Category: General

Today I turned 50!

 

The years that you remember only through photos.

The years you remember only through photos.

Most of us don’t remember our very first birthdays, and even though our family may have marked those events with a significant birthday bash and the photos are a testament to the wonderful time we had catching bubbles and licking our birthday cake and opening gifts, we rely on photos to remind us just how much fun it was. After that, most birthdays tend to blend in with each other, unless you’re Jewish and then you have a Bat or Bar Mitzvah to mark a birthday, which in the Jewish tradition is considered a rite of passage. After that, we tend to remember the significant birthdays that symbolize a milestone in our lives such as our 20th birthday, 30th, 40th and so forth. Notice that I purposefully ignored the Sweet 16 and 18th Birthdays and the reason is that I never had a Sweet 16, because growing up in Israel it was not a custom that we followed. Although birthday number 18 is definitely a milestone, again, when you’re about to start your two-year obligatory military service, freedom and emancipation have to take a back seat for a while and this gives the celebration a whole new meaning.

And it all happened because of these two folks.

A sad end to my 20s.

However, when I turned 20 I don’t recall any particular feeling; I wasn’t exceptionally happy or sad, and there’s a good reason for it. I was 20 for heaven’s sake and I felt invincible; I also had my whole life ahead of me, and I was positive that I could achieve absolutely anything. It’s the kind of naïvete that’s concordant with your early years and the excitement associated with the sublime and unexplored.  It’s the reason we never bother to put on sunscreen or perhaps eat healthy, because wrinkles will never happen to us and we think that we will always weigh 114 lb., and health issues allude us. Yeah right! In retrospect, my early twenties were nothing special; I worked for EL AL as a flight attendant and after getting the travel bug out of my system (temporarily), I settled into law school in Manchester, England, and earned a law degree. The school years were miserable, I didn’t enjoy them one bit. During my 20s I got married to an American, and moved to Buffalo, NY. As it turned out, the guy was more in love with his mother than he was with me, so that didn’t last long. But I also gave birth to Maya, and of course that makes the latter part of my 20s very special.

Somber 30s

Somber beginning to my 30s.

When I turned 30, it was a somber time in my life and a very cheerless birthday. I was served with divorce papers only a few days earlier—what timing. This was the end of my innocence, a harsh lesson in human nature and I felt disillusioned by life in general. But during my 30s I also began to heal from my divorce, and symbolically speaking it was almost as though I was trying to shed off old skin because I wanted to have nothing to do with the old Ilana and that included ditching my legal career. It was a bold decision and one that changed the course of my life forever. But I don’t think it would have happened had I not received a formal letter from NBC’s sensor who read a spec script that I wrote for one of the top shows at the time: Seinfeld. In the letter (I still have it), I was told to pack my bags and move to LA .

Once I moved, the show was cancelled and nobody bothered to answer my calls any longer. However, that was not enough of a wakeup call and it took me another twenty years to realize how things really work in Hollywood as well as in the literary world. One has to be recommended by someone in the industry in order for a literary agent to even consider reading their work . . .  the rest is history, albeit I continued to work hard and create a body of work, which included The Original Insult Company featuring 210 insult and passion cards, and I was known as the Queen of Insults or the Queen of Passion—I would actually get phone calls asking to speak with the Queen of Passion. I worked together with my sister Sharon and those years represented a stimulating and harmonious time in my life. This project garnered me regular radio appearances across the country and even an appearance on the Howard Stern Show. I also created The Venetians—a beach talk show that I wrote and hosted; Playfilm.org was a collection of different shows that I wrote and directed, and it even included The Dr. Leon Show about advances in medicine. All this was much before YouTube, and I was definitely ahead of my time.

Just Maya and me.

Just Maya and me.

So I managed a few moments of success, even a face-to-face with executives at Paramount in order to discuss my show Youthtruth, and in a very mysterious manner they decided to shelf the idea, but then it came out in the same format as a whole new show altogether and I was not included. The thing is that it would have been totally different had someone actually represented me during those years, and my experiences would have probably been more positive than negative. However, these experiences kept me focused on the prize even though I remained on the periphery of the entertainment world. I thought that since I had a law degree, someone would see the value in hiring me and giving me a chance. Uh-uh, no way, even though I was pursued by a few people who would have helped me with my career, but sleeping with them did not appeal to me so much. I don’t have room to begin mentioning all the screenplays and stories and school plays that I wrote and directed during my 30s but phew—I had accomplished so much.

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The man of my dreams.

The highlight of my 30s was meeting Greg.

A highlight from my 30s was meeting Greg on Jdate, and when realizing the random nature of our finding each other, it makes it all the more spectacular. He has been the one and only man to love me just the way I am. He supports me in every way and loves my writing and always helps with all the complicated technical issues that arise from being an independent writer. He even cooks breakfast every Sunday and serves it to me in bed. Okay, it’s only egg on toast and he’s never tried anything new, but the way that yolk oozes on my piece of toast is absolutely perfect–and with his expert sprinkling of salt and pepper, and toasting the bread to my liking, this egg dish is quite delectable.

40th birthday celebration at the Winn Buffet.

Celebrating my 40th birthday.

When I turned 40, I don’t think that I spent too much time thinking about it; however, I remember the day quiet vividly because I was one month shy of giving birth to Jack. The way I chose to celebrate it says a lot about my mind frame at the time; I asked to go to the Wynn Buffet, where Sharon joined us and we sat and ate for three whole hours.  We took our time eating—it’s easy when one trip meant a lonely slice of tomato with perhaps one small dollop of chocolate pudding on the side. But we had so much fun talking and eating and eating and talking that it was one of the nicer birthdays I’ve had. My 40s were also very productive years, and I think that I suffered from fatigue for the most part because Jack was not an easy baby. It was also the first time that I realized that I had aged. I remember how I felt when I woke up one morning to the sight of bags under my eyes—I was horrified.  I also realized that no amount of makeup can make you look as good as before, and that no matter how you dress and how you do your hair, you just don’t look as fresh and young as in your 30s.

Just so damn tired.

So tired during the early years of Jack.

It was definitely a transition. I used this time to continue to create; I wrote and directed a play that appeared at The Arts Factory and I self-published all of my books. I decided that I had absolutely no patience for rejection, and there was no reason to ever have to deal with naysayers or people who ignore me. I also learned to age with grace and accept all the physical changes wholeheartedly. I also started writing about aging, and one of my biggest pleasures is knowing how I’ve managed to help so many other women at a time that some may consider scary and unfair.

As the time neared my 50th birthday I became very retrospective and very unsure about how I felt. It’s a huge milestone—you’ve lived for half a century after all.  You suddenly realize that you’re much closer to death than to your birth, and I couldn’t shake out of my head the idea that when Jack celebrates his 50th I will be 90. In my mind it was an unwelcomed number, so mostly it was going to be a negative transition. And all this, even though I had spent ten years writing about embracing one’s age and aging with grace. To be fair, my negative thoughts had nothing to do with my physical appearance and more to do with what I had managed to accomplish in 50 years. I didn’t reach my goals at all and those included getting some sort of recognition from industry professionals. I wanted to be represented by an agent and see one of my screenplays on the Golden Screen. I wanted to walk into a theater in order to experience the reaction of an audience to something that I had written. I wanted to be picked up by a traditional publisher so that my work would reach a larger audience—none of which happened.

I felt mentally worn out, and I was consumed with regret. I began to second-guess everything that I had done. I was afraid that I had wasted my time and I panicked. I also tried to imagine my life as an attorney and all those what-ifs bombarded me day and night. There was very little sleep during these last few months.

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Fully committed to my kids.

Always dedicated to my kids.

When I shared my thoughts with Greg, he looked at me as though I had turned mad. He reminded me of my commitment to my children and everything that I had instilled in them in order to make them happy, clever and talented individuals. And so many times women, especially, tend to overlook the important role they’ve had in their children’s lives.  But I needed to know about my professional life, was I a failure or a success? And how does one measure success anyhow? I asked. Is it all about income or recognition, what the hell determines success? Greg told me that success is measured by the value that I’ve created in other people’s lives. And I think that for the first time this was an answer that resonated with me. I felt a sense of relief actually.

Also during this time, I received a beautiful letter from my uncle Ami whereby he explained the significance of every age according to the Jewish tradition. Apparently, once reaching 50, you usher in the age of wisdom and as such you can now rest a little and enjoy your new role of advisor.  At this stage one has already experienced it all: there is more understanding, knowledge, emotional maturity, family and a deeper understanding of man’s soul.

This makes a whole lot of sense doesn’t it? I think that my 50th birthday will be a reason to celebrate, and it’s also a reason for my parents to celebrate.  It’s definitely solidified a few thoughts, it’s forced me to take a long breath and take stock of it all. I know what’s important and I have a better sense of who I am and what I want to do with the rest of my life, but most importantly I know how I want to live the rest of my life. I cherish my family and my friendships, some of which have carried on since my childhood years in Israel and have overcome such great distances. I realize that success is not measured by one’s career and only by the quality of life that you have led, and this further translates into so many different things.

And it all happened because of these two.

And it’s all because of these two.

When the clock strikes 12:00 a.m., I realize that there will be no significant change, I will still look the same, but I believe that something magical will happen as I have spent a lot of time pondering questions surrounding my life. I think that when I wake up tomorrow morning I will want to celebrate and make more memories with the people who matter to me the most, and I will continue to create because it’s part of my identity. I believe that as long as I feel good about myself, getting older won’t matter as much especially because most of the angst is in our own head anyway. Turning 50 is not the end of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Does a Fat Ass Make you Less Attractive to Men?

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You mean, this is not attractive? (Daily Mail image)

Recently, I viewed photos of Jennifer Lopez performing at the iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina in Miami, Florida, and as usual, the public’s comments didn’t disappoint. Someone wrote that “she should retire her fat ass and legs from the stage already.” The quality of her voice and ability to command the stage, with her notorious dance moves, were not a factor worth mentioning in any of the comments I read, either. Yep, everything revolved around her surprising weight gain.

performs onstage at iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina presented by Sprint at American Airlines Arena on November 7, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

A fuller body outweighed her singing talent (Getty images)

Immediately, I set out to research why this would be the case and I came across an interesting study, which suggested that certain aspects of the female body may be attractive because they signal “evolutionary fitness.” Confusing? I will eventually explain. While delving into the scientists’ findings and mulling over this topic hours later, I recalled the days that “Barbie Ass” was the nickname that one of my friends had attached to my derriere. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it for years, decades really. In those days, the size of my ass was a non-issue; it was so small and firm that it fit beautifully into every single pair of pants, skirt, or dress that I wanted to wear. Seldom did I even bother to turn around for that extra, studious glance in the mirror, the one that would help determine whether the pants stayed on or whether I would need to look for something a bit more flattering—something to make my ass look small, perky, and round. At least that was my idea of a perfect behind, but the nickname attached to my ass also helped strengthen the notion that I knew what I was talking about, and the need to memorialize that “perfect” ass with a photo did not occur to me either.

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The skinny me years

During my student years in Buffalo, NY, I used to model underwear for a local department store and my photos would appear in the local newspaper on a weekly basis, clad with nothing but a bra and panties (my mother has those photos somewhere in her attic). I remember the carefree, confident feeling I had when the makeup people would powder my body, including my nether regions and there was no concern or shame, because I felt that every single part of me was the right size and in the right place. But that was in my 20s, and these days, even though I do not consider myself obsessed with my looks, I must admit that almost 30 years later and 10 pounds heavier, my youthful confidence is a thing of the past and I too find myself taking a good look at what I look like from behind before deciding whether or not to wear certain clothes. This of course begs the question of why we perceive certain aspects of our body as attractive, and why we care so much about how big our ass is or how much we weigh? Is this something that is hard wired into women’s brains or is this the influence of the skinny-obsessed media and its idea of beauty? Or is this a preference that men communicate to us because it’s actually hard wired into their brains—poor souls—even if they don’t mean to be less attracted to heavier women or certain body types, it’s all nature’s fault in the end.

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During my 30s I would not have survived famine

In some of my older posts I had quoted Desmond Morris and his findings on the influence of evolution and the shape of the human body, which have everything to do with attracting the opposite sex and the survival of one’s genes. This time I relied on a study conducted by the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, which determined that “evolutionary fitness” is the key to explaining what types of women men find appealing. Researchers wanted to figure out what role does body weight have in physical attractiveness, and in order to find out they used culture-specific data and tested it across the range of different cultures, using a common protocol. However, this particular topic of weight and attractiveness is not so simple to understand and there were quite a few parameters that were excluded from the research that would have probably affected the results to some degree (see https://peerj.com/articles/1155/). Most surprising is that their new data comes in complete contrast to earlier studies, which suggested that men were naturally attracted to heavier women since, in evolutionary terms, extra fat meant better chances of survival during famine.

In their new study, fitness was divided into two elements: survival and fertility. The mathematical model that the scientists created for this study predicted that people would view as most attractive women with BMI (body mass index) of between 24 and 24.8. Then they tested their predictions on 1300 test subjects from different countries around the world (Europe, Africa, Asia). They were all shown images of women with varying BMI and WHR (waist to hip ratio), facial features were not included. The results showed that beauty preferences were pretty universal, and that people actually preferred thinner women with a BMI of 19 as opposed to their earlier predictions. Waist hip ratio was not included as an indicator of attractiveness because in the past it’s been associated with cognitive abilities and not health. The new data concluded that the ideal female body preferred by most males and females was tall and skinny, with a small waist; long, slender limbs; small bottom, and smaller breasts believe it or not.

When the test subjects were asked to guess the ages of the women in question, the heavier women were perceived to be much older than the skinnier ones. So now age had become a strong indicator in evolutionary fitness. The researchers then included the age into their calculations and, voila, the BMI corresponded exactly to the images that people had already found most attractive.

In short, most of the people in this study preferred Taylor Swift type bodies to the more hourglass shape of the Kim Kardashian types. The results proved that nowadays attractiveness of women is equated to their youth. Subconsciously, this means maximal fertility and minimal risk of disease. Again, these findings were in complete contrast to our evolutionary history and genetic disposition for gaining weight since we were exposed to famine quite often, which made body fat an attractive trait when fat equated survival.

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Elongated Peruvian skulls, just another beauty practice

D’ya get it now? The public has a preference for the skinniest of the lot and it’s become somewhat of a universal trend albeit some cultures have a preference for extra weight on the bones for a few different reasons actually. But since western beauty ideals have permeated the globe, the idea of attractiveness has become a bit more uniform. I see this as another cornerstone in our evolutionary path really; tastes have continuously evolved and changed over the centuries. Ancient civilizations would engage in the most extreme beauty practices, e.g., 8000 years ago Peruvian parents would alter the shape of their newborn’s skull by binding it for 6 months; once upon a time the greatest European artists would paint subjects with belly fat and wide hips and a large bum. That represented beauty in their eyes since evolutionary fitness back then determined that fat represented survival and fertility. In the West, famine no longer plays a pivotal part in our lives, things have changed so drastically, and with the advent of plastic surgery and a new beauty ideal that is led by the entertainment and modeling worlds, as well as the cosmetics-crazy multi-industry conglomerates that promote the idea of youth and erasing the years from ones face and body, we are left to ponder whether we have been affected by them, or whether they are merely reflecting our changing tastes in beauty.

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No ass photo per se, just don’t have any, but still weighing more

 

 

 

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Do You Choose Beautiful? Or Who the Hell Actually Cares?

 

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Hmmm, am I average or beautiful?

A few weeks ago I watched the very controversial “Choose Beautiful” video, which was the new installment of Dove’s original campaign called “Campaign for Real Beauty,” first launched in 2004 and meant to empower women and boost their self-esteem. The first campaign came about as a result of a study titled, “The Truth About Beauty,” which was conducted by Dove with the input of world renowned academics. Their goal was to explore the notion of beauty in women today, and what they found was that a mere 4% of women from around the world considered themselves beautiful, and at least 75% of women would have preferred to see diversity in the images of beauty, which are broadcast daily through film and all other forms of media. So this, in fact, was the genesis of the campaign that began to introduce images of women who did not fit the bill of a traditional beauty, because they had gray hair or a flat chest etc., but nevertheless, for the first time they were given the platform that was usually reserved for “traditional” beauties. Read More

When You Smell Like a Fish

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From my Insult Card collection

Before I get a load of criticism for my eye-catching title, allow me to explain. First of all, it’s not such an original title when the likes of Shakespeare had used a similar metaphor in “The Tempest”:

“What have we here? A man or a fish? Dead or alive? A fish: he smells like a fish; a very ancient and fish-like smell . . . a strange fish!”

Let’s be honest about this: everybody sweats and therefore unpleasant odors are a fact of life, and some of us smell more than others. I admit that smelly people have also been a good subject matter for my Insult Card line, but let’s keep our sense of humor in check here, and not become overly sensitive please. I don’t adhere to politically correct writing. Read More

Aging Sucks! Or Does It?

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My granny Gertrude was not afraid of death, in fact, the more she learned about the sciences, the more at peace she became with her own eventual demise.

It’s true, especially if you go up the street to one of the supermarkets located near one of our senior retirement communities and you can’t help but notice the frowning, bitter looking elderly people who  seem to bark out orders at the sales associates or anyone else crossing their path. They have no qualms about ordering people around or making the most ridiculous demands as though their age, or time on earth, has earned them the right to forget about simple rules of conduct in society. Manners don’t apply to them anymore and becoming self-absorbed defines them completely. Sadly, negative behavior always seems to draw our attention, and it’s what we remember most times, but it would be a lie to say that we have not noticed the same segment of society, namely the elderly, who actually smile—too much. Read More

Rinse Your Mouth with Pee for a Whiter Smile!

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From that wild period of time in the desert. My teeth look white and not because of urine, it’s rather all to do with polishing my teeth with coconut oil.

Who knew that once upon a time urine had such immense value that the Romans actually traded in urine! In last month’s Smithsonian news an article about the uses of urine was indeed an interesting eye opener. Of course, over the years I heard about the medicinal qualities of urine; I recall reading the novel Freedom at Midnight, where there was mention of Gandhi’s use of urine, and I also witnessed a friend of mine rubbing urine on a cut. She swore that it was a cure-all for things of that nature. Had I remembered basic chemistry, I would’ve taken her seriously, but there were other extraneous circumstances that sort of pushed that piece of information to the wayside. Read More

Hollywood Glamour Gone Sour

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Old Hollywood Blvd (photo credit, LA Public Library).

For those of us who know the truth—that Hollywood-type glamour only exists in the movies, the classics that is—the idea of glamorous Hollywood Boulevard still resonates in our minds because of our penchant for romanticizing about the past. Even so, a couple of weeks ago I decided to give Hollywood Boulevard yet another chance; it had been about eight years since the last time I visited there, and the memory of my disillusionment and disappointment when I realized that Hollywood Boulevard was nothing but an overrated, and overcrowded dump, had become a distant memory—enough for me to go there one more time. Read More

A Cookbook for the Woman Who Hates Cooking

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My sister posing for our book cover.

Not so recently, it’s been months and months and probably well over a year now, that my sister and I had embarked on this cookbook project together, and something that we both thought of as a great idea at first, and probably an easy one at best, had become one difficult project indeed. Probably the most difficult project that I had encountered for sure; even more difficult than Law School. And as for my sister, well, you have to read the book to understand what she had to go through. Some of my critics despise the idea that I have tailored this book for the “Woman Who Hates Cooking,” when there are plenty of men who share the same sentiment, and yet nobody really complains about their inability to perform in the kitchen. My intentions were never to alienate anyone when writing this book, I realize that just as many men hate to cook, and plenty of men share the burden of daily cooking for their families. I know all of this. But it’s a fact that most women are expected to cook for their  family, even when both men and women are equally busy with careers, and raising  a family;  it just so happens that it’s the woman who takes the reins most times. My sister is a prime example of this; she hates cooking, works just as hard as her husband, and yet still finds herself having to prepare practically every meal in the house. My husband  is no different, although he may divorce me after reading this—but I can be as sick as a dog—and when it comes to dinner time, he will still ask what’s for dinner? Read More

Stinky pits

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Apparently, the arms are the least attractive part of the female body! Funny, but I don’t feel this way at all, but it’s a fact according to Desmond Morris in his book, The Naked Woman, A Study of the Female Body. The safest place to touch a woman, in a non-sexual way, is on her arm. If we were to think of the arms in evolutionary terms, then perhaps this makes a little bit more sense because the arms used to be our front legs. When man began to straighten up, those front legs transformed into very important tools to help us grip, climb, throw etc. Typically, the female’s arm is much more delicate than a male’s arm; naturally men are more attracted to the slender arm, rather than that of a female body builder where her forearms are over developed and very bulgy. The male’s longer and stronger forearm is a testament to their evolutionary purpose, to be the aimer and thrower, reminds us Morris. Who knew, but even our elbow angle differs from that of the male’s. Their wider shoulders keep the arms dangling away from the body,  as opposed to the female design, and this is another one of those important gender signals. Read More

Snippets of Memory–A Work in Progress

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Leon with his father, Chemush, outside their home, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

On this blog I like to present different types of thought provoking material, and this time I have chosen another poem that deserves your attention. More often than not, we are so consumed with our modern-day lives that anything from the past either, movies, radio, even books seem unnecessary because for some people they are not as relevant anymore. However, take a moment to enrich yourselves, and read this beautiful poem written by a man who had experienced Apartheid in South Africa, and his memory  is that of a young boy surrounded by prejudice and apathy. He possesses a sense of humor and straightforward honesty throughout his recollections that make his experience all the more biting and relevant. Politics and policy intertwined with everyday life. “Snippets of Memory–A Work in Progress,” is a poem written by Leon Levinsky, my father. Read More

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