Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Wiser than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus- Tips from the Frontline

September 17th, 2023

I went to the Apple shop on Madison Avenue the other day to buy a keyboard. The saleswoman who looked about twenty instructed me to type something on a keyboard.

Type a word into the Safari box on the screen,” she instructed.

Sounded so simple. But not when you can’t find the Safari box. It wasn’t where it normally was in the bottom left corner. I promise. I looked everywhere.

I don’t see it,” I said.

It’s right there,” she replied, not moving.

Hmmm, my eyes darted around the screen.

I could feel her eyes boring into my shoulder. Restless. I was slowing her down. Old lady.

Just type anything into the box, it doesn’t need to be a word.”

But I don’t even see the box,” I explained again.

I really did know what a Safari box was. I might have been older than her mother and every other person in that Apple shop—but I didn’t live on the moon. Before I knew it, she’d grabbed the keyboard from me and started typing into the square.

Ahh there’s that sneaky Safari box, I thought. Upper left corner, who knew?

 I whipped out my credit card, showing Miss Impatient that I could be speedy at some things.

You’re good to go,” she said, without looking at me. And with that I was dismissed.

I left Apple feeling stupid and old.

Moments later, as I walked down Madison, an attractive woman in her thirties in a minidress and slingback sandals clicked past. I smiled, trying to meet her eyes. But she looked right past me. When had I become invisible? How had that happened?

That’s when I remembered a podcast a friend had recommended. When she first told me about it, I thought, just as I’m sure you’re thinking now, another podcast? But for all you women who are 60+, you’ll thank me later.

Wiser than Me” is hosted by famed actress/comedian/producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her familiar voice piped into my ears, it’s both warm and frank and she laughs all the time. It’s good to laugh. I am drawn in from the moment she starts explaining why she  launched her first ever podcast.

When women get older, we don’t hear from them much,” Julia says. “They become less visible, less seen.” Even just hearing her say it makes me feel more visible, more seen. “Our culture just seems to celebrate youth, youth, youth… Fuck that bullshit,” she goes on. “I want to hear from these old women. How do they navigate aging, living? Give us some tips from the frontline.”

 Fashion legend Diane von Furstenberg, one of Julia’s interviewees, recommends Julia not ask guests how old they are, but instead how long they’ve lived. DvF has lived 76 years.

I love this podcast, with all ten episodes providing reassuring, wise life hacks for those who can’t find the nomadic Safari box on our computer screen in front of AppleCare tech support.

Julia begins each episode telling us a bit about her own background and how that connects to the guest speaker, so for von Furstenberg we hear about Julia wearing a pink bikini and white go-go boots at age 7 and realizing the power of fashion. In another episode when Julia is about to meet 75-year-old celebrated food writer, Ruth Reichl, Julia starts by discussing a distressing miscarriage and how her mother’s homemade chili and cornbread comforted her during that difficult time.

During that episode Reichl says that when she faces life’s unavoidable losses, she goes into the kitchen where the smells and flavors help bring her back into the world. To that end, Julia asks for some advice on pound cake—whether to add orange zest and juice to the batter.

Just the zest,” Reichl suggests.

Reichl also says,

You can waste your whole life looking for perfection. Don’t think perfection is your goal.’

The series’ first episode features 85-year-old Jane Fonda, and in the middle of the interview, the power goes out in Julia’s studio. Julia swears when she loses contact with Fonda. She swears a lot. And none of it is cut from the episode. Editing is practically an afterthought. My takeaway? It’s ok to fail. Perfection is the enemy of good enough.

Once Julia gets Fonda back, we are lucky enough to hear Fonda muse about knowing when a romantic relationship is over: When she starts fantasizing about her partner’s funeral.

Her favorite vibrator? The Rabbit.

Iconic New Yorker, 72-year-old Frannie Leibowitz was possibly my favorite guest of the season. Leibowitz is famous for her writer’s block. She calls it her writer’s tower. She hasn’t published a book since 1994, but boy can that woman talk. On the topic of New York City which both Julia and Liebowitz love, Liebowitz says,

 I don’t understand why people move from the city to Vermont to retire? There are no doormen in Vermont.”

Leibowitz is notoriously lazy, doesn’t own a mobile phone, or anything technical. Leibowitz holds grudges and gives Julia tips on how to get revenge. She still smokes. Her honesty is so refreshing that after the interview was over, I went down a very deep Leibowitz rabbit hole. I recommend you do the same. When asked at one speaking engagement if she’d ever consider running a marathon, she laughed and said, “only if a German soldier was pointing a gun at my back.”

Julia ends each episode by calling her sharp, devoted 89-year-old mother Judy for the rehash.  During the episode with Reichl, Julia offers to cook a meal for the famous food critic. Reichl accepts. Julia hangs up with Reichl and immediately goes into a panic.

Why the fuck did I do that? I need to ask my mom what to make. I got to call my mom “

Judy usually answers her phone on the first ring. Their banter is adorable. Judy is clearly so proud of Julia.

Oh Julia, that (meal is) going to be priceless. Absolutely priceless.”

Back to me, of course: When I told Stretch about my Apple experience, he said,

You need to be tougher.”

You’re not a woman,” I snapped.

Channel your mother.”

I could. Because my mother never would have cared about a kid at the Apple store. But now, thanks to “Wiser than Me” I have a lot of amazing women I can channel, women who get me, who see me, who are me—but even better, who are wiser.

Postscript- I went to the Apple in Greeenwich, Connecticut this am- a totally different experience. Full of oldies. Love it there. The  gentleman next to me was explaining to AppleCare tech support, that “no he didn’t know his Apple ID or password, his grandson set it up three years ago and he couldn’t remember it either.”  I felt such warmth for this man, for Apple (in Greenwich) and for all of us of who have lived so long that we remember when an apple was just that.

September, 2023

4 thoughts on "Wiser than Me with Julia Louis-Dreyfus- Tips from the Frontline"

  1. this is awesome. I love Julia L-D and all of the ladies you mentioned who are on the podcast. Can’t wait to listen while I am feeling old working in my studio. Someone recently asked me to upload something on a google drive. what? I have no idea how to do that. next time I need to go to Apple I am going to Greenwich.

    1. Ha, ha- yes, the Apple in Greenwich is super spacious, with people like me dotted around sitting on stools for ages, asking dumb questions and getting really nice long, unpatronising answers. It’s my new home away from home. lol

    1. Thanks Irene, you’re so sweet. I’ve been meaning to visit Porta. I need to explore beyond the UES and Greenwich, Ct! Brooklyn, baby, here I come!!!xxx, elena

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