By Barbara Falconer Newhall
The last of my aunts and uncles died two weeks ago at the age of 98, but not before passing on some last minute womanly advice to me.
My aunt – I think of her as my Aunt Glamorous – was tall, red-headed, blue-eyed, self-sufficient and cosmopolitan at a time and place when most women in her hometown wanted nothing more than to get married, have babies and put up green beans and blackberry jam.
Aunt Glamorous was born in a small country town in the Midwest. Actually, she was born in a farmhouse a couple miles outside a small country town in the Midwest.
My aunt was not long for the farm town life, however. She was made of shinier stuff. She was cut out to be a woman of the world. She got herself a job in retailing, saved up a few thousand dollars and opened a dress shop half way across the state.
By the time I was teenager, my Aunt Glamorous was making regular buying trips to New York’s garment district, and my mother and I were making regular trips to her store to shop wholesale for dresses and girdles and gloves.
My Aunt Glamorous had no children. But she had a wardrobe. She had shoes. She had handbags. She had cigarette lighters and big, clunky jewelry. She had gourmet cookbooks and good-looking husbands. And right up to the end of her life she had a soft, pink, girlish complexion.
I learned a lot from my Aunt Glamorous over the years. Some of it was advice delivered directly to me in plain words. Other advice I inferred from the shrewd way she pursued her career and the equally shrewd way my twice-widowed aunt chose her husbands: Successful businessmen who admired her as much as they loved her.
I’ll share with you some of my aunt’s pithier tips on how to be a sexy lady — or gal, as she would put it — at any age.
Gal Wisdom from My Aunt Glamorous
- Put away those housewifey aprons with the rumply bibs that cover up one of a gal’s finest assets – her bust line. When entertaining, forgo the apron altogether. You’re not the maid. You’re the hostess. Take yourself seriously.
- Wear a girdle to hold up your nylons, not to rearrange your figure. You’re a gorgeous gal. Believe it.
- A gal feels the same at 50 as she does at 25 – sexy and fun-loving. Don’t get old until you have to.
(My Aunt Glamorous did get old. She was pushing 100 when she died, but her eyes were still blue and her hair was still red, the latter thanks to a weekly visit from her hairdresser. She received guests – nieces and nephews who flew in from around the country – in sweeping caftans. If she used a cane, it was a pretty one that matched her outfit.)
- A surprising piece of beauty wisdom came to me via one of the caretakers who saw my aunt through the last days of her life. Apparently, decade after decade, while I was spending $10, $30 and most recently $60 on jar of face cream, my clear-skinned, red-headed aunt was using the same moisturizer she’d used as a farm girl – Vaseline.
- Another bit of womanly advice was delivered to me a few days before my Aunt Glamorous died. By then she couldn’t say more than a few words, but she could smile. As I said good-bye for the last time, I made the excuse that it was time for me to get on a plane and head home; my husband would be missing me.
At the mention of husbands, my aunt smiled her mischievous, woman-of-the-world smile. Husbands are the cat’s pajamas, I could hear her saying. Pamper them. Love them. Flirt with them. They’re worth it.
My aunt fled the small town life as a young woman. But as the decades added up, she made careful plans to return. As soon as the ground thaws, her body will be buried in a cemetery a couple miles outside a small country town in the Midwest.
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