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October 2011

Only in LA

There’s a myth that California is full of airheads, a myth so firmly lodged in the British psyche that there they call it “La La Land.” And yet according to USC research, “there are more artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers and musicians living in Los Angeles than in any other city at any time in the history of civilization.” There’s also a huge manufacturing industry and seven Fortune 500 companies.

So, clearly we don’t spend all day lying poolside, margarita in hand, (not ALL day obviously.) And not everyone has a trout pout or has taken to anus bleaching, (though we do think white teeth are a good idea). And yes, we like our therapists and our yoga. We intend to grow old disgracefully and to reinvent ourselves on a whim. But does this make us airheads? Hardly.

Before moving to Los Angeles, I lived in England in Stratford on Avon, birthplace of a writer who achieved worldwide fame without ever blogging. I brought with me a husband and two teenagers. Our two cats had been flown out earlier and were staying at The Best Little Cat House, a facility offering cat concierges, rooms with views, web cameras, complimentary manicures, pedicures, daily massages and a choice of menu. Okay I admit this sounds a little over the top, but they were emigrating too.

In the following weeks, I discovered that life here was certainly a little different; my new assistant thought she was a reincarnated angel. Our son was coming home from sleepovers with tales of Jack Nicholson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our daughter was sporting an American accent and doing a round of Bat Mitzvahs that would have made Cher’s stage set look bland.

But there was barely time for culture shock. Within a few short weeks we had 9/11 and the world would never be the same again- for any of us. This was when people rushed to our door to see if we were okay, inviting us to their homes, bringing round cookies.  This was when I hung a tiny American flag from our window and knew I’d come home.


Youth is wasted on the young.  – George Bernard Shaw

Opening the bedroom shutters this morning, I was a little surprised to see six men dismembering my neighbor’s roof and more than a little pissed to see that much of her roof was landing in my garden. I high tailed it next door through a haze of debris and let my feelings be known. My neighbor is ninety- three. She knew how to talk me off what was left of her ledge.

It is a wonderful thing to be around a woman who makes no concession to her age, especially in a city obsessed with youth. She tells me I remind her of herself when she was younger. I’m flattered. One day I hope to be like her; to be in the thralls of my third act, living every minute to the full and tearing my house apart.

Mimi Weddell, another of my role models, began her modeling and acting career in her sixties. She appeared on the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair in her nineties. She wasn’t nipped, tucked or liposucked. She was beautiful inside and out.

I have given this a great deal of thought. I believe the answer to eternal youth lies in reinvention. At any point in our lives we can become an entirely different person. There’s plenty of inspiration out there. For me it always starts with shoes or boots.

Pulling out last season’s clothes I see last year’s woman. She was okay, a little preppy for my tastes, a tad sensible. This year’s woman will have more edge.* She will be French.

“How so?” I hear you ask, “for you are many things, but you are not French.”

A mere accident of birth; my inner French girl has waited too long, stifled, closeted. I’m coming out. There. I’ve said it. “I’m French.”

*trendy style term frequently used in women’s magazines.