Hattie wears jacket Richards, necklace courtesy James Veloria
Hattie Retroage: I’m not busy enough.
Elspeth Walker: Really? It seems like you’re always doing something.
Not really. I really want to get chosen for something, so that I can have an ongoing– like, once a week, model for a magazine. Or if I had a column, you see?
You should totally have a column!
I didn’t even think of it before. I could do a column in Refigural magazine. That would be wonderful. Holistic… Anti aging, or…
You could also do–
[Hattie holds up her hand.]
Hot and Holistic.
It’s perfect! People will write in with questions for sure.
That’s what I want! Hot and Holistic.
He’s gotta say yes.
You’ve done so much helping people. And I know you’ve written a lot of books. And you were a psychoanalyst at one point?
Yes, I was a psychotherapist. They wouldn’t let me be a psychoanalyst because I touched people. I’ll tell you what that’s about. [A waitress arrives.] Uh, we’re having tea.
Peppermint would be great.
Me too. And honey. Thank you. I had a dancing school when I was married, and I taught hundreds of little children creative dance. When I got divorced, I decided that I wanted to start a practice as a psychoanalyst. So I went to a psychoanalytic school, and I was accepted without a Masters, and the Dean became my patient because I was so gifted. However, when the Board of Directors learned that I was actually touching people, like certainly not sexually but I might stretch them if they were hunched over or if they were crying I might stroke their hair or something, they said, “You cannot call yourself a psychoanalyst.”
Because it’s not the classical method.
Exactly. But even if I said, “Freud was touching all the time, I mean he took people on vacation with him!” No, it didn’t matter, that’s the protocol. So I called myself a “movement therapist.” And the reason I’m mentioning this: it’s one of a series of titles I’ve given myself that do not exist in the world. “Dance therapist” does. You study in school and you become a dance therapist, and you don’t need any psychoanalytic training, and then you work in a hospital. As a movement therapist, I combined movement and massage with shiatsu, trigger point, and psychological issues. I have the theory that just like you have psychological blocks and defenses, you have physical blocks and defenses and they will cause knots in the musculature. So I would literally pound on a knot. But people knew that that’s what you got when you went to Hattie, and that’s what they went for. Such freedom! Such opening, trapped memories, it was really great. So I did that for twenty years. I worked on people on the floor a lot, so the up and down and up and down… after twenty years I needed a hip replacement. So I decided, I can’t do that work anymore, it’s too hard, I don’t want the other hip to go. So I had the replacement done, it’s very great, but I don’t do anything where I’m up and down on the floor anymore. Then I decided to try living on a tropical island. And so I went. The first tropical island I lived on was Tortola. There they just called me a healer.
Perfect, a blanket term.
But then with so many people calling themselves healers it didn’t have any meaning anymore. Like, if they said, “What technique do you use?” I would say “Hattie.” I use Hattie Technique. Along the way, people would actually share with me how frightened they were about aging. And so I coined a word, it doesn’t exist except I coined it, called RetroAge(TM). And I own the word, and it’s Four Steps to a Younger You. It’s available on Amazon. Quite a fine book.
[The tea arrives.]
Thank you, my dear. So I wrote that, and then I wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Looking and Feeling Younger. Which is like a bible. That’s out of print. And then I wrote my third book, which is a memoir, which doesn’t sell because it has a salacious title, but the inside is just straight talk and that’s not interesting to people.
It all started when I was working on a client, and she said “Hattie, I have a casting agency, and Dolce and Gabbana wants a sexy older woman. Just go in a bathing suit, just go to the go-see.” And I did– they took me immediately. I was an extra. When I got to the beach—it wasn’t photoshopped, it was an actual beach— the photographer said to one of the younger guys, all buffed, an actual model all greased up and buffed and six pack, he said, “sit next to Hattie and look at her adoringly, and hold her hand.” And he did. I’m sorry I don’t have that picture for you.
I think I’ve seen it!
Claudia Schiffer was blown out of the water. All anybody saw was, Hattie and this guy. Hattie and this guy. That was about five years ago. The bathing suit is gone. But it wasn’t Dolce & Gabbana– it was my own! And I tried to figure that out, and I did figure that out. They’re not selling clothing. They’re selling an alternate lifestyle. So when they saw me, it didn’t matter what I was wearing. Cougars shop at Dolce and Gabbana.
That’s implicit in the way you constantly create these titles for yourself. You’re saying, “I encompass more than these labels that already exist, so I’m going to make my own way.”
Now when people ask me what I am, I say, I’m an international inspiration.
You can’t see it in the employment column under “I,” but it’s really true. I have no vanity about it, but I have to tell you, Elspeth, that I walk down the street and it’s like everybody stares, everybody smiles. Infants look up at me. It’s like I’m radiating goodness. And when I was younger, I had a temper, I was impatient, you know, all those things. And every time I encountered something about myself that wasn’t exquisite, I said, you know, I have to get rid of it. I was the kind of patient— because I’ve been in therapy— that wants to hear what’s wrong. And I literally had to say to therapists, “Please don’t coddle me.” Don’t just be nice, “Oh, how hard life was for you, Hattie, and how your parents didn’t do—“ No. Get in there and tell me. Tell me and make it happen. Now I have seen people in therapy, therapists do not say that and they don’t lose their clients, you see. I lost clients all the time because I–
You told it straight! [Both laugh.]
Give it up! Give it up, honey!
I think that would be so liberating to hear. It’s like, oh, finally I can stop obsessing about this thing and get over it.
Exactly! Why keep going over all the problems your parents had when you really think about it, who made them? I mean they had all sorts of stuff they had to contend with. I’m not saying everything is ok that they did, but I mean in my case it’s eighty years ago. Now, talking about aging. I’m never ashamed to say my age… but I am a little ashamed to say eighty.
Blazer Giovanna Flores and bag Telfar
Yeah. Because it scares people. I was in a setting with a lot of young people. And I dress young and I move young. And I’m young. And I’ll be eighty on Wednesday.
Thank you. Anyway, we’re all introducing ourselves and I say to them, “I’m going to be eighty on Wednesday.” And nobody says anything. So later I go up to them, and I say, “You know something? I don’t understand you people. I just announced that I was going to be eighty and no one had a reaction at all!” They said, “Hattie, we were in shock!”
So there’s things along the line in life that kind of push me in a direction. I don’t exactly know where I’m going now. You have to come up with a lot of other things. So I’m going for go-sees, I want to do some modeling. I think maybe they’re ready to take on something more unusual than in the past. They wouldn’t take me in the past because I don’t look like the standard American woman. But now they may just say, “This is different and it’s gonna sell clothes.” I would love for Eileen Fisher to pick me up. Any of these companies. Just put me there, and people will start saying, “Wow, I can be different! I can really try this, I can try that. If Hattie can do it, I can do it.” And that’s the message I want to put out. Not that I’m special, but just that I did it! And i’ll keep on doing it. So we’ll have some tea.
Yes. [Both drink tea.]
You’re very nice to talk to.
I feel the same way. And by the way, I think being different is the future.
And young people– oh boy, do they want a role model like me. People will keep saying it’s a youth culture. Well, it may be, but the youth want something. They don’t want to reach for other youth! They don’t want to copy other youth.
I’m in my twenties, but I feel myself aging even now, and I want to go through my life not being scared of what’s going to happen to me, or the ways that my body is going to change. You know what I mean?
It’s an amazing thing about the body changes, because there are certain things that are going to happen that are going to motivate you to do stuff. And there are certain things that are absolutely irreversible. And what happens is, you have to recognize it, and then just decide– what is acceptable? What’s ok? What can I cherish? And then you have to keep working at it, keep working at it. Always, always, always. Never stop. I work out a lot.
I was gonna ask you!
In a warm swimming pool.
Do you swim?
No I do not. I only swim in the Caribbean. Because I like perfect, gorgeous ocean and 88 degrees and sun. And I go to an island and I work there, too. And just so I won’t feel like I’m doing nothing, I teach remedial reading in the morning, and then I go to a hotel where I hang out at the pool.
Coat Giovanna Flores, purse courtesy James Veloria, Swirl Earrings and Single Accessory Belt Y/PROJECT available at ODD. NYC
I want to talk about sexuality, which is a big part of your public presence and the way you think about things. I think people are really uncomfortable with senior sexuality.
Oh, the older woman, right?
Oh yeah. Uncomfortable– sometimes they’re nauseated. Old pussy. Because they think of their mother. Or their grandmother.
Is that it?
Uh huh. If you look at me– I don’t know, because you’re a young person looking at me– you can be candid, because nothing will hurt my feelings. You don’t have any sense that I’m not fuckable, right?
Right. So if you’re thinking of me, you’re not going to have any feeling of, “Ugh!” Because the comments I got from the show when I was a cougar– magnificent comments! Once in awhile a guy would write in and say, “She makes me want to vomit,” or, “She pulls out her teeth to give a blow job,” but mostly it was thank you’s, wonderful, you’re so inspiring, so nice to know that…
But my sexuality is from Preschool.
I remember it. I was masturbating all the time.
Like most little girls!
Right! It was totally normal. But I have such odd ways of doing everything. I really do. Like when I had cellulite on my thighs, I bought a rubber mallet at the house and garden store. A big, huge rubber mallet. And I bang it, bang it, bang it! Bruised the whole thing– cellulite gone.
Really? It worked?!
I’ll take a note on that.
Yep. You get rid of cellulite by forcing circulation and trauma– it gets red like that because blood is going. If blood is going that means it’s getting nourished and toxins are getting taken away. Makes sense, right?
Some of my things I do are really way out there, but I think every woman, every time you shower every day, twenty times, dig in each armpit twenty times. Because that clears— that’s the place where you get the malignancies. Because we’re stuffed in a bra, we’re not quadrupeds anymore hanging down moving moving. We’re closed, like this, the bra holds us in, and you get cysts. You get lumps. You know, it’s circulation into the lymph nodes.
Ok. Good tip.
It’s very good. i’ll be putting these in the [Hot and] Holistic stuff.
I think the frankly misogynistic comments that people make towards you could be really hurtful if you weren’t as evolved as you are–
Well, in the book, there’s a chapter about being “un-insultable.” It’s a new word. It’s a very good word. And I teach children about being un-insultable. Because children hate the word “stupid.” It hurts them so badly. So I actually trained them to hear it. I say, “Now you got it, stupid!” And then they laugh. You see, you switch the thing that hurts them most of all. And that really hurts a kid. Stupid really hurts. So like— “old hag,” you know. It’s like, tell me something new! I would never feel self conscious with a man under any circumstance. If something’s hanging or something, I would never feel self conscious about it. Because you look around, and everyone is entitled to good sex! So do you have to have a perfect body? No. You say, “Everyone is doing it and so am I, and there are certain things I do that are amazing and there are other things that aren’t.”
And that’s just being human.
Right, and you accept that.
I think that’s a really hard thing to learn, especially when you get close to someone. I’m a perfectionist, so that makes it even more difficult. To constantly be analyzing yourself for flaws or things people might see that they might not find attractive… it’s really hard to get out of that mindset.
Well, you can stay with it, but just not believe it. Because if you’re gonna think that way, you’re gonna think that way. I do, and then I do something about it. I make my peace with it. My family, my mother, my sister, they have wattles. I don’t like a wattle. And they say don’t stretch?! Absolutely stretch! Pinch as hard as you can, and then push it up into the jawbone!! And my sister had a wattle when she was sixty! I just didn’t want it.
I was going to ask you about skincare. I’m interested in your recommendations because that’s always something i’m trying to think about.
As well you should. I get my whole body brushed once a week.
With a stiff brush. Really stiff. And sometimes if I’m in the tropics and I get a lot of suntan, and I can’t get rid of it, and it’s like dead skin sitting on top of real skin and even if I soak I don’t get rid of it? I use fine sandpaper.
Really?! Oh my god.
Because it’s dead.
So you exfoliate.
If you had lacquer– very fine! If you had lacquer on a table and got a stain, what would you do? Get back to the original wood underneath. So I’m not afraid of these things. I’m not self destructive at all, you see.
But I do get massive episodes of depression. Terrible.
Yeah. I was reading your newest website, the anti-depression blog…
Yeah, that I left alone because I felt that I couldn’t help people. But I don’t feel that way anymore, so I probably will get back to blogging on that one and put it on my card. I want to tell people about the machine– the TMS machine.
I wanted to ask you about that!
It’s just beginning to be known. I had it done last year. It taps a portion of the brain that stimulates dopamine. It’s magnetic rhythmic tapping that just taps with magnets into that section of the brain. You wear a kind of cap and the machine goes over it. And that is very effective, except that you’re gonna need it again. There is no cure for depression. No cure for depression. I spent my life looking for a cure. And that’s depressing.
Jacket Bror August, necklace D&G courtesy James Veloria
It is depressing. I remember when you wrote about the machine, you felt like it was this radical success.
It was. And then when I reverted, it was very daunting to say the least. Four months later, it comes again. So that’s what the horror is. In my case, I can get it through Medicare. So if I need more treatment, Medicare pays. But you usually pay $400 a session.
Except the relief is really good. And then when you come back you don’t need as many sessions. So I just had a whole series. Rachel Maddow? She just says she gets depressed. And I just saw a movie at MoMA, and the leading lady– adorable, cute as can be, lively and talented and beautiful and graceful, just everything, and my friend in the row in front of me said she committed suicide. So sometimes I think what people have to know is that those of us who are super lively, we got the other side. It’s the price you pay.
I know that intimately.
You get depressed?
Yeah, since I was young. I’m comforted by the thought that as debilitating as it is it often opens you up to the possibility of engaging with life more deeply.
I think you’re right. If I had a life mate, which I want more than anything in the world, it’s just that God’s not delivering it to me– Terrible– It’s very very different, because one of the ways I feel better is sex! Depression never ever stopped me!
For some people it totally takes that away.
Well they need coaching on that. What they have to do is to tell their mate, “I will seem very sad and very despondent and feel like l’m gonna die. Let’s fuck.” [Laughs.] What happens is, it goes beyond the mind, beyond thoughts. And there is nothing as endorphin producing as an orgasm. So when I’m very depressed sometimes, it doesn’t really feel better, but I’ll masturbate. And I even say to myself, I don’t really feel like doing this!
But you’ll go through the motions.
It’s funny you say that. My boyfriend has bipolar disorder. We would go through these periods of being apart for long stretches of time. And it became a thing between us, to say to each other “The only time I feel ok is when I’m fucking you.”
And it’s been therapeutic.
Just call me Mother Theresa! I dunno! [Both laugh.]
This is a public service. [Both laugh.]
I’m very glad to hear that you’re making some sense of this. If ever a study shows up– he’s in New York?
If ever a study shows up where he can get the TMS free, let him look into that. One thing never— neither you nor him, no matter how bad you feel, even if you’re suicidal— do not go for shock therapy. In my mind, it always seemed like the last resort. So when I got suicidal, I put myself in a hospital for shock therapy. After four times I knew it was horrible and wrong. It wipes out your memory and also it doesn’t cure you. And what they don’t tell you is just like the TMS, you have to go back! So I’m just saying, it’s not the last resort. The last resort is more medication. Experimentally, more medication. And there will be medications that are better.
I’ve heard about the memory loss thing.
Major. The other thing about it, which I told the doctors, is water pouring out of me! I had such serious urinary incontinence it was horrible. I don’t have urinary incontinence– I don’t wear underwear! They said, “We never had that report before.” That’s ‘cause people don’t tell. They’re ashamed. I would stand up and water would pour out. That’s the biggest thing that made me stop. I said, “If this is paralyzing my sphincter, what’s it doing to my heart?”
Oh my god.
You see? They don’t care what’s happening to your musculature. I forgot how to activate that blog. I’ll call Godaddy and get a few more things on. Enough about depression! Do you think you’re gonna get married and have kids? Or just have kids and not get married?
You practice yoga also?
I do stretches. You have to stretch the musculature. I go upside down, I have the inversion–
Oh, the inversion thing that flips you?
Yes, I do that every day, To get the blood to my brain, to my eyes, to my teeth, it pushes all the organs up again into the body. It feels great. I’ve been doing that for twenty five years. The other thing I’ve been doing for twenty five years is exercises in the pool for at least an hour. Running, jumping, stretching the legs, bicycling. I do it steady for an hour, I don’t stop. Swimming is not as good exercise as water aerobics because you need the impact to calcify your bones.
So hitting the bottom of the pool is good for you?
People underestimate the value of impact. In fact last week I fell on the pavement. I fell hard. And I lay there for a minute. A young person came over to me and said, “Can I help you up?” I said “Yeah,” and walked away.
Oh my God. Thank God!
Thank God is right. Because at eighty, if you break your pelvis? Finished. Pelvis is everything. It’s your stability. Sometimes it’s good to acknowledge what could happen, and then make sure it doesn’t happen. I have no age spots or anything. I started to get some wrinkles and I really didn’t like them. So I started– [Pulls aggressively at chest area.] Because I really wanted to have cleavage without apricot skin. Pinching it. Whenever you pinch, it gets red. If it gets red, there’s blood.
That’s kind of like in acupuncture, they have the gua sha technique. You know that? They scrape you with a spoon, and it makes your skin–
Good! That’s good!
–Totally abrased and red, and it’s the same idea.
I scraped myself with a knife.
It’s the same idea.
You get the right touch, and some skin comes up, and it stimulates.
It stimulates the capillaries there.
I think people have to not be afraid of their bodies, because they are, so they’ll get sick. And they’re afraid of getting sick. That’s a biggie.
So it seems to be about just mentally being in touch with your body and the possibilities of what could happen to you, and then you prepare yourself for that.
Perfect. Don’t deny the negative. Take it on. I was gonna write a book, the power of negative thinking. Because if you don’t face the negative, you will never, never be able to get to the other side of it. I said to my minister– I’m Jewish, but so is he actually, it’s in the Unity– I was walking across the street and I got hit with that depression. And I felt, Elspeth, it felt like a black ice cube on my brain.
It had that shape, and it was black. And it just sat there. So I was partially crying and I said, “God, I HATE YOU. I hate you for giving this to me. I hate you.” So I had a meeting with my minister and I said “You know, I love the congregation, and everyone is so positive and so loving, but I have to tell you, I just cursed God. ‘I hate you, I just despise you.’” And he says, “How wonderful you could be truthful to God.” Isn’t that wonderful? I trust him, you see.
That’s a very Freudian perspective. You have to say the unsayable, you have to say everything.
That’s right, say the unsayable.
There’s a therapeutic power in expressing things that aren’t supposed to be expressed.
See, I wish my understandings could take the depression away. But they don’t. It’s only chemical. In my case, the loneliness does it for me. Do you know? Terrible. Just awful for me. When I go with people I feel wonderful. I love people so much. But I have to choreograph being with people all the time. I hate being alone.
It’s exhausting to have to choreograph that.
It’s disgusting. I have a moderate backup plan if something doesn’t happen in a year or two here. I’m going to visit my friends in the Caribbean and ask them if they’ll take me in if I’m old. I could do something on an island because it’s the ocean, and the reggae and… we’ll see. I don’t know. But I’m where I am for, I think, two years. And I want to find somebody. I want somebody to find me, brutally.
Has it been hard dating younger men for that reason?
Oh no, younger men will go out with me and take me out and make love to me, but they don’t want to make a life.
Right, that’s what I mean.
And the older men, I haven’t found any older men who want to make a life. They do the same thing that the young guys do. They want to screw and go.
I guess most men are the same.
I’m on a few sites, and I figure now I’m not going to renew the sites. It will have to happen how it happens, like how it happened with Mitch or how it happened with you. Just put it in God’s hands and let him work it out.
Well, from my limited experience on this Earth I think a good man is very hard to find. And there are few and far between who are as evolved as someone like you.
I was looking back at one of your older interviews where you said something like, you pair a vulgar way of being with a deep spiritual sense of self. And I loved that!
I have a subtle balance between sexuality and spirituality. But they exist together. Because the spirituality resides in the body. It doesn’t reside “out there.”
So if you reach the deep level of feeling and sensitivity and poetry in your being, in your relating, and you also get turned on and let yourself get turned on and excited, then you’re balancing spirituality and sexuality. It’s very important never to deny sexuality. It’s a big mistake. Oh! They deny the priests sexuality and what happens? They molest children. You cannot do it. The head person, or whatever, should get all the priests and ministers together and say, “Look. When you see the boys in the chorus and their little mouths going? You’re going to get a boner. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t act on it, but you will get an erection.”
They would deny that’s a normal possibility.
I know, but that’s why they’re doing the molestation. Because they’re bad! They’re already bad! They feel such shame that they’re bad. That’s another one of my many ideas that won’t materialize.
In a perfect world.
Honey, I invented a chair.
Long Holes Blazer Area di Barbara Bologna and Gold-tone Disc Earrings Y/PROJECT available at ODD. NYC
What kind of chair?
It doesn’t have a solid seat. Because, you see, we’re squashed. It’s two discs under the bone, and a little bar, that’s it. It’s incredible. I even had it patented, but I couldn’t get a prototype made, and nothing ever happened with it. I even added the two things in the bottom that the upside down thing has, so you’re sitting that way at your desk and you get tired of being at the computer so you flip back at your desk and you go upside down.
I love that! I want the chair.
But I want to do more things. I love writing. In the Soho Journal I had a Hattietudes column, but the owner’s husband went to jail and so it got all disrupted. It’s really too bad. They were a very unusual couple. She was the top dominatrix in New York, but they were indicted on mortgage fraud. It may or may not be true, but they held the Black and Blue Ball in the Hamptons and I think the forces that be got after them and got them punished.
What is the Black and Blue Ball?
The biggest S&M event in New York. Years ago.
Cool. I’ve never heard of it.
Because they haven’t had it in years. But it was really something. So about domination and all that, I worked on the dominatrixes. I went up to the dungeon, I would see the stockade, the whole thing. It’s very good! The girls said that they would be happy to be out of business, because they would want the wives to do what they do. Because if a guy tells his wife, you know, he wants her to pee on him–
She’s like, out of the question! Total freak.
Yeah, you’re a total freak, you’re crazy, I’m going home to my mother…
Thank God for a dungeon.
I think so too. I mean, all those girls were terrific. I used to go up there and work on all of them, and then occasionally a guy would see me working and would say, “I want her!” And they’d say “Hattie doesn’t work here! She doesn’t work here!”
[Laughs.] A missed calling.
I’ll tell you a very intimate story. I was in love with this musician. He must be twenty years younger than I am. Now he’s sixty. He was under thirty five, I was fifty five. And I lived with him. And I adored him, and he loved me very much too. Before me, he had this girlfriend who was a performer. She was in Russia performing. He told me he had broken up with her before she left. One day I was in his bed and he was out doing a gig somewhere, and I heard her voice on the answering machine saying, “John, I’m coming home, I think of you, I’m just hot thinking of you and how much I love you.” So he called, he was in Canada, and I said, “John, Meredith called, and she doesn’t know you broke up with her.” And he said, “You shouldn’t be listening to my machine.” I said, “John, I wasn’t. It was just on, and it came on.” He says, “What shall I do?” I said, “She’ll come home, go to bed with her, see how you feel, and make your decision.” And he made his decision to be with her.