Saturday, May 17, 2008

Coming Out

A few days ago, I received an invitation from a former classmate who is planning our high school reunion. But I think she has made a mistake. A hell of a mistake.

It seems Joyce Gail thinks we graduated from high school fifty years ago.

Fifty years ago? People who graduated fifty years ago are old, have grey hair. They speak in glowing terms about their children and grandchildren, talk about the past a lot, gripe about how everyone is in a hurry nowadays. Some wear jeans and tee shirts most of the time; hate to get dressed up, preferring to spend their evenings at home with their spouse, taking long walks, reading books or watching Hallmark movies on TV.

Wait a minute! With the exception of grey hair, I have just described myself. And now that I think of it, I probably have grey hair. I have kept it lightened for so many years that I have no way of knowing for sure. And I don’t want to know.

Apparently, I have been in denial. Like an alcoholic, who won’t admit he has a drinking problem. Or Raquel Welch, who lies about her age.

Unlike Raquel, I don’t lie about my age, but I don’t shout it from the roof tops, either. But now that Joyce Gail has brought it to my attention, I feel compelled to do so. So here goes.

My name is Brenda, and I am 67 years old.

There! I said it. I have cleansed my soul, come out. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and I am suddenly realizing there are some positive things about getting older.

I am starting to reflect, look back on my life. Thinking about the things I got right, things I got wrong. I have had many happy times in my life, and life has knocked me flat a few times. But it has made me a better person, more compassionate and empathic. Less judgmental. And despite many mistakes along the way, I learned from them.

Well, most of them.

I no longer feel the need to weigh 110 pounds, impress anyone, or try to be like everyone else. I have few name-brand clothes now, don’t have to have shoes and purses to match each outfit. Or the hairstyle of the day. No more blowing it dry to make it straight; no more hot rollers burning my scalp. It’s curly, damn it, and I’m just letting it be curly!

I grew up during the Eisenhower years, saw the beginning of rock & roll, Sputnik, and searched the skies for flying saucers. I went to play parties and slumber parties, and I wore blue jeans rolled up to my knees, topped with flannel shirts; sweater sets and fur collars, black felt skirts over crinoline petticoats. And bobbie sox and saddle oxfords. I fell in love with Marlon Brando and Jimmy Dean, and I watched Dick Clark's American Bandstand and The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners and Father Knows Best on TV.
I was jitterbugging to Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, during the racial conflict in Little Rock. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, I was hiding and reading The Kinsey Report, and when everyone was talking about bomb shelters, I was hiding and reading Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place. And dreaming about boys.
As I look back on my high school years, I am reminded of the swift passage of time, the people and events marching on into history. Best friends Karen and Sarah Mae: What are we going to wear tonight? Basketball games: Will so-and-so be there? Play parties: Hope Mother and Daddy don’t find out! My future: Where will it lead?

It has been quite a journey from Carlisle County High School to this point in my life, but I am now happy and content at home, productive in my work. My greatest gifts are my daughter, who tells me today’s sixty is yesterday’s fifty; my grandson Chase, who thought I was 40 years old until I told him I wasn’t. When I was 52. And Bill, an early riser, who keeps Dudley away from the bedroom door so I can sleep late, and tells me I look like a young Debbie Reynolds when I get up in the morning. Even though I look more like Phyllis Diller.

I owe you an apology, Joyce Gail. It has been half a century since we were the first graduates of Carlisle County High down in Bardwell. I have come to terms with it, gone through the acceptance stage. So I’ll be at the reunion on July 18th, and I will enjoy visiting with my old friends and classmates. All of whom are as old as I.

As is Raquel Welch.
So come on out, Raquel! It's not so bad. Really.


Suzanne said...

You should be a columnist! I loved reading this. Although...someone might now do the math and figure out I'm 34. Damn.

P.S. NO ONE would guess your age by looking at you. I may have mentioned this once or twice before.

Patience-please said...

Today is my Bill's 69th birthday. I just celebrated my 54th. I swear, someone screwed up because I feel older than he acts most of the time.
Nice piece!

Sandra Ree said...

This is why I love your writing so much. You can put into words everything that's inside my head that I can't express in an intelligible way and I'm sure anyone else that comes across your blog or writings. Bless you for your insight on everything you write about. :)

67? You don't look a day over 45.

Kari & Kijsa said...

You are so incredible and personable when you write!

Hope you have a great week!

smiles, kari & kijsa

Suz said...

Loved this essay!

Especially because I'm about a month away from turning the age that is the new fifty (thanks to Suzanne for that).

Anonymous said...

Does that make me the new 32? Loved it, Brenda! May I say you have aged like a fine wine?

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley