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Category Archives: sophisticated

Amy Poehler and the myth of being nice

by SweetMidlife

yes please

This is Leslie, and I would like to talk to you about a four-letter word, one I have been sometimes proud to be called, and, at other times, wanted to slap people about the face in a vigorous fashion should it be tossed in my direction.


I do not mean the, well, nice definition of nice, which is cordial, courteous and personable. I mean the kind of “nice” that really means “pushover” or “selfless to the point of martyrdom” or “always willing to acquiesce to the requests of others, no matter how last-minute, unreasonable or inconvenient, for fear of people thinking you’re not nice.”

This kind of nice – and if you’re human, and almost certainly if you are a woman, you may have had thrust upon you – is almost a dare, a velvet cudgel that in the most sweetly inescapable way says (always smiling) “Can you do me a favor?” or “I know this is last minute but” or “I hope I’m not putting you out but” and then proceeds to put you out, all the while making it almost impossible for you to say ‘no’ at risk of the asker and other people not liking you anymore.

Amy Poehler has no use for such idiocy, and that attitude is all over the refreshingly blunt “Yes Please,” a combination memoir/life manual where she covers everything from her discovery of improv comedy to her “comedy wife” Tina Fey to the joys of faking inappropriate behavior with Justin Timberlake. But a recurring theme of the book, which I’m almost done listening to on Audible.com, is that you don’t owe anybody your dignity, and if a request is intrusive, unreasonable, presumptive or just something you don’t want to do, you get to say “No” and move on. And screw ’em if that’s not OK.

Poehler is probably most famous for playing  Pawnee, Indiana’s sincere-to-a-fault, people-pleasing public servant Leslie Knope on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” and she’s clear that she’s just acting – “I’m not that nice,” she writes candidly. And she’s not talking about being purposely rude as a mission statement, but about not allowing other’s expectations to color her life, in a way that a lot of us – especially, I think, women – have been raised to believe trumps all, even our own plans. You’ve been there, every time you’re asked to be on a church committee you know you don’t have time for, or that sweet last-minute request for bake sale items when you’ve gotta make dinner, or that “quick” favor of an errand that’s really not that quick. And you want to say “No.”

But you’re so nice.

From not accepting screenplays rudely dropped in her lap while she’s sleeping on a train (“It’s called ‘I Don’t Know Because I Threw It Away'”) to just saying “No” when strangers approach her on the street to ask her a question (“Nobody needs to ask me a question”), Poehler writes of the sometimes painful road to realizing that the older you get, the less it matters what other people think of you. And if people thinking you are “nice” is more important than the stuff you gotta do, you’re a sucker.

Poehler doesn’t exonerate herself from her own idiocy and the importance of being nice, as in a good human being, when it’s about owning your own stuff: In a particularly painful passage she talks of inadvertently mocking a real-life disabled woman in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch that she assumed was fictional, because she was busy getting ready for the show and just never checked with her writers to find out. When she gets an emotionally charged letter from Oscar-winning actor Chris Cooper and his wife Marianne, who directed the movie the sketch mocks, that mentions that the young lady was actually watching the sketch live, she attempts to rationalize her behavior by deciding they’re overreacting, that it wasn’t her fault, and then throws the letter away. It’s not until five years later that she attempts to contact the Coopers through mutual friend and director Spike Jonze, and hears back that they were disappointed it took so long and don’t need an apology at this late date, but offer contact info for the young lady she hurt. (She receives a gracious note from her.)

In that case, Poehler needed to have been “nice,” as in be an adult, and she acknowledges it. She even admits that sometimes in her candor, she lets that “niceness” urge put her in unfair situations, like the “creepy guy” producer who, unable to talk her into re-recording an entire speech that the tech crew messed up, asks her for a hug to make him feel better about being wrong, she submits, even though she doesn’t hug back, because it’s easier than saying “No.”

A great man I know named Pastor Dave Pinckney once told me that it is Godly to say no sometimes, meaning that you can’t be of any use to anybody, heavenly or otherwise, if you’re too overbooked to do your job well. Being “nice” or making people think you are isn’t worth screwing it all up. I’ve been there. Amy Poeher’s been there. And we both know that sometimes, the nicest thing, to yourself, is to say “No, please.”

Is incontinence the new sexy? Lisa Rinna says yes

by SweetMidlife


I watched the new Depends commercial featuring soap star/colleague disser Lisa Rinna and long-suffering patient husband Harry Hamlin being approached on the red carpet to model incontinence underwear, and I still don’t know how to feel about it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I feel incredibly uncomfortable, and a little embarrassed, and also a little admiring of the guts it takes to do an incontinence underwear commercial while still appearing as hot on “Days of Our Lives.’

And old. I feel old. Because even though Lisa Rinna is older than me, the idea that anyone whose age begins with the same one mine does is the target audience for Depends makes me sad.

Here’s what happens – Lisa and Harry are walking down a red carpet, and some Depends guy with a microphone asks if she’ll try Silhouette for Women, the new line of undergarments, which are supposed to be so comfortable and form-fitting that she can fit them under her tight Herve Leger gown. She says sure, hands Hamlin her handbag, and then comes back wearing the Depends.

I like that the company is apparently targeting Baby Boomers and those just younger – Rinna is 48. And I like that they’re being bold in saying – you’re still hot. You still go out and want to look good. You might be incontinent. Nobody has to know.

Then again…the Depends guy in commercial says “Hey Lisa Rinna! I know you’re not incontinent, but try our pads!” I love that in the interviews for the product, Rinna goes on and on about how it’s OK to have that problem, but there is no way she will ever let anyone think she has it. Because she doesn’t! Nosiree! And how does the Depends guy know anything about Lisa Rinna’s bladder control? It smacks of “Buy this product, but protect my ego.” I have new-found respect for Bob Dole, who made those Viagra commercials and said “I’m old and sexy, y’all! I still have sex with my wife, and sometimes need help to do that! Respect, bisnatches!” Good for him and Liddy.

Maybe Lisa Rinna’s not incontinent (and I never thought that I would ever ponder the state of her bladder for several sentences, or at all ever) but there was something so obvious about that little aside from the Depends guy with the microphone, that says “You might need the product, but I never would. But I’ll take their check.” Are there any hot ladies in Hollywood willing to admit to their bladder issues while taking the check?

And Harry Hamlin…God love you.

Bride at 35 Fashion: Beautiful Bridesmaids Dresses, Happy Everybody

by SweetMidlife



We know that our blog is read by people on all ranges of the wedding spectrum, but one thing that many of us have in common is that we’ve been IN a wedding at some time in our lives.  And no term sets fear into the hearts of a bride’s close friends like “bridesmaids dress”.  The bride has a vision, but you don’t know if you want to be a part of it if that includes a strapless full-length peach taffeta dress designed for a 100-lb 18 year-old (if that’s not who you are) .  And who wants to spend $250 on something that you and she BOTH know you will never wear again because looking like an overgrown clown on a Snickers bender does not fit into your everyday life?

Our expert today could be the answer to your problems, Dear Over-35 bride or bridesmaid.  Athelia Wooley is the designer and co-owner (along with her business partner Emily McCormick) of Shabby Apple, a wonderful company that designs beautiful, classic, affordable dresses for work and other occassions that flatter different ages and body types. And while “flatter” often means “doesn’t make you look awful”, in Shabby Apple’s case it means “makes you look awesome”.  Their main audience is women in their mid-20’s through their early 40’s; these are women who are past college-age, but still want to be pretty and trendy. “”They don’t want to look too young, but they aren’t  ready for Talbots yet”, says Athelia.

As Athelia was planning her own wedding, she looked around for dresses for her attendants but she mostly found short strapless ones that her friends were not going to feel comfortable in.  This inspired her to design a wedding line, so a year ago, Shabby Apple introduced The Bridesmaids Collection.  Enjoy the following pictures, along with Athelia’s thoughts on pretty, affordable, respectable dresses that your bridesmaids WILL want to wear again. We would.

Picking bridesmaids dresses that both you and your friends like can be tough, and Athelia says that a good place to start is with materials. The thicker the material, the more stretch it has; the more stretch, the more flattering.  This means a dress  “that looks good on everybody”. 

As for bridesmaids who get to pick their own dresses, Athelia thinks that you should wear something that you like but that doesn’t distract from who you are. “Pick something that you are going to wear”, she says,” and not that is going to wear you.” But before you get TOO cute, Athelia says that you should remember whose day this is. “The bride is the center of attention; look good, but don’t try to outshine her.”

Like you and your bridesmaids, Athelia kept budget in mind and was “super price-conscious” as she designed the line; all of the dresses in the line are $130, and are made of the best fabrics possible. This is good for your wedding, and good for business. “If the customer has a good experience and doesn’t have to spend a lot of money, they will come back and tell their friends.”

Ultimately, beauty is a state of mind, according to Athelia, and this is especially true of women in their 30’s and above. “You have to believe (in your own beauty) ; if you believe it yourself, you will portray it.  If your age makes you insecure it makes you unattractive.”  And you can find that beauty while still maintaining your dignity.  “If you are classy you will look beautiful. The biggest mistake is that we try to be vampy, but it looks silly, and it doesn’t respect you”. 

Shabby Apple’s designs are perfect for the Bride at 35, and we hope you check them out.  And since Athelia was 31 when she got married, she is today’s Real Life Bride at (almost) 35.  Here are some pictures of her wedding, which she calls “a wonderful celebration with people who I love”.  Enjoy.

Indian destination weddings: Upscale twists on tradition

by SweetMidlife

To me, a small wedding means less than 50 guests; a large wedding is north of 150. But the other day, over drinks with my friend, upscale Indian wedding planner Amen Pawar-Larosa, she mentioned her “very small” Indian wedding in her native England, one of three nuptial celebrations she and husband Derek had.

“So how many people did you have at that one?” I asked.

“120,” Amen said casually, as if she was saying “Well, just me and Derek and my cousin Jerome.”

Clearly, we’re working with a different ruler when it comes to Indian weddings. This was particularly interesting to us at Bride At 35, because there’s an even greater expectation of marrying young in this culture than in the mainstream American one –  “It’s between 25 and 30, nothing older,” Amen says of the brides she helps with her wedding planning company, Pawar Inc.

So we like Amen’s concept because Pawar, Inc., like this blog, is about making tradition beautifully, uniquely your own – “To marry tradition and modern style,” she says. She got her start working for another planner who happened to book an Indian destination wedding – the bride met Amen and saw a kindred spirit, “which helped seal the deal.” After helping several similar brides, Amen decided to hang her own stylish shingle. She’s even seeing non-Indian brides, like singer Katy Perry, having Indian weddings, which she sees as not an appropriation of a culture but a celebration.

Here’s what you need to know:

— Amen wasn’t technically a Bride at 35, but given cultural equivalency, she might as well be – “To be married and have children by (the age of 28) is so expected,” she says. “My mum would get invited to so many weddings and wonder why I wasn’t getting married. She tried – ‘I have a nice guy coming to meet you!’ It was not happening.” Amen eventually married an Italian-Catholic New Yorker named Derek Larosa (They had three ceremonies: One with the Justice of the Peace, the Indian wedding in England and a blessing by Derek’s pastor in New York).

“We wanted it to be about us, but we saw how things were affecting our parents,” she says. “So we had these awesome parties and said ‘Do whatever you want to do.'”

— Why Indian destination weddings?: Well, why destination weddings, period? Brides want something beachy and probably warmer than their home town, both improving the scenery and cutting the guest list. Where the average guest list is somewhere around 300 for Indian weddings, Amen says, the destination weddings she’s seen host around 150. Although Miami has become a haven for these, Palm Beach, with its swanky hotels like the Breakers and the Four Seasons, “is a hidden gem that no one knows about,” she says. “The beauty of it is that is that you can cut down the guest list. The thing is, that these are well-to-do families, and they hear ‘The Breakers’ and bring the whole family. You think people aren’t going to come, but it’s a good assumption that more will than you think.” (Ain’t that the truth?)

— Many upscale hotels on Palm Beach have Indian chefs already in-house, “but nobody knows this,” Amen says. Well, they do now!

— Traditionally, if the wedding is held in the bride’s home town, it’s a several-day affair that includes an entire community, where the bride’s parents pay for everything. She says that the biggest adjustment has been trying to convince fathers that since “it’s not in their hometown, they don’t have to feed everyone for every meal the whole weekend.”

— Amen says  more and more of the weddings are keeping some traditions but bringing some new twists, like having one partner of a different religion or race,  decreasing the guest list and more – “A lot of these brides grew up in America. They love Louis Vuiton.The ceremony keeps the family element and blends those element with the latest, hipper styles.”

— I have never met an ethnic person who didn’t believe that their ethnicity is traditionally…tardy. Seriously, black people, Cubans, and apparently Indians have a self-recognized reputation for not starting things on time. Amen says that timeliness is the number one obstacle at the weddings that she’s planned – “Indian Standard Time!” she says, laughing. “Keeping everything on time is the priority. With hair and make-up being done I need everyone to be on time. I run a tight ship.”

The words of love on Gabrielle Giffords’ wedding band

by SweetMidlife

Like all of you, Lynne and I were shocked by the events of last Saturday in Tuscon, mourn the loss of the lost and pray for the recovery of the wounded and the nation. I personally was not familiar with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before this, but was struck not only by how reportedly steadfast stance on the issues she believes in, but her love story with husband (and astronaut!) Mark E. Kelly.

In case you don’t know this, Giffords didn’t get married (for the first time) until the age of 37 (she’s 40 now). Their courtship was kinda funny (their first date was a tour of a prison!) and they’re obviously successful, attractive people. They apparently met each other right when they were supposed to.

Giffords was, obviously, on my mind a lot this week, when my editor (I’m a reporter in my day job) sent me an email suggesting a Valentine’s Day story about the inscription inside Giffords’ and Kelly’s wedding bands. It’s “You’re the closest to heaven that I’ve ever been,” a line from the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris.”

I’ve always loved that line, because it’s about vulnerability and self-contained happiness. And given that Kelly’s job is to fly into the heavens, yet he considers his wife more celestial, is awe-inspiring. I pray and hope as she recovers that their love gets to continue to soar.

Bridal expert Nancy Aucone: Think "sophisticated," not "older"

by SweetMidlife

Nancy Aucone is happy to talk about the gorgeous over-35 brides that have come through The Wedding Salon of Manhasset in New York. She’d just prefer not to call them that.

“We never use that word – ‘older.’ The brides we see are very sophisticated brides,” says Aucone, the upscale salon’s co-founder and co-owner. “We carry all the top designers, so we have a little jump on having something for the older bride right there. All the high fashion designers at this point are a little more couture, so (their work) fits an older bride…We don’t segregate what we show.”

Well, then! We like that! We’re sophisticated!

Nancy says that because of the quality of the dresses that the Wedding Salon – Monique Lhullier, Vera Wang, Marchessa – and their cost, many of her brides tend to be a little older. But the important thing here, again, is her taste level, as “Project Runway”‘s Nina Garcia might say, and not her birthday. We asked Nancy about trends, confidence and what the bridal aisle and the red carpet have in common.

— The fashion show: “Our bride is not looking for the traditional type of dress. They’re more looking for what a celebrity would wear on the red carpet, done in white or ivory. (Sometimes) the older brides might wear a latte or an ivory. She’s really shopping for a fashion dress. Our designers design for celebrities, and I think that’s a natural for the older bride. And the younger bride picks up on it. These are really ready-to-wear looks.”

— Frumpy, schmumpy: Unlike the wedding sites we’ve seen and hated that seem to think that brides over a certain age should basically wear raincoats and a veil, Nancy says that her sophisticated ladies “are not covering up. We don’t attract that type of bride, because of who we carry. A bride with a figure problem would probably not come to us. Our samples are mostly 8s. If (the brides are) it’s not a problem, But covering up is not an issue. (Editor’s note: Some salons do carry larger samples. Leslie’s dress was a sample size 16 that she got for less than half price at a sample sale at an upscale salon in Washington, D.C. But most samples are, yes, much smaller). Strapless is still number one, but if people are covering up, it’s more for religious reasons than age. Most of our older brides are not, and that’s good. We don’t think she should have to.”

— Knowing your own mind: “The confidence level is there for sure (with older brides). They know what they want, and what they don’t want. They’re a bride, so it’s up for us to take over, We don’t create the dresses, but we give them a good mix of possibilities. We start with the silhouette, maybe a more sophisticated lace. The variety is really out there, Of the last few brides, we had one who bought an Ulla-Maija that was one shoulder. This woman had a beautiful body. She wore a brooch with a feather with her hair in a chignon. She might wear a cover-up because of the weather, but it’s going to be amazing.”

— Unveiled: “(Older brides) chose more creative headpieces (rather than veils), but, again, they tend to be a more sophisticated bride who won’t really be interested in a veil. Well, they might do a cocktail veil, or fishnet. But a lot of them wear something almost like hair jewelry. Certainly not a tiara. They’re very out of style, and on an older bride, they look even more out of style (NOTE: Leslie briefly considered a tiara, until the notion pretty much got beaten out of her by people with more sense than her.)

— Second time around? Only the bride knows for sure: “In today’s world, a lot of very young brides are second or even third-time brides. We never ask. Unless it comes up, we’d never know. We actually had, a couple of years ago, an older bride come with her first husband to help her pick her dress for her second wedding.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           — Short cuts: “We’ve sold a lot of short important dresses that could be used as second dresses (for later in the evening) or as a short dress for a second wedding, like Marchessa. (They are) short versions of a very exciting celebrity dress, that can go to less (formal) of a venue. Or they could be changing for the party that happens after the big wedding. The short dresses fills a lot of categories.”

— The right connection: “Working with brides on the floor, until you kind of see that connection, that’s the smile, (you know) she hasn’t found the right one yet. I’ve done this for 30 years. It’s a connection that gets through between herself and the dress that no one can really pinpoint…And it’s very important that the consultant and the bride connect. Sometimes I make a switch (between consultants). Nine times out of ten that works. The people coming in with (the bride) are not going into the room with her. They’re all staged on couches, while the bride is dressed with the consultant, as if it is the wedding and this is how people are going to see her. I say to them ‘You’re seeing her for the first time, just like the guests are.’ That reaction is very important. And it should be ‘Wow!'”

— Shopping without limits (your own or anyone else’s): “They might come in thinking (about one specific type of dress), but what we see when they get here is that they start to have fun with it. We have even had the venues (of the weddings) change because (the bride) decides to buy a more exciting dress. They get more of a wedding dress, and have more of a wedding. We’ve seen that happen. The dress sets the tone.”

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