Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 - Our 50th Year (It's Carol's Fault)

My newly-turned 12 year old daughter spent Christmas vacation with her father. One of the first days of the new year I received a text from him saying her first comment on waking up in the morning was that her mother “was turning 50 this year”.

She’s had this odd fascination with my age for a long time now. It started when she realized that I am one of the oldest (if not the oldest) mothers of all of her friends. She’s lamented the fact that her mother is going to be 50 before she even becomes a teenager!

Of course – with my advanced age – I can understand this; when I turned 13, my mother had just turned 35 and she was ancient to me; I know how old 50 must seem to my daughter.

I’m sure you all just had a little chuckle at the thought of the age of 35 being old; I know I just did. I see a little 35-year-old running around and all I can think is “Baby”!

Do you remember when Marty McFly had us believing we would all be using hover boards by this time? Or what it was like to party like it was 1999 – when it was 1999?

This new year ending in 7 is the 50th year for my age group – or as I still say, “for me and the kids I grew up with”. I blame Carol D. She started it five days into this new year (how's the water over there, Carol?). Yes, I could blame Wayne and Chris – the twin two-for-one – but they are guys, and we all know it’s different for women.

“It’s different for women” is not something I always say in conversation as a general phrase. I am a staunch believer in equality, in connectedness and like spirits; however, there are differences between people that I believe should be celebrated and integrated – although in this case I am referring to the negative societal segregation that has been prevalent for too many years: women aren’t allowed to age. Don’t believe me? How many advertisements are we bombarded with for women’s hair products that cover gray hair? How many brands of makeup promise ‘age-defying results’? Men are encouraged to go to the gym to feel good; women are encouraged to go to the gym to ‘look’ good – who is the ‘Booty Max’ advertised to? Isn’t the celebrated rite of passage for the male at his mid-life crisis a girlfriend who’s just finished puberty?

But, I digress.

Hey, guys! (In Massachusetts, we refer to groups of our peers as ‘guys’.) We are turning 50 this year! Can you believe it? Or, I could just say it this way:

(Go ahead, click the above link; it's only 11 seconds long.)

Remember that? Before Morgan Freeman became God after George Burns relinquished the title - despite Alanis Morissette’s brief-stint-that-never-took (hey, she’s a woman)? Before Bill Cosby plied little kids with Pudding Pops (and slightly older women with … other things)?

Sh … It … SHIT!

I find it funny to hear myself say to my daughters, “When I was a kid … “ because that is how I still think of myself – and all of you, my peers, the friends I graduated with … you ‘kids’ I grew up with. I still call you that: ‘kids’ – despite the eye rolls I get from my daughters when they hear me say it.

That’s what you are to me – that’s what we are, still.

And ‘us kids’ are turning 50.

(Yes, I know we have a few over-achievers who started a bit early and have already hit that milestone – you all are grandfathered in under the ‘Class of ‘85’ title.)

Damn. I’m going to have to change the title of my blog!

Those last few months before age 13, age 18, graduation, and age 21 seemed to last a lifetime, yet here we are amazed at the speed it took us to get here. We are now the adults we never took seriously as children, thinking we’d never turn into them.

How lucky are we?

How lucky are we? If you are reading this, you are still here – the most obvious fortune.

But … just think … how much have we seen? More than any other generation, ours has seen the most progress and advancement – even tragedy – than any other. Our parents may have been around to see the birth and evolution of many new technologies and inventions, but we are the ones to have experienced the before and after in greater capacity. We not only saw the decrease in size of computers, but we witnessed their full integration into everyday life – we learned in classrooms without computers present how to work in jobs that required them. We are no longer ‘trapped’ at home to watch a favorite television program, or take a phone call. Our kids will never know the agony of having to get up to change the channel or enjoy the mindlessness of wrapping oneself in a telephone cord.

We are also here - not only to witness - but to take active part in the many changes in social norms. That alone makes every single one of our lives significant (if you don’t believe anything else does), because we are the ones responsible for incorporating the ‘new’ ideas of integration and inclusion into our daily lives, so that our children will know nothing but that and then they can waste less time on correcting the collective mistakes of the past.

This includes the misconceptions about aging. Do you feel old?

- let me rephrase that, because I’ve heard some of you refer to yourself that way – but usually it has to do with physical issues:

Do you ‘think’ old?

Do you feel that you think the same way your parents did? You can’t; even if you hear your mother’s words coming out of your mouth when talking to children, you can’t think the same way - too much of that norm has changed.

We are pioneers. Pioneers embark on the new; and ‘the new’ is what separates children from adults. To a child, everything is new; we become grownups when the newness wears off – yet when you look at the big picture, everything about our generation is new.

Ergo, we will not be old for some time.

We are young.

- okay:

Heartache to heartache, we stand.

(You’re welcome.)

This year signifies new beginnings; another graduation, of sorts. I will sign off with some words of wisdom we learned back before our first graduation from a man who was one of the most colorful threads of our generation’s tapestry, a man who taught us how to laugh at ourselves, and who showed us by tragic example that everything is never as it seems:


*Mr. Williams, I am so very sad that you won’t be in attendance during my first Oscar acceptance speech – but you had better be listening!