Building the “Us, Us, Us Generation”

Chelsea’s take:

Ever since the “Me, Me, Me Generation” cover of TIME, conversation about the clash among generations has become even sharper. I believe the discord is really due to a lack of trying to understand one another. Collectively our entrenched behaviors have formed a gap we now struggle to close.

So many times we desire to connect to someone who is different from us (may it be age, lifestyle, race or economic class), but fear and insecurities keep us from stretching outside of our comfort zone to build a bridge. We make up excuses and stay frozen on our side of the chasm.

My relationship with Mary Lou crossed the generation gap long ago, and I’ve been able to step into a new realm of opportunities. As our lives became more woven together, we’ve taken on new adventures, building bridges in the most unusual ways.

This morning we both crossed “early morning yoga in Washington Square Park” off our bucket lists. Maybe that doesn’t seem like an “adventure”, but we could have come up with a slew of undone to-dos to keep us from Namaste-ing while getting misted by the park’s fountain.

Maybe the lesson to learn is that it’s easier to connect by starting with small and personal steps, rather than imagining we are so far apart.  No one ever said adventures have an age minimum or expiration date.

Mary Lou’s take:

I sit in the lucky chair across from Chelsea, where every day I get a front row seat to Gen Y in action. While articles like the “Me, Me, Me Generation” fire up my peers to dig in their heels to sneer, “See, they aren’t like we were!,” I can’t let them get away with it. I watch Chelsea’s way of living life with open eyes and arms and embracing the unknown with a relish that I admit I have sometimes tucked away– out of my ‘been there/done that’ attitude or just the excuse of no time or another iced coffee.

So while I brag about Chelsea’s joyous and brave approach to life, I find that I am in the stands, cheering her on as she goes to the deep end of the pool. Sure, I do my own high dive’s, but more often than not, maybe I am guilty of what my Mom called “Big talk, little do.” When Chelsea sent me the link to the free yoga class, I waffled. Maybe I will look goofy. Maybe I should just sleep in. But her “why not” approach– which is what makes Millenials so appealing and perhaps un-nerving to others, convinced me. And this morning, wordless but totally connected, we down-dogged side by side, two women, just stretching under the sun. What gap? How easy was that?

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Advertising to women: Weight loss and Race. Why you can’t reach all heavy women the same way

A new study out from the University of Alabama at Birmingham finds that black women are less psychologically affected by being overweight than white women.

The report, which looked at physical function, self-esteem, sexual life, public distress and work, hypothesizes that social norms and body image contribute to larger black women being happier with themselves than their white counterparts.  While all women experienced a fall in quality of life as their BMI rose, black women had “particularly higher” self-esteem.

Author of the report Dr. Tiffany L. Cox said, “The implications of this relationship between weight and quality of life in black women remain unclear. While the highest quality of life is desirable as an indicator of overall well-being, black women’s perception of experiencing a high quality of life despite having a high BMI may also dampen motivation for attempting weight loss. Additional research is needed to understand the potentially bidirectional relationship between weight and quality of life in black women.”

Commenting on the study, women’s website Jezebel celebrated black women’s resistance to being shamed into losing weight; although their response may be considered confrontational, their appeal for proactive, psychologically healthy approaches to marketing to women is spot on.  As they put it, “how about every pro-health push focus on the physical benefits of health rather than the emotional punishment of non-health?”

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Marketing to the Inner Mean Girls

Now that school is back in full swing all over the country, I wonder how many young girls are going to have to face bullies this semester. Remember them? The ones that made fun of what you were wearing, who you were hanging with and what you were doing? Turns out, as we get older, the mean girl that we need to watch out for is actually the one living in our own head.

You heard it before; women are their own worst critics. According to Christine Arylo and Amy Ahlers, founders of the Inner Mean Girl Reform School, there are 17 types of Inner Mean Girls. From ‘Negative Nelly’ to ‘Mean Patty’, women’s self criticism can wreak havoc on their mental health.

Take for example the constant complaint that women are overwhelmed.  Ahlers points out that this is a ‘Big Fat Lie that Women Tell Themselves’ and that they are actually underwhelmed and have lost their passion.

Is it true? Are all these super busy women really just underwhelmed with their lives?  From our experience, the answer is often a combination of being underwhelmed and over-extended (another mean girl trait) and they feel the need to communicate how much is on their plate so that they will get credit/empathy for all that they do.  This is what we call the Martyrdom Whole Truth and while women can get caught up in it, they can also lead marketers to believe that they are super-stressed and don’t have time for brands and messaging.

While Ahlers and Arylo are helping women tame the inner mean girls through their reform school program, marketers can learn to market to (or around) them.  And that’s like getting two customers in one!

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Good Intentions? Gulp!

Whenever we talk to women about eating well, they are quick to jump on the Half Truth of “I try to be healthy,” but within seconds, rebound to the Whole Truth, “But red wine is good for you , right?”

Well, recent news from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association reveals there can be too much of a good thing sabotaging women’s Good Intentions and may actually be hurting them (“I try to drink red wine instead of white to get that Reserva-whatever” ingredient). The study indicated that while consumers know that red wine has benefits, unfortunately, they don’t know that the benefit has limits. Supposedly women should only consume 4 ounces a day, which to my count is less than a typical goblet served at most restaurants and dinner tables. Add a second or third glass of ‘good for you’ and her Good Intentions can end up leading to cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure and even stroke.

So, what’s the solution? When healthcare organizations tout the benefits of drinking red wine or milk, eating chocolate or fiber, it’s only fair play to learn from the oldest adage of all, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” (Not an orchard…AN apple.) Be specific. Let her know that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Make an honest woman of her, for health’s sake.

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Women Are Compassionate But Self-Critical? Duh.

Self-compassion (aren’t hyphens handy?), is the newest buzzword on the block. The New York Times profiles the phenomenon, starting with a 2007 Yale study and progressing to two books published this year. The consensus appears to be that Americans, immersed in the society of “hard work will get you everywhere,” are working too hard and engaging in too much self-criticism and condemnation, to the detriment of their mental and physical health—measured in terms of depression and weight gain.

What You See Isn’t What You Get.

The article (available HERE) includes the following phrase barely a paragraph along:

“People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.”

How, exactly, is this surprising? It sounds like most women we’ve interviewed.  The profile of a person who is a compassionate, caring listener who holds herself to unreal standards to her ultimate detriment isn’t revolutionary. It’s the common profile of a mom, a female friend. It’s like looking into a mirror.

Where Are The Men?

Truly surprisingly, the research claims to analyze people in general. But the cited study was done among female undergraduates, who unknowingly submitted themselves to a study about food guilt.  Women with existing food guilt who were explicitly cautioned not to feel bad for eating a doughnut at the study’s beginning—as everyone had to eat them—ate less overall and felt  guilty about doing so.  What a shock. A more interesting version would have included men.

It’s an unusual case of reverse projection. All women are people, but all people aren’t women. Just like marketers who target women to the exclusion of men, these studies project their striking findings from a female cohort onto the half of the population whose own results may not be so nuanced. Assemble mental health and weight-loss data at will, but remember that conclusions can be only as broad as the research. Hyphens don’t solve everything.

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Quality of Life Assessment – Just What the Patient Ordered

Women tell us that they feel that doctors often have one ear in the exam room and one hand on the door, ready to move on to the next patient – time is short, money is tight and patients are often reluctant to speak out and share more than a “fine”, to a doctor’s “how are you?”

Jane Brody’s article in the New York Times, Not Just Small Talk: Quality-of-Life Questions at Medical Exams, suggests that doctors need to take responsibility for getting patients to share more information.

We know this can be challenging. Let’s face it, many female patients often downplay symptoms because they are reluctant to come across as whiners, hypochondriacs, or worse, not healthy.  In recent work we did with women suffering from chronic pain, many told us that they don’t talk about their symptoms with their doctors because they don’t actually want a diagnosis…huh? 

There is a great Whole Truth here – many say they want to be healthy, but often avoid confrontation because a diagnosis can impact how they see themselves, how others see them, and ultimately their lifestyle.

 That said, patients need doctors to push harder to get them to speak up – not just about symptoms but about how they want to feel if their symptoms were to be managed.  Physicians need to ask more, women need to tell more and healthcare companies can provide ways to help each side speak the same language. Once this happens a more collaborative approach to healthcare can be attained.

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Women are Stressed. Shocking.

In the Land of Duh category, The American Psychological Association has just revealed the results of its 2010 “Stress in America” online survey headlined with this shocker: Women are more stressed than men (28% vs 20%) and (drumroll), Gen X-ers, 32 to 45 are the most stressed group of adults. Wonder how much time and money went into discovering this bit of obvious?

If you really put these women on the psychologist’s couch or as we do, the Just Ask a Woman hotseat, you’d learn that while sure, they are stressed, that’s just a Half Truth. The Whole Truth is that she finds a lot of time for the fun and interesting things she likes to do. (Cue the “Dancing with the Stars” music and the Bristol Palin/Jennifer Grey throwdown.) Every day millions and millions of women find time to read and write blogs, to watch DVR’d programming and to dish with their friends online and off. Marketers who think that women are too busy need to realize that “I’m stressed” is a Half Truth. (It’s true because she is still the unthanked keeper of all the tasks of the home, the office, her family, but it’s only half the story). The Whole Truth is that she’s too busy to pay attention or waste time with your brand if you are boring or complicated or just adding to her load of to do’s.

So, American Psychological Association…Doctor up! Get to the heart of what’s bugging her instead of trying to sell her some sessions with you to de-stress. Let her veg out with Top Chef or troll for the latest Groupon deal when she needs a breather. That’s what will give her some relief.

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Airing Worries, Whining and Women

Today I was interviewed by Valerie Smaldone on WOR News Talk Radio. Valerie is a great friend who invited me to her studio for a wide-ranging interview about my recent article in Real Simple, my new audio podcast Whine at 9 and of course, Just Ask a Woman. An interview that can take me from tears to laughter in less than 10 minutes…well, that’s what I call talk radio at its finest. Enjoy!

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What Women Worry About

My article “Inside the God Box” in the November issue of Real Simple magazine was a joy to write since I was able to share the story of my mother’s secret weapon against life’s worries. I knew I’d feel a sense of relief, just from telling the tale. But what I didn’t expect was the outpouring of reaction from women searching for a tool or path to release them from worries of their own.

I’ve received dozens of beautiful emails…and even read blogs of readers who acknowledge the struggle of keeping all their worries inside while trying to keep all the balls in the air. Women who want solutions to stresses related to their kids, their bills, their health, their relationships. One stranger wrote to me that she’d been searching for work for six months and asked if I’d put her hope in my God Box. Humbled, I did…but I felt sad to know how many of us walk the earth, mulling our worries over and over like old coins in our pockets.

It’s not that we didn’t know this after interviewing so many women over the years at Just Ask a Woman. It’s just that I didn’t realize how forthcoming women would be, even to the invisible face of a magazine writer or the silent acceptance of a little box that holds their prayers.

I do hope that my article in Real Simple helps more people let go. But more than that, I wish that women knew they aren’t alone. There’s always someone to listen.

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A Green Tinted Catch 22

Half Truth: “I want to be as green as I can be.”
Whole Truth: “I’ll go green as long as it still tastes good, looks pretty and doesn’t cost more.”- What She’s Not Telling You

A recent article in the Times, “Cleaner for the Environment, Not for the Dishes”, explores negative consumer feedback on P&G’s new Cascade product line that follows new government regulations around the amount of phosphates allowed in dishwashing detergents. Often with environmentally friendly products there is confusion over price, effectiveness and the trade off. For example, if I don’t use one resource (harmful chemicals) and alter my routine by pre-washing my dishes, aren’t I then using more of another environmental resource (water) thereby hurting the environment in a different but equally bad way? It’s like a green Catch 22.

How can Cascade address this? Are there stats out there proving that pre-washing dishes uses less water than running your dishwasher twice? It’s time for green companies and products to address mass consumer concern in order to gain acceptance and market share.

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February 23, 2017
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK

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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Go There

press & praise