Today I Am a Ma'am: And Other Musings on Life, Beauty and Growing Older


Valerie Harper, a.k.a. Rhoda Morgenstern, is sick of those phony "fabulous at 50" books written by women whose skin is free of laugh lines and who wouldn't know a cellulite pocket if it bet them on the side. So she's decided to tell it like it is in Today I Am a Ma'am. With her trademark straight-from-the-hip, call-'em-like-she-sees-'em style, she helps women figure out, with humor and grace, what it means to be middle-aged. Included are essays on bodies, from alligator skin to bubble-wrap thighs;secrets—from ...
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Valerie Harper, a.k.a. Rhoda Morgenstern, is sick of those phony "fabulous at 50" books written by women whose skin is free of laugh lines and who wouldn't know a cellulite pocket if it bet them on the side. So she's decided to tell it like it is in Today I Am a Ma'am. With her trademark straight-from-the-hip, call-'em-like-she-sees-'em style, she helps women figure out, with humor and grace, what it means to be middle-aged. Included are essays on bodies, from alligator skin to bubble-wrap thighs;secrets—from mastering the art of indifference to finding new appreciation for Lady Macbeth; and pleasures, from the joy of crankiness to the thrill of saying "Let us eat cake!" Today I Am a Ma'am is a witty, irreverent call-to-arms from America's most reliable girlfriend, a Chicken Soup for the funny-bone, a book that women can pick up whenever they need a laugh—or a reminder that midriff drift is not the end of the world.

About the Authors:
Valerie Harper played the memorable Rhoda Morgenstern, first on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then on her own spin-off series, Rhoda, for nine years. During that time she won four Emmys, a Golden Globe, Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Award, and Hollywood Woman's Press Club "Golden Apple" Award. She lives in Beverly Hills, CA.

Catherine Whitney is a nonfiction writer who has collaborated on many books, including Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever by Judge Judy Sheindlin. She lives in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
This honest, inspiring book proves once and for all that getting older is not the end of the world. Actress Valerie Harper tackles middle age with wit and confidence in Today I Am a Ma'am, a must-read for women everywhere. Avoiding the usual sappy self-help clichés, Harper, best known for her wonderful television show Rhoda, pokes fun at everything from wrinkles to menopause in this hilarious and eye-opening book.

The secret to enjoying what Harper calls the "let-it-all-hang-out years" lies in realizing that in spite of what our youth-worshipping culture tells us, getting older does not mean losing your good looks, energy, and passion for life. If you still aren't quite ready to embrace your advancing age, Harper's comic touch will help you let go of your most troubling anxieties. Worried about those crow's feet and laugh lines? "Wrinkles should be a sign of having lived," Harper asserts. How about trying to keep up with cutting-edge fashion? "Every year the heels get higher and the podiatrists get richer."

Harper's down-to-earth approach to middle age is more than a refreshing read -- it's a blueprint for taking a realistic, healthy, and positive attitude toward aging. Finding the humor in your little imperfections might not be easy, but with Today I Am a Ma'am as your guidebook, you can learn how to get the most out of your life no matter what your age. (Julie Carr)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Once readers get over the shock that Harper (who won four Emmy awards playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda) is now in her 60s, her gently funny and age-positive ruminations will soothe the aftershock ("How old does that make me?"). This light, sincere, cartoon-filled guide for "women of a certain age" pokes fun at this age group's lack of representation in films (Jane Fonda responds, "What's the worst thing about being a beautiful, glamorous star over fifty? Watching each year as Bob Redford's leading ladies get younger and younger") and plastic surgery mania ("The transformation isn't from old to young. It's from old to scary"). Mainly, though, the book celebrates an age at which women can finally relax. Following advice from Ruth Gordon ("I decided to get older instead of getting old. Because old is a destination; older is a process and a path"), Harper embraces her "senior moments" and droopy upper arms and thighs that are "like dimpled twin dough boys, nestled together against the cold." Wry and wise, Harper dares women to be "real" and reminds us that those "fabulous at 50" women on magazine covers have a hidden crew of professionals and technicians who labor to produce that look. (On sale date: Apr. 10) Forecast: Thanks to Harper's high-profile name and the public's enduring affection for her TV persona, which comes through on paper, Harper's book will have a ready audience among baby boomers and other fans. To boost sales, Harper will go on a seven-city tour, appear on Today (Apr. 16) and Rosie (Apr. 17), and receive feature coverage in People and Parade. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Rhoda Morgenstern laughs off turning 50. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060185572
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Edition description: LARGEPRINT

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Pardon Me Ma'am

Little Old Ladies

I knew I had to write this book the day I found myself uttering a shocking statement. I was regaling my teenage daughter, Cristina, with a funny story about an encounter Id had with a woman at the supermarket. "She was this little old lady of sixty," I said. That's as far as I got, because Cristina was doubled over with laughter.

"What?" I demanded, annoyed. I didn't get to the punch line yet."

"Uh, Mom," she said with a grin, "I hate to break it to you, but you're sixty."


"You just said, 'this little old lady of sixty."' "Oh, my God!" It was a moment of truth. I certainly didn't consider myself to be a little old lady, but if the phrase could slip off my tongue with such remarkable ease, that meant it was hardwired in my brain.

Shelf Life

I never thought I'd be sixty. It's not that I didn't expect to live this long. It's just that ' well, sixty! That's almost old. I was afraid that by the time I reached fifty I wouldn't be myself anymore. I guess that when you spend your life as a dancer and an actor you learn to view the passing of time like the ticking of a time bomb ' five more years until annihilation...four more years until annihilation...thirty minutes until annihilation. I can still remember being a thirteen-year-old ballet dancer and thinking, oh, my God, if I don't get into a ballet company by age sixteen, I'm sunk. Imagine feeling that pressure at thirteen!

That's an extreme example, but the prevailing media wisdom is that women have shelf life. If you don't believe it, justlook at the movies. When was the last time you saw a leading man of a certain age (Sean Connery, Michael Douglas) paired with a leading lady (Meryl Streep, Faye Dunaway) of a similar certain age? What does it say about our society when our most popular romantic male leads are in their fifties, sixties, and even seventies, and our most popular female romantic leads are in their twenties and thirties? If I were to becast in a Harrison Ford movie, I'd probably get the role of his mother. I'm not joking. Jane Fonda once made this observation: "What's the worst thing about being a female movie star over forty? Watching each year as Robert Redford' s leading ladies get younger and younger.

What a Greeting

For pure, unadulterated insults, nothing beats a trip down the greeting card aisle. Those warm, fuzzy greeting card moments are certainly not directed at women ' especially past the age of thirty. I ask you, who writes these cards? A troll in the back room? Here's a random selection. You be the judge.

Birthdays are like fine wine.
Once you find an age you like, stick to it!

Birthdays mean nothing to women like us.Why, you and I are just a couple of teenagers stuck in middle-aged bodies ...
And deep, deep denial.

Birthdays are like French fries.
The more we have, the bigger our butts get.

A birthday and big boobs.
Well, at least you've got one of those things today.

Happy Birthday, Gal!
No need to panic yet ...
Your whole butt still fits in the mirror.

To aid you on your birthday, here are some valuable lovemaking tips for people your age...

Set alarm clock for 2 minutes in case you doze off in the middle.

Make sure you put 911 on speed dial.

Keep extra Polygrip close by so your teeth don't end up under the bed.

Have heating pads, Tylenol, splints, and crutches ready in case you actually complete the act.

We know we're getting older when "Frosted Flakes" begins to refer to our peer group.

Here's the real kicker. You don't have to be over forty to be pronounced over the hill. I saw this card for a woman turning thirty:

Wow, 30! You know what that means!

Time to get a bad haircut and some real dowdy clothes.

If Life Imitated Television...

Teenagers would be twenty-five, Mom would be thirty, and Grandma would be thirty-three. Are there any real people left?

Two years ago, I shot an NBC television pilot for a wonderful show called Thicker Than Water The plot centered around a family in New Jersey. Ron Leibman and I played a blue-collar couple whose two adult offspring were suddenly returning to the nest. The script was funny and real, and we had a great response from the studio audience. Our hopes were high.

NBC tested the pilot. The marketing guy came back to us with the results. "It tested great in the demographic between ages eighteen and forty-nine," he reported.

I was thrilled. "Wonderful!"

He held up a cautionary finger. "The problem is, it tested poorly in the thirteen to eighteen demographic."

I didn't get it. "Why is that a problem?"

He gave me a pitying look. "We can't sell a program to advertisers without that demographic."

Oh. Silly me. I guess I missed the memo that explained how fifteen-year-olds were the Gold Standard for all television viewing. Maybe Thicker Than Water would have had a better chance if the twenty-something kids had an actress of thirty playing Mom.

Ageism is practiced by the networks, because that's what Madison Avenue dictates. But how do they explain away the decline in viewership? How does it make sense to say, "You're over fifty. We don't care what you watch?" Imagine a supermarket chain deciding they're only going to count groceries sold to people under thirty. Youth obsession is killing us.

And yet ... you and I know that we grown-up women are a powerful force. The youth-addled brains in Hollywood just don't get it...

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
1 Pardon Me, Ma'am 1
Little Old Ladies 1
Shelf Life 2
What a Greeting 6
If Life Imitated Television... 10
It's Our Turn 13
2 De'Mean Streets 17
Just Chicks 17
Smoke and Mirrors 20
The Friendly Skies 21
Got Milk? 25
Edibles: Women as Snack Food 28
Oh, Grow Up! 29
3 Tyrannies Old and New 35
Barbie's War Chest 35
Sizing Down 37
Being and Nothingness 38
Witches' Brew 41
Bad Hair Days 48
Female Bondage 49
Then and Now 54
4 Just Desserts 61
Let Us Eat Cake 61
Favorite Diet Fibs 63
The Pounder in the Valley 66
The Sliding Scale 68
Food Buddies 72
Somebody Call the Cops 74
Busted 75
Weighty Matters 79
The Dieter's Dilemma 84
Eat Your Heart Out 88
5 The M Word 89
Wait a Minute 89
If Men Had Menopause... 91
Crazy Ladies 92
The New Face of Menopause 94
Hot Times 97
A Senior Moment 100
Never Old 101
6 Liftoff! 105
Face It 105
Being Fabulous 108
Tough Toenails 111
My Beautiful Draperies 116
Need a Lift? 117
Badges of Honor 126
7 Humor Replacement Therapy 131
Let's Vent 131
Have More Fun in Bed 133
The Girlfriend Factor 133
Over the Top 137
Meno Funnies 139
Don't Cry for Me 141
8 Imagine That! 143
Wouldn't It Be Great? 143
Get Over It 144
Mental Aerobics 148
Valerie's Golden Rules 149
WOACAs Unite! 154
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