Sunday, June 19, 2016

So, this is 50.

So, This is 50.

So this is 50.  It doesn’t feel like 50.  It doesn’t feel like halfway to one hundred and it certainly doesn’t feel like I’m statistically well over halfway done.  50 doesn’t feel like anything special or semi-centennial.  I didn’t get a notice in the mail that I needed a 50-year oil check or special service.  And I certainly didn’t think I’d be 50 and feel like I’ve not accomplished enough or done enough or been to all the places I wanted to have gone and done and accomplished by now.

I guess I don’t really know what 50 should feel like.  I think I thought it should feel generally older.  I think when I was younger, like last week, I thought that 50 would feel monumental and revelatory and slightly creaky and dignified.  I think I thought a lot about what 50 seemed like to me when other people wore it, when I looked at it through younger eyes.

My father never got to be 50, so I don’t know what that looked like.  By the time my mother was 50, she was a widow with three almost adult kids and a soon to be second husband.  By the time my grandmother was 50 she had survived the death of both of her parents, life as an orphan, a world war, and emigration first to Israel and then to the United States.  By 50, she had raised two beautiful daughters, run her husband’s business, seen the birth of her first granddaughter and had endured and taken in her stride more of life’s hardships and joys than most of us will ever know.  I didn’t know her then.  I wasn’t born yet.  But I’ve seen pictures of what she looked like at 50.  50, on the face of my grandmother who had lived a dozen lives by then, looked wrinkled and worn through and kind and soft and woven with a thousand stories never told.  50 looked old. 

50 doesn’t look old anymore.  I look around at friends close to either side of the line and none of them look like what I think of when I think of 50.   50, at least in Los Angeles in the year 2016, looks pretty hot.

I don’t feel hot.  Here’s how I feel: Dorky.  A little out of place.   A little awkward, a little unpopular, a little like I’m always saying, doing or wearing the SLIGHTLY wrong thing.  I feel young in a junior high sort of way.  I know I’m not.  And I have an awareness that the world responds to me as a somewhat dignified and relatively competent adult.  An adult who recognizes appropriate skirt length and bedtime.   An adult who has the right advice about things like laundry and deal memos and cooking and how to deal with a difficult work situation.  I can tell myself the story of my life and it certainly seems to cover 50 years worth of stuff.  But truly I don’t feel like what I think 50 is supposed to feel like.  

Here’s what I know: I don’t look as young as I think I do.  I’m not a babe.  I’m attractive enough.  But, I’m no longer a bird, a skirt, a chick or a lass.  I’m a broad.  I’m a dame.    I sit more comfortably in my slightly saggy, gravity challenged skin.  I like that I spend no time worrying about what men think about me when I walk down the street.  I finally walk down the street thinking about what I want to think about rather than what I think others think about me.  And that is a massive relief.

So part of me is relieved to be 50.  Part of me is relieved to be beyond the stage in my life where I worry about getting pregnant, where I try to figure out what moisturizer to use to prevent wrinkles, where I think about whether a heel height or skirt length is work appropriate.  Here’s the truth: I can’t get pregnant, I’m already wrinkled and I can’t wear a short skirt even if I wanted to thanks to the earth’s gravitational pull on my age-challenged thighs. 

And part of me is terrified and struggling to reconcile the fact that 50 years have passed and I have so much less to show for it than I thought I would.  My 50-year-old ego is struggling with my 50 year old soul and winning the battle 50 percent of the time.  I am not only halfway through the century, I’m halfway between satisfied and yearning, halfway between secure and terrified, halfway between the utter Zen that comes with knowing yourself and the sheer panic that the self you know is not good enough, not accomplished enough, rich enough, pretty enough, smart enough, generous or kind enough. 

Here’s what I also know: very few of us escape the approach to 50 unscathed.  In talking to friends and colleagues, it seems that no amount of wealth, success or acknowledgment can prevent the inevitable navel gazing and self-flagellation that accompanies the half-century mark. 

The truth is, I always hoped I would approach my 50th year with grace.  I fantasized that I would be the woman skating through middle age with all the elegance of one of those thin waspy ladies with a perfect shoulder length silver bob and a blasé attitude.  But in fact, I spent my 49th year struggling and raging and fighting against the inevitable in a graceless, wretched way.  I was the opposite of stoic, alternately manic and anxious and depressed like a teenager.  Life and career slapped me down left and right.  My 49th year was an unwanted lesson in humility and humiliation.  I’m not sure I understood either fully until this past year.  And so I looked them up.

Humiliation is defined as embarrassment, mortification or shame.  And there is certainly a lot about turning 50 that feels humiliating.  Skin that is slack beyond my control resulting in a “resting bitch face” that is neither appealing nor representative of my general state.  Hair that grows where it shouldn’t and thins where it should.  A defiance of gravity overall that reminds me that a mumu should replace a bikini as acceptable beach wear. And those are just the things that slap me in the face upon waking. 

Humility is defined as a lack of vanity or pride.  And this has been the toughest lesson of all.  Because no amount of vanity or pride or EGO will stop the progress of time, no amount of flailing or denial can prevent the inevitable forward march of the clock that reminds us that we have to struggle to remain relevant and cling to our connections.  None of it can be taken for granted and none of us is immune.  There is a story told by rabbis about the man who walks around with a piece of paper in each pocket.  On one is written, “The World was made for me.”  On the other is written, “I am but dust and ashes.”  This dichotomy is the struggle between ego and humility, between hubris and confidence, between humility and humiliation.  Because it turns out that if you are truly humble, you are immune to humiliation.  I’m not sure why it has taken me 50 years to learn the lessons I have in the past twelve months, but here I am and shockingly, right by my side through the raging and tears and fear and anger is my husband, my dear friends and family.  And that, is truly humbling.

Here, in a nutshell, is my advice to my 50 year old self: 

  1. Have sex with your husband whenever you can even if your body is not in the mood because your heart and soul with never regret it.  
  2. Have that sex on your back or in the dark.  The wisdom of this should be obvious. 
  3. Accept that you do not know very much about the internet.  You will never know as much as your assistant or your child.  Skype is passé.   Use phrases like “Google Chat” or “slack” instead.    You can download Wishbone on your iPhone but you’ll never actually use it.  And Minecraft is a subversive slippery slope created by Swedes to make us all feel like losers.  
  4. Keep tweezers in your purse, your office and your car because daylight is a harsh and cruel master and whiskers are not found only on kittens.   
  5. Wear skirts of appropriate length and underwear that is always slightly inappropriate.  
  6. Accept that the smile you just got from the male passerby is probably “that’s a nice looking older lady, I wonder if she needs help across the street” and not “I want to bang that chick”.
  7. Embrace your age.  And it will embrace you back.  There is nothing so satisfying or so humbling as acknowledging how much and how little you’ve achieved at the midpoint of your life.  Enjoy the paradox that might have tortured you in your youth.  Or even in your 49th year. 


Thursday, December 3, 2015


I'm back.  Sort of.  I confess I disappeared from the blogosphere and cannot commit to this as a triumphant return.  I'm here, for the moment, checking in from down under (and by this I do NOT mean a Rhianna-type reference to my nether regions but rather an actual geographical reference to a large continent in the Southern Hemisphere known as "Oz").  Likely no one will know that I've checked back in.  That's ok.  This is merely a shot over the bow - a flare in the dark to say "I'm still here."  43 is barely a flicker in the rearview mirror.  The half century mark rapidly approaches.  And just for tonight, just in the middle of shooting my second movie as a producer in my second act, I'm back...

Day 29 of 45 is now over and I’m dug deep into the ivory pleather couch in my Gold Coast Australia rental.  I'm 43 flights above the beachfront and fighting the urge to throw myself off this Southern Hemisphere balcony.  I'm hungry.  I'm tired.  I want desperately to be a pot smoker but am tragically still unhip.  I'd like to say I have the energy to shower, make myself presentable and sit at the bar of my local ready to tuck into a beautifully prepared meal.  But neither of these is the case.  So, here now, with no better option, is the solution to my food dilemma for the evening.  I have no room service and no food delivery in this subpar culture posing as a first world civilization.  And so, operating under the assumption that life, in fact, is nothing like a box of chocolates but is much more like a pantry full of mismatched foods that blend together in no particular way until you come home, exhausted, starving, desperate for a cocktail and carbs after a very long shooting day, is my new favorite dish:


Recipe is per serving and may be multiplied at will

  • Two baking, Yukon or delicious golden Aussie potatoes sliced 3/8” to ¼” thick
  • Two eggs
  • One golf ball size chunk of sheep’s milk feta
  • Half a small handful of fresh herbs, rosemary a must, anything else a bonus
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Salt and pepper – lots of each
  • Two glugs of gorgeous olive oil  (if you don’t know what a glug is, you shouldn’t be cooking)

1.     Slice potatoes and spread in a shallow fry pan, cover with water, salt.
2.     Bring to high heat and simmer 10 minutes until water boils down and potatoes are lonely in the pan
3.     Smother with oil glugs, salt and pepper
4.     Cover pan and cook until you’re forced to turn on the fan or risk setting off the fire alarm
5.     When there’s a crispy crust on at least one side, throw in handful of herbs and a squeeze of lemon – cover for one minute.
6.     Crack eggs over potatoes, cover and cook for one minute, turn off heat and cook for one more minute.
7.     Sprinkle feta over top and serve with an extra large glass of chilled pinot noir and a salad or crudité.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Empty Nest...

The first one was the worst.  Shabbat dinner with no children.  Child One was at college.  Child Two was in his first week of the new custody arrangement – a 50/50 split which gives him more overall time with us but only every other weekend.  So Shabbat rolled around and rather than race home to make dinner for anywhere from four to fourteen people which often included friends of Child One, I came home to an almost empty house.  Sig Other lay on the couch.  I came in, put down my bags, took off my shoes and sat down next to him.  “Should we land candles?” I asked.  “No,” he replied.  “Do you want dinner?” “I’m not hungry.  You?”  “Not really,” I replied.  And I meant it.   And so our first Shabbat without children passed with no blessings, no candles, no singing, no shared stories of the week.  We sat on the sofa, in the dark, catching up on reality television and eating leftover crudités from a plastic container.  By 9pm, we were asleep.

The second Shabbat on our own was almost worse.  I decided we could not simply ignore the Sabbath, could not simply sit like tragic zombies worshipping our apple TV, picking through the Friday night dregs of the refrigerator and waiting desperately for the empty weekend to pass.  I decided we would have Shabbat with or without children.  And so I came home, laid a proper table, opened a bottle of wine and set out the candles.  If anything, the mere process of going through the ritual for just the two of us was an even lonelier experience than not going through it at all.  It turns out that ignoring Shabbat is far less sad than observing in the absence of those who make observation relevant.

Let me explain.  When Sig Other and I became a couple, we discussed the ritual of Shabbat.  It was important to me because I felt I could finally honor the age-old tradition of my ancestors.  It was important to Sig Other because he could, as he put it, teach the children about their religion so they knew what it was they were rejecting when it came time to reject it.    And Shabbat became important to all of us as our Friday nights truly represent what is most meaningful about the ritual – coming together as a family, taking time to honor one another and to honor the demarcation of the end of the work week and the beginning of the time we have, however short, to renew our selves, our bodies and spirits, to prepare for the next week ahead. 

Shabbat dinners, though, are both a blessing and a burden.  Friday night is not just any other night of the week.  The food should be special, the table beautifully set, the mood a little different from every other night of the week.  And this creation of a family setting has been foremost for me for the past almost eight years.  But the creation of a family environment is not without a price tag.  Periodically, whene the week had been particularly cruel and I particularly tired, I would have pangs of resentment about being SuperStep and pangs of longing for a honeymoon with my husband I never had.  We never had time to be a young couple, never had periods of romantic Friday night dates and weekends away.  We had children.  We had family.  And integrating the children into our lives, making the “step-ness” of our lives a perfectly normal thing, was more important than any walk on the beach, any quiet moment, any candlelit dinner a deux.

So you would think I would relish a Friday night alone, you’d think I’d be thrilled to not worry about what to cook, whether there are fresh flowers on the table, what time the kids will be home from school.  You’d think this would be an opportunity. Child One is 3000 miles away.  Child Two is on a regular schedule of back and forth that affords us two weeknights and every other weekend entirely on our own. Perfect, right?  Great opportunity for romance, for coupley solitude, for self-education, self-expansion, self-growth.  But really all we are is lonely.  Really all we do in our moments alone is think about how much we miss the children, how much we miss Child One and her friends and reminisce about days and dinners gone by.

I suppose it’s a victory in a way – I suppose missing the children this much means we managed to integrate them and ourselves into a semblance of perfectly conventional family life in spite of a perfectly unconventional setting.  But it doesn’t feel like a victory somehow.  It feels more like a weekend spent thinking about the next time we’ll all be together as one.   

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


There's nothing I hate more than checking into a hotel I frequent as a business or personal guest to no amenities.  I like to know that loyalty is honored rather than familiarity breeding contempt.  A note, a flower arrangement, cookies for kids - all are greeted with great enthusiasm.  Fruit plates, on the other hand, can be a mixed bag.  Consider the grapefruit, for instance.  A grapefruit, in my mind, is perfect for squeezing fresh juice.  It may also be useful when sliced into supremes and put in a salad.  Less oft, though certainly admired, is the grapefruit halved and sectioned at the breakfast table.  But rarely, rarely does one think of the grapefruit as a delicious option for a fruit bowl.  Unlike the handy apple, the grapefruit cannot be picked up and walked away with.  Its peel is unwieldy, often thick and overly pithy.  Unlike the banana, the grapefruit has massive seeds one can't carry as one piece and deposit politely into nearby rubbish.  And unlike the fruit-bowl friendly grape, a grapefruit is drippy and messy even after peeled and pithed.  So why, I wonder, do hotels bother to put such a daunting fruit in a basket meant to serve as hospitality?  Well, is has great volume, I suppose.  It might take two apples, a trio of apricots and at least two dozen grapes to fill the space taken by one juicy grapefruit.  And unlike its soft-skinned cousins, the mighty citrus lasts (or at least gives the appearance of lasting) a good long time.  No mushy edges, no spoilt centers - the grapefruit can go on for weeks looking fresh as the day it was picked.

So a fruitbowl, I imagine, stands for hospitality in the modern age. Long gone are the days of truly personal touches - a favorite cookie or preferred flower.  To be honest, I'd even prefer a fresh fig or apricot or representation of anything seasonal in its stead.  But grapefruit we get and so grapefruit, it seems, we shall endure...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Those of you familiar with Sig Other in worlds either virtual or real know that he is the true originator of the phrase, "What about me?"  It is the name of his future auto-biography.  And it is his daily credo.  But the apple, it turns out, doesn't fall far from the tree.  My return to the blogosphere after prolonged absence was greeted by a call from Child One who chided, "I saw you wrote on your blog today."  "Yes," I said, "how did you know?"  "I check it all the time," said she, and continued, "but I was surprised you didn't write about me.  I mean, its been a big year, with me going to college and all the change."  She paused then and continued, "Why didn't write about that?"

In truth, I've written a great deal about that - about how difficult her summer between highschool and college was, about the loss Sig Other and I feel with her absence, about the profound shift in all of our lives as she's transitioned, rather ungracefully, into adulthood.  But none of it felt appropriate for publication. None of it, that is, except this short piece written at the request of my friend Nicola who created the 10Q (  So here it is (for you, my sweet Child One) - evidence that I really do think (and write) about you...


It would be easiest, I suppose, to go straight to the obvious – the empty bedroom down the hall, the closet missing half its wardrobe, the usually messy bathroom now standing idle waiting to be made a mess again in a few months.  The easiest thing – the most obvious thing to point to, when asked to think about a major milestone, would be the matriculation of our daughter to college.  She is gone.  The house is emptier, the world a little quieter, the days a little less full, because K is 3000 miles away experiencing a whole new life without us.

But in fact, that monumental event is NOT the thing that comes to mind when I think about a major milestone of this year.  In fact, what I think about is the text I got from K one day this summer.  It read: “…how glad I am to have a stepmother who yells at me for parking her car badly.”  I am that stepmother.  And for years I worked at NOT yelling at anybody for anything.  For years I did what most steps do – I twisted myself into a pretzel to do the right thing, to cook the right thing, to say the right thing so the children would feel safe and comfortable and loved.  And I kept my mouth shut about things I felt were wrong for fear of being disliked.   

But as K neared college, I realized that her ability to cope in the adult world – in the world outside our home – was far more important than whether or not she liked me.  And I started telling her what to do.  I told her to pick up after herself, to knock before she entered rooms, to close the cabinets she left open and yes – to park her car straight in the driveway.  We spent a lot of time alone together, she and I, in the months leading up to her departure.  And those months were fraught for her – full of anxiety and fear and depression and angst.  We talked about more than just parking straight and separating whites from darks when doing laundry.  I said some tough things and had to hear some even tougher.  And in that time, I felt a shift in myself.  I felt as I stopped trying to win, stopped trying to be loved, stopped trying to be the coolest stepmom on the block. I felt as I stopped caring about me and started caring about her – what was best for her, what would serve her, what would help her cope in a world far less cozy than our home. 

For the record, I have never yelled at either of my stepchildren.  And in this particular case, I’m quite certain I didn’t even raise my voice.  But I did give a sharp directive. And K has never parked sideways in the driveway again.  And THAT may be the major milestone of our year.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Take that, Bill Maher!

Pardon my absence from the blogosphere but I’m slightly superstitious.  The world being what it was in the final weeks of summer – financial disaster in the US, riots in the UK, protests in the Israel and various domestic unrest in households near and far – it seemed best to keep my head down and forge quietly ahead.  LBJ famously said, “Being President is like being a jackass in a hailstorm.  There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it.”  My friend’s father, a colleague of LBJ, had his own Texan take on the phrase and would say to his little girl, “Sweetheart, sometimes you have to be like a jackass in a hailstorm – put your down and wait for the storm to pass.”  I’ve been waiting for the storms to pass and keep looking for blooming flowers amidst the burning ash. 

But the other night, I couldn’t find a flower anywhere.  I was home watching Bill Maher and feeling useless.  There was Bill, all witty and fabulous, interviewing intelligent people who had written books or started life-changing organizations.  His guests included a former governor, a civil rights activist and a world famous author.  And there was me, sitting on the couch with a bowl of pasta after a week of work at a job where I save no lives, change no political policy, influence no major governments.  Useless.   

I spiraled then, and thought about all I hadn’t done.  The world is on a scary path: economic disaster, failed education systems, escalating worldwide racism, sexism, anti-semitism.  There is spring during autumn all over the Middle East, the behemoth that is China is lumbering out of its deep sleep and toward epic change and our own country teeters on the edge of insanity steeped in dark crazy tea.  And I’m sitting on my couch doing nothing.

I told myself I do nothing because I'm not smart enough, didn't major in the right thing, haven't focused my energy in the right places these past several decades. And for the most part that is true. I didn’t invent a computer chip that changed the world. I have not written a book on world politics. I am not clever enough to be invited as a guest on Bill Maher and hold my own.  The truth is my knowledge of world events is limited to what media I consume in the pre-dawn moments before my day jolts into full swing or the bits and pieces I catch after hours.  And while I’m not the least informed of my circle, I’m hardly the most.  

But today I got jolted out of my useless blues.  Today I did the thing that still gives me joy, despite the fact that its part of my job and I do it time and time again.  Today, I went to the movies.  It seems a trivial thing really – two hours in a dark box with a big screen shouldn’t really change your mood.  But it can.  And today it did.  This thing we do – this magical, wonderful and terribly ethereal business of making movies – this world that can be so frustrating, can seem so ludicrous at times, can also be profoundly affecting.  True – its rare.  And most movies are crap.  I’ve worked on as many bad movies as good ones (ok – more).  And truly great movies are a scarcity beyond comprehension.  But they happen.  And when they do, when a movie can make you laugh and cry and feel and go on a ride that feels like fifteen minutes even if its been three hours – THAT is when being in the movie business feels like something substantial. 

I chose this job – this career in movies - in part because the idea of pursuing a PhD in political science seemed really exhausting 25 years ago.  But in part I chose it because I love it.   I love that I interact with some of the most talented, most inspiring artists alive today.  I love that these artists work in a medium that has the potential to have a reach far greater than paint or ceramic or even words on a page.  And I love that every experience with every artist is unique and a true education all its own. 

But mostly I love that today I went to a movie theater and for two magical hours got swept up in someone else’s life.  I entered someone else’s story – I saw what the director wanted me to see and heard what the director wanted me to hear.  But the experience was uniquely my own.  For the moments I laughed, as well as for those I cried, I was in the soothing hands of a master filmmaker and I went down the path he created for me – though I’m sure I saw the path slightly differently from the man on my right or the woman on my left.  This is the beauty of film.  This is the magic and strength and power of a well made movie.  And this is the world I have the great privilege to be part of. 

I am not a writer.  I do not direct movies.  But I do rely on a gut instinct to evaluate material and I do use that gut and a good bit of passion to push to make movies that make people laugh and cry and think and just get away for two magical hours in the special box we call the movie theater.  They may not always work – in fact, mostly they don’t.  Great film is harmonic convergence.  But when it works, when a movie is really firing on all cylinders - and you get that two hours of pure joy, of a story that makes you think about the world in a slightly different way - isn't that worth something?

I still wish I were clever enough and well-educated enough and worldly enough to have written a book, or run for office or created a policy that would make me fancy and cool and smart enough to be a guest on Bill Maher.  But I’m damn grateful for my two hours of bliss today.  And damn lucky to do what I do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

At last...

The summer night we've been waiting for.  Midnight.  80 degrees.  Noisy cicadas chirp madly in the dry grasses just now warming in belated summer air.  This is Child One's last Shabbat before leaving for school.  Hurricane Irene may disrupt our perfectly planned journey.  But weeks of planning and preparation will not stand in the way of Child One's future.  There may be tears and hesitation and a bumpy road of fear ahead.  And that's just for Sig Other and me.  What awaits Child One, no one can anticipate.   My friend Jess looked Child One in the eye the other night across a bottle of wine and a soggy pizza and said, "I want to Freaky Friday with you so bad I can't stand it."  That about sums it up.  Shabbat Shalom to all.  And a special prayer to the hope for the future we send out into the world in the next week - we wish you well and hope for the best.