July 18, 2011

Rockin’ the Seventies

I’m not gonna discuss Bianca Jagger’s iconic Studio 54 style or the advent of DVF’s jersey wrap dress here. No, even though I was born pretty recently (hey, everything’s relative!) in 1973, this post is not about that decade’s funky fashion and faux pas. Instead, I wanna give a big shout-out to my mom (a.k.a. Mama Oh) who is turning 70 this week.

They say “black don’t crack”? Well, Asians don’t age. Mama Oh at Old Ebbitt Grill in 2008.

My newly septuagenarian mom is amazing. After losing my father and her golden-years dreams to his sudden, fatal heart attack in 1999, she has slowly adjusted her life to an updated flavor of “normal.” She worked for 30-plus years as a chemist at Glaxo Smithkline before retiring in 2006. Having built up a comfortable nest egg, she takes piano lessons, gardens, hikes, goes to the local Y, attends art history classes, watches Phillies baseball, studies opera, and travels extensively (New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica). In fact, my mom just returned from her third trip to Italy (I’m praying she’ll soon buy a pied-à-terre in Florence or Rome and share the keys). She’s the definition of rallying when life throws you a zinger—and living proof that 70 is the new 50!

Climb every mountain: my mom on a hiking trip in the North Cascades in Washington State last year

Two other extraordinary dames d’un certain age are also marking milestone birthdays this year. Grace Coddington, Vogue‘s fiery creative director whose brilliance, passion and vulnerability were on full display in the movie The September Issue, turned 70 in April.

Amazing Grace

And it was my boyfriend’s über-chic colleague named A.K. who brought the incomparable Iris Apfel to my attention. This exuberant style icon turns 90 next month. (If Mrs. Apfel seems too good to be true, read this entry in jewelry designer Alexis Bittar’s blog or this June 2011 interview in Architectural Digest.)

Iris eyes are smiling

So what’s the lesson in all of this? If you wanna know the secret to longevity and find the Fountain of Youth, it’s not about Botox, Pilates or Restylane. And you don’t need a treacly pep talk from Oprah about “How to Live Your Best Life” or tips from Vogue‘s annual “Age” issue. Just follow in the footsteps of these three women: stick to your convictions, be fearless, and be genuinely open and accepting. You can rock that in whatever decade you’re in.

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Update on August 24, 2011: There’s an article in today’s NYTimes about Iris Apfel. She’s gonna start selling her line of accessories on the Home Shopping Network starting Sept. 23rd. At 90, she is still going gangbusters!


Join the conversation! 5 Comments

  1. Best Wishes for a wonderful birthday and for many more exciting adventures. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mama Oh. Do hope we get to meet one day. Carole Stumme

  2. […] to the Philly ‘burbs for a pathetically short visit to my mom’s house to celebrate her 70th birthday.  I figured this trip would also be the perfect opportunity to flip through old photo albums and […]

  3. […] the fact that today is my, ahem, 38th birthday.  I spent this morning having brunch with Andrew, my mom who’s in town from Philly, and my best friend Susan who has moved back to DC (hooray!).  […]

  4. […] for–actually, the one main thing that I’m most grateful for.  My good health, yes.  My mom who has put up with me for almost four decades, sure.  My late father who was a brilliant man of […]

  5. […] mom may not always realize it, but her house near Philly is a treasure trove of inspiration for me.  […]


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