An open blog in “ancient days” i.e. “letter” to Oprah Winfrey that contains some wishes and advice.
The blatantly over the top HuffPo headline 11/26/12 Oprah May Stop Printing O Magazine, Had A Breast Cancer Scare, culled from an article in NYT, Nov 25, 2012 has had me thinking for several weeks. The headline was such an odd juxtaposition, that I found myself thinking about you both, as an individual and as a metaphor for our current zeitgeist. I’m in my seventh decade, which I consider an honor and privilege, for one does not add years without opportunity to fall, fail, grow and blossom. Each decade has been a period of personal change. My fifties were no exception, as I am sure they are for you as well.
My forty plus years as a psychologist, web site founder, author and most humbly, developing (s)age kept me returning to the “missing link.” The typical “screaming to catch attention message” peeked my interest in a way that I doubt HuffPo intended. As I tried to digest the quixotically unnerving mixed headline and ensuing story, I kept returning to one version of the unspoken puzzle. If the story as stated is true, (and it appears to be) this is what I believe and suggest.
1. Oprah, you have always tried to base your appeal on your authenticity. Stating you had a mammogram scare that ultimately came to nothing says nothing, except that like most women who get mammograms something was amiss. Mammograms are always a bit frightening: a false positive, a biopsy, a lump, a recall for another test leaves one feeling that this time (blessedly) they escaped what is probably inevitable. One gratefully takes a breath that this time the dreaded term cancer is not diagnosed. But, what will the next test diagnosis bring?
2. Telling about the mammogram scare for the first time in front of a general audience which contains your supposed best friend is odd and confusing at best and at worst, thoughtless and potentially cruel to her. This behavior is so out of your usual more thoughtful character, that coupled with the message about possibly closing the magazine, it’s akin to voicing an internal manifestation (I’m concerned about my health, but whew, this time it was nothing) related to an external reality concern, “Where is my future (especially my magazine) going?” Daring to delve deeply and thinking out of the box, the messy combination, may have been an unconscious “cry for help.”
3. Oprah, you are 58. You’ve had the foresight and wisdom to understand you were aging and that as a result energy might flag, health scares could come more frequently, body parts would change and new internal (spiritual and purposeful) needs would emerge. With wise and elegant business acumen and deliberate planning you gave notice and began your mid-life transition from your daily face time grind to new creative endeavors. Kudos.
However, Oprah, you are in uncharted territory. You had the courage to plunge to new web modalities, new opportunities, new attempts to be your authentic self in mid-life and hopefully, beyond. When a statement such as that odd headline is out of keeping with one’s supposed image, it’s worth paying attention to. In fact, over the years one of your well honed skills has been learning to pay attention to the nuances of how a statement is phrased or to what is not said, those vital spaces between words. As you well know, meanings are so often found in the unstated or seemingly jarring or chaotic sentence.
4. I wanted to share my insights with you. You’ve gained your popularity and power and in part your trademark by always trying to be the fully authentic SELF you have been at every life stage. Now, you are a in the process of becoming a woman graced with age and wisdom. Why change who you are? Why risk losing your authenticity and altering your appeal? So, I ask, as the article indicated you wanted to do, (“to attract women “in their 30′s or perhaps their 20′s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” Adding “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.”) why in the world would you want to focus your magazine on young women? HuffPo understands the 50’s as do dozens of other sites including, in full disclosure, my own, www. fiftyandfurthermore.com. Strikingly, I am in the process of redefining it to reach those in their true third age. Let’s get to the crux. The boomers have boomed and are as challenged by their newly formed identities, as are you. You, they, we are the pioneers and role models we seek. We are the trailblazers and role models we may wish we had.
5. America has its first population of active wise elders who are living longer than ever before. Along with all the new issues they are confronting, they are the fastest growing ratio contracting STD’s, STI’s and HIV. We are having sex, or wondering why we aren’t We are growing, facing new challenges and traveling new paths.
6. We have books about reinventing ourselves, dating, once one’s hair is grey (covered over or not) and vaginas that get dry and penises that function perfectly well, just not the way they once did. We are seeking new purpose, new forms of spirituality and new ways of giving. Oprah, there is a void that either is not yet recognized or that people are afraid to fill. Yes, it’s our responsibility to mentor youth. But pandering to their culture is like a 58-year athlete trying to compete with a 22 year old. Can we really? And why should we? Aging well is a privilege. My wish and advice, Oprah, fill that void.
Approximately 10 years ago I started www.fiftyandfurthermore.com as an online magazine. I was a bit of a flailing about visionary. I did my homework, talked to publishers, researched what was evolving on the net and acknowledged that my economics would not enable me to publish the magazine I thought was needed. I also foresaw that the age of print was in for a bumpy ride. I remember thinking that when the time was right, maybe Martha or Oprah would fill the void.
In a relatively short time, the web has undergone more permutations than anyone can keep up with. What was in vogue yesterday is passé today. You understand this better than most. Live it. There is a need for O to grow and lead (s)ages. You are the one person I can think of who can and should do it. “Change the focus of the magazine. Build it, re-brand it, and they will come.”
I am aware of these changes, and I too, am in the process of changing my brand including my website to reach my peers. Women (and men) who are vital, alive, have had marriages, divorces, relationships, affairs. Adults who are parents, grandparents, even great grandparents who still go to yoga, Pilates, travel, eat healthily and are interested in politics, culture and life. So Oprah, why alter your formula for success? Why try to appeal to those who need you to be who you are? My advice: Honor your age, your wisdom, your health, wealth, power and spirit. Reach out to those who know and understand your current challenges now and in the future. Be true to yourself. Your formula has worked for you so far. Grow O and your other endeavors to suit your age.
Unanticipatedly, writing this open letter to you, has helped clarify my own next steps. As a new year, 2013, begins, so will I. Thank you for helping me better define the direction I was seeking.
With respect and best wishes,
Dr. Dorree Lynn
Psychotherapist, life coach, media personality and author of:
- Getting Sane Without Going Crazy
- When The Man You Love is Ill: Doing the Best for Your partner without Losing Yourself. (With Florence Isaacs)
- Sex For Grown-Ups: Dr. Dorree Reveals The Truths, Lies, and Must- Tries for Great Sex After 50.