The Second Time Aroundby Marnie Macauley September 24, 2019
Since the death of my husband, while mourning, filling out paperwork obviously conceived by an obsessive sociopath in Washington (forgive the redundancy), and the meshugge “Get right back on that horse” advice, I suddenly found myself part of a terrifying new demographic: Jewish Boomer Single.
Here’s how. After staring at re-runs of “Chuckles the Clown” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, attempting to master the truth about black holes, and spending 19 hours a day writing in my tattered T-shirt that reads: “How Can I Control My Life If I Can’t Control My Hair,” it occurred to me this isn’t normal–despite my advancing age. So, when the PR lady from a “Local Jewish Boomer Singles” called to ask me to give a speech, I quaked, then determined, “It’s time to get UP a little (and definitely time to wash the T-shirt).” First of all, I love sharing Yiddishkeit, but also, it might be an opportunity to meet interesting people who know that a muumuu isn’t the sound a cow makes.
Was I ready for this? No. But I took a baby step and did what the magazines say: I took “inventory,” and looked in a full-length mirror, something I’ve avoided for 20 years, to answer the question: “who am I now?” Or in my case, “what?”
It appeared that without my knowledge, my body parts had moved from “perky” to settling somewhere below my knees. My adorable “dimples” are now on my thighs. My upper arms could wave in planes, and the eye bags are a good Plan B should I run out of Ziplocs.
As for inventory, as a writer, I have three one-size-fits-no-one wardrobes: Three “gently” used gowns for the Emmys whose expiration dates were 1990 when I bought them in 1995, and are age-perfect for Natalie Portman; two suits for when I’m forced to meet “suits;” and 300 torn schmattes that could be used in a low-rent production of Les Miserables.
The hair was, is, and will remain fusilli in revolt (or revolting fusilli).
So, before agreeing, I decided to attend one of their events to get the lay of LocalJewishBoomerLand. I tore through my pathetic closet to find something that: a) sort of fit–someone; b) didn’t have an indelible ink stain or fuzzy feet attached, and most of all, c) might make me look 35 … if there were a power failure. Then I beat my locks into frizzy spirals warning each to stay put or else, waving garden shears to show them I was serious.
As a young woman, while I wasn’t exactly a threat to Cheryl Tiegs, I “knew” the drill, felt comfortable meeting and greeting, and was pretty OK with myself.
Now, older, deafer, droopier, distressed, with a “social IQ” into negative integers, my quaking would make the Energizer Bunny look like he’s on a Sominex drip.
So, my son drove me to LocalJewishBoomerLand. What I found (G-d don’t punish me) was, to quote The Producers’ “LocalLittleOldLadyLand.” Now before you get appropriately huffy, mamalas, I love old people; their insight, stories, wisdom. And most of all, now I am one, shy a few of their “half” years. I’ll explain. There they were: 16 women and three men–who after introducing themselves, told me their ages: “Darling, would you believe I’ll be 87 and a quarter in 13 days!” The only people who count age in fractions are either toddlers (“I ‘fwee’ and one half”) or those proudly marking off the time when the smiling weatherman announces, “ … and in local news, Ira Shmelowitz turned 100 today! Happy Birthday, Mr. Shemlowitz, who made hats for The Roosevelts–both FDR and Teddy!”
Oy vez iz mir! Either I’d grown cataracts, or the lady from “Local Jewish Boomers” left out in which century they “boomed.”
In addition to fractional birthdays, another thing seniors and toddlers now seem to have in common is nursery camp, which I was “interrupting.” In every Jewish group there’s one “sha” lady whose “job” it is to shush everyone. (You whisper “hello,” she “sha’s” you. “Where should I sit?” “Sha.” “Where do I sign in? “SHA!”) It seems I walked in during a round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” led by were three “counselors” who knocked each person on the shoulder when it was their turn to start.
So, among the Goldbergs, the Steinbergs, and the Weinbergs, I gave up and “rowed” my miserable “boat,” praying for an “iceberg.” Other songs included, “Happy Birthday,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” (which I found in highly questionable taste).
The next “activity” was “alphabet!” The leaders “explained” how it goes from “A to Z” and, in turn, we were to come up with a word starting with that letter. To make absolutely sure we understood, they told each of us what our next letter was. Twice. First, I was “U” then I became “V” when one lady went to the Ladies room (or plotzed). I went with “VEZ MIR!”
This was followed by “improv.” Each of us had to write something on a piece of paper, an exercise that took a half hour. I wrote: “YOU’RE MAKING ME MESHUGGE!!” I admit it. I wanted to watch these peppy tattoo-sporting, clearly not-Jewish leaders, attempt to pronounce it, which held out some promise of humor.
“Missaga?” “Meshaga?” “Mishgee?”
The entire group cracked up and yelled “‘MESHUGGE!’ IT MEANS ‘NUTS’” (With a silent “YUTZ” in the air.) Then, they proceeded to joke and talk, with great wit and knowledge about the economy, politics, the Mid-East crisis, and tsunami threats in 5th world countries.
Now, I was upset. First, I hated camp when I was five and here I was back again, except the “snack” was prune juice.
By the time my son picked me up, he had to pick me up. “What’s wrong with you?” he said.
“Look at my ‘peers’” I responded. In under an hour, ego shattered, I had limped to the car, complaining of bursitis. He laughed after the fifth time I asked him if he thought I “fit.”
But more upsetting: I would be them in an eyeblink; these smart, wise, adults who the world had reduced to “five and a half.” Oh G-d, would I be forced to be told the alphabet? Reduced to singing nursery rhymes?
How dare “they?” As I pass yet another birthday, I again looked in the mirror, then my computer, then to my clients. True, I walk a little slower, my patience–never a strong suit–has been reduced to nanoseconds, and I’m on my 56th undereye cream. I’m more adorable than I was five years ago. (I pay people to tell me the truth.) Also true, I can say what I want (“she’s just crazy red having a senior moment.”) Evolving is a joy! I’m more sure of what I’m sure about.
And one of those things is when these “leaders” turn Boomers I swear, I won’t make them sing “The Old Grey Mare.”