Why I Like Mad Men

Sally wearing go-go boots

Sally wearing go-go boots

Mad Men begins it’s final episodes this Sunday and I thought I would share a piece originally written in 2012 and published in More.com about Why I Like Mad Men. I’ll give you a hint. She’s a little girl.

“WHY I LIKE MAD MEN”

It’s all about Sally. Really.

It’s not because I spent the majority of my career in advertising. It’s not because I love the show’s fashions. It’s not because I think Don Draper and Roger Sterling are handsome. All the above is true, but it’s not why I really like Mad Men.

I like “Mad Men” because I relate to Sally. Sally Draper who has grown up from a little 6-year old to a prepubescent 12-year old. Sally who is one year older than I was in 1966, the year of Season 5. I like “Mad Men” so much because I’m reliving my coming of age in the mid-60s from the introduction of mid-century modern design to the picket lines and protests.

Of course I came of age in Dayton, Ohio not New York City. My parents were married, not divorced. My dad was a second-generation engineer/construction man and my mom, while pretty, was never a model. However she did wear gloves and smart looking shifts like Betty Draper.

Television characters have often spoken to me. They provided insight into how to role with the punches while trying to figure out this thing called life. In 1966 I started watching “That Girl.” The show’s protagonist, Ann Marie, was the first single workingwoman on television. She lived in New York City and pursued an acting career at the same time I studied acting and dreamt of an Oscar.

In 1970, the “Mary Tyler Moore” show’s character Mary Richards, a 30-year-old progressive workingwoman came into my television room around the same time as women’s consciousness raising groups gathered in living rooms. Not that I was fully aware of the latter. However I was aware of the statement Mary made and challenges she encountered as a never married single career woman, not necessarily looking for a man to support her.

During my 30s I watched two programs with special resonance. The first was “thirtysomething;” a program attuned to my life experiences. I identified most with Ellyn who worked at City Hall and dealt with the challenges of being a singleton in the midst of coupledom. The second was “Murphy Brown.” I recognized her glass ceiling struggles and admired her chutzpah for living life on her own terms.

It’s been a long time since I’ve identified with a television character. So it struck me when I realized that Sally Draper and I are in the same cohort. I’m interested in how Matthew Weiner, the show’s creator, will portray the generation gap and the rise of the baby boomer generation’s influence on society and culture. I’m interested in how Sally will react to the changing landscape. And because I stand today watching a new generation shape the world in different ways I’m interested in how Don, Roger and the rest of the middle age crowd will adapt and thrive, or not.

I will stay tuned.
originally posted April 2, 2012
More.com

“At 57, I Don’t Lean In”

“Congratulations,” Sheryl Sandberg said with a smile as broad as the years that separate our generations when I told her that at 57, I’d recently gone back to a corporate job. “At this stage, I’m standing up—not leaning in,” I continued. This statement did not generate another high-five from the Facebook COO and author of Lean In, a new working woman’s manifesto for success.

Glancing at my business card, Sandberg said, “I’ll find out who you can talk to about Lean In Circles at your company,” before turning to greet another BlogHer ’13 attendee in the crowded Skyline Ballroom in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.

A corporate layoff in 2006 interrupted my 30-year marketing career. When I returned to corporate life after six years of teaching and writing, I knew my future called for a new outlook. I had been the prototypical MBA-owning, globe-trotting, leaning in career girl in my twenties, thirties and forties. Now, I’m a fifty-something woman standing up for the pursuit of personal satisfaction and enjoyment on the job and for living every day as if I’m worth it, because I am.

* At 57, I don’t lean in at work because I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. I believe in myself and know that I will deliver value.

* I don’t lean in because I already take a seat at the table. I speak up when needed and not just to be heard.

* I work for satisfaction in a job well done and the personal growth that comes from that, not to position myself for the next big move.

* I’m standing up at work rather than leaning in because I know the importance of a meaningful job. It requires my energy, but it’s just a part of my life, not the whole.

* I’m past worrying whether everyone likes me. I’m not sure I like everyone anyway. But I can figure out how to work with them, and that’s what counts.

* I want to see what’s around and ahead of me, and you can’t do that when your nose is leaned-in to a corporate playbook. I will travel the rest of my life gazing at serendipitous experiences outside those pages.

* I still haven’t heard from anyone in Sheryl’s office about the Lean In Circles at my company. It’s unfortunate that she missed the true significance of going corporate again at 57. There is meaning to be found, purpose to be had, and passion to be explored.

My generation must stand up and be counted. We are in vigorous pursuit of the ultimate goal—a life well lived.

Photo:
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., center, poses with students for photographs after her speech at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea
Photo: Woohae Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on LifeReimagined.arrp.og
Life Reimagined AARP “At 57 I Don’ Lean In

The Walker Was Waiting For Me

Walker Husband’s request was simple enough but it put me on guard.

“I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer rationally and not emotionally.”

Did he want my opinion on buying another ukulele to keep the one that he bought on vacation company? Was he at Coscto debating a super deal on a big screen TV? Or did he want me to meet him at the local car dealer to test drive a convertible?

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m at the little resale shop around the corner,” he answered.

The resale shop. That’s not an odd place for him to be. But it is odd for him to call and ask about buying something there.

“They have a used walker for $10. Do you think it would be a good idea for you to have, just in case?”

Silence on my end.

Husband was asking a perfectly reasonable question that could push me right into irrationality, or at least into being overly emotional. He’s calling to see if I want a walker because in one week I’m having foot surgery on both feet.  Surgery on three hammertoes and one bunion per foot. Surgery that requires ten days of being completely off my feet except for slowly making my way to the bathroom and back to bed, to couch, or to chair. Surgery that results in an 8-week recuperation period where my mobility will be immobilized to a degree that I can’t fathom.

He was asking a perfectly reasonable question and I needed to call on my left brain when forming a response not my right brain, which was screaming: “A walker. What? I’m too young too need a walker. This surgery won’t stop me. Oh, I’m turning into my mother, father, someone other than me.”

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“It’s small, silver and has tennis balls on one end.”

“Will it move over carpet?” The path from bed to bath is carpeted and if the walker was going to be useful it had to be an all-surface walker.

“I think so.”

Continued silence on my end.

“All right I won’t buy it. Your silence says it all,” Husband said.

“No. I don’t know. Do whatever you want.” I was still in denial and couldn’t be responsible for the decision.

“We’ll donate it right back when you don’t need it anymore,” Husband said.

“Fine.” I hung up. He was right. It might help. For $10 it couldn’t hurt.

Husband came home with an upscale version of the model he had described over the phone. This walker had wheels instead of tennis balls and it was still just $10.

I took it for a spin over the carpet. It worked perfectly. I imagined myself gliding through the dark of the night to the bathroom, my way illuminated by a small flashlight I could attach to the front bar. Add a backpack and I could roam from room to room ready for anything. Dress it up with a flag and some streamers and I’d be ready for the local Fourth of July parade.

“The walker was a good idea,” I conceded to Husband.

“I thought so. I promised I’d take care of you,” he replied.

And so he did. And so will Wendy, the name I’ve given to my new wheels. With Wendy and Husband by my side, my walking will be smooth. Or at least more manageable.

It’s Not Wishy-Washy To Be Square

ESD COLLEGE GraduationHail to Purple Hail to White, Hail to Thee Northwestern

The last lines of Northwestern University’s Alma Mater sprang from my lips. As an adjunct faculty member I had just witnessed 96 master’s degree candidates in the Medill School’s Integrated Marketing Communications program walk across the stage. A handshake with the Dean certified them as professionals and alumni at the same time.

Getting dressed at home, prior to the graduation, I discovered that my rental cap was too small. No amount of bobby pins could secure it. One head bob too many or ever so slight would topple it to the floor. What to do? Luckily I remembered that my Mother’s college mortarboard sat in my dresser drawer. Luckily we had the same hat size.

I found Mom’s graduation cap in her closet after she died. Her name was clearly printed on the silk label inside. It didn’t seem right to give or throw it away. She graduated top of her class from The College of St. Mary of the Springs (now Ohio Dominican University) in Columbus, Ohio in 1940. She went on to teach elementary school until she had children. She then instructed her children during summer vacations with reading and math workbooks, writing on a double-sided black board in the playroom. Mom was all about learning.

Mom was also all about dressing appropriately and when it came to wearing a cap and gown, the cap should sit squarely on top of the head. Flat, not angled.

“Flat is the proper way to wear the mortarboard. Do not wear it on the back of your head,” she would say. “I don’t care if you think it’s unattractive or crushing your hair, this is the way it is meant to be.” I wore a cap and gown for the first time during kindergarten graduation and even then Mom made sure I wore it “regulation” style.

As the graduate students lined up to process into the auditorium I found myself repeating my Mother’s advice:

“It’s meant to be worn flat. Really it looks better that way,” I said in a friendly yet knowing tone. “Lose the bobby pins and stand up straight and tall. It won’t fall off.”

Mom’s advice fell on deaf ears and many a mortarboard slipped and slid as the group marched to the stage to the untraditional and rousing tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Graduates held their caps on with one hand while shaking the Dean’s hand with their other. One cap completely crashed to the stage floor in front of the Dean.

Mine, however, stayed put throughout the conferring of degrees and a series of upbeat speeches that dispensed advice both thought-provoking ¬– have an account balance of goodwill¬ – and head scratching – don’t be wishy-washy.

Don’t be wishy-washy? What odd advice I thought at first. But then the speaker explained that the opposite of wishy-washy is taking a stand. He encouraged the graduates to have a point-of-view and be prepared to support it because without a point of view one must depend on others for movement.

As I pondered his words I realized that it was Mom’s strongly supported point-of-view on graduation attire that was keeping my cap squarely on my head and me moving across the stage confidently. I felt squarely ready to go out and conquer the world on my own terms. Hail to Mom.

Smile and Say Thank You

ESD-New-Orleans copy

Mom didn’t teach me to cook. I wasn’t much interested and I don’t think she was either. She tried to teach me to sew but when she insisted that to be a good seamstress one had to learn how to rip out and redo the seam I decided I didn’t have the patience. She did teach me penmanship with limited success. I may have looked just like her but I scribbled like Dad.

She did tell me that the best thing to say when someone offers a complement is a sincere and simple “thank you.” I had/have a tendency to defer the compliment, deny the reason why it was given, or deliver a full history of how whatever is being complimented came about.

Most of the lessons I learned from my mother were delivered silently as I watched her go about her day, which included saying the rosary at 4:30 every afternoon. The lessons I learned from my mother were delivered when I watched her laugh until she snorted when her sister visited and coo endlessly at my baby brother after his bath. The lessons I learned from my mother were about living with caution because you might get hurt and how unexpressed grief manifests itself.

My mother’s first husband died in the aftermath of the D-Day invasion. One night when I was 9-years old, my father took me into the living room after dinner to have a talk. I knew I hadn’t done anything particularly bad that day and was excited to see what Dad wanted to share with only me. He sat on an ottoman across from me in the big armchair in the corner of the room. My saddle-shoed feet stuck straight out.

There he told me that my mother had been married once before. That her first husband had died in the war. That my oldest brother was from that marriage. That my Dad had adopted my oldest brother. That we did not consider my oldest brother to be a half brother. He was a full brother.

Years later it struck me that Mom didn’t tell me this news. Or that Mom and Dad didn’t tell me. It was her news, her life. Mom wouldn’t talk about the man she married at 24, who died less than two years after their marriage. She once said that her parents told her she was lucky. She might have lost a husband but she had a good job, a wonderful son, and family to help her. She learned to keep her grief to herself and adjust to her situation.

The main lesson I learned from my Mom wasn’t directly imparted to me. The lesson I learned was to be in control of the narrative of my life. If I hurt, hurt. If I love, love. And if I have to laugh, laugh until I snort.

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stand up and be heardIn order to lean in, you must first stand up and be heard. That’s my advice for Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg after reading her book, Lean In.

I realize I’m a few weeks late to the Lean In commentary, but I was too busy standing up for myself to write. After five years of teaching, consulting and writing, I’ve just stepped back into the corporate world and lost control over my schedule. That is, until a colleague took me aside and said, “You don’t have to accept every meeting invitation on Outlook. Just book yourself busy.”

Better advice was never spoken. Once I learned to book myself busy, I had time to work. I had time to stand up and be heard. I had time to read Sandberg’s book and think back on my zigzag journey as a working woman and think about the future careers and life choices ahead of my nieces, goddaughters and the daughters of my friends.

And all this thinking inspired me to write a cheer for all the women inspired to keep their hands raised, sit at the table, stand up for themselves and speak their truths after reading Lean In.

All together now, to the cadence of “Lean to the left, Lean to the right.”

Stand to Lean In.
Stand to Lean Out.
Raise Your Hand Now.
Shout! Shout! Shout!

I may not be much of a cheer writer, but I was on my high school’s drill team, which is similar to a pom-pom squad with precision marching and a kick line à la the Rockettes. It took me three years of tryouts and lots of high kicks in the privacy of my teenage bedroom to get onto that squad. That might explain the difference in my career versus Sandberg’s, who spent one high school summer working as a congressional page.

At that time, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil “crushed” Sandberg when he asked her if she was a pom-pom girl. She had no response for him back then. However, years later she writes: “I might even tell him that I’m a pom-pom girl for feminism.”

Shake those pom-poms, Sandberg. The cause needs a new captain.

Baby Boomer me reaped the early benefits made for women by captains in feminism’s second wave. I was too young to wear a bra when they were supposedly burning them, but by the time I got to college, I watched friends get jobs in male-dominated fields and go on to medical and law school. When business schools started attracting women, I took remedial calculus and earned an MBA, because that’s what women were doing.

Like many of my female cohorts, I fell into the trap of seeking mentors through official mentoring programs, which Sandberg describes as “waiting for Prince Charming.” I also raised my hand and then lowered it, because I was raised to believe that just being a good girl would get me where I wanted to go. True confession — my goal in many a presentation was to be liked in the hope that I would be listened to.

Unlike many of my female cohorts and Sandberg, I did not have to deal with managing a family life, since for most of my working life, I wasn’t even married. I didn’t have to worry about someone not doing 50% of the household work, something Sandberg speaks strongly about, because I was stuck with all 100% of it. True confession — I often longed for a traditional 1950s wife.

Sandberg has made it easy to join the Lean In movement. Just follow the template for creating and running small support groups called Lean In Circles. The first principle of starting a circle is selecting your peers, defined as women “in similar stages in their career.”

Now, I love groups and clubs. I belong to two book clubs, a ladies’ dinner club, a writers’ group, and a craft club. And I consider all the women in my various clubs to be peers, yet we are not all at the same stage of our careers or even our lives.

We work full and part-time, inside the home, outside the home, even from the home office. We thrive within corporate structures, entrepreneurial ventures and the creative space.

We are married, never-married, divorced, mothers, grandmothers, single-mothers. We are retired, will never retire and are at one point or another just tired. Importantly, we span generations. This diversity brings depth and energy to our discussions.

So, I have a suggestion for Captain Sandberg and all the Lean In teams being created out there. Think broadly about populating your circles — especially regarding age. Fill the seats around the table with fresh perspectives and with viewpoints from women who have been standing up for decades and have a few tricks to pass on. I, for one, offer to get the high kicks higher, which will involve drills on how to raise hands high without raising hands, because that’s such a girl thing to do.

All together now, to the cadence of “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar.”

Twenties, Forties, Sixties or more.
All for women stand up and roar.

Go Team.

Bollards to You and Other New Words

Operable Bollards

Bollard. Returnship. Showrooming. All but bollard are new, made-up-to-fit-the times, words that I learned this week. In an effort to learn these words so that they will flow seamlessly from my mouth I’ve been told to use them in sentence a few times.

Returnship.
I came across this word in the Wall Street Journal Returnship is an internship for people returning to the workforce. The WSJ blurb reported that Goldman Sachs, among other companies have “short-term paid jobs” for people coming back to work after taking time off.

I’ve experienced internship envy before. I desperately wanted the job at CBS that my niece-in-law took or the one with the United Nations that my nephew filled. When caught between what I’m doing and what I think I want to do next, an internship offers both parties a chance to see if there’s a fit in job responsibilities/skills and culture.

Showrooming
This is what the lady at Target was doing the other day. I just didn’t know it had a name other than comparison shopping. But if you comparison shop online while standing in front of merchandise in-store, you are showrooming.

I’m not sure I’m the showrooming type. When caught between looking for cheaper shampoo online or buying the fairly priced bottle in front of me and not driving, parking, and walking through another set of aisles, I usually grab what’s in front of me. And if I’m buying something significantly more expensive, say a new TV, I’ve done my comparison shopping online at home. That must make me a home-showroomer.

Bollard
Every thing has a name and the little posts that prevent cars from driving into the front of buildings, usually important buildings, are called bollards. Who knew? Sailors perhaps, since the word has been used to describe the posts used to moor ships for many years. But an academic friend found an “operable bollards” sign on his campus the other day and wondered, “What is this and what is a non-operable bollard?”

I don’t imagine I’ll use bollard much in casual or formal conversation. If I need to warn someone about an upcoming bollard, I’m going to say, “Hey, watch out for the post,” not, “There’s a bollard obstructing our ingress/egress.” Come to think of it, I don’t use ingress or egress very often either.

Words open new worlds. A returnship brings new work opportunities. Showrooming brings cost savings. And bollards bring the lowly post up a few notches in status.

And the Transition Goes On

Walking old/newpath

“Why don’t you just say it, you’re retired,” a male friend said after my layoff that produced an unemployment check and a Cobra health insured life.

“I’m not retired,” I insisted. “I’m in transition.”

At lunch with a working friend from the good old days of full employment and a certain path I shared the nascent beginning of my blog.

“I’m writing about women in transition.”

“You’re always in transition,” my male lunch partner said.

He was right. Whether in a job or not, I have always felt in transition. I prefer to think this makes me an expert on the topic rather than someone who always looks for the next patch of greener grass.

When I told my sister about the potential job offer she asked, “Aren’t you enjoying your semi-retirement state?”

Semi-retirement? Is that what my life looked like to the outside? It didn’t’ feel like that inside.

The five years that I didn’t report to an office, I still worked. Not at a corporate office doing the same thing. But I worked. From a home office or at a borrowed desk. At various things. Consulting projects. Committees. Content development. And mostly teaching.

Two hundred students–give or take a few–have sat in my classes and been mentored over coffee and during office hours. Teaching has been the hardest work I’ve ever done. By myself. In front of a room of young adults hoping to advance their careers with the material they are learning in my class. Finding new ways to fill the hours, to bring the principles and theories alive. A three-hour, one-woman show running for 10 weeks straight. Each week required a new script and the ability to improvise.

“I never want to retire,” I tell Husband, who is on the brink of retirement. Teetering so close to being able to nap at will on any one of our couches. To putter in any number of puttering spaces in the house, garage, or outside. To being able to do something else as soon as he discovers or defines else. To being in transition.

Retiring sounds old. And I reject being old, while fully acknowledging being older. So I’m rejecting retirement and accepting rehiring into a new role in a familiar field. Or as I prefer to look at it, I’m just entering one more transitional phase in my life of transition.

Back in Business Again

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Going back to work in the corporate world meant going back to business travel. To be honest, the chance to travel was one of the big reasons I entertained the idea of corporate life again. I love to travel and some of the nicest hotels and best airplane rides I’ve had have been corporate sponsored.

My transition back to the 9-5+ has not been without its interesting moments. First time I called a benefit hotline for new hires I was offered a conversation in a private phone booth with the girl of my dreams. I carefully dialed 866 (not 800) the next time and signed up for health and dental with a private conversation, recorded for training purposes

I now commute to the land beyond O’Hare airport. For those of you not in the Chicago region, that means far, far away from my downtown neighborhood. First drive to the office went without a hitch. Second time was full of hitches. Somehow the directions I printed from Google left out step #8, which meant that I drove west instead of north. I am directionally challenged when I get outside of either seeing the lake (it is always east) or being guided by Chicago’s easy grid & numbering system. Luckily, I only have to drive to the burbs once a week.

Which brings me to my latest escapade. I’m sitting in an airplane lounge awaiting my first international business trip in many years. And I am excited. International makes it feel a little less business to me, for some reason. And I’m going to a location where I will be able to visit family, turning the trip into an international business–with a side–of personal trip.

I have been sitting in this lounge for a long time. For most of the inauguration parade, from what I can tell. I’m here enjoying the free Diet Coke and crackers instead of lunch at home because I misread my ticket. I arrived 4.5 hours early for my trip because I looked at my ticket for my return home. This is not a complaint. At least I’m in an airport lounge. And the bands along the parade route are good entertainment. This is just a reality check for me. I’m back in business again. Time to check everything twice, because the difference between a questionable telephone connection or a unexpected layover is just a few digits away.

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Fashion Faux Pas or Face Plant?

bth_red-and-white-gingham-check-a4-1

Coming of age in the 70s I was more than a fashion faux pas, I was a fashion face plant. Nothing can explain away the dress I wore to the junior prom. I looked like a picnic tablecloth on the bottom with a matching place mat on top. Since I can’t find the picture, which I know I saved, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Large red and white checked gingham fabric. Long skirt accented with a ruffle. Halter-top attached to the skirt, also accented with a ruffle. Straps crisscrossed in the back and buttoned into the top of the skirt. My father made me dance around the living room to make sure nothing fell out of the square piece of material over my chest. Since my chest amounted to nothing at the time, I was safe.

Ruffles play a major role in my best wardrobe worsts. My early choices for formal dances at college all had ruffles on the bottom and unfortunately a few had gathered sleeves with ruffled edges. And there was the ruffled yellow dotted swiss bridesmaid’s dress accessorized with a matching floppy hat. Of course that was chosen for me and truth be told, the whole time I wore that dress I squelched the urge to cry out, paraphrasing Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, “I’ll never go dotted swiss or ruffles again.”

Of course it took a whole new decade and career before I found my ruffle replacement. Half the fun of going to work in the mid-‘80s–for me¬–was wearing the businesswoman’s bow tie. Floppy or stiff. Bright red, blue or black. It didn’t matter. I simply liked the ritual of tying it. And it announced my competence without me saying a word.

I first learned about power dressing from The Women’s Dress for Success book written by John T. Malloy. His advice to women hoping to be taken seriously by others (men) in the workplace: look like those others (men) as much as possible. My closet was full of men’s styled dark colored suits that I wore with white, blue, or an occasional pink shirt, when I felt rebellious, and a bow tie. Simple jewelry, gold or silver stud earrings and maybe a pearl necklace rounded out the corporate career gal’s look.

I took all of Mr. Malloy’s advice and added my own twist. Looking at my first-day-on-the-new-job picture I wish I had applied Coco Chanel’s advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I wore a dark gray pinstripe suit with modest shoulder pads and a light blue wing-collared shirt with pleated front. A bow tie in the same color as the shirt flopped under my wing collar more than it stood at attention. A necklace of alternating silver and lapis-colored beads lay under my tie. Thank goodness I just wore matching silver studs.

In the 90s my bow ties and starched shirts gave way to flowing scarves and silky blouses. Then I went casual, business casual and then work from home casual. Today the most flounce in my wardrobe is found in the pashmina-style scarves warming my neck in overly air conditioned and under-heated environments. I am aware of the return of the bow blouse to the workingwoman’s closet but have resisted. Much as I have resisted anything in red and white checks. Neither bows nor gingham fit my style anymore.

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