Excerpt: 'The Ropes'

After 24 years of playing the perfect Hollywood housewife for comedian and filmmaker David Steinberg, Judy Steinberg was dumped for a 40ish casting agent who wrote the book "Surviving My Boyfriend's Divorce." Surviving that book, finding a new career and re-entering the dating scene at 60 inspired Judy Steinberg to pair with author and radio personality Rachel Donahue to write "The Ropes: Girls Have the Rules, Women Know the Ropes."

The book is full of woman-to-woman advice about staying youthful, fit and dynamic. Donahue and Steinberg touch on everything from wardrobe makeover and workouts to important questions to ask your doctor before considering plastic surgery. There is also a complete guide to dating younger men.

You can read an excerpt from "The Ropes: Girls Have the Rules, Women Know the Ropes" below.


Even as a young woman, I dreaded growing older with every year. I spent my thirtieth birthday (and every subsequent natal celebration that ended in a zero) alone in bed with the covers over my head and the drapes drawn. It's not that I'm shallow, but living the high life in Hollywood's celebrity society is a constant Iron Woman race against Time, with glamour nipping at your heels like a pit bull with a taste for Stuart Weitzman mules. Being pretty -- or even beautiful -- could never be good enough. One had to be on the cutting edge of fashion, have an encyclopedic knowledge of who was who, who was hot and, most importantly, who was on the way out.

It was stressful in a superficial sort of way, but I thrived on it because I had perfected being the celebrity wife. My clothes were outstanding yet not overstated; my dinners were well thought out and flawlessly executed, whether for two or twenty. Believe me, it's work to keep a dinner conversation going among twelve people who only want to talk about themselves.

I don't want to sound bitter, because we had some good times along the way, but there were other times I sat in the bathtub for hours, running more and more water, not to create more foam with the Giorgio bath gel, but trying to drown my unhappiness. I think the pain was sharpest when I realized that what I was feeling was loneliness. And that was when I was still married to my husband, David Steinberg, before he dumped me for a fortyish casting agent who wrote a book called "How I Survived My Boyfriend's Divorce." After that, my life became about surviving my husband's girlfriend's book and learning to live life on the skids of sidelined celebrity. I was dropped like a hot potato by all except a few old friends who were amazed that it lasted twenty-four years.

Then came the drama of entering the singles scene later in life. What a cruel awakening! It was not the scene I had left behind at thirty. I felt like a fish out of water, flopping about and gasping for oxygen. It was not an experience for the faint of heart.

One bleak afternoon as I wallowed in the deep, dark abyss of menopause, I caught Cybill Shepherd on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" discussing her menopausal experience. She said something I found quite inspiring that changed my whole outlook (with a little help from hormone replacement). She said that any woman over fifty who has a body part that still looks good should be flaunting it every day. Her attitude made such an impression on me! She seemed so free and unencumbered, so alluring and sexy -- what a dynamic presentation!

Around that time my husband and I were working with a female divorce mediator, which turned out to be fortuitous. Most of the meetings took place at my house, and she told me she was quite enamored of my decorating style. She decided to make it her mission to turn me into a professional interior decorator. With her relentless support and encouragement, I started my own business.

Slowly, I started to regain my bearings and equilibrium. As I began to work with clients and fulfill their expectations, I also began to realize my own goals. I had a renewed self-esteem and confidence, and soon a new hair color. Not long after, there was the occasional date. Within months, my business was flourishing and I was going out nearly every night.

To my surprise, I realized I was happier than I'd been in a long time. I had risen up like the phoenix, but little did I know I was about to be struck down again. I had just turned sixty, even though I knew I didn't look it, when I wandered into a street fair in the upscale southern California neighborhood of Brentwood. As I strolled through the array of kiosks and booths a woman began frantically waving her arms in my direction.

"You! Come here!" she shouted.

Curious, I strolled toward her.

"Are you married?" she asked excitedly. I shook my head and she shoved a piece of paper under my nose. "I have got so many men," she cooed, "that would die to go out with you!" Now I realized she was running a booth for a dating service. "You're absolutely gorgeous! I'll have you married by the end of the year, I promise."

I was so pumped up by her pitch that I was already planning what designer would do my wedding gown.

"Let's get going," she squealed, pressing a pencil into my hand. "Wait 'til you see how many wealthy bachelors I have for you!" I was mentally choosing my bridesmaids when she said, "By the way, how old are you?"

Batting my baby blues, I said, "Sixty."

The enthusiasm drained from her face, and she snatched the paper from my hand as if taking matches from a toddler.

"I can't help you," she said icily, taking back her pencil as well. "You're too old."

My self-esteem deflated like leaky balloon. Dazed, I wandered through the crowd with her words echoing in my head so loudly I was sure everyone else could hear them, too -- "You're too old, you're too old, too old, old, old, old. . . ."

By the time I reached my car I was fighting back tears. I felt obsolete and invisible, as if I didn't deserve love or even happiness. Too old, old, old . . .

Then I got mad. Wait a minute, I thought, I haven't even peaked yet! And how many other women have been made to feel this way -- even by members of their own sex? I knew then that I would make certain that this second part of my life would be just as fabulous -- if not more so-- as the first part.

This is no longer the world that Helen Gurley Brown described to us in her 1962 book, "Sex and the Single Girl." We believed the little mouseburger when she told us that being single was bliss. Perhaps so, but these days it's quite a bit more complicated and sometimes it's downright frightening. The world has changed and so has a woman's role in society. Women know a lot more now, but we need every iota of that knowledge to survive, and we need to share what we've learned.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that once you're over the hill it's time to start picking up speed. You needn't give up everything that you once considered fun (including sex) just because you've hit another age marker. I realized that while life might not exactly begin at fifty, it most certainly doesn't come to a screeching halt -- unless you let it. The sixty-year-old woman is still a viable force in today's world. She works, she dates, she is sexual, she is chic, and she is dynamic. It's not about being "beautiful" in the classic sense. Although it sounds like a cliché, it's about being beautiful inside. And that's all about being comfortable and confident in your own skin, being clear about who you are and what you want.

I made up my mind to share my wisdom and experience with other single women who have fallen victim to age discrimination in the most personal and devastating ways. I decided to write this book, and I knew the perfect collaborator. I first met Raechel Donahue in 1969. She was the embodiment of the woman of the times, a perfect combination of elegance and funk. Widowed in 1975, Raechel remained successfully single, gracefully breezing through romances and media careers. She was still a sexy dynamo in her fifties and I couldn't think of a better writing partner. We pooled our forty years of single life so that we could make yours more fun.

So kick off those practical shoes and get ready for what could easily become the best time of your life. You don't need a rocking chair. You just need to rock!

This book is to help you do just that. Older women need to know that they can still be glamorous, sensational, and sexy. They just need to know The Ropes.

How Old Are You Anyway?

Pros and cons of lying about your age

Age only matters if you're a cheese.

-- Helen Hayes

Lying about one's age is always a dilemma. Once you've done it, you're stuck with it, and more often than not it will come back to bite you in the most inappropriate place. Whenever possible, go with the truth.

I have a hideous compulsion to tell the truth about my age. Possibly because I think if age is going to be an issue, it should be on the table up front. That way there are no disappointments or surprises. Besides, if I lie about my age, I must also lie about what I've done in my life, and that would make me less of a person, if only to myself. Also, since I know I look younger than my age, I like invoking that look of shock, although I admit it's more fun to do it to women than to men.

The one time I tried to play it coy, the man fell for me hard. On our third or fourth date he started telling me how he had frozen some of his sperm and I was in deep soup when I realized he was planning for "our child." Oh, boy.

I was working on just exactly how I was going to break the news to him when he asked, "How old are you, anyway?"

First I made him guess. Bless his little tadpole heart, he guessed forty.

"Sixty," I said, batting my eyelashes.

He was just having a sip of champagne and, to his credit, he didn't do a spit take and no bubbles came out of his nose. But he was rendered speechless.

As for me, I spent the rest of the evening wallowing in the pleasure of looking forty. It was our last date. I'll bet he asks that age question a lot earlier in the game from now on.

It's a big thrill when a man under guesses your age by twenty years, but when another woman does it, it's absolute bliss.

I was a guest at a cocktail party honoring one of my older daughter's friends, chatting with a group of people about the fact that we were all born during the war, when another woman joined the circle.

"I was born during World War II," she chimed in, shooting me a skeptical glance.

"What war were you born in?"

"WWII, 1942," I chirped, meeting her gaze with my most ingenuous smile.

I can't really tell you her reply. It was muttered under her breath as she turned on her heel and walked away. Sometimes, as Dorothy Parker said, a girl's best friend is her mutter. In this case, the mutter was my new best friend.

I was waiting in an airport bar when a well-dressed woman remarked, apropos of almost nothing, that we appeared to be the same age. And we did, I agreed. In fact, I had noticed her when we were going through security and had thought the same thing myself.

"You haven't had anything done, have you," she said, as a statement rather than a question. I confessed to having a little Botox just recently. "How old are you anyway?" she then asked, not meaning it as an insult. It turned out that she was nearly ten years younger than I, which made me feel great and made her feel like heading for the nearest plastic surgeon.

I'm not interested in age. People who tell their age are silly. You're only as old as you feel.

-- Elzabeth Arden

While a man will fritter away his conversational time by bragging about how much money he makes, his golf score, or other more personal scores, a woman will cut directly to the chase. She doesn't need to tell anyone anything about herself; she just needs to know the other woman's age. Then she can compare herself and either get smug or take the whole day into the toilet.

What is it that makes some women come off as so much younger than others of the same age? To be sure, cosmetic surgery and taking care of yourself can help a great deal, but I have a friend who has had virtually every part of her body tucked, sucked, snipped, and sewn and she still looks every bit her real age! You know why? She doesn't do a lick of exercise and she has the posture of an old woman. Much of how you are perceived depends upon how you carry yourself. Remember, walk with your tail in the air!

On the other hand, I have friends who have done nothing but soap and water for their fifty years on the planet and somehow still look ten years younger. I think a large part of how age looks on us is in the way we comfort ourselves. Once we stop having fun and start taking on those curmudgeonly attitudes, it's the beginning of the end of youth.

We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are.

-- Anaïs Nin

Lying Up

If you approach your age with a sense of humor, even lying about it can be fun. While I don't advocate lying in any way, I know one funny woman who began what she calls "lying up" when she was in her late forties. "It was kind of like practicing for the next decade," she says. "I was forty-seven and I would tell people I was fifty, and they'd be amazed at how fabulous I looked!" It's amazing how the perception of age changes with just a few years -- how could forty-seven be so different from fifty?

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.

-- Lucille Ball

Of course, if you lie to make yourself older, you can easily and joyously go back to the truth. People may think you're weird, but their only question would be why someone would lie up. However, if you're saying you're younger than you are, you'd best take care to remember the fib and the accompanying birth years, graduation dates, and children's ages if you don't want to get caught.

Also, try to make the lie reasonable. It's no use pretending to be twenty-seven when you're really fifty-eight. Besides, who'd want to be that stupid again? See if you can figure out how old you are in the eyes of others. Don't ask your contemporaries because they can usually spot someone of their own generation a mile off. Try telling a young salesgirl at the cosmetic counter that you think that new lipstick shade is too young for you and then try to find out how old she thinks you are. Just know that even forty seems really, really old when you're in your twenties, so don't settle for a generalization; get the girl to commit to an actual number. If you get a guess that's ten years younger, then you're on the right track.

Sexy or Delusional?

Dressing like a teenager doesn't make you one, so don't do it. Perversely, if you dress like a granny, you'll definitely be perceived as one. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with having grandchildren, you don't have to advertise your age. If you're wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the slogan "Number One Grandma" you're pretty much advertising that you're out of the dating pool, lessening the odds that an attractive man will make a pass at you. I suppose you could try "This Granny Still Rocks!" but I'm not sure it'd make a big difference.

As shallow as it may sound, your clothes can make or break your image, at least in the eyes of others. How many tacky talk shows have you seen featuring a teenage girl desperately seeking a makeover for her superannuated Lolita mother? You know, the one who is wearing the see-through blouse that no one wants to see through? Tape one of those episodes and play it back every time you have an urge to dress like a dancer in an MTV video.

If you still have your micromini or (gasp!) hot pants, perhaps you could sell them on eBay as collectibles. Or donate those wild and crazy outfits to a thrift store and know that some young hottie will be channeling you as she wows the boys in a trendy nightclub while undulating to music that would give you a massive headache.

Use It or Lose It

You know you have to keep your body fit and supple as you get older, and you should give the same attention to your mind. Don't spend your evenings in front of the television. If you stay home, occupy your mind with something that makes you think -- read a book, do a challenging crossword puzzle (the one in TV Guide doesn't count), or comb through the latest magazines for ideas on revamping your wardrobe or improving your life in general. Visit art galleries (especially the opening receptions when they serve wine and miniature quiches), go to a play, go to a rock concert, just go!

There's a difference between your chronological age and your real age. The way your body ages is directly related to the way you take care of yourself. No matter how good you look on the outside, you have to watch your cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as take care of your heart. Who cares how fabulous your face is if you drop dead at sixty? Take care of the whole package and you'll still be knockin' 'em dead at seventy-five.

Excerpted from "The Ropes: Girls Know the Rules, Women Know the Ropes" by by Judy Steinberg and Raechel Donahue. Published by Dutton Adult Copyright © 2005.