F. Scott Fitzgerald said,

"There are no second acts in American lives."

Most people think he was crazy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My Own Private Idaho. Not Really. I've Never Been to Idaho. So I Guess This is My Own Private Carolina.

I have been in my current home for several years, bringing it back to life as it were, from some silly and inappropriate updates. (This can also be called "a serious affinity for green carpeting and ugly wallpaper.")

One of the most compelling things about this house (besides the inherent character of the Dutch doors, wide plank flooring, and various nooks and crannies), is that it was built by two artists.

The artists who built my house were Joe Wallace King (who painted mostly portraits under the name Vinciata) and Earline Heath King, who became a highly-acclaimed sculptor. This couple had been high school sweethearts, both interested in art and music, living and learning in Europe, DC and New York...then moving back to the neighborhood where they met, and built the house I now own. There's a marble fireplace, crystal chandeliers, a slate roof, a garden house, and a walled garden...magazine-worthy potential. But the most important thing to me? The fact that the original owner, Earline Heath King, didn't start her career until she was fifty.

For the past few years, fifty has been like a benchmark for me. "When I'm fifty" has been a mantra...and a way to procrastinate. But learning that the remarkable artist who designed this house didn't begin her career until she was fifty seemed to be an omen. I could procrastinate no longer; I needed to become the person I always believed I could be.
In part, that meant a "trip backward." I was interested in getting back to my roots, so to speak, and revisit the person I was before I had to give myself up in order to take care of other folks. (I don't regret this--it was my job to raise those little people.) Some of these roots came in the form of English Ivy that I spent months yanking out, uncovering hydrangea in the process.

And that, my friends, is what I like to call a "sweet-a$$ metaphor."

When did we switch from "New and Improved" to "Authentic?"

One of the buzzwords I hear more and more in everyday conversation is "authentic." It's been used to describe everything from social networking media to lifestyle choices. I've even caught myself using it on occassion. But I've noticed that in almost all of these instances, "authentic" has been used erroneously.

Dictionary.com, my source of choice (mainly because I'm lazy and don't want to get off my butt to go to the bookshelf and take down the real dictionary when it's so much easier just to minimize and Google), says this about authentic:

1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.

Taking these definitions into consideration, which one is the right one when used in the following sentence:
"Twitter could possibly be the most authentic form of social media."

Okay, so it's not a reproduction Twitter. Or a reproduced social media. It has been verified to indeed be Twitter, and many people believe it to be so.
But what the he!! does it mean?

In raising the curtain on a second act, more and more of us are referring to our "authentic" selves, when in reality we simply mean being honest with ourselves. Folks want to use a 'cool' (or 'hot', for that matter) word to describe what they are trying to do--get back to the things that made them happiest. In essence, using a word like "authentic" puts a spin on something that should, at it's core, be very real.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Reinvention" vs "Second Act"

In life, we all try on a variety of hats before we find one that fits comfortably. The problem is...we then change hats again, just to stay in style. That's reinvention. A second act is when you give up the new styles and go back to the hat that fit you really well to begin with, then tweak it a little--add a flower or a new band or some big fuchsia-colored ostrich plumes...but it's still the same hat underneath.

Don't get me wrong...I love changing hats. But reinvention can be used over and over again as an escape hatch; a second act is finding yourself again.

This will be a venue for Second Acts--situations that give folks an opportunity to be themselves again--maybe more successful, maybe more connected, maybe more famous, but nevertheless, themselves.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Years After "Lears"

Back in the late eighties, I was offered a subscription to Lears, a magazine marketed to women over thirty-five.

I was mortified.

I was probably in my late twenties at the time, and I thought to myself "WTF?" (This was before WTF was part of the American lexicon, but I always was cutting-edge.) Thirty-five? That was OLD! Did I look thirty-five? Really? Because if I did, it was time to get out the straight razor.

Lears was the brainchild and baby of Frances Lear, the ex-wife of Norman, who charged her husband a whopping $112 million for his freedom. I like to think she believed in the power of her age, and Lears was a big eff-you to younger women who may have had longer hair and better legs and boobs that hadn't yet made an acquaintance with Mr. Gravity, but they didn't have the moxie of those of us who had been around the block a time or two. (Of course at the time, I was still the former, not the latter.)

After Lears folded, the slack was picked up by More, which markets itself to women of a certain age. (They don't really say what age, but one can infer they mean 40+.) More takes less of an "eff-you" attitude and more of a "forty is the new twenty-eight." These are some of the tag lines in their direct-mailing campaign: "The prime of your life...is the time of your life!" and "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and "Maybe you had to play by the rules growing up. Not anymore!"

So here I am, not twenty-nine anymore. Mr. Gravity and I are on intimate terms. Not only am I 40+, I'm 50+. And according to More, forty might be the new twenty-eight, but fifty is the new thirteen. We may be cutting our hair and doing digestion commercials like Jamie Lee Curtis, but we are stronger and smarter and more determined than ever.

And that's an awesome second act.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is it a comeback if you never really left?

Unless you've been on vacation somewhere outside the scope of this particular planet, you know that change is in the air. Oprah is leaving her talk show to build her own network. (In case you are not aware, this is a promotion, folks. It's like me jumping to school superintendent, which is not a job I would ever---even for a million dollars--want. Okay, I'm lying. I would do it for a million dollars. I would probably do it for a hundred thousand dollars, because I can, indeed, be bought.)

It seems as though half of Obama's staff has left or is leaving, even though that's not exactly true--just a few of his key players, and that's probably to be expected, given that working in the White House has got to be a tough, stressful, tiring job.

But what I'm most interested in right now are the "comebacks." Some of these we're delighted to see (Betty White and Valerie Bertinelli) and some probably should have stayed gone (whooping cough and bedbugs). Any way you look at it, comebacks are making a comeback.

In pondering these comebacks, I'm interested in what these folks experienced in the interim---the time they laid low when they were no longer in the spotlight. I'm sure the bulk of them did the things we all do--shopped for groceries, went to the mall, walked the dog, and cooked hamburgers on the grill. Ex-famous folks undoubtedly have an adjustment to make from famous to not-so-famous, and I'm sure some of them live the rest of their lives trying to be famous again.

What about, instead of a comeback, a second act?

That's what I'm hoping to explore in my next life--my own Second Act.