Jan A Writer checked out my Book Club pages and wrote ”

I have done tons of those types of exercises. I used to think I enjoyed them, actually. Now I think I might just be a masochist.”

I had to laugh about that. I like books with “exercises.” My mother writes books like that, so I guess I grew up with them. And I also am the kind of person who has goals and stuff that I’m Working On and things like that. What’s more, I meet a lot of those goals. In the classes I teach, I turn people who can’t write very well into people who can get always good grades on their papers. I turned myself from someone who couldn’t tell an MP3 player from a phone with confidence into a computer guy, and then into a successful freelance computer guy.

And I love books, so my first thought when I have a goal or a project is to find a helpful book.

I still haven’t found a book telling The Least You Have to Know About Accounting to Stay Out of Prison, but I haven’t given up hope.

Some of you know that I have a long-term goal of becoming a chic old lady. I figured I’d need a few decades to work on this goal, so I started fairly young. I had made some progress, actually. I had quit dressing like a person who didn’t own a mirror, or perhaps even a closet. I quit wearing clothes with holes in them, and got dressed fully every day, generally in something different from what I wore the day before. I bought clothes, and even shoes. My husband, who knew me back when I owned two pairs of shoes, both with holes in them, is shocked and horrified by how many pairs of shoes I now own. I was getting my hair cut professionally on an almost regular basis, and wearing makeup when I left the house, and sunscreen every day.

I’ve backslidden. I show up to teach my class wearing a winter jacket covered with cat hair, in desperate need of a haircut, having done nothing more in the way of grooming than smearing on some lipstick in the car.

So when I had the chance to review “A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45,” I did. I have reviewed a couple of other makeover books, and I can tell you that this one is different.

For one thing, the before and after pictures don’t have as their primary message, “Good posture and good lighting make you look better in photos.” This guy takes ladies who look pretty frumpy and makes them look really beautiful. You can see the pictures at his website. He also has very specific instructions for things like how to put on foundation or determine whether you’re too old for a decolletage.

Really. Women of my age will remember the famous Pencil Test. This guy has the equivalent.

Boys and girls, the Pencil Test was the official means of deciding whether or not you needed a bra, back when women considered this optional. You can try it yourself, sometime when you’re naked. Take a pencil. Raise one arm. Set the pencil directly under your breast on the arm-raised side. Put your arm down and let go of the pencil. If the pencil falls to the floor, you don’t need to wear a bra. You boys can probably believe the results of this test. For girls, however, it just allowed C cup girls like me to imagine that they could walk around braless without being conspicuous. I don’t know why we thought that, but we did.

Anyway, if you’re older now, you can put on the low-cut dress you were thinking about wearing and face the mirror. Cross your arms. If you don’t see any wrinkles at the top of your cleavage, go ahead. That’s the test.

This book will also tell you in graphic detail why older ladies shouldn’t wear thong underpants.

Hopkins is writing for women who might have been savvy about their looks when they were younger but haven’t updated their looks to keep pace with their age, or who quit thinking about such things when they got older, as well as the ignorant and clueless among us. He makes convincing arguments for why you should pay some attention to how you look, give up dark lipstick, and change your hair. And he provides forms to fill out (you can download them at his website, actually) and instructions for making yourself a three-ring binder which will help you give yourself a makeover and then maintain your fabulous new look.

I doubt that I’ll go that far. However, I am inspired to get my hair cut and buy something to wear while I teach this summer. I think I already knew I had to do those things, but I now am inspired to do it, and have made a plan for getting it done. That’s probably worth reading the book for.

The WSJ lady called me again yesterday. I was interviewing someone for an article, so she left me a voicemail message. It has that cute Northeastern accent and this snippy “I’m trying to get hold of you and I’m on deadline” sound (actually, those were even her words) that we just never hear around here. I saved it. I will probably play it for people. It’s just so cute. Those of you who live in New York should feel free to laugh or indeed to snort derisively, but youall just leave a totally different kind of voicemail message, and it’s very exotic for us in small southern towns. Like being in a TV show or something.

So I called her back. She wanted to know if I got lonely. And if, since I live in a small town, I had few job options. I regretfully told her no to both. “It would make a better story,” I acknowledged. I emphasized how I really hadn’t expected to succeed and hadn’t wanted to work for myself. I mean, I’m really trying to make a good story for her.

Unlike the WSJ, where they spend months preinterviewing and interviewing and stuff, I did my interview with the local Crisis Center and just went home and wrote it up and sent it in. I’m on deadline, too. Only after choir practice did I realize that I had missed my physical world book club.I was dismayed, but I just plain forgot. Sigh.

Today I have an article, several blog posts, a linkbuilding campaign to finish up and another to begin, a website to write, and papers to grade. I’m also going to call my hairdresser.