Since the death of my husband, while mourning, filling out paperwork conceived by some compulsive lunatic in Washington, and various forms of meshugge advice, I’ve suddenly found myself part of a terrifying new demographic: Jewish Boomer Single.
Here’s how. This last year, and particularly the last few months, I’ve stared at re-runs of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” in long T-shirts that read: “owHHHHH How Can I Control My Life If I Can’t Control My Hair.” So when the PR lady from a “Local Jewish Boomer Singles” group 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 mu mu isn’t the sound a cow makes.
I finally looked in a full-length mirror -- something I’ve avoided for 20 years.
Am 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?”
After being married for so long, it appeared that without my knowledge, my upper arms went from firm to firmly able to wave in planes, and my 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 whose expiration date 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 shmattes that could be used in a low-rent production of Les Miserables. But hey, my husband and I were a perfect sartorial match.
The hair you may know about … fucilli in revolt (or revolting fucilli).
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 unmarried woman, while I wasn’t exactly a threat to Cheryl Tiegs, I “knew” the drill, felt comfortable meeting and greeting, and was pretty okay with myself.
Now, a few years older, deafer, droopier, distressed, with a “social” IQ into negative integers my quaking would make Dr. Katz look like he’s on a Sominex drip.
My son drove me to LocalJewishBoomerLand. What I found (God 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, I’ll be one – soon. But now? Right now?? 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 weather man announces, “And in local news, Ira Shmelowitz turned 100 today! Happy Birthday, Mr. Shmelowitz, who made hats for both Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover!”
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. 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 three “counselors” who k-nocked each person on the shoulder when it was his or her 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 the next letter, our letter was. 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 non-Jewish “counselors”, 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, the election, the Mid-East crisis, and oil spills in the Gulf.
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.
But more upsetting: I would be them; these smart, wise adults who the world had reduced to “five and a half.” Oh God … would I be forced to be told the alphabet? Reduced to singing nursery rhymes?
My fervent prayer is, I’ll still be around when these “leaders” turn Boomers … and I swear, I won’t make them sing “The Old Grey Mare.”