Author: Diane di Costanzo

It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Sweaty Signifier of Age

I was at the kind of music festival that draws packs of “festies,” young people who travel from concert to concert in the summertime wearing Indian-print skirts and bikini tops, their skin pierced and tattooed, wafting a fragrance that commingles pot and patchouli, with a base note of humid sleeping bag. An afternoon spent among them was making me feel my age, 48 at the time. They were groovy goddesses of their own anointing, with crazy-curly-cool hair highlighted in green and purple, bare feet kicking up dirt as they danced. They looked like beautiful children with their exposed tummies — flat or rounded, it did not seem to matter which — playful and unselfconscious. I was sitting under a dusty sycamore, wondering how weird I’d look if I starting reading my library book, when it struck me: a bolt of searing heat, a sudden scrambling of the brain. A hot flash is a bit like a menstrual cramp or migraine. Even if you’ve never had one, you know it when you feel it. And perhaps …

7 Unexpected Business Lessons I’ve Learned From Millennial Women

I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to mentor millennial women — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more. Famously, there’s Madeleine Albright’s “special place in hell,” arguing from the “should” camp (although she’d later characterize the statement as “undiplomatic”). There’s Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s supposition that women feel obligated not to show a gender bias, leading the “why they don’t” discussion. And then there’s the less discussed but pervasive — and patronizing — attitude of a certain kind of senior leader toward her younger female colleagues. The sentiments shared with me, because I am old and it is assumed I will feel the same way, are as follows: Millennial women are entitled, brash, not deferential enough toward leadership, look at their phones when I’m talking in meetings and let’s not even get into what they wear …

A Stranger on the Road: A Syrian Woman Finds a New Home in Connecticut

It’s been a volatile time for refugees trying to get to America, especially since January 27 when Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. But the judicial system’s fast reversal of the ban created a window of opportunity — and something of a roller coaster ride — for refugees who had been previously cleared for entry. Syrian refugee Fradh Alfaawri and her four children rode that roller coaster last week. The back story: Alfaawri escaped war-torn Syria in 2013 after her husband died in police custody. The family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp for four years before they heard the good news: The U.S. would accept all five of them as refugees. But less than a week before they were to leave, Trump imposed his ban, leaving them stranded, “shocked and very, very sad,” Alfaawri told the press through an interpreter. And then another phone call: If the family could board a plane in three hours, they would, they were told, be admitted after all. Some days …

Sleepless in Suburbia

All my life, I have put myself to sleep with a novel—eyelids pulling down, dreams wending vine-like into whatever story I am reading. Sometimes I startle awake and, when I attempt to start reading again, I find that the words on the page don’t match the version of the plot my dreams invented. Proust writes about this in one of his interminable Remembrances novels, this being the only thing I remember about them. I’m sure I fell asleep to him as well. Presumably he would be forgiving. More recently, I’ve switched to getting in bed with my laptop. I watch the red Netflix page download and, soon enough, delight to the introduction: Previously on Damages. No matter how cold-bloodedly conniving Ms. Close is, I can fall asleep to her too. But then, at some wildly inconvenient hour — 2:53, 3:21 or 4:02 — I am wide-awake. Not the dozy, semi-wakefulness I recall from the time my kids were babies and wanted to climb into my bed, having peed in their own. No, I am hyper alert, …

The Boss of Me

He was the editor of a well-known men’s magazine. A short man. Not an attractive man. After I interviewed with him I said to my boyfriend at the time, “Why he looks just as much like a turtle as a man can look.” This was the 1980s. This was my first media job, although we called it publishing back then. I interviewed in a navy linen suit from Bonwit Teller, nude pantyhose and navy pumps trimmed with flat grosgrain ribbons. I was a 22-year-old from Iowa and I thought the look I should be going for was “appropriate.” Inexplicably, I was hired. And I realized within the first hour of my first day that I had it all wrong. “Cool” was the style that prevailed among the girls on staff. A girl called Muney wore a pink tutu and black motorcycle jacket like Cyndi Lauper. A girl called April, who was whippet thin and wore lank bangs in her eyes, rimmed all around in kohl, wore leather jeans, the first I’d ever seen. Let’s just say …

tuenight grace diane di costanzo thanks

A Prayer for Everyday Things

There’s a secular kind of prayer I make when I fear something in my life is about to be lost. It goes like this: Please, please, please, please. On an everyday basis, that thing is my phone and I am asking the Maker (of Apple Products) to reveal it to me as not lost after all. Please, please, please, please, I think. And there it is: my phone, tossed heedlessly into my bag, hidden in the black recesses among sundry other black things. I feel a little spangle of relief; it’s a company-issued phone, and I simply can’t tell the tech-support guy I lost another one. On most occasions, I remember to send up a thank you to the Maker that goes something like this: “You have saved me so much inconvenience (not to mention groveling) on this day, and for that I am grateful.” As a mother of two “children” now in their 20s, I’ve had far too many occasions to send up that prayer to another Maker, who, although not well known to …

A Girl’s Guide to Office Brocabulary

“Adorable” is the word Jennifer Lawrence uses to describe how women in business strive to sound. Wise beyond her years, the actress shared a story on Lenny Letter about how she was chided for speaking plainly to a male colleague. Her essay, a few weeks ago, kicked off a conversation about how “Woman in a Meeting” is a language all its own. Examples from The Washington Post, all of which I am guilty of: “This may be all wrong but…” and “Maybe? I don’t know? How does the room feel?” Lawrence’s story: “I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, “Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!” As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought …

#SoProud Moms on Facebook, We Need to Talk

Dear Moms on Facebook With Above-Average Kids (hereafter referred to as MOF-WAACs), Your children are unique in their accomplishments. They exceed in a wide range of sports: soccer, basketball, field hockey and then soccer again, but of the “travel team” variety. They are given baffling-to-me-and-perhaps-other-people-who-don’t-live-in-your-town awards like “regional,” “all-city” and “division champ” (I say choose one geographical designation and go with it, but I don’t live in your town.) They always get A’s, and you, as a MOF-WAAC, have never failed to photograph their report cards and upload them to Facebook with the hashtag #soproud. In fact, from their post-natal APGAR score (perfect 10s, scanned and uploaded) to their college diplomas (magna cum laude, ditto), they’ve done nothing but made you #soproud. One noteworthy example (and I’m not making this up): Your toddler photographed mid-defecation, straddling a low plastic toilet with the caption “First poop in a big-girl potty!” And the hashtag #poophappens. On this point I couldn’t agree more: Poop does happen. But ask yourselves, MOF-WAACs, do we need photos of it online? Setting …

Why A Nude Photo Session in Your 50s Is Not Such a Bad Idea After All

If you get those Living Social emails, you surely have received offers of discounted “boudoir photography” sessions. While I like a deal as much as the next underpaid editor, I’ve always viewed them as a spectacularly bad idea. Take off your clothes for some stranger in a second-floor studio on Canal Street? Not sure I want to live that social. Delete. (Come to think of it, this pretty much describes my Living Social bikini wax experience, but I’m almost positive there were no cameras involved.) Another reason boudoir photography has held no appeal: Mine is not a body built for the boudoir. Not that I’ve ever, knowingly, visited a boudoir, but I’m pretty sure the ladies you’d find there would be womanly, curvy, Rubenesque. By contrast, I possess super-sturdy legs, broad shoulders, narrow hips and a not-narrow waist. I have what I call a Man Back which makes for a bra size that starts, alluringly, with the number 36, only to be followed by a demure “A.” Practically a Man Front, in other words, at …

The Girl in the Gray Flannel Suit

Before I moved to Bridgeport — Connecticut’s only really big, bad city — I commuted into Manhattan out of a station in Westport. A bit of trivia: Westport is the town that played the role of EverySuburb in the 1955 bestseller The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, reissued with a forward by Jonathan Franzen, and in the hit movie, starring Gregory Peck. You likely haven’t read the book or seen the movie (I did, only just in advance of writing this), but I bet the title triggers the image of its protagonist: the button-downed, soul-squashed, bread-winning husband/middle-manager who takes his place on the platform every weekday morning at 6:34 a.m. at the exact spot where the door will open, briefcase and folded-up New York Times in hand. What you probably don’t know: On the Westport platform and at that time in the morning, not much has changed. Many mornings it was a sea of grey-suited men, most of whom resemble Dick Cheney at some point in his life, and me. The youngest among them have …

Sunflowers for Merrie: Choosing an Afterlife Avatar

It was Merrie’s birthday last week, her 56th, if she had lived to celebrate it. Merrie was … oh it’s impossible to say who Merrie was to me: one of my oldest and closest friends doesn’t quite do it. Nor do any of these: the willowy blonde architecture student who wore red clogs; the mother of two beautiful boys of whom she was insanely proud; a woman who had the most strikingly singular personal style, who didn’t turn it off even for our Wednesday trips to Yale for her chemo treatments. I was a freelance writer during Merrie’s last year of life and was free to drive her to the hospital for a year’s worth of Wednesdays. She wouldn’t be ready when I arrived, so I’d sit at the edge of her bed and watch her chose an outfit, trying to stave off my anxiety about being late — she’d lose her slot if I didn’t get her there on time. Merrie, for all her wondrousness, was late for most things, including the potentially life-saving …

The New Drug to Increase Women’s Libido is No Viagra

Polar Vortexes aside, February was a steamy month for us gals. On Valentine’s Day the silver screen turned Fifty Shades of Grey, debuting a movie that’s been called Mommy Porn, a genre seemingly purpose-built for women who’ve come to associate feeling “hot and bothered” with spending too much time baking, steam-cleaning carpets or trooping around Disney World with cranky kids. Three days later, Sprout Pharmaceuticals announced it had resubmitted for FDA approval a drug designed to increase sexual desire in women who suffer from what’s called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder or HSDD. (1) If the third time’s a charm and the FDA approves it, Flibanserin will be the first drug of its kind, hitting the market some 17 years after Viagra debuted in 1998. (2) There’s just so much in this last sentence that it’s worthwhile taking a moment to — at the risk of sounding modish — unpack it. [pullquote]If you frequently resort to any of these dodges because you can’t muster the lust for sex — and not because, say, you’re super pissed because …

Was I Cyber-Snooping on My Spouse?

I’ve been married for such a long time. There were even times — before a recent turn of events — when I wished I could work up even a slight interest in my husband’s shenanigans. His flirting with women, for instance. I’ve always said: the man would flirt with a lamppost. His vast network of female friends. I’ve always said: the man loves the ladies! It’s not that I was so convinced my charms were superior to those of these women (and lampposts). It was just, after all these years of marriage, it didn’t bother me. Or, better said, I trusted him. But that was before Lauren, let’s call her, the PTA president at the high school in our suburban town. She was the wife of a wealthy finance guy, not someone I knew very well. She and my husband were on a committee together, whose meetings were held in the white clapboard parish house on the village green. One evening after work, driving home from the train station, I recalled my husband was at …