“Naked in the Locker Room,” “Alternatives to Online Dating,” “What to Do When a Guy Hasn’t Called,” and “The Perfect Panty.”
These may be typical grabby headlines for any online lifestyle magazine, but, surprisingly, the reading audience here is the same group getting their AARP cards in the mail.
“We’re not dowdy. We’re not drippy. We’re fun,” said Felice Shapiro, founder and publisher of BetterAfter50.com, a site aimed at women navigating midlife. “We’re wide open to what others have to say, and we’re connecting on this site.”
BA50 — as the magazine has become better-known — has had remarkable influence given its young life. Launched in late 2011, BA50 today attracts more than 1 million monthly page views and has more than 10,000 fans on social media. Shapiro has also organized live motivational conferences, the latest of which will be held Monday at Babson College.
“There’s a void in the marketplace,” she said. “There was when we launched, and there is still.”
The Boston-born Shapiro, who is 57, felt that emptiness perhaps a bit more acutely than other women hitting midlife. A former parenting magazine publisher raising her family in Westchester, N.Y., she was grappling with her “second act” until the untimely death of her husband in 2005 forced her to focus.
“That whole tragedy catapulted me into what’s next for real. It had an urgency to it,” she recalled.
She hired a coach with the intent “to do something really outrageous.” She completed that goal — running the Boston Marathon — and then found the motivation to dip her aching toes back into the publishing industry.
“We’re just honestly talking about what these next steps are,” said Shapiro. “It’s topics you’d share with good friends over a cup of coffee or glass of wine — shifts in relationships, adult kids with challenges, loss of parents, or dealing with sickness. But there’s nothing depressing.”
At Monday’s “She Did It/Boston” conference at Babson, some 100 attendees will participate in hands-on workshops on topics such as “Beyond the Empty Nest” and “How Do I Make a Living and Difference?” Stylist Doreen Dove will give women suitable strategies for dressing in an afternoon session titled “Does Your Image Match Your Next Phase?”
“A lot of times there’s a lot of self-doubt. Now the attention is turned back on them, and they [have to] redefine who they are now,” said Dove.
The Winchester-based stylist said most clothing conundrums start in a woman’s own closet, where too many ill-informed and ill-fitting purchases reside.
“Shopping is painful. There are too many stores. Too many prices. Lots of closets have one-shot wonders. [Women] bring it home, but it has no friends,” she said.
Women over 50, in particular, are susceptible to what Dove describes as dressing over your age.
“They have more in the middle and start draping when they’re only carrying 5 pounds too much,” she said. “I’m not trying to get them into traffic-stopping jeans, but they do need to embrace that they can look fabulous.”
Dove’s message — “Get your sass back. We have forever to be old” — is firm but friendly, and falls in line with the powerful tone replicated throughout BA50’s site. Shapiro, who is remarried and now splits her time between Watertown and New York, expects “She Did It” to sell out (as the first two conferences did). Her audiences, both live and virtual, are tired of trying to transition to their next stage of life alone.
“We’re done trying to fit in,” she said. “We’re talking about a lot of things, and we’re not ashamed of it.”