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I have a number of favorite people, but Dixie Laite is hands-down at the top of the list. I’ve thought of Dixie, now 58, as a mentor ever since she welcomed me with open arms when I arrived as a fresh-off-the-boat Midwesterner in New York in my early 30s.
We’d originally met through my old magazine, Venus Zine, and at the time, she was a creative force at Nickelodeon. Dixie is a snappy writer who’s written for Martha Stewart, AMC, New York Post, CNN, Sesame Street, BUST, among many others. I invited Dixie to speak about building a personal brand for Etsy and content strategy for solopreneurs at the DIY Business Association Conference that I organized in 2011. These accomplishments merely scratch the surface of Dixie’s life.
Describing Dixie in a nutshell is a challenge, but here’s how the brand expert describes herself: Mayor of DameTown: Because it takes balls to be a woman. Cameltoe Champion. Writer, Branding and Marketing Consultant. Bullshit Slayer and Force for Good.
Dixie thinks of herself as essentially retired and is focusing on “getting her health and shit together.” Her blog, Dametown, celebrates women (“dames of yesteryear and today”) and explores how to rock this latest — maybe greatest — third chapter of life.
Here, Dixie talks openly about her love of bodybuilding, collecting femorabilia, and managing the seizures that make her “brain broke”.
I grew up in Southern Florida. If I say Miami, which is where I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, it tends to bring to mind a life other than the one I had.
Miami was very much a Southern town, with a few cool tropical and OG glamour stuff. I was born on Miami Beach because my birth mother — I later learned — came south to Miami Beach to hide her pregnancy in what was then an old-school cool place to hang.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I followed my boyfriend to the Bronx, and I’ve lived in New York since 1984. I’ve lived in Manhattan since 1987.
I met my husband on the subway after buying expensive underwear. I’ve been married to Jeff since 2009. Here’s how we met.
It was a big deal to me to be adopted and eventually find my birth mother. I was embraced by my father’s somewhat well-known family, despite the awkwardness of my conception. Read more in Blood is thicker than daughter.
I’ve played a checkered career, ranging from personal trainer to Oxygen editorial director. I’ve been a mechanical bull operator, waitress, second-grade teacher in Harlem and the South Bronx, bodybuilding trainer, later insinuating my way into TV as an intern at age 30, traveling the country for public television, working for “Oprah Goes Online” and becoming an editorial director at Oxygen, Nickelodeon, etc. A highlight for me was coming up with Moose A. Moose and Zee for NOGGIN, and being there when Degrassi was rocking The-N. ☺
I went from being a very indoorsy lay-about to running marathons and being an impressive weight-lifter. #evolution
“Vintage things” are a huge part of my life. I grew up a passionate old-movie aficionado, with the expertise and enormous 1920s–1940s movie memorabilia collection to prove it. Also, I’ve been a flea market girl my whole life, collecting all kinds of things, and mostly what I call “femorabilia”. I was also waaay into swing dancing and the Lindy Hop.
It really affects my memory, and I have a very hard time following instructions and directions. All kinds of things tend to overwhelm my brain. And recognizing people, or trying to remember how I know them is embarrassing. I can’t remember events or facts very well, but things that touch on my emotions are still available. I don’t know people who seem to know me, but I do know how I feel about them, even when I can’t remember their face or name. For example, I have no idea how we met — I only know that I adore you! But I can’t articulate why. I can also remember song lyrics, for some reason. Luckily, I’m able to write, though typing is slow, but it was never my forte.
“I hip-hop dance around at home, and when the quarantine thing is over, I hope to go back to my beloved body-building.”
2. Being less tech-savvy than I used to be.
I’m older and have no kids to tutor me, so I went from being savvy about the new “cyberspace” in the ’90s to being behind now. So my challenge is to learn to use cellphones and social media apps, etc. to help build Dametown (and my own not getting stale)
3. Obviously, my health challenges are a jumble.
My brain problems make even reading hard for me now. My back, neck, and legs are in pain most of the time. But I’m doing what I can…walking, trying to learn French, working on losing weight by watching what I eat. I’m vegan but I eat a shitload of carbs. Menopause and not running caused me to gain 40 pounds.
Being infirm, overweight, and not as sharp as I once was are hard on me. They’re not “my brand”, you know?
I’m refusing to complain — well, out loud — or surrender. I’m going to get inspired and disciplined and make the most of this last chapter. Sixty isn’t the new 40 — 60 is just going to be rocking 60!
The main thing I wish I’d done differently was love myself. I wish I’d mothered and been a better friend to young(er) Dixie. I’ve wasted so much time, and continue to waste time, feeling ugly and insecure. I’ve wasted so many years, and so many opportunities. Two of the gifts of age are wisdom and not giving so many fucks. The latter has been such a relief and unburdening. The pain of not feeling loved by my family, of worrying what others thought of me, I’m now able to lay most of that burden down. And it feels great.
“The main thing I wish I’d done differently was love myself. I wish I’d mothered and been a better friend to young(er) Dixie.”
I’d tell women to love themselves, don’t obsess about appearance, and to try things. Lots of things. Get rid of toxic relationships and people. And this is big: Find your tribe. Cherish your tribe.
Also, before I was in my 50s, I assumed I’d always be able to run, I’d be the same only older as I aged. Not true. You will change. It won’t be nice. It won’t be easy or pretty. But don’t fight aging. Just leverage it to get to know yourself and be yourself.
Amy Cuevas Schroeder is the cofounder and Chief Content Officer of Jumble & Flow, the new lifestyle brand that empowers women to thrive in midlife. She started her first business, Venus Zine, in her dorm room at Michigan State University, and later sold the company. She now lives in the Chicago area, and is raising twin girls with her husband, Martin, a social worker. Amy has also worked as a content leader for Etsy, Minted, Abstract, and more.
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Adventures in Perimenopause, essays by women in perimenopause and menopause
In My Prime: interviews with women thriving in midlife
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