My grandma was always the hottest commodity in her town, and in any town for that matter.
Perhaps it is the way she flirted and posed for the camera, even winking as she adorably crossed her legs slowly and deliberately for each photo from age six to 96, as if she were the most beautiful and important person in the world.
And ever since I can remember, that’s just who she was: the most important and beautiful woman around, and always the youngest-at-heart person I had the gracious opportunity to know.
Maybe it was the way she knew how to get the best seat at any fine restaurant on a Saturday evening, and without a reservation.
Sounding a bit like Bette Davis on a humorous day but looking more like Betty Grable, she would say, “Now don’t tell me you don’t have room for a pretty girl like me with personality to boot?” as she coyly smiled.
It worked like a charm every time.
“Come right this way,” the Maitre D would reply, as she gave me a knowing grin as if to say, “I hope you’re taking notes.”
Or perhaps it was the way that she laughed, that joyous laughter that captivated anyone who heard it, as it was genuine, hearty and sexy to the core because of its sincere sing-song, unpretentious and absolutely infectious sound.
Anyone who can manage to stay beautiful and youthful well into their ninth decade on this planet is someone well worth listening to. That is just what my grandma, Anna Lee did until her very last day at the ripe young age of 96.
Think of Betty White with a dash of Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball, and a princess or two thrown in for levity, and that’s just a hint of how much the hotness factor played in my grandma’s entire being.
But I believe that what truly made my grandma a gorgeous woman and appear younger than her years was her attitude about life and the way that she carried herself in it.
“If you can’t laugh at yourself, no one will ever take you seriously,” she once casually exclaimed while cutting roses from her lush and overgrown garden.
When I was a little girl, she used to take me along on endless, joyous days when we would visit museums, fashion shows; enjoy Tea Time with her friends and spend long lunches with interesting and fabulously exotic people.
Because I was with her meant that I was somehow beautiful too because she included me in her endlessly passionate and exuberant life.
One day when we whizzed about town in her Canary yellow vintage convertible Jaguar as she donned a Grace Kelly style scarf and sunglasses, she said to me, “I think we need girl’s afternoon to spoil ourselves, what do you think?”
I just smiled back at her, all of the age of 10 with my shiny, patent leather Mary Jane shoes as I held on to my door for safety as she was a fast driver, although she always managed to talk herself out of a speeding ticket with charmed-I’m-sure police officers.
One of my last memories was when she phoned to tell me she was going to purchase a new bathing suit, and “Would I like to go along?” She loved wearing festive, new suits each season as the men at The Senior Center expected as much, and she didn’t have the heart to let them down.
Mind you, she had been been married twice and lost her second husband some 25 years before, and was now a confirmed and happy bachelorette, living each day to the fullest of scales by anyone’s measure.
I regret that I did not shop for a bathing suit with her on that day, but I will never forget one of the last things that she said to me.
“Well honey, I just hope that you take the time to buy yourself something pretty too. It sure does a girl a lot of good.”
Grandma, you’re still doing me a lot of good, and for all of your wisdom and advice that I cherish and now pass on to my own daughters, I can tell you that we are grateful.
20 Ways to Stay Young and Hot From Someone who Really Knew How:
1. Watch your figure closely, because if you don’t take the time to do so, nobody else will. She watched what she ate and exercised, but she also knew how to wear a dress like nobody’s business.
2. Avoid spending time with people who complain about how old they feel. They will just pull you right down with them and make you feel old too. Instead, surround yourself with people who feel and act young, both inside and out. Seriously, she lived by this rule and only kept the company of positive and enlightening folks.
3. Exercise every day, no matter how tired or lazy you feel. Just moving around will make you forget about how tired you are, and pretty soon, you’ll have more energy to do all of the fun things you truly want to do. She either played golf, swam, danced or walked nearly every day of her life.
4. Travel whenever you are able. Seeing the world and discovering how other people live adds life, love and lucidity to your years. Well into her 90s, Anna Lee was traveling abroad to fabulous and exotic places on a moment’s notice.
5. Take the time to plan wonderful things for the future, this will give you something to look forward to and make you feel hopeful. Whenever I spoke to her, she had something new to tell me about what she was going to be doing—both sooner and later.
6. Be extravagant once in awhile. Whether its eating a decadent piece of chocolate cake, wearing something much too sexy for your own good, or dining at a very expensive restaurant once a year—this can make you feel both happy and young. She could be seen eating a small piece of dark chocolate every afternoon while sometimes wearing a low-cut sweater.
7. On a daily basis, eat whatever you want, drink what you want, and say what you want, but all with a degree of moderation. While she enjoyed a martini, she didn’t get drunk, although she may have danced a bit more because of it.
8. Flirt with life—not just with men and women, but with all of what life has to offer. This will make you feel young, hopeful and excited to get out of bed every day. My grandma enjoyed flirting with any man in uniform, and I am certain that if she were around today, she would flirt with my boyfriend while also flirting with the idea of buying new shoes.
9. Surround yourself with lively, smart, fun and interesting people who adore being around you, don’t settle for anything or anyone else. I once witnessed my grandmother speaking to a man with a mustache who spoke to her in Italian about a book he had just written, while he smiled at her the whole time.
10. Be spontaneous. When you do something out of the ordinary and on barely a moment’s notice, this can make you feel alive and young. She was known to announce unexpected trips and excursions to the beach.
11. Don’t ever feel sorry about yourself. It is a waste of time and a waste of your life. And it also bores people to tears. Never once in all of my years did I ever hear my grandmother complain about her life.
12. Take the time to be beautiful. You can’t feel both depressed and fabulous at the same time. She got her hair done every week; it was dyed a beautiful shade of blonde with perfect flips and fragrant hairspray.
13. Treat yourself regularly to wonderful little things, especially if they seem unnecessary and frivolous. This will remind you that you are wonderful and when you feel wonderful, you just feel better. She often frequented special bookstores and could also be found buying herself shoes and hats on cold winter days.
14. Never say or think that you are “too old” to do anything. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, you are only as old as you make up your mind to be. My grandma was the first person to volunteer to do anything that seemed youthful.
15. Live the way that you feel your real age to be, not what others tell you. If you feel 16, keep that energy up and you will feel like a teenager for as long as you are willing. Even though she was way past sixteen, she could make anyone around her feel as forever young as she was.
16. Every morning when you wake up, tell yourself you are a beautiful and wonderful person while you look straight into the mirror. Anna Lee really did this, I saw her, and she would also sing to herself on occasion.
17. Read a lot of history, it will teach you a lot about what other people have gone through and their stories will inspire you. It will give you perspective about how good you really have it right now. My grandma was absolutely obsessed about history, especially about the soap opera dalliances of English Royalty and the sufferings of commoners and romantics.
18. As soon as a negative thought comes into your mind, make a habit of replacing it with a joke, a humorous anecdote, watch a funny film, or call a positive friend. Grateful to say, she often called moi for a humor boost.
19. Whether you’re a man or a woman, never sit around all day in your bedclothes. Get dressed, brush your hair, spiff yourself up and be ready for the Queen of England if she happens to stop by. Within a half hour of waking, she had her “face on,” her heels and her hair brushed and smelling like candy.
20. Pay attention to children because they know how to be happy, young and carefree. I should know about this one, I was lucky enough to be her granddaughter, and she paid a lot of attention to me and my three daughters.
Note and Background about my Grandmother:
All of the above was actually said by my grandmother, some of it paraphrased.
Anna Lee Shetler, born Anna Lee Williams was born in Oklahoma to my great grandparents in 1913, her father was a newspaper publisher and local politician, and he later opened up a chain of hip and swanky nightclubs when they moved west to California.
She attended Beverly Hills High School where she met my grandfather, Robert Biller and then attended Chouinard Art Institute and became a well known and respected restorer and collector of antique clothing and dolls from the 17oos through the early 1920s which, along with vintage cars with her second husband.
After he passed away, she spent the last 20 years of her life traveling around the world with girlfriends, tour groups and even ventured to Russia and China by herself.
She also added a small museum to her home where she held private showings of her collections, along with luncheons and charity events.
She loved to tell tales about her travels, share her advice and most of all, be wined and dined by people she loved while she wore beautiful clothes.
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