My thoughts on Book Club

I saw Book Club this weekend. As a writer and a voracious reader, a movie about a book club is immediately appealing to me. Throw in some of my favorite actresses, like Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda, and no additional incentive is required. That being said, I do have my own issues with aging, especially the discrepancy between how an aging woman is treated versus a man. I worried about how the women in this movie would be betrayed, and if it would trigger my own fears about aging.

 So, what did I think about the movie?

In a nutshell, I loved almost every part of it. I smiled, I laughed out loud, I choked up, I applauded, I swooned. I’m a big fan of romantic comedies with happily-ever-after endings. The fact that the couples in this movie were at least twenty years older than me had no bearing on my feelings. Here’s why.

The friendship shared by the four women was supportive, hilarious, and honest, akin to Sex and the City. They teased each other endlessly, but they had each other’s backs. The personalities were somewhat clichéd (there was the “promiscuous” one (Fonda), the “prude,” (Bergen) and the idealist (Steenburgen). There were jabs about one of the male leads needing Viagra and one of the female characters having plastic surgery. None of this bothered me because the characters were developed beyond these stereotypes. And, the truth is, many men of a certain age do take the little blue pill and many women of a certain age (and even millennials) get plastic surgery! And while erectile function was an issue for one of the couples, the other romantic story lines developed like any other romance. I’m a fan of grand gestures in romantic comedies and this movie had them in spades, and it was wonderful.

 As I watched the film, it occurred to me that the women could have been any age and have almost the same conversations. In nearly every group of friends, there’s someone who is afraid of getting hurt, not happy with her body, holding a grudge against a family member etc. Women of all ages commiserate over bottles of wine and seek guidance on what to wear on a special occasion. I liked that these women were portrayed as vulnerable despite being old enough to qualify for Medicare. With each decade of my life, I become less obsessed with what others think of me, but at the heart of it, I’m still made of flesh and blood and can’t imagine a time when I won’t seek some sort of reassurance/validation/advice from friends, even over things some might consider frivolous or immature.

 The female characters were successful women. One was a Federal judge, another owned a hotel, and another was a well-known chef. Yet they still craved romance and attention from the opposite sex. What’s so wrong with that? I’m tired of watching television and movies where it’s the woman who loses interest in sex and not the man. Or the divorced man or widower gets right back in the dating scene, usually with a younger woman, and the divorced woman (or widow) focuses only on her career or her children. Why can’t she have both? I don’t think women lose their power because they want romantic love. I haven’t read many of the reviews, but I’m sure there are some who think the movie is anti-feminist because it focuses on women needing a man. I didn’t get that vibe at all. All four women had proven that they were completely capable of taking care of themselves. Admitting that they wanted sexual companionship and romantic love doesn’t change that.

 I had small issues with the film, for instance, I wished Keaton’s character had more of a spine a little earlier with respect to her children, but I walked out of the theater with a smile on my face and the warm and fuzzies in my belly.

Fun facts: One of Candace Bergen’s online dates played her love interest in the last season of Sex and the City. My friend also pointed out that Don Johnson, one of the male leads, is the real father of Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele in the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the book they’re reading.

public service announcement: don’t call me Ma’am

I’m interrupting my regularly-scheduled editing session to write this blog post.

I’m attracted to men with good manners. I find it sexy. I always notice when a man, even a stranger, lets everyone on or off an elevator before exiting himself. I think it’s sweet when a date walks to the passenger side of the car to open the door for me. I like when a man opens a door for me in restaurants or simply directs me to walk through an entrance way before him. While I firmly believe in equal rights for women, I’m not a feminist to the point where I don’t believe in chivalry, and I make no apologies for appreciating being treated like the gentler sex sometimes. I also welcome good manners in general—people who say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” or any variation of these expressions; individuals who wait their turn, who are mindful of other people around them. Good manners is near the top of my “must-have” list for potential boyfriends.

Yes, I like good manners. What I don’t like is being called “ma’am.”

I’ve had countless discussions with other women, both face-to-face and via social media and this is what I’ve discovered: We hate the term “ma’am” —HATE IT! It makes us feel old and unattractive. As if the media and Hollywood don’t already give us a complex about aging, women in their thirties, forties, and fifties don’t need it from regular people serving us coffee, handing us deliveries, and running up our items at the grocery store. I’ve always been told I look much younger than my actual age, but over the last few months, I’ve been called “ma’am” so many times I’m afraid I went to sleep one night and woke up old and matronly. I’ve been tempted to shout, “Ma’am?? How old do you think I am??” (Confession: I have done this once or twice and immediately felt stupid, but it’s because “ma’am” is a horrible word and one most women abhor.) I’m no longer an ingénue, but I’m a far cry from an “older” woman, yet after I’m called “ma’am,” I confess to questioning whether the person I see in the mirror is the same woman others see when they look at me. I’ve second guessed my own female vitality, and I know I’m not alone, all because some misguided person thought calling me “ma’am” was the polite thing to do. It’s not.

I appreciate that many people are raised to refer to women as “ma’am” as a term of respect or to be polite, but unless the person doing the greeting is a child who thinks any adult over the age of twenty is old, or you are speaking to a woman who is clearly over the age of seventy, it’s MUCH kinder to use another word, for example, “miss.”

Thank you for listening. Now back to my regularly-scheduled evening of edits.