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

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

4.1 11
by Valerie Harper, Catherine Whitney, Rick Tulka

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Valerie Harper has a message for women of a certain age: "Work those laugh lines!" With the irreverence and wit that made her one of television's most beloved personalities, Harper (a.k.a. Rhoda Morgenstern) takes on those phony "fabulous at 50" books written by women whose skin is free of laugh lines and who wouldn't know a cellulite

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Valerie Harper has a message for women of a certain age: "Work those laugh lines!" With the irreverence and wit that made her one of television's most beloved personalities, Harper (a.k.a. Rhoda Morgenstern) takes on 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 bit them on the backside. With her trademark shoot-from-the-hip, call-'em-like-she-sees-'em style, she helps women celebrate, with humor and grace, what it means to be middle aged.

Harper's essays explore the treacherous terrain women must travel — from the tyrannies of fashion to the unmentionables of menopause. She tackles the most perplexing questions of the day: If you wear a size zero, do you exist? Would menopause be revered if it happened to men? Do calories count if you eat standing up? Are dressing rooms fitted with fun house mirrors? Today I Am a Ma'am is the perfect antidote to the youth obsession of our culture, offered by America's most reliable girlfriend. It is Humor Replacement Therapy for midlife women, a book you can pick up when ever you need a laugh or a reminder that midriff drift is not the end of the world.

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Editorial Reviews

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.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.73(d)

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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Meet the Author

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 the Hollywood Women's Press Club "Golden Apple" Award. She lives in Beverly Hills.

Catherine Whitney is a New York-based writer who has written or cowritten more than forty books on a wide range of topics. She is the author of The Calling: A Year in the Life of an Order of Nuns and the coauthor with nine female U.S. senators of Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate.

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Today I Am a Ma'am: And Other Musings on Life, Beauty, and Growing Older 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
not really that good or funny
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Pads back into her den with a mouse and eats it
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He lays here, his mind flying from what just happened.