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changing the face of aging
Susan Brooks
Get Your Pink On!

Get Your Pink On!
July 2023

Did you love or loathe Barbie?

As a raging feminist (still!), I was angry at Barbie for years! Her impossibly proportioned body and unrealistic body image, her materialism and consumerism, the lack of racially diverse dolls, her pink obsession reinforced gender roles, her perfectly artificial everything...To me, she planted the first seeds of unobtainable perfectionism that I still struggle with!

Today, Barbie is 60! She has been a source of inspiration and controversy. She continues to be a bestseller having sold more than a billion dolls. Barbie is not a toy; she is a pop culture icon. She does not have customers; she has fans.

From Barbie's first appearance in 1959 as a fashion doll for girls, Ruth Handler, Barbie's creator, a Jewish trailblazing business woman, was focused on bringing the opportunity for young girls to dream: "My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that women have choices." Ruth named the doll after her own daughter, and Ken was named after her son. And, isn't it interesting that her husband, Elliot, was the president of Mattel at this time?

It wasn't until 1981 that Mattel introduced the first black, Hispanic, and 'oriental' Barbies. By 2015, Mattel's website shows 100 different skin tones, hair textures, face shapes, eye colors and four different body types, including a down syndrome Barbie and an elevator in her Dream Home for physically impaired Barbies, and also useful after Covid, an elevator so that she can easily access her own work-from-home station.

Barbie sure has come a long way, Baby!!

Barbie has also taken on diverse careers, interests, and styles to reflect changing cultural norms around women's roles and possibilities...250 careers spanning her six decades, from being a doctor to an astronaut to President, proof positive that women could be anything she wanted to be.

Against all odds, Barbie bought her first home in 1962. Women were denied mortgage applications at that time because of their marital status or sex, but that didn't stop her! Credit discrimination wasn't banned until 1974. In early 2000's, single women became the fastest growing group of homebuyers! Of course, the privilege of being a toy, Barbie has never been broke...and she never faced foreclosure.

Interesting to note that Barbie's first home had no kitchen. She did have a television and record player. She was here to have fun, not be a homemaker or take on motherhood.

Her ultimate Dream House is a hot pink monument of decadence and desire, now equipped with a swimming pool, slide and elevator. Ken was always her boyfriend, not her husband. Barbie's single bed next to a framed photo of Ken asserted this was Barbie's own, unshared domestic space. Barbie has the power; Ken is simply an accessory. Today more single women own homes than single men.

Indeed, Barbie has had quite the journey these past six decades, hasn't she? Barbie has demonstrated:

A big shout-out must be given to Greta Gerwig, the director of Barbie. She was deliberate in every aspect of this blockbuster film. Watch for the nuances that mean much more than what you are seeing. For example, there are no old women in Barbieland, but there is a poignant scene in the movie that presents someone Barbie might aspire to be, who, unlike Barbie, knows what she's worth. Or when Barbie's high-heeled foot, falls flat, and Barbie's shocked response.

Gerwig has humanized Barbie for us all!

Special thanks to Nick Yale, award-winning realtor extraordinaire who really does sell Dream Houses to his clients. He jumped on the relevance of this film as a great marketing opportunity by renting a theater space for his favorite clients on July 22, the day after the film opens in other theaters nation-wide! I will be there, front and center, gobbling up my pink popcorn, drinking pink lemonade, dressed in my own pink Barbie fashion statement, eating up the eye candy of both what's on the big screen and who's in the audience! Hugs and kisses to you, sweet Nick!

As Barbie enters her seventh decade, I can hardly wait to see how Barbie evolves and adapts to the changing norms, values and expectations...She will help 'change the face of aging.' I'm sure of it!

Tell me Your memories of Barbie, I'd love to know. Just hit reply or email me here

p.s. *I did my homework, gleaning and editing nuggets from The New York Times articles June 25 and July 16 articles, June 23 Smithsonian 'American Icon' article

Angela Meltzer

Featured Modern Elder*

Angela Meltzer
July Modern Elder
Age 80


I often receive the most provocative prompts from my daily MEA* posts, like this one: Who is the wisest (not necessarily the smartest) person you know? Who in your life brings a depth of perception, not about deep knowledge, but deep compassion? Who comes from the heart, not the head? Who is principled without being judgmental? 

Dear Reader, think about this question, will you?

For me, the wisest...and smartest...person I know is Angela Meltzer. Our friendship grew in spite of our differences. When I opened my first cookie store in Athens, Georgia, Angela was pregnant and headed back to school, older than most students, committed to her intention to become a CPA. She fine-tuned her truth-telling with her clients, explaining the numbers so her clients would understand the consequences of their actions and decisions. Can you imagine having a CPA like Angela? 

Angela spends so much time and attention in service to others, then, and still. Although she professes to be retired, she still serves the non-profits that reflect her most human values, along with the trials and tribulations of several old generational southern families, divorcees that hunger for justice, not revenge. Angela knows best how to fight the good fight.

But today, Angela must protect her own time: "It feels selfish. I've been giving endlessly...yes, it's rewarding, but exhausting. I must find the balance of nourishing others but saving space for me, me alone. There's always a choice on my time. I've learned to say 'no, I don't want to.'

Quilting is her happy place. "I love touching fabrics, putting two pieces of fabric together. I didn't know what I was doing, and I still don't. All I know is quilting brings me joy. It fills my life! It's a total revelation that I can create something beautiful, it feeds me. Quilts are my legacies to my children and grandchildren. It's not a fast process. No mass reproduction. I work much fun!!" Her fabric creations have been recognized for their bold, brilliant moving colors  and when her quilts are given as gifts, that for Angela, is the real prize.

"I push myself to my discomfort level. I keep putting myself out there, beyond my judgements and negative thoughts that want to keep me in a toxic stew...I'm so critical. I hold a mirror up: 80 is no different than I felt at 76, just a number. I've learned not to take my health for granted. I stay gratefully conscious."

"It's sad to see my friends who had successful careers and now are so bored. You have to have elders we have so much to offer. Maybe we have only 15-20 years left: what stories do we want in our heart? Get rid of it if it doesn't feel good! There is always a choice: is what I'm thinking a thought or a fact? We have the power! Start believing that...we can do our life our way!"

Then she tells me how she offered a Young Person Pastry class in her Asheville cabin. Kids were ages 10-13. "Of course, I didn't charge. It was just fun! Easy for kids to learn. And the tarts and pies were wonderful, too!" I was amazed, knowing I could never do that! When I visited her in her Asheville cabin, she made me peach galettes. I swooned with every bite.

Throughout our years as friends, even though Angela lives in Athens and Asheville and I live in Phoenix/Scottsdale, our conversations span the miles between us. She challenges me, encourages me. We inspire each other to be brave. We've walked the Camino de Santiago together along with pilgrims from all over the world. We visited Beatrice Woods in Ojai, her arms covered in bangles, her bejeweled sari sparkling like her blue eyes. Of course, I had to ask Beatrice what her secret was to living such a long and healthy life to 102: "Oh, that's easy to say," as Beatrice smiled slyly, "chocolate and young men!" Angela and I both took note.

"Keep family close!" Angela reminds me. "Shed those judgements, expectations! You are wasting time and energy. Relatives can drive you crazy...acceptance wins. We think differently, that's ok. Accept and respect political candidates, look for what you have in common. Family members are who they are!"

And so it is with our life-long friendship. The memories remain, and continue. As she drives me to the airport, my heart is full, her hours and hours of wisdom washing over me. I turn to her to say good bye for now, and asked her point blank: Why do you love me, Angela? She turned my way, touching my hand and said, "Susan, why wouldn't I?" My tears wouldn't stop all the way home....

*Chip Conley, best-selling author and speaker, hospitality entrepreneur and leading thought leader, created The Modern Elder Academy's mission "to inspire the ability to reframe a lifetime of experience and recognize one's mastery, relevance, and value in the modern workplace." The Modern Elder* is Conley's term and effort that "liberates and inspires us to embrace wisdom as a path of growing whole, not old...The Modern Elder*marries wisdom and curiosity."

Every month this newsletter will Feature the stories and wisdom of Modern Elders*. Please send in your Modern Elder* nomination. CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT

Susan Brooks

Today, I am 76 years old, and proud of it! Paul Simon, who is now in his 80's said it best years ago: us boomers were BORN AT THE RIGHT TIME!

Yes, I was born at the right time! I'm still a hippie from the 60's, I marched for civil rights for all humans, equal rights for women, waving my bra with the best. I am proud to be living and growing in a robust marriage of 55 years. I survived motherhood, and so did my now-adult children. I was an award-winning woman business owner when there were but a few of us. I've learned a whole bunch of lessons, and more importantly, I've earned my fair share of Wisdom, too. I am Pro-Age!

According to Chip Conley, one of today's leading thought leaders: "Experience is making a comeback. Wisdom never grows old." Chip created the hallmarks of the Modern Elder*: "learning to marry wisdom and experience with curiosity, cultivating a beginner's mind so that learning never ends, exemplifying a willingness to evolve both as a student and sage." Research shows that shifting our mindset about Aging can add 7.4 happy years to a person's life.

Proud to say I am a graduate of the Modern Elder Academy as well as an active participant in Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit programs. As one of the creators and hosts of the Thrive@55 event, we celebrated our female community leaders who were 55+.

As long as I'm able to see the sunrise every morning and keep a curious mind, there's more living to do, so much more to learn, so many new ways to serve. Trailblazer that I am, and always will be, I recognize my next mission: by example and demonstration I am committed to Changing the Face of Aging: One Modern Elder* at a time!

I welcome both local and national speaking engagements as well as one-on-one coaching opportunities to delve more deeply into navigating life transitions. EmailmeHere.

Juicy ways and energizing action steps: how to soak in the wisdom and energy of becoming your own Modern Elder*
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