It was a balmy Saturday on August 29, 2020, when I set out to celebrate my 80th birthday. My thoughtful daughter Heather had a surprise for me: the arrangements she made would allow me to experience the top item on my Bucket List. A luxury car was about to take the two of us and my executive assistant Layla from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to a Dairy Queen in Union, New Jersey. I was so excited!
The friendly, talkative driver, hearing us chatting away about the outing from the back seat, was confused. Looking at us through his rearview mirror as we crossed the George Washington Bridge, he questioned: “Excuse me asking, but are you seriously going to a Dairy Queen to celebrate your 80th birthday? Before I could answer, he hastily added: “Not that you look 80. I’d have guessed years younger! But there’s got to be more exciting things you could be doing to celebrate such a big milestone.”
First, I look 80, or at least my version of it. I’ve observed that there’s no one catch-all way to “look one’s age.” How we “look” varies across a broad spectrum. For example, my late lamented 99-year-old boyfriend was long, lean, still sexy to me, and sharp as a tack. Jerry lit up any room he was in till his last day on earth—at age 99—in his villa in Casa de Campo while we were enjoying cocktails. That’s what we want to aim for, to light up the world, or at least our corner of it—and go out (preferably fast, as he did), with a smile on your lips and love in your heart. So, considering this, I don’t put too much worry into whether any of us “look our age” or not because there is no one standard—or certainly shouldn’t be.
I’m in my 80s. Eighty-one, to be exact. Do you ever wonder what older people like me — and maybe you — are supposed to be doing? Taking a much-needed nap, perhaps? Soaking our dentures while trying to remember where we put our eyeglasses—which are most likely on top of our heads?
I reject the idea that our lives have to grow smaller as we grow older. They can expand. Eighty-somethings can write a bestselling book, a play or a symphony; give a lecture to a packed university auditorium; run a company; invent the next technological breakthrough — all while maybe also being a grandparent. We oldies might be volunteering our time and experience to help others succeed in their own lives. And, we may even be browsing through dating sites seeking new vistas for love in our next big act three after the death of a partner, a divorce or maybe a lifetime of being single.
All this only touches the mere surface of who we are — a collective, accomplished, fully-alive group of us in our mid-70s, 80s, 90s, and even 100s — and what we are up to! And this is why I decided to start writing this CelebrEighty column and opening up a community discussion.
In the weeks, months, and (universe willing) years ahead, I plan to share my experiences—personal, professional, and perhaps even romantic. I invite you to join me in each of these discussions, sharing your experiences and perspectives. I plan to dive in and explore such topics as:
Dating at Eighty and Beyond
How Our Adult Children Welcome Our Wisdom — or Not
Who We See in the Mirror and How it Reflects Our Inner Selves
Gifts to Give Now and Those to Leave to the World
Why the Fear of Death is In Fact Fear of Life…
In the beginning, there was the business card.
Then the e-mail address.
Next, the website.
Today, as a businessperson, if you are not an author, you lack a certain credibility.
Authoring a book has become the must-have for big media placements, speaking opportunities, and bigger clients, not to mention your chance for grabbing that elusive brass ring, a bestseller. Hey! You just never know!
Think of life as a round circle, like a pizza pie. One slice of the pie is your area of core competence, perhaps even genius. It’s what you do so well. Next to that slice is another slice of equal size, what you know you don’t know. For example, I know I cannot add, subtract or cook anything edible.
Then there’s the rest of the pie, the three-quarters of things in life that we don’t even know we don’t know anything about. In that mysterious realm, for most people, lie the secrets to successful book writing, publishing and marketing.
Just about twelve years ago I made a major transition, and closed the midtown Manhattan offices of my Public Relations firm. Through running a sizeable business and the day to day drama of dealing with my staff’s personal issues, I had essentially become everyone’s Jewish mother. As a result I could not do as much actual writing as I would have loved to do. When I took this leap of faith I made two critical decisions. First, by transitioning to ghostwriting I could do what I love: use my writing skills to help people become successful authors, then help them get published, then use my public relations skills to promote their book.
The second decision: I would not be bound by what others charged, but would instead charge what I thought I was worth. From the outset my fees were considerably higher than some other writers, though perhaps less than other. In any case, given my many years of experience as an award-winning, in-demand writer (for magazine articles, speeches, blogs, brochures and other promotional material), I thought my asking prices were justified.