What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?
I was a young mother with two children. My 14 year old sister was living with us. I think the first thing I did to keep myself sane during that time was going to therapy. I was 21, with two babies, my 14 year old sister and my best friend’s husband was killed in an unfortunate hunting accident. At that time, I was just trying to hold life together.
I do remember wearing a girdle. The first time I went to see the therapist for all this craziness happening around me, I was running around the house getting everything ready and I couldn’t find my girdle. My sister had it. She had worn it to school. People actually wore girdles in those days. I remember going to the therapist and just blurting out, “I would have been here earlier but I was looking for my girdle.”
I guess that was one thing I actually did for my beauty was try to contain my body, which was sad because I really had a cute figure and I thought I was heavy. I wasn’t stick thin. I always had big boobs and matching nice hips and a waist. I wasn’t thin, but I was very shapely. I think it’s sad looking back that I thought I should wear a girdle. Now everybody wears those Spanx, which hold you in like a sausage.
My mom was this wild Italian woman. She wasn’t a real feminine mom, but she gave me three things. She said I had beautiful eyebrows because they had an arch. I was always happy about that. She always told me to stand with my shoulders back. She would say things like, “Walk with your shoulders back. Stick your head up straight and walk with your shoulders back. Don’t stoop like Janet down the street. You’ll look sneaky.” That was a great beauty secret from my Italian mother.
I did always stick my chest out and have nice posture. My mom wasn’t real good about teaching me about the feminine side but she gave me my sense of humor, told me to stand up straight, told me I had nice eyebrows and that I was a good swimmer. I think those were my confidence boosters. Those were my beauty secrets. That’s what I remember from my youth.
I remember I had a yellow outfit, tight-fitting with the sides cut out. So I was dancing with this yellow outfit on and this guy says to my husband at the time, “Wow, look at that dish in the yellow outfit.” And he goes, “That’s my wife.” (laughs)
But I was so focused on trying to grow up, raise kids, and then of course the accident really impacted our whole life. It went from being in school, happy and carefree, to the opposite way too fast. I never regretted having my children, but some of the other things made life really tough. With my younger sister – we’re 9 years apart – but I got put in the position of being her mother. Just now, we’re starting to become sisters. It took a lifetime.
At 29, I got divorced. I went to Europe for 3 weeks. I came back and the kids’ dad walked out the next day. I was 28 years old, with 2 kids, in commission sales. And I thought, How am I going to do this?
I was very, very blessed. I worked for a wonderful man who put his hand on my back, like the hand of God, and said You can do this. I was very lucky. I just started selling real estate. I just put one foot in front of the other and I did okay. I made a living for us.
In 1981, it was a really bad market like now, and I ended up having to sell the cute BMW I had and sold real estate on a bicycle to support my family that particular summer. So those were my beauty products – I went back to exercise. (laughs)
What does beauty mean to you now?
I ride my bicycle almost everyday by the ocean. I exercise at the gym. I use face creams. I always looked younger than my age, but I have caught up now. My hands were always older than my age. My skin is so dry. I now put Neutrogena oil on my skin when it’s wet. People have always complained to me about my dry skin, like when I get a massage or have my nails done. I think it’s just part of my constitution. I have always fought it. The crummy thing is that I’m getting wrinkles and I don’t like that. I haven’t really accepted that yet, even though I know it’s part of the natural aging process. I can’t say Okay, I have inner beauty. And I know I do. Sometimes I see myself and I think Oh, you look different than you feel. I feel younger and better than when I look at my dry skin sometimes and see aging. I don’t like that. It’s not okay with me yet.
I think the thread of “My Beauty” is energy, keeping myself fresh by taking a day off alone several times a month. I have done this mostly on Fridays for many years. I travel along the coast both north and south. I put my music really loud and sing. Usually nobody asks me to sing, because I can’t carry a tune. (laughs) I sing with my sunroof open. I go down to Santa Cruz, get a nice massage and walk along the beach.
I still have longing for closer family ties to my siblings. They’re kind of all spread out in different directions. No one’s been in one room for 25 rooms. I’ve seen them all individually. They don’t come visit, but I go see them…I’ve decided that’s my gift to the family. I’d like for us to all be in one room, while we’re all still here. That’s a longing, for that connection.
What keeps me feeling young, healthy and beautiful is nature, art, living by the ocean, learning to be an artist, sculpting, painting. I enjoy gardening.I also think “reinventing myself” keeps me young. The last several years I have been learned to sculpt on stone and paint. What’s next? I think I have a book inside me that wants to come out, so maybe a writing class. I think these cycles are my ovaries needing to create. I still have one left.
Have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?
I didn’t get my nails done until 5 years ago. I really like doing that – going for a pedicure and manicure – so that’s a change. It’s a lot of fun. I think I take more care. I’m good about taking my vitamins. I go for acupuncture once a month, for balancing the female stuff. I think a lot of what beauty means to me…I love art, I love dancing, physical activity – hiking, cross-country skiing. That isn’t products but that’s what I think makes me feel beautiful. Being connected with people.
For instance, my business is really slow. I went in moaning to my manager and she said I needed to go see some people. I didn’t want to see people. But I went to the Pumpkin Festival and bought all these silly little pumpkins on sticks…$80 worth of pumpkins on sticks. I didn’t want to be strapped with all these stupid things so I thought I’m going to start seeing people. So I went to my clients’ houses – people I liked and had sold homes to over the years – and I bought them a pumpkin on a stick for Halloween. I chatted with them, and all the sudden started to feel better. I had been in a funk. I started going to baseball games with my lucky outfit…orange pearls for the SF Giants, matching earrings and a bracelet. I’m an extrovert, so to rejuvenate, I need to go out and things start happening. That’s what keeps me going.
I always looked younger than my age. When I got divorced (at 29), I had a boyfriend who was at Chico State College. My younger brother was really upset. He was a crazy guy, running around with all these women, and he wondered what I was doing. I was having fun! “But you have 2 kids to raise!”he said. And I answered, “You have 1 daughter to raise!” We were both single. He was so upset that I had a college boyfriend. It wasn’t really popular in those days to have a younger boyfriend.
There was one period of time when I was dating 3 or 4 guys at the same time. My dad would come over to watch the kids. He was just great. One night, he took me aside and said, “You know? I’m worried about you.” And I said, “Why?” “Well, for one thing, aren’t you afraid you’re going to get their names mixed up?” (laughs)
I got married again at 39. Even then, I didn’t feel my age because I was a bride at 39. I felt so young. My daughter and son walked me down the aisle. That was one thread about how I felt about myself…I always felt younger than I am. I say I’ve caught up. I think my face has caught up, but I don’t feel like my spirit has. I still don’t feel like I’m my age. I was telling someone, “In 15 years, I’ll probably be on a 3 wheel bicycle,” and I started laughing. I’ll be 80! And if I’m 80 on a 3 wheel bicycle, that’ll be pretty damn good. (laughs) Groceries in the back on a 3 wheel bicycle.