working world is not Daria-friendly.

    Elizabeth, that is … sad. But not surprising. Is being beautiful that much more important than having beautiful things to look at? Would you rather own a Monet and wear YSL and drink absinthe whenever you want, or give other people something to look at while you … get looked at? We are talking about no less than the difference between subject and object.

    Jen