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Column: Powell’s tell-all memoir reveals bit too much for comfort

In 1976, when Betty Rollin wrote about her breast cancer in “First, You Cry” the memoir was seen as revolutionary. Rollin wrote openly about losing a breast. Compared with memoirs of the present, Rollin’s book seems downright demure.

I recently read Julie Powell’s 2009 book “Cleaving.” She’s the author who cooked her way through Julia Child’s recipes and landed a bestseller and a movie – “Julie and Julia” – describing the experience.

Her second book is about her apprenticeship at a butcher shop, intertwined with details of her destructive love affair. Yes, she cheated on that nice, supportive husband.

Powell’s sexual escapades read like someone’s X-rated diary, meant to be burned so no future children would ever see the words. I devour memoirs and appreciate how the memoirs of the 1970s and ’80s opened up the true lives of women.

But I couldn’t finish Powell’s book. Is this late-onset prudishness? Or just the wish that more people would tell less?

MANDY IS A MOM NAME?: “I was the Justin Bieber of the ’70s. Really. Ask your mother.” Singer Barry Manilow in Entertainment Weekly.

THE FEELIN’ 50s: Women in their 50s beat out men their own age, as well as men and women older and younger, in the empathy department. In a study of more than 75,000 adults, women in their 50s “were more likely to try to understand how things looked from the perspective of others,” according to the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

One theory why? They came of age in the 1960s, during the civil rights and women’s rights movements when empathizing with the oppression of others helped change our culture.

THE SINGING WABBIT: One reason boomers recognize opera music, even if they’ve never been to an opera? Cartoons in the 1950s and ’60s were filled with opera music. For instance, in one 1957 Bugs Bunny cartoon, Elmer Fudd sings “Kill the Wabbit” to the tune of “Ride of the Valkyries,” from the German opera “Die Walkure.” On YouTube search for “opera in cartoons” and enjoy the highfalutin tunes.

SPEAKING OF CARTOONS: The New Yorker understands some of the irritations experienced by its boomer readers taking care of aging parents. A cartoon in the magazine’s Feb. 11 issue shows an older woman in a wheelchair at an art museum with her middle-age daughter. As astonished museum-goers look on, the mother screams to her daughter: “I said, was it Manet or Monet who had syphilis?”

MARRYING LATER: Most boomers don’t need the U.S. Census Bureau to point out that the brides and grooms seem older at weddings now, compared with brides and grooms we saw at the weddings attended as children.

The median age of brides in first-time marriages remained steady at age 20 from 1947 to 1972, according to census reports. Median age of grooms that same time period fluctuated between 22 and 23. The median age for both men and women slowly but steadily increased each year after 1972. The median age in 2012 is 28 for men and 26 for women.

Regarding marriage, the culture changed dramatically in the 1970s for women. In 1977, when I graduated from Gonzaga University, we felt peer pressure not to marry right after college. A career – not a husband – was the key to happiness, the buzz went. Fortunately, many of us ended up with both.

FILL ’ER UP: I have always heard that Wednesday is the best day to fly, due to lower ticket prices and fewer people on the planes. Wednesday turns out to be a good day to go to the pump, too.

Julie E. Lee, AARP’s driver safety vice president, recently wrote on AARP’s website that “Wednesday is the best day to fill up your car – and any weekday is better than the weekend, when gas prices are at their highest. It is also best to fill up in the morning, before 10.

Gas station owners are more likely to hike up the prices between 10 a.m. and noon after checking the competition.”

THIS WEEK, A SAMPLING: “Reflections on Rome,” talk by the Rev. Frank Case, Gonzaga University’s vice president for mission, Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Magnuson Theatre, College Hall at Gonzaga University.

Ballroom Dancing, Friday, 7:30 p.m. Sons of Norway Hall, 6710 N. Country Homes Blvd., Spokane, (509) 326-9211.

Live reptile and animal day, Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mobius Science Center, 811 W. Main Ave., Spokane, (509) 443-5669.

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