Lament for a Lost Youth

He was without a doubt the cutest guy in the Junior class.  I’ve wondered for years what happened to him;  where he went in life?  why I never saw him again? I knew he was destined to become my one true love, and I adored him. Actually, I think my crush lasted at least 6 months.  What went wrong?

We met in 3d period Study Hall.  I use the word  “met”  rather loosely, we never did really meet.  He sat in the row to my right, 4 seats ahead.  I had a perfect view of the back of his left ear as it nestled against his wavy black hair.  Or was his hair brownish?  Or more blonde?  One of those.

I tried using mental telepathy on him, staring at the back of that ear.  “TURN HEAD.  TURN HEAD LEFT,  LOOK BACK OVER SHOULDER.”  It never worked, maybe there wasn’t enough of his ear showing to get my signal.  I think he was staring ahead to his right, toward that supposedly cute little cheerleader with the annoying giggle.

My case was lost from the beginning, we had no classes together and I rarely saw him in the halls.  When we did meet, I melted.  All he saw as he glanced past me with those bright blue eyes  (or greenish?)  was a gangly nerd with cow-eyes and a beet red face, embarrassed to death, heart going pitty-pat.

I wrote his name repeatedly on my arm, scratching it on with my old fountain pen.  Remember fountain pens, the messiest means of writing ever?  They were always running dry and BLURPING all over your hands when you had to fill them.

They scratched, gouged and dug into your paper.  Just when you’d completed a readable paragraph, a great glob of ink would smear everything.  I could never find my blotter so I’d guiltily use the cuff of my blouse or sweater, knowing I’d face the  “Wrath of Mom”  after school.

The bad boys would fill their pens, aim them like guns and pull the lever back to splatter the girls.  Ballpoint  pens were invented none too soon.

So anyway, there I’d sit, covering my arm with cute little hearts and his name, over and over.  JOHN – JOHN – JOHN,  or was it  MIKE – MIKE?  I remember it was 4 letters because I drew one letter on each knuckle of my left hand.  B-E-R-T,  Yes! that was it, BERT!  How silly of me!

If only I could remember his last name as easily as I remembered the first, I’d look him up on FACEBOOK!  But I really don’t think my husband would approve.  I’ll have to live with my memories.

Senescence

SENESCENCE

dictionary definition:

Senescence   n.   the state of being old.

Senescent    adj. the process of becoming old

The word SENESCENCE came up in a recent crossword puzzle.  Such a pretty sounding word when first heard, bringing to mind something gauzy, glittery and floating.  If only that were so, but it’s a most deceitful word.    Repeat it several times – senescence – senescence – senescence – and it develops a decidedly sinister undertone more in keeping with its true meaning.

However, it’s a fun, interesting word to throw around in casual conversation;  over coffee with friends: “My senescence is really bothering me today,”  as you cough and maybe fake a slight limp.  Or during a phone conversation with your sister: “I had a terrible attack of senescence last night,  couldn’t sleep a wink.”

Reporting to your doctor: “Has my senescence progressed any further?  Isn’t there anything you can do?  People die of this!”  The doctor will stroke his chin and agree.  “Well, yes, it IS eventually fatal.  There are studies being done, of course, but nothing too promising as yet.  We’ll certainly watch it.  In the meantime, take two aspirins and call me in six months.”

What to do?  Panic sets in.  It’s irreversible and I’m too young,  much too young.  Maybe a brand new wardrobe: mini skirts, boots, skinny jeans, vivid colors,  possibly some false eyelashes.   Definitely bright red manis and pedis. Anything – anything!

Chiffon scarves! lots of scarves!  That’s a great idea!  Not TOO long though; remember,  Isadora Duncan strangled on one.  One must be prudent.  I’ll grow my hair out,  long, flowing blond locks, definitely long, definitely blonde – or maybe red – or jet black!!  The glasses and hearing aids will have to go.

Let’s fight this thing on its own level – even as we stumble around in the gloom without our glasses and shout  “HUH?”  in the middle of every conversation.

Senescence be darned!!   I’ve decided to outlive it.

Memoir or Autobiography?

What narcissistic urge would compel anyone to write an autobiography?   A memoir, yes.  Memoirs can be light, entertaining, thought-provoking, rabble-rousing, titillating, (insert your own adjective here)  but most of all they’re mercifully brief.

Memoirs can be read and enjoyed by almost anyone, partly because they don’t go on forever.  But an autobiography?  Page after page of ego.

Take one subject, yourself.  Dredge up every memory of every experience you’ve ever had, then spread it out for all the world to read.  Well, if not all the world, at least your family and friends.  It’s worse than Facebook.

How much better to expend the time and energy you would put into your autobiography in actually living your life well and doing something with it. That  might be worth writing about.  Then when you’ve moved on out of the picture, let someone else tell your story.

That way the world will remember you as having been modest and unassuming (with the exception of those family members who know you best)  and you won’t be publicly embarrassing yourself

O.K., so you’re going ahead with it in spite of these warnings.  At least play by a few rules.  Let’s say you’re writing for posterity, wanting your descendants to know the part you played in the grand scheme of things, a noble goal indeed.

Be original, don’t copy everyone else.  Don’t use too many cliches.  We all started out kicking and screaming.  It’s nature’s way of jump-starting us after the shock of leaving the womb.  Somehow we already knew we blew it and everyone of us would go back if we could.

Since that isn’t possible, start by describing you first conscious memories. Maybe nothing happened until you were 10 years old, that’s fine, just don’t carry on about fighting with your siblings, hating your parents or ganging up on your teachers.  Those stories have already been written.

Narrow the early experiences down and get on with being a teenager.  Now we’re getting someplace.  The teen years are painful while we’re experiencing them but somehow they pass, we live and we finally look back and laugh.  Just the term  “teenagers”   can bring a smile,  maybe because we’ve all been there.

Who can forget the voice cracking while asking for, or accepting, the first date?  The noses bumping and the braces locking with the first kiss?  The agonies of insecurity?  Why did you crib the notes from that A-plus student? He’d had a bad week and as a result you both flunked.  Your answers were better anyway.

Why did you turn left instead of right during the marching band’s big show piece at Homecoming?  You brought the whole trombone section down like dominoes.  Not everyone has that claim to fame.

However, that’s enough with the teens.  Did you go on to higher education? What about your first, second or third jobs,  all begun with such promise?  How did they end up?

What about the Love of your Life?  the second love, the third?  Any more?  Your variations on those universal experiences probably seem unique to you, and now you’re relating them to anyone who will listen.  Are their eyes glazing over?   Do they yawn and sneak a wink at one another as you rattle away?

Time to quit.  Even your practical jokes have turned stale.  Dropping ice cubes down someone’s back may have been hilarious at 18 but it was hardly original, and repeatedly telling the story gets boring.

Write your autobiography if you must.  Just remember to keep it moving;  keep it BRIEF!!  Otherwise, get back to your memoirs.

The Imposter Within

Who is this strange person I find within myself?  Uninvited, unwelcome, turning me from strong and capable to weak and wimpy?  From young and vigorous to old and doddering?   Who is this imposter?

Who gave her permission to turn my spry step to a stumble, my firm grasp to a grab, my eye from keen to dim?

Why was there no warning,  no “use before”  date, no cautionary label on the back of my neck?  Nothing to let me know what lay ahead?  Shouldn’t there at least have been a maintenance manual?

Is it too late to trudge off to the Body Shop for a tune-up?  Are the wrinkles too embedded?  The chin too far descended, having slid from double to triple?  Why is that crone in my mirror shaking her head so sadly?

And what are all these accessories?  The smart purse now a tote, the elegant heels now sensible, the trifocals, the detachable teeth, the hearing aids that neither hear nor aid, the cane, the body parts guaranteed to set off alarms in any airport?

Is it all to late?

And why am I surprised?