Baby Boomer Woman: Tina Sloan

by Anne Holmes on September 21, 2010

Welcome to NABBW member and actress Tina Sloan, whose first book, “Changing Shoes: Getting Older – NOT OLD – with Style, Humor and Grace,” has just been published by Gotham Books.  September is a big month for Tina, as her play, “Changing Shoes,” opened on the 20th. We caught up with her recently to ask her our favorite 20 questions.

If you’d like to know more about what it’s like age in public, be sure to sign up for our NABBW teleseminar with Tina on September 23rd at 8 PM Eastern time. She’ll be sharing her favorite stories with NABBW members and friends.  Join us, and enjoy the opportunity to ask her your own question. Meanwhile, here’s what she recently told us:

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

This is going to be very straightforward –  I have been married for the past 35 years to Steve McPherson and we have a son Renny who after Harvard went into the U.S.Marines and on to Iraq.  He is now at Harvard Business School and I am sleeping at night again.

I have been an actress on Guiding Light, a soap opera, for the past 26 years until it went off the air in Sept 09.  Prior to that I have done other soaps, many, many  commercials and quite a few films with Woody Allen, Al Pacino and so on.

  • Recently I have done several movies, webseries, and written a book called CHANGING SHOES and a play of the same name, which is  the book on its feet.
  • The book came out on Sept 16th and the play opens to a sold out audience in New York on Sept 20th so I have been reinventing myself as a playwright, author, stage actress and quite busy as my husband will attest.
  • I once was very athletic- climbing mountains, running marathons but now take nice walks and do yoga.
  • So my self is aging and I am doing my best to stay in the game by reinvention.

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

My parents died several years ago but I was the caregiver for the last years of their lives.  My one son is 31 and my husband has recently moved his office into our den!

Somehow this is quite delightful though I was full of trepidation before he moved.

This summer our son who was between first and second years of Harvard Business School did a startup in our dining room, so we were all working in our New York City apartment and we —really had fun. Amazing!!

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

I had a very free childhood.  I would go out to play and come back for dinner and was able to learn independence and learn to use my imagination.  We would decorate wagons (little ones) with crepe paper and flowers and pull one another in them, we would read a lot and loll about talking and playing games and just exploring the wide, wide world with no fear.

We would make up plays and perform them for our parents –I am still making them up and performing in plays!

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

Loyalty, independence, speaking the truth, taking action rather than letting others do it.

We women of this generation lived life in the real world not on TV ( although ironically, I have had an entire 35 year life on TV as Lillian Raines and prior as Patti Whiting and Dr. Olivia Delaney and Kate Cannell)

What inspires you?

Nikes phrase JUST DO IT and my own idea of changing shoes and reinventing oneself.  I am greatly inspired by laughter and creativity and dreams but taking action is my greatest inspiration

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

My work and my friends and my son and my husband.   I find my creativity is giving me such pleasure and my friends are kinder than we were towards one another when we were younger and my family has found a wonderful way to live happily and easily together

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

Love to travel and write and read and walk and act.  Not sure these are hobbies as they are so intertwined with living my life

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

Bridget Jones Diary.  Bridget keep bouncing back no matter what happens and she believes so naively that it all will turn out perfectly and then is disappointed again but keeps coming back into the ring. And like me she LOVES to eat.

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

Love to go with my friend Anne and we have gone to India and China and Thailand, Cambodia, Dubai

Love to travel with my husband and we have gone to Europe and the British Isles and all over America, as his grandfather began the National Park Service so he is very involved in our parks

Love to travel with my son even if it is just down to the corner for lunch and for a walk in the Park.

Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate.

Walk and yoga and keeping my mind active.  My eating is questionable as I LOVE chocolate and eat it a lot a lot a lot!  So my weight is higher than it should be but not really bad and I so enjoy my hot fudge sundaes

What do you stress about?

Everything and then again Nothing!

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

As an actress my looks are my job but I won’t have plastic surgery or use Botox as that will keep me from showing emotion.  I also am really scared of going under the knife, so I use makeup for aging faces and never go out without it – once I did and bumped into THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY…..

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

Gone from being a soap opera star for 35 years to writing a book CHANGING SHOES and writing a play also called CHANGING SHOES and performing the play all over the US (NY, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Houston this Fall).

I wrote both of these to inspire women to get unstuck as they age and the letters and emails I have gotten show me this is really working, that I have touched that place of “learning to take ones power back” and learning to twinkle again.

I hope to have a way of stating simply and conversationally all of the thoughts, hurdles, ideas, qualms, fears and joy that we women of a certain age have constantly, whether we wish to think about all of it or not.

Do you plan to retire?

No, but one never knows what is out there in life. My current “plan” is to keep on working.

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

Not really,  I recycle and such but that is not where my energy is going though I applaud those who are putting their energy there.  I know how important it is

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

Oh I can and here it is right out of my book….it is perfect answer to that moment in time that changed me.

It was at age 48 that I was struck by the proverbial clap of thunder, the kind that forces you to do a bald-faced re-evaluation of your life. It was ten in the morning and I was walking down 44th street in Manhattan with my soap opera daughter, Beth Chamberlin to get a cup of coffee.

  • We were in evening gowns because our last scene had been a gala party where we were murdering someone. (Most likely the someone we were murdering was asking for too much money in his contract.) “Oh Beth you were so great in that scene!  The way you stabbed him thirty two times, I loved it.  Thank heavens you didn’t get any blood on my gown!” I said laughing.
  • I was feeling fabulous and beautiful, wearing dripping diamond earrings, Christian Louboutin heels, and an Oscar de la Renta canary yellow gown.
  • I loved to be spotted outside in my costume, as though my character had suddenly broken through the fourth wall and come to life.

Beth and I would waltz outside after our scenes in whatever garb we were wearing, be it bloody medical scrubs, pajamas or elegant designer gowns, and run and get some fresh air. Even in a city like New York, where people have seen it all, our appearance on the street always drew a lot of attention.

As a woman and an actress no less, I know when I’m being watched.

I would feel the covert glances of strangers assessing me, and let’s admit it, for any woman, this can be a thrill. But this time, standing there in the coffee shop waiting for my double tall mochaccino to be delivered, I could sense that something was wrong. Looking around the coffee shop, nothing seemed to be out of place… sugars, creamers, straws, napkins—everything was where it was supposed to be…what could be wrong?

Then I saw him.  The man with the salt and pepper hair in the corner of the coffee shop, perfectly dressed in an Armani blue blazer, yellow Hermes tie and gold cuff links staring fixedly at Beth.  I followed the trajectory of his eyes and there could be no doubt, he was staring at her, the way men used to stare at me.

If he had been pointing a pistol at me it would not have been as terrifying.  Glancing around, I understood what was making me feel uneasy.

  • NO ONE was looking at me.
  • NO ONE.
  • They were ALL looking at Beth.

The handsome man in the corner, the man making our coffee who was so transfixed he scalded himself with the hot milk, the three girls in line behind us with their yoga mats, even the little red haired boy and his two friends—obviously playing hooky—were watching her.

The whole coffee shop was enthralled with Beth. Nobody even glanced at me.

I hated her.

After getting back to my dressing room, I looked in the mirror and was astounded. How—in one day—had I gotten old? And more importantly, how had I not noticed the wrinkles and soft arms?

I was close to 50, and yes, I had been coloring my hair for years, but somehow, I’d always thought that other than that, I was just fine. (Ah that was the moment, the blow of age moment.  It made me decide I had to reinvent myself and led to the book and play.)

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

I am accomplishing my dreams just by writing this to you as it will spread the word that there are answers. I want people to know that they’re not alone in these midlife experiences.  I felt alone for a long time and if I can inspire someone to approach their life differently, to start seeing the possibilities again, then I’ve done my job and accomplished my dream.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

I certainly want my book to inspire women to come alive again, to reengage and that is so important to me.  The play will do the same as it is the book on its feet.

It is time to change shoes and get into the game and not let the media take it away as they will try to.

This will hopefully make a difference in my world, the world of middle aged wonderful fabulous and glamorous women.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

My aunt Ano who was fiercely independent and honest and well dressed and who never complained and who above all was great great FUN.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

I want to share the beautiful, life changing discoveries we make when we least expect them and the chance encounters that send us on a journey we never planned to take. I want to search for the answer to life’s ultimate questions and find a reason to celebrate life rather than give up as I age and offer my thoughts on these to other women

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