Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kind and generous doesn't do this reunion justice. But it's a start.

The only thing more surprising than having a 35th High School reunion – that feels like it can’t be true, but it is – was learning that not only did our class have a “theme song,” apparently we sang it at graduation. No memory of that. Zip. It was the almost inevitable “You’ve Got a Friend,” a title that will always aggravate the English major in me.

But my legendary, terrible memory skills aside - and they were in full view last night as I said at least a dozen times to various friends, “Sorry, I have no memory of that. Nope, don’t remember that either. What? We did that? We went where? How can you remember that?” - seeing everyone last night was a gift. These friendships, formed so many years ago when we had our entire lives filled with dreams, when we were facing decades of discovery about just who we would become, felt renewed, fresh and alive, even as we’ve all indisputably entered what I’ve heard someone call the youth of old age. Yes, we’re all 50 + but we’re also the ‘kids’ in AARP.

Seeing someone after thirty-five years: how do you even begin that conversation? First, you get past that nano-second in your brain going, “Name? NAME? NAME!! Oh – got it…Hi!!! How are you? Whew.” (Maybe that was just me because everyone else knew everyone else immediately. See the notes about memory or lack thereof above.) But back to the conversation. Sure, a glass of wine helps, just as it helps with many things in life. And in a way, I felt very humbled and blessed to have many old friends already feel a connection because of my writing over the years. We inevitably caught up on kids, marriage(s), jobs, and life. I loved hearing about the paths we’ve taken, and meeting their partners, who, like my own, played heroic and indefatigable “good sport” roles by patiently meeting dozens of people and then nodding, smiling and saying where they were from or what they did for a living dozens of times as well.

But what I really wanted to say was something like this: ‘Remember us? Remember when we were 17? Remember what we thought was important or life-altering back then? We’re different now but then again, maybe we’re not…in a good way. Maybe we’re still almost exactly who we used to be in the hundreds of small ways that really matter, and despite everything that’s different about us and who we've become, we can still share a hug and a kiss, a smile, a kind word.’

I didn’t, of course.

Seeing old classmates, vibrant, fun, accomplished and caring people, was a moment of restoration for me. These last few months, which have been some of the most challenging in my life, took a back seat to the realization that friendships from our youth may grow hazy but they never quite leave our consciousness. They make up huge parts of the ‘glory days’ Springsteen sings so energetically about in his song. They’re part of us - of who we turned out to be. It’s impossible to know whom we would have become without the people who sat right beside us, everyday in our classes, our clubs, our activities, some of whom we’ve known almost our entire lives. Yes, decades have passed and yes, we’ve long since ‘grown up.’ But some part of us still imagines each other as we were, standing on the brink of our lives; waiting to join the adults and really begin our lives.

And thirty-five years ago, not one of us could have predicted what that would mean. The intervening years may have seen some of us grow wealthy or fulfilled by a career. They have included heartache and pain as a result of lost marriages, long walks down Green Day's boulevard of broken dreams or challenging circumstances of many kinds. We’ve lost spouses, parents, siblings, and children. We’ve lost some classmates. But for those of us who gathered for the evening, we rediscovered this one true thing: we're here; and we’re all better people for having known each other. I believe that now, maybe more than I ever could have imagined in 1976.

So like everyone there, I shared my story and listened and just loved the moment. The unassailable fact is that we will always have our history as classmates. We can live six blocks from our childhood homes or across the world, and we’ll always be part of that group of people who formed a little community for that particular moment in time.

I joined the circle of my classmates, holding hands and singing along with James to close out the evening. But as the song played on, I sang more softly and just looked at the group, thinking: this is one of those images that will linger; the legendary tie that binds. But not a heavy, cumbersome chain; more like a strong silky thread that connects us; loose and flexible but unbreakable.

I’m not a poet but Natalie Merchant is and the lyrics of Kind and Generous seem more than appropriate here. To the Class of ’76, I thank you for who you were then, who you are now, and for sharing the ride.

Kind and Generous

You've been so kind and generous
I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
For your selflessness, my admiration
And for everything you've done

You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it

You've been so kind and generous
I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
And I never could have come this far without you
So for everything you've done

You know I'm bound...I'm bound to thank you for it

I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness
I want to thank you

I want to thank you for your generosity
The love and the honesty that you gave me

I want to thank you; show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you; I want to thank you

I want to...
Thank you

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Appropo of nothing: one women's perspective on men.

I was looking for an old email and came across this one instead. It started out as an internet note that was passed from person to person for fun - you remember those days; in the time before everyone posted everything that crossed our path or our minds on Facebook or sent tweets every nineteen minutes?

So without much further ado, and with great affection for the many wonderful men I know and love, while you're feeling properly grateful for those you love, here's a little perspective on why men and women might not ever quite sync up. And why that's mostly funny, not fatal.

Note: The list is the original email list; my comments on the list are in italics below each item.

Here are the rules from the male side. Please note: these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

# 1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
Maybe that's because you'd feel pretty uncomfortable trying to....oh , never mind.

# 1. Sometimes we are not thinking about you. Live with it.
OK, that makes sense. But I guess most of us would like to believe you'd be thinking about us at least twice a year, say - on our birthday or anniversary without us hitting you over the head???? See # 1 below.

# 1. Sunday = sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
Fine by me. What day of the week is our day? I forget.

# 1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.
Except when we're shopping for electronics.

# 1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it! We'll get it for you, but just LET US KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!!!
We want men who ignore these rules.

# 1. We don't remember dates. Mark birthdays and anniversaries on the calendar. Remind us frequently beforehand.
We don't remember the last time we put oil in the car, or when your next dentist appointment is, or what time the cable guy is supposed to come, or when the permission slip and field trip money is due, or when the dog needs to go to the vet. I guess we should write it down. Please remind us frequently.

# 1. Most guys own three pairs of shoes. What makes you think we'd be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?
Just trying to please the one we love.

# 1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question. Please pick one.
Please see the question #1 below about being fat. The answer is NO. Use it please.

# 1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
And apparently, they're also to help us find something to do on Sundays.

# 1. A headache that lasts for seventeen months is a problem. See a doctor.
A cold is not necessarily life threatening. Take a Tylenol.

# 1. Let us know about that funny noise in your car engine as soon as you hear it.
And put that new roll on as soon as the old one is empty.

# 1. Anything we said six months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after seven days.
Except the wedding vows, right?????

# 1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't expect us act like soap opera guys.
We might if we got the right answer to the next question.

# 1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us. We refuse to answer, but still love you.
See above re yes and no questions.

# 1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways, and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
We did, too.

# 1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.
Got it. It would probably be something like: I'm leaving to go shopping with my girlfriends and talk about our relationship, get some sympathy and celebrate my birthday. And by the way, the car is smoking a little bit every time I hit the brakes and your mom’s birthday is on Tuesday.

# 1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions, and neither do we.
Yeah, but he was on his way to India for God's sake!! He ended up somewhere else as I recall.

# 1. The relationship is never going to be like it was the first two months we were going out. Get over it. And quit whining to your girlfriends.
You don't have to tell me! I live here, remember? Besides, didn’t you just tell me that's what my girlfr….forget it.

# 1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what Mauve is.
And we have no idea what "special teams" do and why if they're on every football team on the planet they're so freakin' special to begin with.

# 1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
Except on Sunday, right??

# 1. We are not mind readers and we never will be. Our lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little we care about you.
How come everybody knows what Lee Corso is thinking?

# 1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really, you look fine!!
Change "fine" to "beautiful" and you've got a deal.

# 1. NASCAR is as exciting for us as handbags are for you.
Handbags??? Try SHOES.

# 1. I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape
Me too.

# 1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight, but did you know we really don't mind that? It's like camping.
We don't mind, either. We get the remote in the bedroom.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Just say no, thank you. And send Kim down the street to the next house.

An Open Letter to every book publisher on the planet:

Please, for the love of everything we hold sacred, take a breath. I guarantee you – absolutely guarantee you – that if none of you choose to publish Kim Kardashian’s soon to be shopped around tell-all about her 72 days of wedding hell, you won’t receive nor read even one letter, email, tweet, fax, facebook post, text or voice mail from the book-buying public, demanding that you give poor Kim the platform she needs to tell her story.

To publishers who have all the money and confidence in the world that book will rack up record-breaking sales, please put the money to better use. Take the advance you were going to pay Ms. Kardashian to bear her wounded soul to the world and donate it to women’s shelters, reforestation efforts or your favorite rehab center. It may do some actual good and reach people or causes that need financial support.

To the editors who have held meetings since Wednesday about how to approach Kim’s very busy agent and put together the best deal for everyone: please stop right now. Promise yourself that if anyone in your entire building is still talking about Kim and the seemingly inconsequential Kris in two weeks, you’ll make that phone call and begin negotiations. Wait – make that one week.

To marketing teams who apparently have pictures of endcaps, table displays and book signings that are all but scheduled dancing in their heads, stop being so lazy. Commit to marketing good but unknown writers who have an actual voice and talent. Use all your efforts and good old-fashioned sell-in skills (remember those?) to help them find the readers they deserve.

I don’t expect this will make one bit of difference to anyone who makes these decisions. Times are hard and easy money is easy money. But what I will never understand is how the same publishing industry that participates in the erudite National Book Awards annually and nominates mostly obscure, literary writers for lofty awards and virtually dismisses “popular” fiction as too base and tawdry for consideration, could also be the same publishers who compete for a book from the likes of Kim or any number of “famous for being famous” people like her. It makes no sense. Who are you?

Once again, the genius of Ricky Gervais / Andy Millman on “Extras” rings true. To update his final episode, brilliant observation slightly, I have to agree: “The Victorian freak show never went away. But now it’s called Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan or Snooki or Chaz.”

God help us, we’re still lining up for tickets. The question is: do we blame the ticket seller or ourselves?