All posts in Storytelling

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

Smile and Say Thank You

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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What Kind of Blogger Am I?

According to a study of blogging styles and attitudes conducted by Zemanta, a content suggestion engine (according to Wikipedia), I’m a Life Stager/Hedonist/Life Improver. Translation: I write about How to Enjoy and Survive Midlife With A Smile on Your Face, or My Face, as the case may be.

If that sounds like a mish mash of styles and attitudes, it is. According to the study, I’m not alone in exhibiting more than one blogging persona. And that, my blogging friends, is comforting to know for a couple reasons.

I’m forever being asked what my blog is about. I’m forever finding myself searching for a one-word answer because people like one-word answers that quickly categorize who you are, and because I teach marketing. I tell my students that an effective brand positioning statement is consumer-centric and singular in its promise. It is the rare branding success that offers two benefits in one drink. (Miller Lite’s Great Taste…Less Filling!) So if my blog is a brand or a product, it should offer something singular. Something it can own.

Here are some of the words I’ve tried on their own: Transition, Humor, and Midlife. But they don’t work on their own. Transition from what? What’s funny? And midlife, what does that mean? Midlife is about as broad in definition as Middle Class. Far as I can tell, Midlife means you’re not wearing diapers.

However, I also teach my students that a target audience or consumer can’t be defined narrowly by demographics. A brand’s consumer is more nuanced than a woman between the ages of 45-55. My students learn how to develop consumer personas, which include a demographic description along with information on attitudes, goals, lifestyle, and behaviors related to the product.

The Zemanta study highlights, for me, that while a blog has a brand identity, it also has a persona attached to it. Maybe I have difficulty describing my blog in one word because I can’t define myself with one word. Maybe I’ve just rationalized why I shouldn’t even worry about coming up with the one word. Maybe I should just focus on the one thing that differentiates me from the rest of the midlife bloggers talking about the midlife journey with a touch of humor. Right now the only answer – and it is one word or two, depending upon how I express it, is: Me. or Julie Danis. Only I can own that.

Reunions are Just a Memory Event

So far 2012 has been a year full of school activities. It started with graduations attended (graduate school, college, high school and elementary), moved to being a specatator at extracurricular activities (college soccer game,  high school cheer leading), and continued this past weekend with a college reunion.

I can sum up the weekend in a word: memories.

Memories were stirred: My room mate reminded me of how nice I was for taking care of another friend who was sick from a night of partying. Apparently I was quite the Florence Nightingale. I don’t remember and am sure I blocked the memory because it might make me sick. Anyway, good to know that I pulled through when needed.

Memories were unexpected: At an alumni-student career networking luncheon I met a young woman who said she was in a sorority. This was the last piece of information she offered after stating her major (Learning and Organizational Change and Political Science), hometown (somewhere in New Jersey), and hope for the future (human relations in a corporation and then executive recruiting.) When I learned that she and I were members of the same sorority I offered my hand and we exchanged the secret handshake.

“I haven’t done that in years, ” I said.

“I never expected to do that here,” she said.

“What just happened? Did I miss something?” the boy sitting next to her said.

Memories were confirmed: For years I have tried to confirm the occurrence and particulars of a summer party that had something to do with the university. I lived in Dayton, Oh and have no memory of traveling to a suburb of Cleveland for a summer get-together of either prospective students or accepted, soon-to-be freshmen students, but I do remember being in a classmate’s back yard. I think I remember another friend being there, she had traveled from Columbus, but this friend draws a blank whenever I try to force the memory into and out of her synapses.

The most salient part of the memory is the  backyard soda fountain and ice cream parlor. At the edge of the brick patio, near the grassy expanse of the lawn was a stainless steel home version of Baskin-Robbins. The father of the house treated all guests to a soda or sundae of their choice. I hung out near the chocolate. I remember nothing else of that event.

At the Saturday night party I beeline to the classmate from Cleveland.  She can make or break my memory.

“Did you live outside of Cleveland,” I asked her.

‘Yes,” she said.

“Did you have a summer party one year and served ice cream out of a backyard ice cream parlor?”

“Yes, oh you remember that too?”

“Remember it, I’ve told stories of that party and the ice-cream for years, not quite sure it was true but hoping it was. Thanks for confirming my memory. Now, why were we there in the first place?”

“I don’t remember.”
Memories were awkward: So you haven’t seen someone in a gazillion years and she sees you at the reunion talking to your college boyfriend. Seems just like yesterday. You and he hanging out. In fact, you and he do hang out with a group of friends and have a great relationship.

“Julie, hi,  it’s Susie. How are you?”

“Susie. Hi, it’s great to see you here. Do you remember…”, and I start to introduce said college boyfriend.

“Yes.  Did you two get married?”

This mistaken coupling is not the awkward part of the story. The awkward part happens when my close friend, Abby,  standing with us says: “Oh, almost.” And then laughs. A lot. But my college boyfriend and I didn’t almost get married and we both don’t really know what to say so I just point out my husband, one of the non-alumni spouses watching the Notre Dame football game in the lobby.

Memories were made: I’m sure they were made but I won’t know for sure until I see my friends and classmates again. Will we remember that one of us announced his engagement? Probably. Will we remember that Northwestern beat Iowa for a record of 7-2? Probably not, but we will remember that the football team played better than they ever did when we were there. Will I remember Susie asking me if my college boyfriend and I were married? Not sure. Depends upon how much short-term memory loss I experience between now and the next reunion. And if Susie is there.

Some people are reunion people, others are not. I like them for the memories that are stirred, confirmed and made. I especially like being with people who help me retrieve forgotten memories that when remembered help make my past whole.

Go U Northwestern! Just feeling a little purple pride today.

 

FOMO: Affliction or Lust for Life?

I am one of the Older Persons in the room. We are surrounded by Youthful Twentysomethings for a panel discussion on their latest obsession — FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out.

FOMO is quite different from FONBATR, the Fear of Never Being Able to Retire, which is an affliction many of the 50-plus-year-olds attending this ideas festival/policy-wonk conference are experiencing. But I digress.

Technology has brought FOMO upon the under-25 generation, MIT professor Sherry Turkle argues in her book Alone Together: “Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere.” John Grohol, PsyD, puts it plainly it in his blog PsychCentral: FOMO is “the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing.”

I have joined these youngsters at this panel because I’m curious about how this generation lives, thinks and dreams. I also believe that one of the best ways to stay relevant as I grow older, which I want to do, is to build intergenerational bridges.

The twenty-something panelists describe a FOMO lifestyle to the audience. Party surfing versus hanging out with one crowd for an evening. College and high school students gorging on after-school activities. Career-hopping and hopping and hopping. The more choices available, the more FOMO.

As they share, my mind strays to my own personal version of FOMO, which drives me to distraction, or at least to not knowing what to do now, next or never. Should I write a blog post before I pin a picture on Pinterest? Submit an essay to a publication? Catch up on the latest marketing trend so I can teach it later? Follow the presidential campaign, search for agents or go to the gym?

Just as I’m ready to move mentally from FOMO to FOMU (Fear of Messing Up), a young female breaks into my consciousness:

“Do people your age suffer from FOMO?” she asks the older audience members.

My hand shoots up, pumping as if I were in a classroom of 5-year-olds: Me, me, call on me!

Before I can start talking, a booming male voice offers: “That would be FOHMO — Fear of Having Missed Out.”

“Wait a minute!” I respond. “I still have FOMO, the original kind. There’s plenty left for me to experience. I haven’t missed out on life. I’ve had FOMO all my life. I was the kid who never came in from playing outside because I didn’t want to miss anything,” I tell the group.

I don’t tell them that my youthful FOMO often led to near-accidents outside my back door because I refused to leave the party, game of hide and seek or Foursquare match even if I really had to go to the bathroom. What if I missed a really great girlfriend secret, thrill-ride skating behind someone’s bicycle or a sighting of my latest crush? Biology be damned, I’d always wait until it was almost too late.

“Perhaps,” I suggest, “the FOMO in our youth has led to the creation of bucket lists in our middle age.”

“I don’t like bucket lists,” another like-aged woman says. “They sound so negative.” And I have to agree with her. Bucket. Dirty plastic. Dented and rusted metal. “Kicked the bucket” equals dead. “Bucket list” suggests decline. I may be on the declining side of life, but so far the ride down has been pretty exhilarating, and I plan on keeping that outlook.

Sure, there are things I want to do before I die, but if I don’t get to them, it won’t bother me. I’ll be dead. On my deathbed (I hope I’ll be in a castle in Europe or a treehouse in Tahiti ) I doubt I’ll be worrying that I missed traveling to all seven continents because Antarctica was just too cold and slipping through penguin poop to get to the penguins discouraged me. Nor can I imagine that I’ll bemoan the fact that I wasn’t on TV à la Katie or Oprah, because I’m sure I’ll be able to see that I had some influence on people around me, and isn’t that the essence of being Oprah or Katie?

Crossing things off lists can be depressing, too. Done that, and now what? What happens when the bucket list gets down to one or two things to go? Am I over when the list is crumpled and thrown in the bucket? Bucket lists. Who needs them? Not me.

Goals, desires, passions — that’s what I need and have. Write. Build and maintain relationships. Share. Learn. Love. Each of these items can be expanded and detailed. With a bucket list, if I’m successful, I’m left with an empty list and a full bucket. But by stating broader goals I’m left with an expansive, never-ending opportunity to do, to experience, to live. Uh-oh, I think I’ve just described my life in terms of an ultimate FOMO. Oh well, better than FOMTB — Fear of Missing the Bucket.

Originally seen on the Huffington Post

womensvoicesforchange.org

 

 

 

 

“Some day your mouth is going to get you in trouble,” my mother would say.  This wasn’t such a difficult prediction given the number of times I brought home a report card from elementary school with a check mark next to the words: “does not exercise self-control.” That was Catholic school code for “doesn’t know when to stop talking.”

The nuns were just agreeing with what a school psychologist had told my parents earlier. “Julie’s mouth and brain don’t operate at the same speed.” This led to talking without filtering, speed talking, and non-stop talking.  And to check marks and verbal gaffes. Gaffes that could have been avoided if I had just known my audience

Understanding whom you are talking to is the key to effective communication. Talking without understanding often leads to unintended consequences.

If I had known my manager at one of my first jobs, for example, I would not have confronted him after he reprimanded me like a drill sergeant in front of a row of administrative assistants.

I understood that he was upset. I understood that there was a check mark next to my name for “did not meet deadline.” But if I had understood his management style, I would have known that ignoring his outburst versus asking him to not talk to me like that was the key to keeping one’s job.

If I had understood the makeup of a typical comedy club audience I would have never entered the contest to find Jay Leno’s sidekick when he took over the Tonight Show in 1992.  I headed to my hometown, Dayton, Ohio to perform a two-minute stand up routine.  Mind you, I wasn’t a stand-up. I had studied and performed improvisation sketch comedy. I gave 20-minute talks as a business humorist. I was just a marketing consultant looking for a creative outlet.

I whittled down my material, donned my red power suit, and froze when I entered the club. I was not like this hometown audience. This audience did not work in corporate cubicles or talk corporate speak.

This audience laughed till they cried and ordered another beer throughout the stand-up routine before mine – which was filled with tales of working for the man, men behaving badly, and scatological asides.

This audience did not smile when I performed. Thankfully, they didn’t laugh me off the stage. Thankfully, I still had my day job.

Just two weeks ago I accompanied Husband to the Principality of Liechtenstein for official diplomatic business. Husband is the Honorary Consul of Liechtenstein to the Midwest, and I his unofficial chief of staff.  Our program included meeting the Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein, which I was excited about, until it came to packing.  What do you wear when meeting a prince?

On the first day of our visit, a young diplomatic officer met our group at breakfast and accompanied us to the Prince’s castle for Liechtenstein’s National Day ceremonies. The young diplomat sat next to me on the bus and I asked him how to spell his first name.

“U-l-r-i-c-h,” he replied and then asked about my family and work back in the States.

“I’m a former advertising executive,” I said. “Currently I teach on the university level and I’m a freelance writer/blogger.”

“What do you write in your blog?”

“I write personal essays and cultural commentary for women of a certain age who are reinventing themselves. Going through transitions.”

“I imagine there is much to write.”

We talked easily about my writing, my teaching, and my impressions of Liechtenstein.

If I had known my audience I would never have told Ulrich that the title of my last blog post was:  What to Wear When Meeting a Prince”

‘Well, I can imagine that might be difficult to determine,” Ulrich, the diplomat said.

“It is. I’ve never met a prince before. I don’t know anyone who had met a prince before. I want to be appropriate”

I proceeded to give him a synopsis of the endless options listed in my blog:

Formal or semi-formal, long or short, pants or skirt, cocktail, business or business casual, and so on. I did not share my quandary about whether or not to wear pantyhose.

“Later this week I’ll be posting about what I wore when I meet the prince.”

“I will read your blog. Perhaps you will write and tell your friends that you have already met a prince,” Ulrich said, and smiled, and bowed with his head.

And I remembered that when he introduced himself at breakfast I thought he called himself Something Something Liechtenstein, but I thought that can’t be right and let it go and focused on the pronunciation of his first name. Ulrich.

“You. You’re a prince. Of course, you said Ulrich Liechtenstein. Are you a cousin? Oh, I am so embarrassed. Have I hurt Husband’s appointment?” I stammered along until I just had to ask: “Well – what do you think – how am I dressed to meet a prince?”

“Quite fine,” Ulrich, the Prince said.

“You’ll learn your lesson one day,” my mother would say. The best connections are made when you know your audience. Whether it is one person or a group. However, some of the best consequences happen serendipitously when you are just truly yourself.

What Happened When I Met The Prince?


“Seriously? You met a prince and it’s all about what you wore?” my sister wrote, referring to my most recent post.

“Yes, but if you read the post prior to the unveiling of the LRD  you would understand why,” I wanted to respond.

Recap: Last week I met Prince Alois, Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein. Husband is Honorary Consul General of Liechtenstein for Chicago/Midwest. When I learned about the princely introduction I thought to myself (and aloud), “What does one wear when meeting a prince?” I figured that out and here’s what happened.

As we approached the castle I realized I didn’t know what to call the Prince. Your Excellency? Your Highness? Prince? Sir? Before I could ask Husband, who was several paces behind me, or the Ambassador, who was moving our little group along, we were ushered upstairs to a receiving room. I’m not sure that’s what the room is really called but since that is where we were received that’s what I’ll call it.

Prince Alois met us at the doorway and the Ambassador prepared to introduce each of the four Honorary Consuls and the two HC Spouses in attendance. Husband motioned for me to go ahead of him.

“I don’t want to go first.”

“Please, go ahead.”

“No, you speak the language and I don’t know what to call him.”

The Ambassador introduces Husband and he says something in German that makes the Prince smile and shake Husband’s hand a little longer and harder. I see a friendship blooming in front of me.

“And this is Julie Danis,” the Ambassador says, and indicates that I’m with Husband.

And so the Prince shakes my hand with a great smile and says something engaging–in German.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I only speak English. He’s the German guy in our house. It is a pleasure to meet you, thank you so much.” And I move on, quickly, realizing I had no idea what to call him so I just avoided the greeting all together, much like I do if I can’t remember someone’s name and don’t want to be found out.

“Shall we do the photographs first,” the Prince suggested. We moved to another room/hallway/photo op location. The official court photographer (I’m assuming) positioned us around the Prince and took a gazillion pictures.

“Don’t squeeze my upper arm,” I say to Husband.

“What?”

“Smile.”

After the picture session the Prince steps to face the half-moon of Honorary Consuls and Spouses.  The Ambassador explains where we are from and what we have seen and done in Liechtenstein for the last several days. A server passes beverages and light canapés.  It’s only 4:50pm and a glass of wine sounds like a fine idea.

I wouldn’t say I was star struck, but I felt speechless and the need to talk at the same time. Like the time I met President Clinton and was at a loss for words until I couldn’t stop myself from telling him: “We share the same birthday along with one of the Wright Brothers. I’m not sure which one but I think It’s Orville.” (It is.)

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t asked about the format of this meet and greet. Clearly my obsession with what to pack/wear had pushed all other thoughts of protocol out of my mind. Against my late mother’s better judgment (she always said my mouth would get me in trouble) I leaned over and whispered to the Ambassador, “Would it be appropriate if I asked the Prince a question?”

How couldn’t I ask a question? I’m the “why, why, why” girl, according to Husband. Always wanting to know why he’s done, said, or thought something. That’s a hazard of being a consumer insight professional. I need to know the why behind the what.  And truth be known, I had been thinking of what I might ask, if he opportunity presented itself.

“I think that would be fine, okay,” the Ambassador responded.

At the next lull in the back and forth I interjected, “Sir, Prince (I still didn’t know what to call him), if I may, if you can…we’ve had a wonderful program full of meetings with different departments and offices and the university…and I’m wondering, if there’s one thing you would want us to take back to our different regions, one message about Liechtenstein, what would that be?”

Phew. That was the longest, rambling question ever. Why didn’t I just ask the question I really wanted to ask, the one I often asked consumers and clients: “What keeps you up at night?” Because I was afraid it might be misconstrued as personal, and therefore definitely inappropriate.

“Hmm,” the Prince started.

“Feel free to have two or more,” I offered, not wanting to constrain him.

I wish I could quote his answer, but I can’t. I believe his message is this: Liechtenstein’s economy is feeling the effect of being reliant on exports to the EU. The country is small but mighty in entrepreneurship, education, high-tech manufacturing and self-reliance. Increasing awareness and interaction between the United States and Liechtenstein is what Honorary Consuls can do.

Our group agreed that we could carry the Prince’s message back to the United States. We all thanked him for his time and energy. In the end it was a perfect visit, except for one small thing, which I’m sure he would have never noticed or remembered.  I just wished I had said: “Your Serene Highness, I think I can do that.” Because that’s how you address a prince.

What I Wore When Meeting The Prince

I met the Prince. Alois, Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein. I met him in his family’s schloss (castle) that sits atop a cliff above the capital city of Vaduz, on a steamy afternoon. Husband took the above picture as the gate to the castle’s inner garden was closing on our visit.

You can see what I decided to wear after endless decisions.

A LRD (Little Red Dress), silk (possibly duoppioni) with a standup pleated collar reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth I – but not that big and not completely surrounding my neck.

Black cloth pumps with embroidered flowers and a wooden heel, 2.5 inches tall. A compromise between kitten and stiletto. Remarkably comfortable to stand in, which I knew I would be doing for about 45-60 minutes. It was more like 90, and included walking on gravel and across Medieval pavers.

Accessories included: an antique gold charm bracelet with one heart shaped, garnet charm. Gold hoop earrings with red stones. Red leather clutch, perfect match for the dress.

And I wore pantyhose, sheer pantyhose, out of respect for the Prince and his family who have reigned over the Principality of Liechtenstein forever. Really. Forever. The country celebrated its 300th year this past August 15th, National Day.

Wearing pantyhose was the right thing to do. But it was very, very hot and the castle is not air-conditioned, at least in the man made manner of which I am accustomed in my concrete and brick prairie hometown, because it sits in the Alps where Mother Nature provides the air conditioning.  But even Alpine Mother Nature couldn’t cool the receiving room to a temperature that made pantyhose comfortable, or a jacket and tie for that matter.

I wore pantyhose for the approximate two hours it took for me to dress to meet the Prince, to greet and meet the Prince, and to return to a state of relative deshabile post the Princely meeting activity. It was worth it. My mother would have been proud and I felt appropriately dressed for the occasion.

Alois, Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein is the princely looking gentleman in the middle, wearing a red tie. The local newspaper, Volksblatt, did not print the picture of the Honorary Consuls and their spouses meeting the prince, so you’ll just have to believe me that I did. My LRD and I did appear in another photo from a gathering immediately following the princely reception, which I’ve included in the above screen shot.

(Volksblatt Fotos: IKR)

 

 

What To Wear When Meeting A Prince?

One week from now I will meet a prince. A real prince. Royalty from another country. In his castle that was built in the 14th century. On top of a hill, nestled in the Alps. This is beginning to feel like The Princess Diaries except I’m not distantly related to the Prince or in any way heir to the throne. I’m just lucky, I guess.

A little over a year ago, Husband was appointed Honorary Consul General of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the Midwest. Crazy, right? How did someone who is 100% descended from Irish immigrant grandparents become HCGL/M? In short, he speaks their language and he kept in touch with someone he met over 20 years ago working on a legal case.

There’s more to that story but this story is not about that story, which is about…what to wear when meeting a prince? The decisions are endless in my obsession: formal or semi-formal, long or short, pants or skirt, cocktail subdued or sparkly, business or business casual,  colorful or neutral, closed-toe or sandal, kitten heel or stiletto, pearls (definitely, I think), bangles or brooch, studs or dangle, small – medium – large bag? What about my legs? Princess Kate’s style book reads panty hose for official events, but she’s a princess, I’m just a guest.

The whole affair runs from 4:30 to 5:30, ruling out formal, semi-formal and cocktail. Although, I assure you I’ll have a cocktail when this is all over, no matter what I’m wearing. Since I’m meeting the Prince at a reception, not a picnic, I’m crossing off casual from my options too. So I’m left with business or business casual and therein lies the dilemma. My business wardrobe really hasn’t been refreshed since I was laid off five years ago. Since advertising was my business, this wardrobe wasn’t too business anyway, leaving me with dated business casual outfits and a couple of things to wear when teaching graduate students.

Can we agree that business casual is the worst dress code ever invented? I can’t imagine that the Europeans do it like we do it in the USA–khaki’s and golf shirts for men and every which way for women. Towards the end of my corporate career I wore a lot of black pants/skirts with a white tee/blouse, plus some accessory so I didn’t totally look like I worked at TGIFs. I so hope I don’t need to dress business casual to meet the Prince.

I shared my worry about what to wear in an email to the assistant to the Ambassador. Her response, “I’ve ever only seen you impeccably dressed so I have no worries there.” Thanks for the compliment but can you  sift through my closet now for the appropriate, impeccable dress?

Maybe this is the time for the LBD. Yes! With a little kitten heel pump, because I can’t stand around in stilettos longer than a minute before my mother’s feet, that have become my feet, start screaming, and I think toes should be covered when meeting royalty for the first time. Pearls interlaced with a black ribbon around the neck. Studs. Small bag, similar to what  I would carry to a wedding. I don’t need to take much to visit a castle, after all.

Wait. Did I just write wedding? Yes. This is like attending an afternoon wedding. I would counsel against wearing an LBD to a wedding, afternoon or anytime. And it’s the summer. Is black too severe for the afternoon? What about my legs?

“No worries” the assistant wrote. Yes, worries, I feel.  What to wear to meet a prince? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

 

Peering Out Through The BlogHer Blur

It was only a week ago but it’s a blur. A blogging blur. Last week I attended a conference for bloggers. For women bloggers to be precise, 4,500 women who put their thoughts, rants, advice, and analysis of all things worth and not worth being analyzed out into the indefinable, indescribable, is it really real, blogosphere, to be exact.

I attended this conference because the agent who requested, read, and responded to my book proposal said I needed a platform. A platform, in publishing speak, is proof that you can sell your book. That there is a ready made reader, a group of ready made readers, that will be predisposed to purchase your book. Today, one proof of a platform is your social media presence, backed up by analytics. So I went to BlogHer2012 at the Hilton New York for three days to learn how to build and measure a platform.

If I wanted to feel my story was unique or that my perspective was unvoiced, I should have stayed home. Women writing about transition–done. Humorous takes on everyday life–written. Second acts in the making–ditto. Tales from menopause and beyond–please, they are written during the wee hours of the morning when sleep is on a break.

At least I wasn’t a mother with an urge to write during naptime or school hours. There were more mommy bloggers than breakfast bagels. Healthy food mommies, home school mommies, mommy divas, wannabe mommies, and mommy entrepreneurs. Mommies with tales of adoption, multiple births, special need children, single parenting, lesbian mothering, and probably pet parenting.  Although, I didn’t personally meet a blogger with that focus.

Thank goodness I took lots of notes because I don’t remember much these days unless it’s written down. This is a common theme in blogs from women of a certain age, so I will remember to not write about whatever I just forgot.

I won’t forget the expo center full of brand experiences, freebies, and sponsor corporations vying for the attention of a blogger-advocate. There’s something delightful about a conference where you can get your picture taken with the Dr. Seuss’ Lorax character and fill your swag bag with Poise® light bladder leakage pads and vibrators from either Trojan® or EdensFantasys®.

I will remember the presence of the three keynote speakers starting with President Obama, who opened the conference via satellite feed. (Romney was asked and declined.) The President reminded us that he was raised by women and is surrounded by women he admires and supports. He proved that he knows the source and value of free advertising by sharing how his presidency has positively impacted the lives of women.

During an interview with Martha Stewart an audience member asked, “What aren’t you good at?”

After thinking for a bit, Martha responded, “I’m not good at what I haven’t tried yet.”

I wish I was that confident. I’m not very good at being a fan of Martha’s. I admit to being an early member of the “I am not in love with Martha Stewart Club” back in the 80s. I don’t care if she is the very model of a modern media mogul. I have never fallen under her spell.

Katie Couric engaged the audience over the last luncheon. Before I talk about her, I admit positive bias. I am a member of the “I love Katie and want to be like Katie Club.” One day Katie showed up on the Today Show wearing the same J. Crew sweater that hung in my closet. This made me happy. Clearly, a little bit too happy if I’m still talking about it now.

A blogger in the audience asked Katie, “How did you feel during your interview of Sarah Palin?”

I will paraphrase Katie’s answer, because at this point I was not taking notes. “As a person, I felt sorry for her. She was clearly having a difficult time forming an answer. As a reporter, I felt I did a good job of finding out things that I thought the American public would want to know about a person who would be a heartbeat from the president­–the oldest president ever elected.”

Katie has empathy. Katie does a good job. I still want to be like Katie.  I guess I want to be like Martha, too–good at everything I try. After this conference, I know I am like President Obama too. I appreciate the women in my life, past, present and future and hope to build a platform of interest and service to all.

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