Archive for October, 2009

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Why bother with birthdays?

October 14, 2009

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; We grow old because we stop playing!

-George Bernard Shaw

My girlfriends and I caught the birthday badness bug today. We woke up a friend who turned fifty, at 5:50 a.m.. Why not 5:50 in the p.m. you ask? We’re all asking the same question.

It’s darn hard to be novel as we get older. We’ve had birthday bashes at bars, restaurants, and around a few barbecues. But waking up someone in bed when the sky won’t shine? Not been done.

Turning fifty is a milestone. At a half a century, we begin a slow decline. Or do we? Sure our skin shrivels and our bones snap a little louder, but who, besides Glamour magazine, says that’s so bad?

Call it denial, but I’d rather be nearing 50 than 12 almost any day. By fifty we know who we are, live with people we love, and eat Fruitloops with marshmallows when we feel like it. Who’d trade that for a future of acne medicine and driving classes?

By now I’ve seen people tackle age with downright defiance. Walking into Sephora’s is a bit like walking into M&M headquarters with a two-year-old. Racks of wrinkle cream and soothing serums line the walls. But we buy into the marketing mania anyway and rub gel on our faces and highlight our hair.

Sadly, some folks begin to settle into slow boredom as they age. They live out their days like Eeyore, when nothing goes quite right. However, there are a few lucky souls who live like little kids at a carnival around birthday time. Although purple princess balloons may be replaced with black, “you’re old as shit” posters, a birthday has the potential to let us laugh. And eat icing before the sun rises. The people who play, who embrace the higher double digits with grace and joy find the secret to maturity.

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Why Keep Old Friends?

October 6, 2009

It’s no good trying to keep up old friendships. It’s painful for both sides. The fact is, one grows out of people, and the only thing is to face it.

–W. Somerset Maugham

When I first found this quote I almost spilled my coffee. What was Maugham thinking? Just because he had a horrible past with friends who stuck his hands in warm water to make him pee, doesn’t give him the right to tell us to ditch our friends of yesteryear.

Because my twenty-fifth high school reunion was held two weeks ago, I’ve been given particular pause to ponder. Reunions can be odd. Thrown face to face with the bitches and belles, the bullies and bad guys can make people a little crazy. Before gathering to reminisce, folks shop for the perfect outfit while others stock up on Tums. If men still have hair, they dye it peculiar shades of blond. Lots of people drink, and others stalk old girlfriends. So why do it to ourselves? Why bother?

Weeks before our latest reunion a friend refused to attend, or ever attend any future reunion. Too overwhelming. News of her dissent circulated at our reunion and created a small uproar. “Who does she think she is to never talk to us again? What was so horrible? People change! There are no cliques anymore. We’re too old for that.” While these sentiments may or may not be true, I was surprised at the wave of displeasure her words generated. Why indeed, keep contact with old friends? Like Maugham said, new friends can replace the old.

Although I could not afford to fly to Ohio for this recent reunion, I have kept contact with former friends. Lots of them. I argue with a few, laugh with a few, and even cry with the best of them. They take me to my roots and remind me of both the person I was and of the person I have become. “Old” friends show me the path I’ve chosen and help explain the journey I’ve taken.

While I may laugh at the guy with hair plugs or roll my eyes at the beauty queen who continues to work the room, I relish in the company of old. No one knows you quite like an old friend. They keep us.