Chic but not Vain




I'm so late on this one but nevertheless, so glad I found it. Would you/could you wear all white all the time?  This is a fabulous little film and links about a woman who turned 60 and reinvented herself.  I'm inspired by her transformation,singlemindedness and commitment to her style.  There are lessons for all of us in this.

The restraint she had is truly a thing of beauty, and I'm fascinated by every detail and want to know more. Let's discuss in the comments!



72 comments

  1. i've never done this before but i'm starting the comments. i want to know where her coats are, what are the exact contents of those beautifully folded shelves. i love that she allowed a little lavender and rose in her undergarments. and mostly, i admire her commitment to her look. alex and i have always had discussions about what makes a person have great style and i believe it is commitment to A LOOK, whatever that may be.

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  2. Oh my goodness! Now I'm totally fascinated with this woman and her "look". It's more than that, though isn't it? It's a lifestyle, her simplicity and attention to detail and order. Those things fascinate me. I have always loved white and all variations of it. My family kids me when I decide to change the color of a room...to a different shade of white/cream. I have had this book on my shelf for many years. Victoria: At Home with White. If you haven't already seen it, I think you might enjoy it.https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Home-White-Celebrating-Intimate/dp/0688144713
    I wish I could know more about this woman and her lifestyle. I'll now go and enlarge the photo of that beautiful closet and study it.

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    1. kathy you are right, it is way more than her look, it is her lifestyle which speaks to me also. yes, i've seen that book many times and it's still beautiful today.x

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  3. Sorry for the duplicates above. Not sure what happened there. I wanted to add...about the white clothing. Not sure I could actually pull off wearing all white. My hair is turning more and more silver and I think I may looked washed out. I wonder if she wore all white for the "look" or the simplicity of not having to put together an outfit. There is a freedom in that, much like wearing a uniform. Though she loved style, so that may not be the case. I wonder if anyone ever had a conversation with her about it. If they did, I wish they would share.

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    1. no worries, i deleted the dups. i know i could not wear only white, i live in jeans! i think that is why i'm fascinated. it seems she wore it for the look and the simplicity which for me would be hard! i wish there was more to read about her too. x

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  4. "Order, Beauty and Meaning".........these words from the film stayed with me. I don't think it is at all about a look. It's about life. Life pared down but not diminished. Life ordered but not at all rigid. Life savoured and touched and valued. One doesn't have the sense at all that the things in the closet were in any way set there by their owner as museum pieces or for show. I love the sense of how the ironing and folding and stacking were as much a pleasure as the wearing.
    This was a lovely post - thank you for the introduction to this interesting woman.

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    1. i so agree with you. i've watched the film several times and re read the articles and what emerges seems to be an absolute joy she had for her new lifestyle. i read somewhere that she eschewed the marriage and a large home for a tiny apt in the city. something about that just really resonates with me at this time in my life. the final shots of her at the beach eating her lemon ice was just beautiful. x

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  5. Thank you for this very moving and inspiring post. What a fascinating woman. I'd love to know more about her. Despite the unhappy marriage (and I identify with this, having ended a 35-year marriage) she raised wonderful creative daughters.

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    1. yes, i too want to know more about her! i'd love to have seen the metamorphosis and to know more about what it meant to her. it seems v freeing. x

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  6. Being on a bike for 9 days in a row and away from home for 2weeks with only the essentials that I could carry in our panniers on our tandem taught me a few things. 1- it's rather "freeing" to not have to put on makeup, blow-dry my hair, put in contact lenses every day. 2-I like how I look better when I do those things. 3- it doesn't take a lot of material possessions to live on this earth. 4- be thankful for the luxuries I have. 5-if I had to, I could live with much much less 6- but I have to admit I got bored rather quickly with the 3 outfits I took for when we were not cycling. 7- it was very easy and quick to do laundry. 8- it is up to each of us on how we want to live.πŸ˜€

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    1. i feel as if i've been on this trip with on IG jessica. your observations remind me of the ones i have after a long camping trip. it is freeing but i love walking through that door on arrival and esp the bed! everything seems like a luxury at that point, everything! your #8 tip is the best! x

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  7. I confess to NEVER wearing white myself (not even a wispy white cotton sundress, although I love them) ... and I mean never, all 12 mos of the year. Which includes bags, shoes; anything white. Nope. I'm a girl who wears the opposite; black. Although b&w makes for cool combos. I love white jeans with a black tank top...on other people. I love a crisp, long-sleeved white, button-down shirt with black skinny pants. I love black & white gingham fabric. I love a home which features white walls and a pop of black here and there in painted furniture or black & white framed photos...in black frames. Now you've left me to ponder, though...

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    1. all i want right now is white dresses and loafers! i think the photo of her looks very RL, it was the 90s so that would be fitting. i'm mesmerized by her guts and commitment. x

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  8. I have loved maira kalman for a long time.
    I had no idea about her mother sara! what a fascinating life. and yet she had no idea she was such I would imagine. just living her life finally as her SELF.
    I love the last line in the 3rd link...
    and thank you AJJ for those links!

    “She would have thought we were crazy,” Ms. Kalman said, “but in the best possible way.”

    that's how I want to be remembered.
    crazy in the best possible way!
    this pleased my minimalist soul and my hunger for everyday beauty that always manages to rise above. xo

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    1. i had never heard of any of them tammy! i love that line too and love that she was finally living exactly how she wanted. i adore that! xo

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  9. We tend to set ourselves aside when we are working and raising families. How nice that she got the opportunity to enjoy life on her own terms for a few years. She got the best of both worlds.

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    1. i know! i love that part of her story. it seems she was determined to live differently. x

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  10. Thank you for this wonderful find. I could not wear all white as I'm not that fond of laundry! I love Sara!s commitment to those rituals she was raised on. I'm still trying to switch my closet over and this post along with the last should help me make my small space more orderly and calming. Now it's just stressful. And now I'm getting off the darn couch to go do it!

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    1. did you get it done deb?! i know it has got me thinking too. like maybe i'll do a capsule wardrobe for the rest of fall/winter? idk, just so inspired by her. x

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  11. I admire this woman and her commitment to white but I would never do it, I just love color too much. I was a nurse for many years so I have had my fill of wearing white. I have about 6 pants in dark colors/denim with tops in every color of the rainbow and I enjoy picking out which color I want to wear in any given day. However, that being said I am attempting to formulate a capsule wardrobe and maybe rotate colors according to the season.

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    1. i agree lana, i could never do just white either. but white, creams, black and blue i could do. i wonder what it'd be like?! x

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  12. Simple. Fascinating. Uncomplicated. Wanting to know more of the woman who has captured our attention ~ thanks to The Gardeners Cottage Blog.

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  13. I loved watching that film! I had to pause it in order to stare at her apartment. It too was mostly white or cream - white slip covered couch, white bedspread, white walls, cream rug, a couple of plants. It looked so timeless. I think she looked elegant. I liked what it said in the film, "Everything pared down to the essential." I think that she was a minimalist without maybe knowing it. She also reminded me of Georgia O'Keeffe who, I believe, wore mostly black. Thanks for sharing the film; it was very inspiring! Now I want to clean out my closet!
    Barbara

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    1. i agree barbara. she was a minimalist before it was a thing. i loved the apartment too! x

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  14. This is my hypothesis ~~ based on my mother who was an Italian immigrant. She bought white clothes, towels, sheets, etc. because you could bleach the hell out of them and make them look fresh again. White does not fade (and therefore show it's age). It does not show pill-ing and therefore show it's age. It does not go in or out of style. If you starch something white you can regain the shape of a worn out item while the color of the starch does not show. It hides that things are not new while presenting to the world "a bella figura."

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    1. i agree. i think somewhere i read that the white clothing reminded her of her childhood and also it implied she was quite frugal so that would make sense too because everything lasts longer in white. x

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  15. Fascinating - just watched the film. Poignant though....sent it to my mum. On a more prosaic level, I could never wear white clothes. I'm just too messy!

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  16. I love babies dressed in all white...it is such a "pure" colour...
    it is very virginal too...and like one of your commenters/readers I could never do all white clothes as I am far too messy!
    Bubbling pots of Tomato sauce, dirt from the garden and ink from pens...
    I will admire it from afar...

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    1. white is so pure. i think that's why we are all drawn to it in some way. even if it isn't "our" color. x

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  17. Absolutely wonderful! I love to iron and starch things, too. And I loved her apartment. It was really genius in a minimalistic way. Thanks for introducing her to me!

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    1. you are welcome megs. i rarely iron nowadays but i used to a lot and found it incredibly meditative. x

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  18. SO much too say about this fascinating woman! I wish there was more! I want to sit and talk with her and feel her energy. I bet she was a lot of fun! I think I may be her doppleganger, but in all black. I recently went through some big events in my life and I found cleaning out my closet and sort of resetting myself through my clothing choices has been very liberating. I am former military, so I appreciate the order of her closet. I love how she cared for what she had with such precision and giving each piece it's own type of honored space. I could go on but it's your blog! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. i'm with you heather. i wish i knew more about her. i'm sure she'd be so surprised by all this like her daughter said. x

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  19. Thank you so much for this as it had escaped me! Love her closet and her aesthetic so much. Especially the bit about how she would babysit her grandchildren on the weekends and they would clean out their own closets with their grandmother. Such a creative and fun thing to do. Cleaning and organizing my own closet in an ongoing pleasure so I can totally relate.
    How we present ourselves is truly an expression of who we are or are determined to be and this wonderful woman really illustrates that. Her style, I love it. I always trust people who know what they like. Thank you Janet XX

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    1. oh i know dani, i had forgotten that. i love that she did that with her grandchildren. what wonderful memories that created for them. there is so many interesting aspects to her life. x

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  20. I've seen the film but thanks for sharing it again - wish I'd seen the museum installation. White has many spiritual meanings in Judaism...and also it seems that she wore it often after they emigrated to Palestine, which seemed like a happy time in her life. Just wondering...like most of us.

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    1. oh i wish i'd seen it to. and it seems her choices were def linked to her memories. x

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  21. Janet - I saw this at the Met when I came over from England in April. I was obsessed by it and lingered for ages. I took lots of photos of it - shall I email you some of them? I loved the elegant simplicity and the limited choice of her dress. Her closet HAS to be seen in person. Fascinating.

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  22. Also, if you look at the top left-hand corner of her closet there's a rather wonderful piece of Louis Vuitton - a vanity case I think. Next to it are two books - wish I could have seen the titles! I wish the Met had let us go into the closet to get a better look! She wasn't only in white - when you actually see the collection many of her items are cream and there are bits of colour dotted about - mostly her knickers some of which are pastel colours. There's a bottle of Chanel perfume too (No. 5? I couldn't see). Her shoes were all shades of khaki and the same style. I remember standing there and trying to take it all in. Luckily we could take photographs but it's not the same. I thought it was a permanent exhibition but I see it ended in September. I went home with a renewed determination to stick to my palette of white, cream, grey, black and navy - in England white and cream would be too cold in the winter.

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    1. oh anna yes i'd love to see your photos! my email is at the top right on the blog. i think i read that the louis vuitton case was a knockoff which doesn't bother me at all! and i love that there were hints of color too. love it all!!!!!!!! x

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  23. THE DAUGHTER HAS BOOKS OUT!PLUS, she drew for the New York Times!SHE IS A FABULOUS ARTIST!!!!GOOGLE HER..............
    THIS IS SO YOU!!!!!!
    A
    WHAT A WONDERFUL TRIBUTE to his GRANDMOTHER!

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  24. I like white, but could not wear only white. For one thing, it seems I collect stains, but only when wearing white! What is it with that?! I bought a brand new white shirt and in the first wearing proceeded to get an ink swipe from a pen across the left side of my chest! I guess I talk with my hands too much! If it's not ink, it's tomato sauce. It's gotten so bad that whenever I'm about to buy white I question the wisdom of my purchase.

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    1. i agree jeannie, all white would be hard esp with grandchildren but it looks like it didn't stop her. i think she just loved the caring for her clothes as much as the clothing itself. x

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  25. This is so interesting. She would have been about the same age as my mother in law. She wore white and beige alllllll the time. She would sometimes had a light peach color to the white and beige outfits. In her case it was all she could handle. As she told me once, she knew her limits and never took on more than her anxiety could handle. Every year she had my father in law put a fresh coat of white paint in her closet. She had beautiful furniture but it too was covered in white sheets. I used to tease her and suggest she get a little wild and use flowered sheets. I have to say for living on a very modest retirement she did look lovely with her cream wool pants and beige cashmere sweater. I've always been into wearing black.
    Best,
    Kathy
    Kcarracher (Instagram)

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    1. oh kathy she sounds like a classic! for some reason i love that she repainted her closet ea year. prob to keep a fresh look to it? and i can't even express how awesome it is that she knew her limits. that's something i'm just now learning about! x

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  26. Thank you so much for sharing this remarkable story. As I have become closer to 60 than 50, I have found myself drawn away from black and toward white (including the spectrum from beige to pure white). It all started with a growing collection of Irish fisherman knit sweaters and an old knitting pattern book called The White Sweater Book. Black is simple, but captures the angst of youth. White just feels light and free and reflective of the confidence that comes with age.

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    1. mags, i don't know what it is about new decades but they def affect me. i feel so much change swirling inside me, v similar to the start of my 40s and 50s. x

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  27. I am reading this late in a very busy weekend, & love the post. I have often thought I would love a uniform. Although white would not fit in with my gardening, painting & woodworking. I look awful in black, so that's not an option either!

    I truly enjoyed everyone's posts & think it shows a yearning for a more simple life, even though we don't always know how to accomplish it. But in the end, as someone said, we have to be true to ourselves & our individual lifestyles. Mine is simple, so it is more of the denim & paint spattered shirts with tennis or garden shoes. But I sure wish I could pull off the all white, or black!

    Anita - the cabin on the creek

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    1. anita i so agree with you. this really does speak to our longing for asimpler time or life. well put! i'm so intrigued and want to know more. x

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  28. I have very few white items. Maybe a long-sleeved and a short-sleeved t-shirt and a tank-top. Even with gray hair, I just don't like white on me and it NEVER stays clean for long!

    I prefer off-white.
    Good for her to wear what made her happy!

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    1. right cara, good for her. it's funny how her move to simplicity seems so bold to us all! x

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  29. The fascination of white... though in most cases it seems to encompass all creams/beiges/naturals and as some pointed out, pastels. I personally enjoy creams and light greys among the brights I generally end up in. Depends on my mood, but yes, also increasingly harmonises with my hair lol!
    As for home decor - during a difficult time in my marriage, I had the strong need for clarity - my home became tranquil with white, cream, natural and transparent (still love my Louis Ghost chairs!!); years on after things settled down again, it's cosier with gold, green, red, light wood... analyse that!

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    1. well i don't think i could analyze that but it most def speaks to how our interiors do mirror our exteriors. white really does represent peace and tranquility and warmer colors speak to a coziness. a good balance of both would prob be perfect! x

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  30. I love white and almost always wear just that in summer, though 'summer' is more of an intellectual decision here.

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    1. Just went back and read all of the comments which are great, I love white because it lifts me and soothes me, it's valium in cloth form for me.

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  31. One more - what a great film, thank you!

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    1. tabs i thought of you immediately when i first watched the film. i know how much you love white and it looks so fabulous on you too. and i know that your wardrobe is small and beautiful. you are a modern day sara! x

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  32. OMG, I love this! White is so clean and simple. All my sheets, towels, table clothes, undies, etc. are white. So easy to keep clean with a little bleach and sunshine. I always think of you, Janet and your white living room as perfection.
    Wearing white is interesting and beautiful although I rarely wear it.
    Thank you for this! I'm going to study the photos, they are mesmerizing.

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    1. i know betty! i'm thinking it isn't just the white, altho that is huge, it's the spareness that somehow feels so luxurious. x

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  33. If you look on the Met website, the exhibition has been extended until November 26. Isn't that wonderful? Since we live quite close to the city, my husband and I are going to see it one of these weekends. Can't wait!

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    1. oh lucky you! i'm going to tell a friend that lives there about this! take photos!!!! x

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  34. As interesting as this is, I wouldn't want my underwear displayed in a museum.
    Makes me want to upgrade just in case! Lol!

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  35. I've already commented once, but I just have to say thank you, Janet...for your blog, for the interesting topics, and, as a result, for the conversation that follows in the comments. We're from all over the country and world, but reading the comments feels a little like we're chatting over tea or coffee. So nice.

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    1. wouldn't it be fun for you all to come over for morning coffee? can you imagine the conversations?! xo

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  36. Thank you for sharing this beautiful woman and all her life and white! I love the timeless beauty she set and the love for order and peace in her days. I love the hues of white and feel there is something to learn from her.
    Maybe in a package wrapped in white
    Or crisp white sheets..or a set of pretty dishtowels. But i also enjoy
    The pops of red..mustard..or black in my decor. Thank you again.

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  37. Janet, like most your commentors, I could talk hours about this. For me, the Jewish story is as interesting as her wardrobe choices and how she kept it. The whole family is artsy, her children artists too. She was probably an artist in a time when she had no way to express it, so it came out in her personal style and approach to life. She is lucky she was able to express that later in life, whereas some people never can or are able to. Truly fascinating, and as always, thank you for your blog. I, too, am wearing all black today. I feel more comfortable in black than in white. wish I could show you my outfit. I have been inspired by "Scandi Style", having recently gone to Copenhagen to visit a friend, we shopped and dreamed up great outfits! I love observing micro-culture fashion. Certain looks may work in one environment, but not another!

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  38. I love the white. I love the perfection. The beautiful ironing. I certainly can appreciate the beauty and precision and life. It's not me even though I can admire the art of it all.

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  39. I'm a grandmother who still gets teased about visiting one weekend and spending the entire weekend with my granddaughter in her closet. I didn't know this was a thing - or a nothing? - it just seemed to be something we could do together that I thought would help her as she was growing up. I think this is the first time I've ever heard anyone else talk about a similar experience. My granddaughter was about eight at the time with an overflowing closet but was only wearing the few things that were stacked on the bed from the recent laundry each week. I suggested we start sorting. She was reading a book and minimally participating while laying on her bed. The key teaching moment I am very proud of. A few minutes in - I pulled something out of the closet, brand new, she received as a gift. She very closely watched my face to see what the correct answer should be to the question -"keep this" or "let it go"? I held my expression neutral and wouldn't give her my decision but rather told her it was important that what would be left in her closet would be only the things that she loved and fit her body and her style. That was the turning point. She engaged in the process enthusiastically. And she has continued to control what is in her wardrobe even now as she is a 7th grader. The experience was so rewarding to me as I was about 50 years old before I learned this same concept.

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kindness is never out of style.

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