How to Be a Glamorous Gal at Age 98

Main Street, Scottville, Michigan, from the south

My Aunt Glamorous came from this small country town in the Midwest.

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.

Glamorous red head born in 1914 who used Vaseline as facial moisturizer

Aunt Glamorous

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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Comments

  1. diann neil engblade says:

    Your aunt and my father were cousins–perhaps second cousins though I have not worked out the relationship. It is fascinating to read about your Aunt Glamorous. My condolences on her loss. Your column is a wonderful tribute to her.

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      My grandfather, David, must be the brother of your grandmother, whose first name slips my mind right now. That makes you and me third cousins! Yea! I hope you’ll follow my posts, as I often mention our family and ancestors. Check out “Am I Scotch?*” at http://barbarafalconernewhall.com/?s=scotch

      Are there any renegades like my Aunt Glamorous on your side of the family?

      • diann neil engblade says:

        Hi, Barbara. I cannot put together all the Falconer relationships, but my family is related to yours through Janet Neil Falconer, who was the wife of Andrew Falconer. Janet and Andrew were David’s parents, which I am sure you know. Janet was the sister of my great-grandfather, Andrew Neil. The other brother of Janet and Andrew Neil was James. The Neil brothers immigrated from Wigtonshire, arriving in Mason County by 1865. Janet, Andrew, and David came a bit later. While I have an uncle that rivals your aunt’s adventuresome spirit, none of the Neils were quite so colorful. :) I will check out your columns, thanks!

        • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

          Right. Janet Neil was my great-grandmother. I had no idea that she had siblings who came to Mason county before my grandfather et al. That’s interesting. Thanks!

  2. You have my deepest sympathy at the loss of Aunt Gamorous! She sounds like a wonderful, vibrant lady. My stepfather died this past week at the age of 96 and a half. An aristocratic old-world Hungarian gentleman till the end. There is a strangeness to this passing of the old guard. They were here for so long…

    But as for face creams, my grandmother always used Noxema, and bought me my first blue tub of it when I was twelve and suffering my first acne breakouts. I’ve never liked using anything as much as Noxema, and still use it morning and night!

    • Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

      Noxema! Vaseline! Why am I paying the big bucks at the Clinique counter?

      There’s something about losing someone very old like Kathryn’s stepfather and my aunt. An entire world and world view disappears. My aunt, just for one example, grew up in a house with gas lighting.

  3. Barbara Falconer Newhall says:

    My friend Sharon tells me that her mother — who had a flawless complexion — also used Vaseline all her life. Wow. How come nobody told us? I wonder if women who used it felt a little backward and provincial about it — thinking that truly sophisticated women would be buying something much more expensive.

  4. Anne Pardee says:

    Oh, Barbara, I’ll be the shelves will be empty of Vaseline after this story! Thank you for sharing it. With my 70ths birthday just around the corner, I need all the help I can get on how to approach it with grace and strength. Your aunt sounds like a real role model! Best, Anne

  5. Jan Lippert says:

    What a wonderful and fun person your aunt must have been and what a wonderful niece you are. I loved reading this.
    xx. Jan

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