I met the first woman via Fashion Magazine. Last week I took a fashion mag to bed for one of those mindless reads that marked the end of a grueling work project. After ten minutes, I could barely contain my disgust. The editorial content was devoted to "Ageless Style", yet the advertising exhorted women to "fight", "conquer", "turn back time", and "resist aging from the first signs".
The oldest model in the issue, Carmen Del' Orifice, above, looked suspiciously fresh in the photos, unlike the 76 year old women I know.
The next-oldest is this women, Micheline, who represents the 60s.
Her exact age, the profile says, "is an expertly maintained mystery". (Oddly, the magazine ran profiles of women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 60s, but no 50s.) I've seen her in the high-end store where she works, and she is an exotic, chic presence.
She said "You have to dress in what makes you feel good,” citing with pride her ability to pull off plunging necklines. “You don’t have to turn 60 and start wearing frumpy things.” I agree with that last statement, though her level of "makes you feel good" is very different from mine.
I'll never attempt the amount of work required to achieve and maintain this effect. I'd require such serious surgical intervention that I might not survive the procedures. And life is too short to forgo blueberry pancakes.
It's relative, isn't it? One woman's flashy is another's frumpy. And if you feel good, whether you're wearing flats or stilettos, that confidence is evident,
I met the second woman though her obituary.
Mary McCarthy Gomez Cueto, a Canadian, died in her home in Cuba on April 3 , 2009, at age 108, after a remarkable life. She died in her rundown Havana mansion after failing to get treatment for respiratory problems due to a shortage of cash, according to her godson and heir, Elio Garcia. "She had been suffering the embargo for 50 years," he said.
Her fortune was trapped in a Boston bank by the US trade embargo, and the money her husband left in Cuba was seized when Castro come to power. McCarthy, born in Newfoundland in 1900, moved to Cuba in 1924 when she married a wealthy Spanish businessman whom she met in Boston.
She became a member of Cuba's high society, co-founding the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and an orphanage for boys. She was known for her kindness, glamour, and equanimity about the changes in her fortune.
Her husband died in 1951, but she stayed in Cuba. She was not able to touch the money her husband left her after the US imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1962, and lived in near poverty for years. In 2007, after a Canadian diplomat intervened, Washington allowed her to withdraw just $96 a month. Mrs McCarthy had to postpone medical treatment when the US did not transfer extra money allowed for medical purposes in time.
Although confined to a wheelchair after breaking a hip in 2002, she continued to wear a satin dress, silk blouse, chiffon scarf and lipstick for her stream of visitors, just as she had done in the days when she danced at the Havana yacht club. But she was reduced to wearing plastic pearls and earrings instead of the jewellery which, along with three gold rosaries, was in the First National Bank in Boston, and she was keenly aware that the joy had gone out of Havana, even if there was full employment.
Lively and outspoken into extreme old age, Mary McCarthy admitted to conflicting views about Fidel and his revolution. She conceded that the illiteracy and the poverty had ended, and was glad that her money had been put to good use. But she disliked communism, and was adamant that it was wrong to confiscate what belonged to her. "It's my money," she would insist.
Mary McCarthy was perhaps the best welder of the friendship between the people of Cuba and Canada," said the Canadian consul, Mark Burger.
(Sources: Reuters and The Telegraph.)