Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


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Where did the year go? I started this just more than one year ago, determined to get fit enough to golf 18 holes in the heat of summer without being exhausted.

Did I do it? Sort of. The golf improved immeasurably with the help of my brother who — many of his friends and critics would be surprised to discover — can be an enthusiastic and patient coach, albeit one given to shouting. (Not for nothing is our family dubbed the Shout Family.)

Clint’s shouting was mostly centred on my seeming inability to keep my left arm straight in my backswing. As I pointed out to him, let him try it wearing a 38C bra and see how well he can do it. That, of course, is merely an excuse. Other women golf with this, er, impediment. Nonetheless, with Clint’s coaching, his partner’s enthusiastic support, at least once-a-week golf with all sorts of new friends from the Deloitte and Friends golf league, my game has improved.

But the challenge of playing in summer heat didn’t arrive, largely because summer didn’t deign to appear.

And playing a round in the worst of weather with the best of companions I reached a new level, even if I do say so myself. Bobby Wilson, 2010 winner of both the senior and super senior long drive competition, sponsored by ReMax, is as much fun one on one as he is showing a crowd of golfers his extraordinary golf skills. He’s patient, he’s funny and, unlike so many other professional athletes, he’s not full of himself.

Take a 54-year-old good ol’ boy from Waco, Texas, who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, plunk him down on a soggy, windy hilltop in Calgary in possibly the coldest day of what passed for summer this year and suggest he golf with the sponsors of the Peter Gzowski Invitational tournament, held for the first time at Country Hills Golf Club.

The staff at Country Hills were wonderful to us, the course is great, the reception warm — if not the weather — but nothing can change the geography of its setting, most of which seems to have a direct line to the north and its bitter winds. That Tuesday proved why so many Calgarians go south for the winter. That Tuesday reminded us that it can be bitterly cold without any snow falling. The ambient temperature couldn’t have been above +4C, just warm enough to discourage snow and encourage rain.

We Calgarians know how to dress for the outdoors, so I waddled into the pro shop wearing a long-sleeved turtleneck wool sweater under a V-necked sweater, covered by a thick fleece jacket. Under a pair of lined, winter wool slacks I was wearing a set of pale blue long underwear (my husband’s and don’t ask about the fly) and knee socks. On my head were mink earmuffs which caused one guy to call me Princess Leia, thereby telling me his age and his taste in movies.

I looked and felt like a kid in her new winter snowsuit, but nothing I wore could compare to the getup Bobby Wilson arrived in. Remember the Norwegian curling team (they came fourth) at the Winter Olympics? The argyle white, red and blue pants? Magnify the eye-popping “appeal” over the lanky 6-foot 3-inch Wilson. And those Cherry Bombs were just one pair of the trademarked Loudmouth Pants Wilson owns. He says they help him stand out in a crowd. No kidding.

Wilson charmed all of us, but there’s a special place in my heart for him. With an oh-so-subtle Texas accent, further softened by living in Little Rock, he made a few suggestions and then when my drives improved immeasurably, let me believe it wasn’t him that did it, but my own innate athleticism and talent. Charm? The guy’s got it in spades if, looking at this duffer, he could convince her that she could be a golfer with only a littlie more practice.

I’ve come through this year-long “challenge for change” with a new perspective. I’ve had to admit that my days with a waist are long gone, and unless I want to resort to plastic surgery, I can live with the scrawny chicken neck, but I am most assuredly more fit than when I started.

In our weekly core fitness class, my balance has improved only slightly, but my flexibility and strength is better.

When I started this blog, I wrote that my goals were not outrageous. “I do not expect to be 30 or 40 again. I do not expect to look 30 or 40, merely to be as healthy and fit as possible, as I enter a new phase in my life.” I wrote that just before my 65th birthday. Today, I face 66 with a renewed energy.

I also wrote that I am not alone on this journey. “Men and women my age now expect to remain vigorous and useful long past the traditional retirement age.”

Behind me are many more to come. My generation, born during the Second World War, are the lucky ones who did not have much peer-group competition. My career as a newspaper writer started with nothing more exotic than a letter to my father’s friend, who was the city editor of the Calgary Herald at the time. Dad had called him, asking if Larry O’Hara would “take my older daughter off my hands and give her a job.”

O’Hara did and I have never forgotten his kindness to a friend’s inexperienced daughter. Most of O’Hara’s contemporaries are gone now, as is he, but they live on in the memories of those to whom they passed on the lessons of how to be a newspaper reporter, lessons that can’t be learned from books or in a classroom. Nobody can teach you how to knock on the door of a family whose son or daughter has just been killed and ask for a photograph. That kind of sensitivity comes with heart and experience, and on-the-job teachers.

I had a lot of them.

Behind me is the Baby Boomer generation, including my sister (born in 1950) and my brother (born in 1957.)

While my generation numbered 2.2 million in 1996, the Baby Boomers numbered 9.8 million that same year. They follow me into senior citizen status starting a year from now. I don’t think our society is ready for the aging Boomers, for the demands they will make on everything from home care to hospitals. And let’s not even mention the pension plan.

But all of this is inevitable. As is the end of this blog.

NEXT: What now?


Written by Catherine Ford

October 7, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Dear Ms. Ford

    An article of yours – “Who’s winning the war over women’s bodies?” was posted on the Opinion page of the Vancouver Sun on October 12/10. I was provoked to the point of writing a response, but the Sun did not publish it.

    Deservedly or not, I was quite proud of my reply and decided I wanted you to read it, or at least have the opportunity to consider doing so. I have included it below. As an aside, I was a Calgarian in my adolescent years from 1966 – 1975.

    Dean Rath

    WOW! Where to start? At the beginning I guess. Ms. Ford notes that when women wear revealing clothes in public it does not mean they want to be “groped, fondled, leered at or ogled.” Nor do they want “catcalls, whistles or lewd comments.” And most of all, they do not want to invite “sexual harassment, violence or rape.” That covers a very wide range of behaviours, that she credits to men, running from playful to mildly inappropriate to disgusting and illegal. It’s her reaction to leering, ogling, catcalls, whistles and lewd comments that I take issue with first.

    Ms. Ford writes that she had hoped “…after all these years of feminism, that… young men would learn to interpret correctly the signals women give out.” Hmmm. I have many responses to that comment. First: If I knew clearly how to correctly interpret the signals women give out I think I would be in possession of a deeply profound insight. Isn’t one of the more loving, if at times perplexing, attributes of women in general that they themselves do not always seem to know what they want? Second: What some women want can sometimes change suddenly without advanced warning. This puts a rather large onus on young men to know how to correctly interpret a woman’s signals. Third: Men in general are hardwired to be sexually aroused by the physical beauty of a woman. It is a response most men are able to control maturely most of the time. But not all men all of the time. As wrong as that is, would it not be wise for women to think carefully about when and where to dress in “scanty attire” when heading out in public? Fourth: Don’t some women sometimes go looking for sexual attention, (And I’m not referring to women soliciting for sex), from men when in public? Don’t they sometimes compete with other women for the sexual attention of certain men? How are men to know, clueless as we often are, when it is ok and when it is not ok to flirt and be playful? Fifth: Isn’t it a little unfair to level all of the blame and responsibility, as Ms. Ford does (aside from her brief mention of a double standard when it comes to advertizing and the use of a woman’s “nubile flesh” to sell almost everything), on men for their, at times, overly-exuberant reactions to beautiful, young, half-naked women prancing around in public? Is it realistic for women who dress provocatively in public to expect that they should not have to deal with some of the unpleasant, along with the pleasant, reactions from admirers when in public? Sixth: To hopefully put the majority of men in a good light, I think it is safe to say that for every lewd or unwanted reaction a woman receives from an admiring man, they can be sure they have aroused many many more reactions from men they never even knew were looking, men who briefly imagine what men typically imagine when they see beauty in a woman and then go on with their day. I think it is also safe to say that most men are deeply grateful for those young women who risk exposing some of their physical beauty in public. Especially old guys like me – sometimes it is fun to reminisce.

    Moving on, Ms. Ford then reminds us how rife sexism still is in the business and sports world. And how young and rich sports stars and old and rich executives tend to end up with young beautiful women. Here is a controversial thought: One of the spoils of male power is access to young beautiful women. What if beautiful women were to stop pursuing wealthy powerful men? Then wealthy powerful men might be less driven and protective of their positions of power – which used to ensure them access to beautiful women. My point is this: Right or wrong, women tend to be objectified for their youth and beauty while men tend to be objectified for their wealth and power – and men usually die much earlier than women as a result of it. Rather than only blaming the men who exploit this predicament why not throw some blame toward the women who also exploit it? To only see men as perpetrators and women as victims seems rather old and tiring.

    So how about a future article Ms. Ford on say, the exploitation of men by women via their wallets, or maybe an article scolding young women this time, for not always being all that innocent all of the time when deciding what to wear before going out in public. With your lifetime experience in journalism along with editorial experience with major newspapers I should think you could do at least as good a job with these topics as you did with ‘Who’s winning the war over women’s bodies?’

    Dean Rath
    2980 Eddystone Cres.
    North Vancouver, BC
    V7H 1B9

    Dean Rath

    November 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

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