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Friday, September 28, 2012

If I had any decency. . .

If I had any decency, I'd be dead. Most of my friends are.
                                                               -Dorothy Parker 
At seventy (1893 - 1967)


It’s the subject that every woman shudders to speak of and yet, after a certain age, spends almost as much time obsessing about it as men think about sex.  There is an entire industry dedicated to it.  It’s an industry that supports multiple lemming industries in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, travel, publishing, religion, religiosity, and coupons.  And it sells magic.  Aging is magical in that we don't really see it happening.  It’s a magical force getting into it and its magical getting through it.  Men feel it too.  I watch certain men age and sometimes see a new beautiful masculinity emerge—if they’ve been able to effectively rinse off the bitterness of life, which in and of itself, can be nothing short of a miracle for any of us.

It’s easier (not to mention more fun) to watch other people age.  About nine years ago I made a new friend, Muriel.  She was 83 years old at the time.  Muriel is now 92.  I’ve watched her age.  Yes, old people keep getting old.  She is still sharp, most of the time, and we can enjoy a laugh even if we have to go a little bit slower.  Isn’t that odd—getting older is about slowing down, not speeding up (my tendency is to speed up nearing the end of something).
Watching my contemporaries’ age is, quite honestly, scary shit.  I’m grateful to have them, the ones who are left, who have survived all the perils of our era, the ones who share my stories and who act as my mirror when I’m most lost.  Yeah, the folks who have “the goods” on me and I keep them close rather than risk the loss of another slice of myself.

The mirror never tells the whole story.  That’s the thing about mirrors: they’re single dimensional tubes of infinity.  If living life beyond a certain point is worth anything, it is worth the knowledge that we’re not single dimensional.  If you’ve gotten your ticket stamped beyond a certain point you’ve got stuff to show for it, stuff that isn’t going to show up in a one dimensional tube.

If I know anything else, it's that it is not all bad.  Aging has its perks (beyond the senior discounts, most of which I am not yet qualified).  If there is any mystique to a person, man or woman, it only increases in perceptiveness if the person is able to make peace with the candles blazing on the birthday cake.  What I plan to do as I roar into my third act is never stop learning.  The lessons never stop coming, so I'll continue to wear the uniform of the eternal student. 

Some of the stuff that some of us acquire during the time that it takes to get old are what become archives.  I don’t know if I have anything except a modest personal archive of photos, some memorabilia, a few pieces of this and remnants of that that will mean nothing to anyone but the folks whom I outlive.  The photographs tell the best stories of my aging.  I don’t understand it all and perhaps you’ll help me.  I’ve decided to share some of them with you here in blogosphere.  I’ve needed a focus for this blog, and I’ve decided to make it about aging.  Over the next year I’ll make good use of your time with my process of getting older—hell, I have to do something with it.  I’ll include the sullenness and the silliness of it all and I’ll be honest.  I’ll show you the photos as I go along and I’ll try to piece together how “she” became “me.”  Maybe it’ll help you.  Maybe it’ll just help me and entertain you, bore you, or stupefy you into an over-indulgence of a substance that once was, but no longer is, a drug-of-choice.

Tell me your thoughts and your ideas on aging or your experience.  Your comments and stories are welcome.  Oh, let's throw off the fancy slipcover of one more social taboo and talk about it!  Let's talk about age.

I’ll keep the Morris Kight stuff on the Morris Kight blog page and will let you know when there’s something new to see (which will be fairly soon).  

The first thing that I noticed about my photos is that the best ones, the ones that tell the best stories and truly show something about me, and the only happy photos that I have from my childhood, are from my friends and the pictures their families took while I was with them.  My family photos are limited and generally not very happy.  There are some funny stories in there for certain.  But the People Formerly Known as Family did not take a lot of photos of me as I was growing up.  Oh, there were cameras around, be sure of it, but they weren’t there to record my development.  That is just the way it was, it didn’t stunt my growth and I continued to age without the documentation to prove that it happened.

We’ll begin with two photos: then and almost now.   

1978 - M. Manning

The first photo, the younger me, looks nothing at all like the person I remember her being.  She doesn’t look bewildered and insecure, which is how I remember her.  She’s bright-eyed and smiling and yet I remember her snapping out of a black out while driving the wrong way on Venice Boulevard.  Fortunately, it happened at about four AM and there were not too many other cars (or cops) on the road.

Take that same unaware and bewildered young woman—have her read a few more books, a lot more magazine articles and editorials, vote in many more elections that do not go your way and whallah this is what you have.

2006 - J. Melore
The woman in the second photo did something to that other woman, the younger one.  I don’t feel inclined to tell that younger woman anything—I have no words of wisdom for her.  I can’t protect her from anything.  Damn, she never needed my protection--she had some crazy ass luck.   I would definitely not give her the keys to the car that I drive now.  I remember many people telling her back then to slow down but she didn't listen.  Or did she?  Despite a couple of wrong choices she managed to make a few right turns that led her to where she really needed to be. 

If I changed one hair on her young self-loathing head, she never would have become me.