If you live in South Orange and Maplewood and you don’t know Deborah Gaines, you should.
Gaines doesn’t hold public office and she doesn’t own a business, but in our towns full of media professionals, Gaines cuts through the noise with her column on Huff/Post50 —The Huffington Post’s vertical for the over-50 crowd.
Her blogs are notable for their frankness and Gaines’ on-the-nose ability to step into hot button issues.
Gaines began her career as a travel writer for the New York Post, and has written more than 300 articles for publications and websites including Salon, Ladies’ Home Journal, NickJr.com, Redbookmag.com and Parenting.com, as well as a Nancy Drew mystery, Scent of Danger.
Lately, it’s her blogs on The Huffington Post that are attracting attention. Gaines’ posts sometimes garner hundreds of comments and thousands of views and foist her into on-air interviews on NPR, WGN 720 in Chicago, and the like.
In her blogs, Gaines fearlessly wades into explosive topics like one-night stands for the post-50 set, multiple marriages (she is thrice divorced), saving or not saving for retirement, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (her daughter recently traveled to Israel on a Birthright trip).
“Huffington Post at the time was launching the Huff/Post50 section edited by Laura Rowley, formerly of Maplewood. I was turning 50. She had come to me and said, ‘You are someone who has an unusual viewpoint.'”
And Gaines’ viewpoint is a “juicy” one — by her own admission.
“Whatever held me back as a younger writer is gone,” said Gaines. “One of the advantages of getting older is that I don’t have fear. I don’t worry about the response. When I see that one of my posts has got a thousand comments…. The fact of the conversation is a good thing.”
“I’m more clear on where and how I’m coming from. I don’t personalize. Maybe it comes as your attitude matures. I respect everyone else’s right to have an opinion. But it doesn’t mean that I respect their opinion!”
Gaines added, “The ground rule is that it’s absolutely okay to disagree but it’s never okay to say, ‘You are not entitled to that opinion or that your opinions are not valid.'”
But back to the juicy stuff.
Gaines said that her blogs about relationships have had the biggest response.
“The one about one-night stands in middle age, that was well into the thousands!”
And her article on having NOT deprived herself to save for retirement “touched a nerve.”
“There were two main camps,” said Gaines: “one was people saying, ‘I feel the same way!’ People who feel they are not prepared for retiring and getting older … and, two, a big camp of people who really deprived themselves saying, ‘You’re wrong.’ To me the most negative were the people who felt that they had been deprived so I should be too.”
Gaines reports that some people wrote comments to the effect of “We’ll see how you feel when you’re lying on the street because you can’t afford the drugs to save your life.”
But she said, “Happily there was a groundswell of support!”
Then there was her interview on WGN radio in Chicago, where the DJs introduced her as follows: “‘This is Deborah Gaines and she’s going to make you feel good about being old and poor.'”
“I’m good with that,” said Gaines.
Whatever the response, Gaines is committed to continuing the blog — but also branching out to do more creative writing.
In addition to the HuffPost blog, Gaines said, “I’d like to do memoir. …. I’ve spent a lot of time writing other people’s stories. Now I’ll tell mine.”
Always the travel writer, another dream for Gaines is to write an update of Mark Twain’s Following the Equator.
Gaines said that now that she’s in her 50s, she has a plan: There will be a certain amount of years of full-time work, followed by a growing amount of consulting and creative work.
Gaines likes to quote the great cellist Pablo Casales who was asked in his 90s, “Why do you keep practicing?” His answer: “I think I’m making progress.” Said Gaines, “As long as I’m making progress, I’m going to keep writing. It’s about letting people know they’re not alone and they’re not crazy. Life is a roller coaster, for all of us. So let’s enjoy the ride.”
Read Deborah Gaines’ Huffington Post blogs here. Follow her on twitter @deborahgaines.