Not only did I have to deal with losing my husband and being a widow, I also became part of a terrifying new demographic: Single Jewish Boomers.
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: Single Jewish Boomers.
Here’s how. This last year, and particularly over the last few months, I’ve stared at re-runs of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in long T-shirts that read: “How Can I Control My Life If I Can’t Control My Hair?”
So when the PR lady from a local “Single Jewish Boomers” group called to ask me to give a speech, I quaked, and 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 answered the question: “Who am I now?” Or, in my case … “What?”
That’s because without my knowledge, my upper arms had changed from firm to firmly able to wave in planes and my eye bags had become a good Plan B should I run out of Ziplocs. I have three one-size-fits-no-one wardrobes: Three “gently” used gowns that had 1990 expiration dates when I bought them in 1995 (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 … fusilli in revolt (or revolting fusilli).
So, before agreeing to speak at their meeting, 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 was 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.
My son drove me to LocalJewishBoomerLand. What I found (God don’t punish me) was 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 which century they “boomed.”
In addition to fractional birthdays, another thing seniors and toddlers 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 knocked 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 of questionable taste.)
The next activity was “Alphabet!” The counselors 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 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 now 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 realized I would be them; these smart, wise adults whom the world had reduced to “five-year-olds.” Oh God … would I be forced to play the alphabet game? Reduced to singing nursery rhymes?
My fervent prayer is that I’ll still be around when those counselors become “boomers.” I swear I won’t make them sing “The Old Grey Mare.”