I grew up with a father who thought I was special and who wanted me to be the smart one in the family. He would sit me on his knee when I was around three years old and get me to pronounce long words for my relatives … ‘Czechoslovakia’ and ‘stethoscope’ were two that I remember. Pretty impressive! I grew up knowing that I would go to college and do something different with my life. In fact, for Christmas the year I was nine, I got a doctor’s medical bag (I loved the stethoscope) and a briefcase and typewriter instead of dolls.
My dad, a bank manager with a tough German heritage, talked to me often about politics and business. He was hard-working and opinionated and didn’t like the government interfering in his life, didn’t like handouts, and railed against unions. For many years, he worked three jobs to pay the bills while my mom stayed home with three kids (yes … Catholics!). He was an avid reader and liked to write letters to the editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer when he got angry about what he considered ‘another stupid government decision’. Then, he would read them aloud to me over breakfast in the morning.
My mom was part of the picture too. She told me more than once that she wished she had become a lawyer instead of a housewife. She also hated cooking and cleaning and other domestically-oriented things, including us kids sometimes. Obviously, I was conditioned from an early age to consider different options and make my own choices.
Fast forward to college, a good job, a better job and then an older husband who was president of a company, encouraged my career and introduced me to some of the finer things in life – like great haircuts, clothes, food, wine and travel. Even better, the “new” (25 year) husband – the true love of my life and incredible business partner – is, and always has been, an enthusiastic cheerleader for all of my life choices – even my yearly spa trips with Patty!
Either I watched too much TV or I just had a vivid imagination. But by age 5, I remember I definitely wanted to be wearing fabulous clothes – and work on a cruise ship like Oh, Susanna – and look “divine”. Think that these images came from a combination of several shows from the 50s and watching Fred and Ginger dancing all the time or that glamorous couple with the great terrier. Wearing chiffon – calling people darling – and smoking a cigarette with a holder. My absolute favorite was Shirley Temple in Poor Little Rich Girl – oh the lives these folks led! Beat my house by 10 miles!
Then there was my mother who always had ideas of slight grandeur. Meaning that she wanted to look good, sound good and have my sister Wendy and me treated like WASPs rather than “Italian girls”. Wasn’t till much of that discrimination passed that I understood my mother’s tough journey. She also took pride in knowing the right thing to wear and what was quality and what was a cheap imitation. QUALITY became one of my own mantras. And while “you get what you pay for” sounds like the 80s, there is still something to be said for buying value and quality.
Somewhere very near to age 12 I figured out that being a homemaker and living in a multiple family house and having lots of children was not going to work with my dreams. This was after my dream to be a nun and a gorgeous mother of ten passed. My folks were always pushing school – better to support my husband and family that inevitably I would have. What they didn’t realize was that I figured out that being “sophisticated” and “accomplished” really did have to do with education even if their image of how I would use it wasn’t for me.
Fast forward to college. Making serious choices started there – was “engaged” early in college and then realized that life in Indiana being a wife and mom wouldn’t quite work. So I ended the college to wife/mother trajectory – and I stayed the course – more school, more school and more school – part time at night but I kept going. It is SUCH a long story – part of the issue of being 60 plus. But bottom line, I set sail to be “more than” – to have an exciting life of accomplishment and adventure.
While the actual tale is quite mixed, I did follow my dreams – and sacrificed for them. NO REGRETS.
Being “fabulous” is a lot harder than it looks and involves MANY more character traits and habits than simply looking good. It helps to have support of dear friends and a mate/partner (like Bill who I married at 48/first time down the aisle!) that really want you to be smart, strong and staying fabulous. Best decision I ever made: rejecting the safe. While I fell short of my idols, from Hillary Clinton to Gloria Steinem, I am still at it – the alternative never crosses my mind.