I think where this Orwell saying is concerned, we’re children at every age. That obscene calamity is happening to the person who is much older than we are. Remember when we thought that 30 was really old? And then 40? And 50? And 60? The problem is that as we age and hit those milestones, we have to revise our thinking because there’s no way we can think of ourselves as an obscene calamity, can we? Or is that why so many of us chase after the physical markers of youth?Sayings to Pin

 

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The Hour of the Innocents jacket flap copy

In 1968, I lived in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, was graduating from the University of Pittsburgh and spend a lot of evenings at the Swizzle Stick, a place down the street that had a live band and a dance floor. I can’t for the life of me remember the band’s name, even though they played at my 21st birthday party, but I do recall that the lead singer was dark and moody and very very sexy. The Hour of the Innocents, by Robert Paston, takes place across the state, in the coal country of eastern Pennsylvania, and the college is the branch campus of Penn State, where “the college dumps third raters.” Still, when the pitch to review this book came in, I thought at the least, even if the writing turned out awful, it would be a trip down Memory Lane.

The writing is not awful. I could go through and quote any number of worthy passages. Like this description of Matty, the virtuoso guitar player just back from Viet Nam, who lives with his parents “in a company house in St. Clair, a town shit on by history….Matty’s mother was a classic, her torso a sack of coal. Even at the end of June, a black cardigan warmed a flowered blouse buttoned to the neck. Mrs. Tomczik’s graying hair was pinned to fit under a kerchief, and her cheeks had the suck that comes from discount dentures.”

The narrator of the story is the songwriter, Will,  younger than the others and an outsider because he is from “Pottsville, the county seat, which passed for civiliation. To them, I was the born enemy, with a name that wasn’t from Poland or parts east.” The rest of the quarter are Frankie, the red-haired lead singer, who “braced his fists on his hips the way Mick Jagger would” and Stosh, the drummer with a predilection for fancy shirts.

To read this felt like a trip to a place I sort of knew and a time I lived during,  but because it’s filtered through the masculine sensibility, it was also a world totally alien to me. I liked that. I don’t know how true it is, but things these guys did and said and wanted and didn’t made sense to me in light of the boys and men I’ve known over the years.

The actual story of The Hour of the Innocents is raw and hungry and ultimately tragic. If they made a movie of this–which I wish they would–it would definitely not be your typical paean to rock and roll. The Beatles made it out of Liverpool; the Innocents didn’t even get to Pottsville, really. Not so much a sad ending but a realistic one for the hundreds (thousands?) of bands that sought to make it in the ’60s. What happened to the band that played at the Swizzle Stick? I don’t know–and since I can’t remember their name, I can’t Google them.

Similarly, I can’t find any biographical material on Robert Paston, the author of the book. Except he did say this in the author’s note: “After she finished reading the manuscript of this novel, my wife asked, ‘Which sixties band did they sound like? Did you have a specific group in mind?’ The straightforward answer was that I heard the band as itself: The Innocents were the Innocents, playing songs I’d written many years before.”

 

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Standing Room only MidLifeBloggers Meetup – BlogHer ’08

 

I don’t know if I’m going to post this. I don’t even know if I’ll finish writing it. But I must start.

Self-awareness sometimes comes slowly to me. I’ll be operating on one plane and then suddenly I’m on another. Without foresight or, it seems, insight.

The past couple of weeks have been excellent. I’m moving forward on my career plans with a speed and enthusiasm that amazes me. Full days of producing work I’m more than pleased with. Purposeful. Positive. Joyful, even.

And then Monday morning, I wasn’t. It wasn’t anything I could point to; I just was in one of those “I don’t wanna” moods. I pushed through, but by Tuesday, I had started the long twisting fall down that rabbit hole. I could muster no enthusiasm, not a whit of creativity for the projects that had brought me joy two days before. Mostly, I watched happy-ending videos of dog rescues on Facebook–and wondered what the hell had happened to me.

I decided to do a little archeological dig. If Sunday was a turning point, what happened on Sunday? Sunday I went to a small birthday dinner for a friend of mine and–oh!

There are five or six of us there, standing at the hostesses station waiting to be seated. I don’t know any of the other women, and my friend is doing the kind of introduction we in the blogging world are used to: name, blog name, and any other identifying or pertinent information. She gets through my name and then she turns to me and says something like, “I never know–are you MidLife Boulevard, or what?”

“MidLifeBloggers,” I say, even as I’m shocked. What the hell, she knows the backstory here. But I smiled and gave my rote response, “We’ve been around for seven years; MidLife Boulevard is the new kid on the block.”

The other women, who are mostly in midlife, nod and then one asks, “What’s going on with that midlife scene anyway? There was some sort of fight? And now there’s a whole Mean Girls thing going on…?”

I’m good at covering up. When you’re as “super sensitive” (my mother’s term) as I have been all my life, you get good at developing a poker face. Stuff doesn’t bother me, naw. I’m just so together it all rolls off my back.You can look at me and tell that. So there was a bit of general explanation and a tad of an abstract conversation about the “Issues in the MidLife Scene”. End of story. Our party was seated. We ate, drank and made merry in honor of our friend’s birthday and that was that.

Except for me, it wasn’t. Except I didn’t know it yet.

The thing about my poker face is that it fools me too. I think that’s part of the purpose, actually. It isn’t only that I don’t want the world to know that I’m hurt or whatever; I don’t want to know it myself. Because then I’d have to feel it. And whoa–bad feelings are something I’ve always tried to avoid.

It took two days and that little archeological dig for me to figure out what sent me down the rabbit hole. When I did, I realized that I had to come clean, to speak my truth and my feelings, to stop pretending that I was above it all.

Six and half years is a long time to run a web site, and the truth is that I was more than ready to shut down MidLifeBloggers. But if l’m totally honest, I must say that I made the final decision in order to remove myself from the scrum that the midlife scene was becoming for me.

A Brief History of Time

For years, MidLifeBloggers was at the forefront of the midlife blogging scene.  I started the site in 2008 as a place of community for those who identified as being in midlife (whatever that meant). I ran it as an on-line, edited magazine, since that was my background, and the emphasis was on quality writing of first person blog posts. I wanted to give us a platform to create our own definitions of midlife. I wanted also to maintain for us some place on the stage that was BlogHer, which was increasingly speaking of and to Mommybloggers.

I can’t say I was particularly successful at that. BlogHer had become a moneymaker; to deviate from the focus that created that would have been foolish for those who ran it. But I tried. At the annual conference in 2008, I earned the right to host a Room Of Your Own for midlife bloggers; it was a packed house. At BlogHer’09, I was a speaker, talking about creating MidLifeBloggers as part of a panel who were all blogging about topics “outside the mainstream.” At BlogHer’10, I tried to get BlogHer to allow me to organize one of their Official Parties as a special for the midlife community. There were now enough of us to actually merit a party–which everyone was asking for. I wanted a celebratory shindig, like Sparklecorn; BlogHer would agree only to a room, a kind of quiet room where we could gather and hang out. I gave up.

Meanwhile, there were now a number of other successful sites for midlife bloggers, like Better After 50 and Grown & Flown.  The conversation, the very community of midlife bloggers was heating up–and I felt proud and pleased to have gotten it started. When private Facebook groups became a venue for interacting, I was in the conversation. We were hot! This midlife thing was going strong. What else could our cohort conquer?

The Worm Turns

Then Generation Fabulous, which began as a terrific conversation among midlife women started by a friend of mine, became a full-service website which now had aspirations that somehow felt oddly threatening to me. The midlife blogs and sites have always co-existed and supported each other. But there was an intensity about Generation Fabulous’s need to succeed that for the first time had me watching my back.

I was doing that, watching my back and minding my business, when the partnership behind Generation Fabulous imploded. In short order, however, there was a replacement site, MidLife Boulevard. Terrific name, great header art–the split had obviously been a good thing for the two partners remaining.

I was not a member of MidLife Boulevard as I had been of Generation Fabulous, so the only time I heard of them was when one of my midlife friends published something on MidLife Boulevard. I don’t know when I noticed that that seemed to be happening less often. I don’t know when I realized that a lot of the midlife bloggers had disappeared from my feed.

I did notice that the women who I had counted as my friends in the midlife scene were newly absent from the MidLifeBloggers comments. I chalked it up to people being busy, involved in their own lives and blogs, or the topic of my posts not being of interest to them.

Then I wrote some posts that I knew would be of interest. I shared them with the private Facebook groups to which we all belonged. Almost total silence.

All along I had been hearing that the midlife blogging cohort was taking sides in the Generation Fabulous split. At our age? That seemed ridiculous to me, I certainly didn’t want to believe it, and I hoped to maintain a neutral posture. I still find it difficult to believe. Twitter #midlifebloggersBut in the wake of the loss of my relationships among midlife bloggers, I began to wonder.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an alert of a Tweet from an old BlogHer friend that mentioned MidLifeBloggers. The tweet was part of a Twitter party sponsored by BlogHer and hashtagged #MidLifebloggers. My Twitter handle is @MidLifeBloggers. I hadn’t heard of the party until the old friend asked where I was. Some of the active participants on that party were the principals from MidLife Boulevard. The question was directed to one of them She did not answer.

Last Sunday night at the dinner party, my face said “Happy happy” but pinballing around in my head was this:

  • How the hell could a friend of mine not know the difference between MidLifeBloggers and MidLife Boulevard?
  • Isn’t it ironic that it’s exactly one year since we all were celebrating the success of the midlife blogging scene at BlogHer’13. Now most of those women are absent not only from my feed, but from my blog, and from my life. Friendships that I thought were just starting are, basically, dead. Support I offered and thought I could count on is gone.
  • Which leads me to wonder–has the fact of MidLife Boulevard led to the erasure of MidLifeBloggers from the midlife scene? And if so, why?

I’ve always denied as a canard the notion that women can’t work together in groups for the benefit of all. Now I’m thinking I may have been naive. Or maybe it’s just some women. Whatever–the thing that tipped me down the rabbit hole was the realization that however and whyever, the issues between Generation Fabulous and MidLife Boulevard had become common knowledge in the blogging community–and perhaps in my life as well.

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Wash Day

Which is so much easier to do when my clothes have been hanging on a line…which is why I’m actually glad that my dryer went kaput.

 


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iphone5s5cOh, you mean I’m supposed to delete the emails on my iPhone? You mean that the reason my old iPhone may have been so–what’s the word I want here?–oh yes, recalcitrant is because there were over TWENTY THOUSAND EMAILS on it. I now will be spending all my spare time (which is, frankly, more plentiful than my spare change) going through each of those 20K+ and deleting them.

I would like to delete the people who send them to me as well. Yes, I’m looking at you, multiple heads of the hydra called the Democratic Party. Multiple times a day (for each multiple head) I get URGENT messages from someone in the party to warn me about Boehner or the GOP or the Koch Brothers. It’s always a plea to send money. $5 or $10 or more if you can afford it will kill whatever the issue du jour is. Yeah, right. Remember the story about the boy who cried wolf? I’m just ignoring you no matter how dire the headline. And now I deleting your emails as well.

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