Archive | March 2016

Am I writing about fashion????

Muriel black and white

photo by Susan Kauffmann

The exercise class I attend is specifically designed for people with arthritis and is mostly attended by women of a certain age. Our competent and knowledgeable instructor occasionally allows us to talk briefly about other things. Recently we talked about, of all things, corsets, which women once wore.

My oldest sister wore a corset. At that time, we believed such a garment would make

Lady in pink corset

Try breathing in this

us look slimmer. Since the two of us shared a bedroom, I saw the red welts on her skin when she removed the darn thing — the stays must have hurt. I never got to use one, but I did wear a Playtex girdle — another torturous invention.


Playtex girdle

Made of something like rubber, the horribly uncomfortable girdles had holes punched in them, and when it was humid, as it often was in Montreal where I grew up, we had to put powder on before it was possible to pull them up — they stuck to your skin. The holes didn’t help any and the girdle stuck to your body especially when I wanted to remove it — powdered or not. Then, you were forced to throw it in the trash because catching a finger nail in one of those little holes tore it, rendering it useless, no matter how new it may have been.

My daughters were spared the wearing of such awful contraptions. I’d like to think they lived in their bodies the way we were all meant to. Still, if you think the things my generation wore were silly, think about the time women’s waists had to measure as little as 18 inches. Fashion-conscious females had ribs surgically removed so they could sport those tiny, stylish waists. They fainted often and needed smelling salts — how could the poor things breathe?

Edwardian Ladies Fashions

How did they manage?

Men have often displayed their bank accounts on the backs of


Definitely upper class

their women. In polite society, a man can’t flash his wealth by passing his bank book around the dinner table, it’s considered somewhat impolite to brag about such things. However, if his woman is dressed in furs and jewels and expensive garments, it’s a clear indication of his wealth.

In the past, there had to be wealth if a woman’s dress required assistance to button up, or if her corset needed to be laced up from the rear to pull in that tiny waist. Dressed in such a manner,  it would be clear to the world her man’s bank account was solid. After all, she required servants to help, right? And, a woman who could not lift her arms while wearing a stylish dress which often prevented it couldn’t very well do housework, could she? All of this, by the way, helped keep women in their place.

blue dress edwardian

She didn’t do the dusting

Today’s women are still willing to wear high-heeled shoes to totter about in, which puts us at a physical disadvantage. (I fell often when required to wear them to work.) High heels damage our feet and bodies. Why do we still put up with them? I don’t despair. One of these days we will smarten up and rise as one to declare ‘I won’t buy or wear those stupid shoes anymore.’ Then high heels may go the way of the 18” waist, the corset, AND the Playtex girdle.


Outdated files in my brain….

Mom, smile 3

photo by Susan Kauffmann

As I walked this morning, I noticed an orange peel on the sidewalk. The poem our first-grade class memorized immediately popped into my head.

‘Orange peel, banana peel, Lady falling on banana peel
Be careful where you throw it,
For folks slip into hospitals,
Before you even know it.’

Why, oh why do I still remember that silly thing when I couldn’t even remember to take my coffee mug with me to breakfast????

Coffee Mug

I missed my mug, it keeps coffee warmer

Wouldn’t it be better if my brain were filled with current issues instead of stacked with outdated files that could easily be deleted and not missed?

I don’t like it when I can’t recall names I know I know, or search for elusive words that used to be there. Yes, this happens to others too, but I don’t like it happening to me. Humor helps, and friends oblige by  sharing items they’ve received by email on the subject. I don’t know who thought this one up but although I don’t want to ever become senile, it’s worth a chuckle: The Senility Prayer: ‘God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones that I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.’

Getting older can be a nuisance. Everything takes longer. Tasks become more difficult and we require more patience. Well, after all what did you expect? Things change. Life is an adventure and a learning process, and old age, if we are lucky enough to achieve it, is part of the journey.

It would be great to become wiser as we age, but I doubt it actually happens. In the same way that education can’t change a stupid person into a smart one, aging can’t perform miracles either. Still, some of us are silly enough to believe we are wiser and have worthwhile advice for those who are younger, so here goes…

If I knew earlier what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried about so many things which, in the end, didn’t really matter. I assure you that years from now it won’t matter if you hate your haircut; ruined the big dinner; were late for work, your boss was cranky; your thighs are too fat or your waist too thick; or that your partner is fed up. In time, it really won’t matter.


Rafi in his baseball uniform

‘Work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.’ Years ago when my son Rafi played baseball, his coach taught me something I haven’t forgotten. Rafi, a strong, talented hitter, didn’t have speed. I thought I should get him to run faster. His coach suggested I forget speed and have Rafi practice hitting, which he already did well. Speed, he said, didn’t matter because when Rafi hit that ball way across the park, he had plenty of time to make his home run. So, focus on the skills and talents you already have and make them better.

I also had to learn I’m not the center of the universe. No one is watching me. As a teenager, I thought I was too fat to even own a bathing suit. I was sure everyone would stare if I dared appear in such a garment. Finally, as a young mother, I worked up the courage to wear one so I could take my child to the beach. The world didn’t stop turning. Nobody cared. They were busy doing their own thing.

Fat woman in bathing suit

A real woman at the beach

And if you don’t believe me, it won’t really matter either.