Am I Blue?

Linda Pollack's not getting older, dammit. She's getting bluer. Pollack has founded a local chapter of the Blue Thong Society, a group of fiftyish women who want more from middle age than just crow's-feet and expanding waistlines. She swears the blue underwear isn't mandatory, but apparently cocktailing and a fondness for hockey are.

Robrt Pela: So I keep reading about the Blue Thong Society, which seems to have something to do with turning 50.

Linda Pollack: Yes and no. It was a small group of women turning 50 who got it started in California. One of them was having a birthday, and one of her friends gave her a purple dress or something significant of the Red Hat Society, and another friend said, "No, you should be in a blue thong!" Which led to this group that's really about the return of the girlfriend. And if you look at our logo, it's both the underwear and the flip-flop, but right now we're more in the flip-flop stage of the game.

Pela: I'm so confused. All these different-colored clothing items.

Pollack: I know. And I hate women's organizations. I've never joined one. When I was a girl, I quit the Brownies — I couldn't stand it. "No one is putting me in a uniform and telling me what to do!" But with our first meeting, I was hoping for 30 women, and 170 women showed up. And the coolest women showed up; there were only a couple of nut jobs. Little pockets of women came from everywhere, and they were starving for a group like this.

Pela: What do you do?

Pollack: We're reinventing our middle age. Because the truth is, I'm bored with my friends. They're boring. I wanted to meet like-minded women who want to have fun. Don't get me wrong — we're doing charity work, but if I'm being honest, it's mostly about having fun and about friendship.

Pela: But what does this have to do with blue underwear?

Pollack: It's a state of mind.

Pela: So it's categorical blue underwear, not literal blue underwear.

Pollack: Right. In the '60s, there was more of an emphasis on individualism, of women breaking the glass ceiling. There was more hope.

Pela: And today there's less hope for gender equality?

Pollack: Oh my God. It's obvious you're not a woman in American society.

Pela: I've waited years for someone to notice that about me.

Pollack: Well, what I mean is that in corporate America, the only thing worse than a 45-year-old man is a 45-year-old woman. Especially in sales! Men still have a prejudice against us, and we work hard to break the glass ceiling. Really. Ask any woman.

Pela: I will. But why do you have to have a group to feel good about yourself?

Pollack: We don't. You're right. But this is about self-esteem and loving oneself, something women get away from because we're trained to do for others, so we get out of practice. But the Blue Thong Society has dreams. Like building an all-women's house for Habitat for Humanity. We have so much we want to do.

Pela: And so much you want to drink! The Blue Thong Web site mentions cocktailing on every page!

Pollack: You know what? Some of our members just drink club soda. You don't have to drink to be a member. You should come to the next meeting. We're having a flamenco dance party.

Pela: But I'm a man.

Pollack: We had a man at one of our meetings once. And we're going to be raffling off seats on the bench at the next Coyotes game.

Pela: I don't really like basketball.

Pollack: It's hockey. The Coyotes are a hockey team.

Pela: Oh. So the Blue Thong Society is your way of dealing with getting older. But wouldn't plastic surgery or a boob job be quicker?

Pollack: Women are so brainwashed into thinking we have to do all that stuff. There's so much pressure to look younger. The pressure needs to be off. We're fine the way we are. Our culture is so engaged in age discrimination, and our women are considered so disposable. It's not like we're living in Afghanistan here. And it's time women starting telling each other so.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela