Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Boys Just Want To Have ... Prom?: Junior Prom, Part 2

A couple of days ago, I wrote about my daughter's upcoming prom. The anticipation. The glamor. The Facebook page where junior girls are posting pictures of their dresses. 

(BTW, we are now on frock number two, and I will keep you posted.)

What I didn't realize is that the boys seem to be just as excited.

Or so they would have us believe.

'Turns out some enterprising boys have set up a brother Facebook page. It has 59 members and following the lead of their female classmates, many of the young men have posted their proposed prom looks. Comments are few and far between, but some of the more — shall we say — "creative" pictures have generated a lot of "likes."

Here are some of my favorites, along with their descriptions:

"I'm getting this"

"pic of me wearing my tux. its made from real 32 K gold so imma be swooping yo dates like I'm apple picking"

"Hey guys just a thought, I want to the north end and tried this on today, I think it looks fab"

"Tryna make a statement this year"

Some boys are planning to be more casual about the whole thing ...

While others are going for drama ...

Then, there are the more traditional options ...

My loyal readers will surely understand when I insist that I wouldn't normally condone boys making fun of girls. But, the whole Facebook prom dress thing struck me as so odd and (shortly after) this parody struck me as so funny ... I can't help myself. The comments are clever, the pictures are silly, and it all seems to be in good humor.

Classic black tie? Leather? Gold? Or cape and breeches? It's a tough call, but the boys seem to be on top of it. And, if all else fails, a boy can always throwback to the 1970s and choose a tux that matches the color of his date's dress ...

Audible sigh. 'Reminds me of pictures of my husband back in 1976. 

Except his was yellow.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Promises, Promises: Junior Prom, Part 1

As my constant kvetching has told you (over and over and over again), we are in the throes of some serous winter weather here in the greater Boston area. Besides the snow as high as an elephant's eye (if that elephant was standing on a second story balcony, maybe), we've had frigid temperatures. Today, it's actually going to be in the mid-30s. First time in three-plus weeks. But, it will drop into the single digits again tonight and tomorrow, and by Tuesday with the windchill, we're looking at negative numbers.

Southern Florida has never sounded better to me. Then again, the temperature there has dipped below freezing too.

Nevertheless, the girls in my daughter's high school class have been showing some skin lately. Quite a bit of it.

Oh sure, they're wearing Uggs and down jackets and — miracle of miracles — even hats, scarves and gloves. But, once they're safe at home, they're posting selfies in strapless dresses and slits up to you-know-where.

Why? The answer is simple; in fact, it's a four-letter word.


As a mother, I naturally want my daughter to have everything I never had. Well, my urban, rather nerdly — and proud of it — high school in Manhattan certainly didn't have a prom. We did have a senior party at some club downtown. I went with one of my besties and wore a yellow jumpsuit with huge sharp shoulder pads and a wide black patent leather belt (it was 1980 and I was so new wave — the outfit was later affectionately referred to as the "taxicab"). Senior celebration aside, it was so not a prom. The handful of girls who brought dates from their neighborhoods were the exception, not the rule.

But, it didn't bother me that I never had a prom. Just like it didn't bother me that we didn't have a football team or cheerleaders. 

Here in our comfortable little suburb, my daughter is participating in more, shall we say, traditional high school rituals. A highlight of last semester was the annual "Powder Puff" game. (A thoroughly dated and demeaning event, IMHO. By all means, don't get the feminist mother from New York City started.) And, in just a little over two months ... Junior Prom.


As I've already mentioned, I can't draw from personal prom experience, but I can imagine that the age of social media has drastically changed how girls prepare. It starts months in advance. Some enterprising juniors have created a (private) Facebook page. Girls join and then post pictures of the dresses they're considering. There seems to be some sort of first-come/first-served honor system involved. Once you post a picture and assert that it is the dress, your dress, no one else is supposed to buy it. It's also an opportunity for you to elicit feedback if you haven't quite made up your mind.

We hear a lot about how mean teenagers, especially teen girls, can be online. But all of the comments on the Junior Prom Dress page have been super supportive. "Cute!" "Great color!" "Omg, love it!" I'm hoping that this is how they all truly feel and how they all truly interact. (I'd hate to learn later that there is some sister site on which the cool girls trash the dresses of the un-cool.)

After much consideration — and some back and forth with her friends/fashion consultants — my own daughter has finally ordered a dress. It's one-shouldered, which made her parents very happy (and I think will make her more comfortable that evening as well). It's a brilliant blue with some bling on top. We tracked the shipping this morning and it should arrive tomorrow.

Yes, we're looking forward to it.

Yes, I'll post a story once we know how it looks.

And, no, I'm not living vicariously.

Well, not much.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pass the (Microwave) Popcorn: How I Met Your Mother

We have been buried under snow for more than three weeks now. Truly, the piles are ten and twelve-feet high, effectively making every single intersection a blind-spot death-trap. There are no sidewalks to be seen. And roofs have quite literally caved in. The riding ring at my daughter's stable is officially closed until March (a beam cracked last week and can't be repaired until the roof is snow-free — if and when that ever happens). 

Potentially more traumatic ... the roof of a small strip mall in our town collapsed and the building may be condemned. It wasn't historic (or particularly attractive even), but it contained the town's sole Starbucks! No more decaf, low-fat caramel macchiatos, no more friendly and surprisingly literate baristas.

The horror!

So, with six snowdays so far, impassable roads and frigid temperatures (and my husband shoveling indeterminable amounts of snow in 50 mph winds), my teenage daughter and I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the sectional in front of the television. For many moons, she's encouraged me to watch How I Met Your Mother (all nine — yes, nine — seasons are available on demand on Netflix). Two blizzards ago, I finally agreed.

We are now on season four, episode sixteen.

Before you do any math, let me explain that each episode ran only thirty minutes when the series was on in real time. Without commercial breaks, they run just about twenty. 

Okay, you can do the math now.

Wait. Please don't.

The thing is, now officially halfway through the series' entire run, I understand why my daughter loves it so. It's really very funny. The characters are just quirky enough to be entertaining. Their scrapes and inside jokes border on the absurd but are true to their own wacky logic.

How I Met Your Mother revolves around a group of young professionals in a mid-1990's New York that looks nothing like that city but exactly like a backlot at some Hollywood studio. To my credit, I've only pointed that out once or maybe twice per episode. The group includes Ted, an architect and sort of the moral compass of the show; Lilly and Marshall, a teacher and lawyer respectively, who are so in love it would be sickening except that they're also so oversexed; Robin, a newscaster and former mall singer from Canada; and Barney Stinson.

Ah, Barney.

If the stories weren't funny (they are), if the writing wasn't good (it is), and if the rest of the cast weren't fine (and then some), I would still watch because of Barney.

Barney, a determined playboy whose mysterious job affords him a sleek bachelor pad and countless custom suits, is played to perfection by Neil Patrick Harris. Every time I think I've heard all the possible Barney-isms ("Suit up!" "Legend — wait for it — dary!"), he creates a new one ("Possipimble!"). He has very few admirable qualities (all right, none, it's pretty much none). He has no problem lying, cheating, stealing to get into a girl's bed, and less than no problem sneaking out of it while she's in the bathroom after the deed is done, leaving a "Dear Jane" note on his now ex-lover's pillow.

The character is fairly despicable, but NPH is entirely adorable. Who knew Doogie Howser would grow up to be such a louse — and such an amazing talent. I'm more sorry than ever that I missed him as Hedwig on Broadway this past year.

Still, there's something to look forward to. This coming Sunday, The Oscars will be hosted by none other than Barney Stinson himself. Still basking in the success of her recommendation and our How I Met marathon, my daughter has agreed to watch the awards with me.

After all, if I can watch 27.3 sitcom hours with her, she can watch a 6-hour awards show with me.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fifty Shades of Spongebob

Our tiny town's tiny movie theatre is showing two films this week: Fifty Shades of Grey and Spongebob.

Something for everyone.

I guess.

For the longest time, we didn't have a movie theatre here. When I first started dating my now husband, there was a small duplex, run by one of our Selectmen. They showed what I would call first-and-a-half run movies. New titles, but maybe two weeks after they opened at the multiplex a few towns over. The auditoriums were decidedly low-tech and the concessions were reasonably priced. Best of all, I could walk there from our apartment.

The owner eventually sold the building to our YMCA, which turned it into a gymnastics studio. I spent many a pleasant afternoon there, in a folding chair with a copy of The New Yorker, while my daughter tumbled. But, I missed having a movie theatre. The Y eventually sold the building to developers and that's when things got interesting.

A group of concerned citizens started a not-for-profit called The Warwick Theater Foundation. Its goal was to restore and preserve the space for future generations. They printed 1,000 "WTF" bumper stickers before someone figured it out. Although well-meaning, the group didn't seem very organized and despite its best efforts, the building was demolished.

Not to worry though. When the new "multi-use" development opened, we had a cinema once again. And not just any old cinema. The new place has a bar menu and waitress service, comfy reclining seats with trays so you can imbibe while you watch. It's all very fancy. And, don't get me wrong, I'm just happy that there's a movie theatre in town again of any sort.

But, Fifty Shades of Spongebob? Really, is that the best we can do?

Don't get me started on the dearth of films for thinking grownup women. But, maybe I'm not the target audience.

My daughter and her friends are no longer into Spongebob, and only mildly intrigued by the whole Fifty Shades thing. In recent cafeteria conversations (recreated by my daughter as we drove through the snow to her stable yesterday), the girls — most of whom are turning 17 — seem much more excited about their newfound ability to see an R-rated movie than by anything specific in said movie.

Meanwhile, despite the runaway popularity of the soft porn Fifty Shades novels, and the massive publicity afforded the film, none of the adults I know are particularly interested. The reviews to date have been ... um ... fifty shades of lousy. And I can't help but wonder how the adult title is affecting attendance at the family feature.

Surely some of Spongebob's prospective patrons — or, rather, the prospective patrons' parents — are scared off by the more colorful title next door. But, hey! At least it's just next door. At least there's a door between them. The audiences at the WestWind Solano Drive-In in Concord, CA don't have that much.

Apparently, the drive-in is playing the same two movies showing here. The issue is that both screens are visible across the parking area. 

Should make for an interesting "Family Nite" at the movies.

Whips and chains and blindfolds. Oh my.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Snack Attack

My daughter is an active seventeen-year-old. 

Her high school, which was built just a few years ago in a fairly state-of-the-art way, is too small for the number of students currently enrolled. So the kids eat lunch in shifts. 

For better or worse, my daughter is in one of the earlier groups, breaking at about 11. 

For better or worse, this makes for one very hungry teenager when she gets home.

Snacking isn't intrinsically bad. In fact, a lot of weight management programs suggest frequent snacks — small and healthy, of course — as a way to curb cravings and eat moderately throughout the day.

The trick is the "healthy" part.

For concerned parents, there's plenty of advice out there. For example, the website suggests the following "Top Healthy Snacks for Teenagers:"

1. Hard boiled eggs plus an apple
2. String cheese plus almonds
3. Soft pretzels and hummus
4. Peanut butter and an apple
5. Low fat yogurt with berries and cottage cheese
6. Popcorn mixed with nuts and dried fruit
7. Whole wheat English muffin with pizza sauce, veggies and mozzarella
8. Baked corn chips with bean dip

Excellent ideas all. Except for one thing. 

Two really.

My daughter's eyes rolling up and over into the back of her head were I to suggest any of them.

After all, what kind of after-school snack list excludes staples like raw chocolate chip cookie dough? Cheese Poofs? Double Stuff Oreos? Ben & Jerry's S'mores? Clearly the well-intentioned list is missing some very basic food groups. Like chocolate, refined sugar, processed flour and orange ... well ... whatever that is on the Cheese Poofs that makes them glow in the dark.

What is the connection between teenagers and junk food? Is it simply impulse control? Is it a means of relatively safe rebellion? Or is it something even deeper?

When my daughter was little (read, when I was still the boss), she definitely ate a healthier diet. I was fairly diligent about offering her a variety of healthful options. (I say "fairly" because we did go through a chicken nugget phase for a time.) Her pediatrician once explained that I couldn't control what she actually ate, but I could control what I put in front of her. As she became more and more autonomous, it became more and more difficult to steer her toward the good stuff and away from the "Double Stuff."

To her credit, she's exceptionally hearty and healthy. Her figure is lean and strong; she sleeps well; she's rarely sick with so much as a cold. (Just check her attendance record.) And, after we got through some issues with her baby teeth, she's never even had a cavity.

For all my organic yogurt, tofu and tempeh, that's something I can't boast.

Is that the trick then? Should I follow that old adage "If you can't beat them, join them?" Should I trade in my air-popped popcorn for a big florescent bag of Cheese Poofs?

It's an idea. But, the thing is, I don't actually like the junk she chooses. I'm sure I did at some point (and, trust me, I have plenty of middle-aged mom vices myself). 

But Cheese Poofs — like jeggings — are only for the young.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Paying Lip Service to Abuse

The other night, I watched the Grammy Awards with my teenage daughter. Well, to be more specific, I watched the first two hours or so (or less, most likely) with her, then excused myself and went to bed while she finished the show without her lovin' mama.

I don't know about y'all, but I just can't stay up that late these days.

Anyway, the presentation was fairly fast-paced, moving quickly from aging metal stars (AC/DC) to pop princesses (Taylor Swift) to significant artistes (Madonna and her bevy of bulls — btw, were those things creepy or what? Almost as creepy as the Material Girl's shiny (dare we say "plastic?") cheekbones.)

There were some inevitable political statements: both Pharrell and Beyonce had backup dancers strike the now infamous and unutterably sad "don't shoot" pose. Prince, channeling his inner Hindu in orange silk pajamas, explained that "Like books and black lives, albums still matter." But, the biggest, most coordinated statement was around the issue of domestic violence.

President Obama, in a prerecorded video, stated that "It’s not okay and it has to stop ... it’s on us, all of us, to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported and where all our young people, men and women, can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them."

Domestic abuse survivor, activist and poet Brooke Axtell performed a powerful autobiographical written-word piece. And Katy Perry (backed, it seemed by the ghost of Martha Graham), shed her violet hair and dancing sharks for a very serious rendition of "By the Grace of God," a very serious song about a very serious topic.

The whole thing would have been very serious.

If it didn't seem so hypocritical.

Sitting in the audience (and nominated for awards that evening) was Chris Brown, along with his ex-girlfriend (and alleged victim) Rihanna. You may remember that both musicians missed the Grammy Awards back in 2012: Brown, because he was being detained; Rihanna, because her face was smashed in.

And while they may currently be the most popular poster children for domestic violence, their abusive relationship (should I denature it by saying "domestic incident?") is by no means unique or new. The music industry has a long history of physical and sexual abuse. And some of the accused — in many cases, universally acknowledged — perps are among our most beloved idols: Paul McCartney, James Brown, Ike Turner, Tommy Lee, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Jackson, Cee Lo Green, Slash, Vanilla Ice, Axl Rose, Vince Neil, Lou Rawls, Scott Weiland, even Yanni. 

Apparently, the issue crosses boundaries of age, race and musical genre.

I'm not complaining about the domestic violence PSA inserted into the Grammy Awards. The President's message was important, Axtell's poem was moving and even Perry's kind of dull performance was well-intentioned. But, I would encourage the music industry to take a closer, harder look at itself. Standing up against domestic violence in an awards broadcast is all well and good, but more substantive change needs to take place. Songs and performances that objectify women's bodies, that undermine women's roles as equals, that, in some cases, celebrate rape and violence. These need to be stopped. 

The trouble is, all of the above make money.

So until the recording industry is willing to forego its ill-gotten gains, it all seems like lip service to me.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Say It Ain't Snow!

The last two weeks have been a little bit tedious. Where the weather is concerned. 

Since my agency is "virtual," we spend an inordinate amount of time on conference calls. These days, clients and colleagues from other parts of the country have an almost morbid curiosity: "So, how many inches did you get last night?" (Answer: "More than you did in Florida, all right? And stop rubbing it in!") Meanwhile, locals compare the same notes over and over. "I can't believe the kids have another snow day!" Or "Eighteen more inches? Where are they going to put it all?" 

I live in a small colonial town. In our historic neighborhood, the homes are very close together, attached in many cases. Once we dig out cars and shovel paths to and from front doors, we end up with piles that can easily be 4 or 6 or 8 feet high. Truly the only thing taller around here is the pile of laundry in my teenage daughter's bathroom. Each day, she adds pajamas, a school outfit and layers of horsey gear from the stable. (Yes, the smell is particularly barnish by now.) You see, I haven't been able to actually do her laundry because the vent from the dryer in our basement is buried under all that snow. And if you run the dryer with the vent unable to ... well ... vent, that's very dangerous.

The things I've learned! Growing up in New York City, we didn't see this much snow. And even if we did, the laundry room in my high rise apartment building would still be operating, I assume. We didn't own a shovel. We didn't have to dig cars out of snowbanks, because (a) we didn't have snowbanks and (b) we didn't have a car.

It's snowing now. Lightly, but I know what's coming. We're expecting another storm over the next two days (our third major snowfall in as many weeks).

I'm so over it!

Meanwhile, my daughter, still a relatively new driver, has to take one of the cars to a babysitting gig this evening. And she'll want to drive to the stable tomorrow morning. She's also the only one among her BFFs who has had her license long enough to chauffeur other teens. So, essentially, she's always the designated driver. "Go slooooow," I beg her. "Pleeeeease be careful." 

Roads are narrow and slippery. There are no sidewalks anywhere which means that there are pedestrians everywhere. The banks plowed high create blind spots at every intersection.

Did I mention that I'm over it?

Of course, all snow is not created equal. For example, we go up to Vermont a couple of times each winter and deal with much more white stuff there than we have to here. On ski weekends, giant drifts and piles aren't such a pain. They're "picturesque." Here at home? Not so much.

So, we settle in with a fire, hot tea, cold weather comfort foods like stew and chowder. Let's look on the bright side ... only 6 more weeks until Spring.

How many more storms can we possibly have in 6 weeks?

Wait. Don't answer that.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hey, Upper Eastsiders

One of the really nice things about coming from New York is that you don't have to look very far to find movies and TV shows that feature your very own hometown. There's Blue Bloods, Girls, Elementary, How I Met Your Mother, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, CSI: NY and, of course, Sex and the City. The Good Wife is supposed to be set in Chicago, but it's filmed in New York, and if you think about it, Washington's Embassy Row in Madam Secretary looks just like Manhattan's Riverside Drive. 

Oh wait ... it is Manhattan's Riverside Drive.

Whenever I'm homesick, all I have to do is find You've Got Mail on cable or pull out my well-worn DVD. Meg Ryan's adorable "Shop Around the Corner" is quite literally around the corner from where I grew up. The whole movie is pretty much a love poem to my neighborhood (not surprising, it was Nora Ephron's 'hood too). I may live in New England, but I'm still an Upper Westsider.

Maybe that's why I don't get Gossip Girl.

Maybe you have to be from the East Side.

In the last two weeks, we've had four snow days (the first and only snow days of the year — so far at least). Once she slept in until 11, once her homework was (halfheartedly) done, once she and a neighbor and the neighbor's little brother went sledding, my daughter was b-o-r-e-d. Bored. Luckily, despite snowmageddon rounds one and two, we never lost power or cable service or WiFi. My high honors high school student — who has been exposed to fine art and world-class culture since, well, birth — did what any red-blooded American teen would do.

She binged on Netflix.

Did she watch documentaries? The Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice? Downton Abbey? The BBC's Little Dorrit? Of course not. She watched back-to-back (to-back-to-back) episodes of Gossip Girl.

Here's where I came in. I was getting some cabin fever of my own. Although most of my clients were working through the blizzards, it was fairly quiet. The Y was closed and the lack of sidewalks and 8-foot snow piles at every intersection kept me from my usual walks. So, I decided to settle in and watch with her.

"Hey, Upper Eastsiders," saluted the anonymous and oh-so-snarky eponymous narrator at the beginning of the show. She then proceeded to air all the dirty laundry of Serena van der Woodsen, Blair Waldorf and assorted other prep school pretties with preposterous names. Apparently Manhattan's elite high schoolers party very hard, wear multiple designer outfits each day and live in absolutely palatial apartments on Park Avenue. (Except for one artsy family that lives in a funky, though equally palatial, loft in Brooklyn.) There are affairs and intrigues and eating disorders. The mothers (all of whom look considerably younger than I do) veer toward the frowsy and slightly inebriated. Then again, they aren't the main event. Their kids are. They own Manhattan.

Just like we did back in 1979, right?

Um ... not!

I went to high school on Park Avenue myself, but my experience couldn't have been farther from that of Serena and Blair. We were a school full of brainy kids, and accordingly most of us were, shall we say, fashion-challenged. No designer outfits (except, naturally, my Calvin Klein jeans). No outrageous parties. No last minute trips to Rio with a new boyfriend. We did homework, and went to the library and violin lessons and play rehearsals, and babysat on the weekends so we'd have pocket money.

It makes me wonder if today's teen audience thinks that there are really people living the Gossip Girl life. Not many, I'd tell them. Not many, if any.

Then again, people still ask me if living in NYC is like Seinfeld or, worse, The Real Housewives. No. It's not. And growing up there wasn't like The Carrie Diaries either. 

Maybe someday I'll write a TV series about what it was really like. 

Then again, I don't think it would do very well on Netflix.

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Monday, February 2, 2015

Real Women, Real Workouts

When I first moved to Boston back in 1985, I was religious about going to the gym. As soon as I landed my first "real job," as a copywriter for a major cable company, I joined a women's workout club. It was conveniently located halfway between my apartment and my office. Every single weekday morning (and many Saturdays too), I took aerobics. Those were the days when we wore suspender leotards, unitards with crop tops and even leg warmers. And, yes, there was some day-glow going down as well. At 7:15 every morning, we were there, determined to "make it burn."

The locker room presented a daily scene just as dated as the gym. After class, we showered and blow dried our hair (picture Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, pre-haircut). Most of us worked in offices nearby and we all wore those little skirt and jacket suits, some with silky bow ties, and walked out in white athletic shoes, changing into pumps once we got to work.


Fast forward some 30 years. These days, I belong to a local — and co-ed — YMCA. It's a wonderful facility, thanks mainly to donations from two extremely high net worth neighbors. There are about 60 group exercise classes to choose from every week. In a perfect world, I'd go to yoga Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and to Zumba Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Of course, it's not a perfect world.

Today, for example, we're having our second snowstorm in as many weeks. They're anticipating another 12 inches on top of the 28 we already have. Even if the Y were open (and I don't know that it is), I'm not driving in this. No how, no way.

Weather isn't the only impediment either. Between kids and clients and cars and conference calls, I often have conflicts that keep me from shaking my booty (or downward dogging, depending on the day). I figure that if I get there 4 times a week I'm doing pretty well.

I've also gotten over how I look while I'm there.

Some of the younger women must spend half their paychecks on workout wear. Lululemon yoga pants start at $88 and can run more than $100. (My teenage daughter once asked for a pair and I reminded her that she doesn't workout.) Myself, I'm perfectly happy in my Target specials, with an old tee shirt on top. And if I'm wearing a sports bra, no one's going to know about it but me. That tee shirt ain't coming off.

I do marvel at the, shall we say "firmer" bodies next to mine (especially in the jam-packed class on Saturday mornings). I wonder if they even know how remarkable they are. Or do they only see their nearly invisible flaws when they look in the mirror, like we all did? Regardless, I refuse to be intimidated. I'm not 23 anymore and let's just say there's more of me to love than there used to be. But, it isn't a competition. I'm there (when I'm actually there) for me.

That's why I love the TV commercial my BFF recently sent me. (She, btw, also remains a dedicated gym goer now that we're in our fifth fabulous decade.) The spot was created by Sports England to help women overcome "worries about being judged for being the wrong size, not fit enough and not skilled enough."

It's called "This Girl Can" and you can watch it here. 

My favorite line? "I jiggle therefore I am." Yep, pretty much the state of things. On this end. These days.

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