Kay Robbins in high school around 1958

I learned yesterday that a girl I went with to our senior prom had died the day before “of a stroke during a routine doctor’s visit.” I hadn’t seen or talked to Kay since our last high school reunion three years ago. Her lifelong commitment to the gym had kept her in seemingly buoyant shape. She was energetic and clever as always. She was easily recognizable as the girl I knew from the 50’s, unlike some other friends from my teens. I have no idea if she had any illnesses or health issues. She was not thin, but most grandmas of 69 have put on a few pounds over the years.

I write these words while she is being buried in Miami. I am definitely stunned by the suddenness of her departure, as are many classmates who have commented on our school web site. I am hearing stories of people who were major athletes and died suddenly at much younger years. One tale today was about a 40-year-old man playing paddle tennis who was told a joke between games and literally died while he was laughing. That same storyteller told me how he’d seen an 86-year-old die after a game on the very same tennis court we were playing on. Some friends think it’s better to go suddenly, unexpectedly, rather than suffer painfully over years.

You know I am all for fitness and good health. I want to live longer and healthier. But most importantly, in a youthful way, not an old man’s exit hugging the couch and my drink, while watching TV. I watch what I eat instead and strive to keep my muscles toned, even defined, and my heart pumping rapidly through sport. It turns out I am lucky that I did not wear out my body all those years that I was working in an office, unlike my friend I lunched with on Tuesday who has been running and playing racket sports all his life, but is now suffering with hurt knees that need surgeries and couldn’t take the stop-and-start strains of tennis or squash.

Kay Rosenfeld giving advice as Bubbe around 2005

For years Kay wrote an advice column for the Miami Herald that was called “Bubbe Says.” Bubbe means grandmother in Yiddish, and Kay’s witty wisdom was proffered cleverly and directly. Here is one of her old responses involving the importance—or not—of weight loss. Enjoy her advice and also her skill with words:


Dear Bubbe,

My problem is my weight. For the past 10 years, I have been trying to lose the same 10 pounds. I have gone on every diet on the planet, spent thousands of hours in the gym, but I can never get it off and keep it off.

I am turning 50 this month and I wanted to hit the magic number with a smaller one on the scale. Any advice?

— Heavy Hearted, Kendall

Dear Heavy,

Yeah, my advice is to lighten up.

With frenetic lifestyles and no time or energy to cook at home, we are big on fast food and supersized portions, which equals supersized people. Thousands of books tell us how to get it off, TV offers up The Biggest Loser, Oprah’s in great shape (this year), and Kirstie Alley keeps asking if we’ve called Jennie yet. (No. Now go away.)

We’ve gone as far as surgically removing parts of our stomachs. We lipo away the pounds. There is now talk of making Xenical, a prescription fat blocker, an over-the-counter drug.

We may be obsessed, but we are still obese.

Consider this: If you lost that final 10 pounds, how would your life change? It wouldn’t change a whit. In fact, you might not even go down a size. All that agonizing—and for what?

Listen, 10 pounds or no 10 pounds, most people will never look like a Vogue supermodel, particularly at 50 and probably not at 25. Vogue supermodels don’t even look like that in real life without airbrushing.

So don’t take all the enjoyment out of one of life’s greatest, most sensual pleasures. People can quit smoking and give up the booze, but they really can’t stop eating. (Anorexics, take heed.)

If you can possibly give yourself permission to eat a healthy diet—most things in moderation and some artery clogging, apply-directly-to-hips good garbage on occasion—by not obsessing, you might gain a little perspective and lose a few pounds. Or not.

You can read more about Kay and some of her published columns here .

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