Along with the perils of middle-age—the drying hair and skin, the forgetfulness, the slowing metabolism—comes a new twist: Falling. Now, I know I’m only 47, but it seems that, as I age, I find it harder to stay on my feet. Oh sure, I knew that once I turned 40, all sorts of new things would start happening to my body—that there’d be hair in places I never expected, a little ring around the rosy, reading glasses. And yet, no one ever warned me that as I approached my late 40s, I’d also need extra focus and concentration for staying upright.
Case in point: A few weeks ago, I went to Saladworks for lunch with a colleague. As I approached the cement lip that stood between me, the parking lot, and the restaurant’s entrance, I suddenly went down like a submarine. Even though I knew the tiny step was there and I thought I’d cleared it.
But no, instead I fell straight on my hands and knees. And as I went to hoist myself up as gracefully as possible, my friend gasping, “Goodness, are you alright?” I noticed a small cotillion of people coming out of Saladworks just staring at me – gaping, as if I were an overturned tractor trailer on I-476.
I was fine physically, but the humiliation lasted clear through the work week.
Then, I was walking the dogs in the park a few days ago when there must’ve been an errant pebble, and well, down I went. Fortunately, it was kind of like “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to see it, did it really fall?” (You with me?)
Then, last weekend, Dan and I went to see a series of short plays at Temple University through a program called “Young Voices” that celebrates budding playwrights. One of them is the 17-year-old daughter of my employer. She’d interned for me for last summer and recently invited me to come see a play she’d written that was being performed by the student actors. I assured her, of course, that I wouldn’t miss it.
When we arrived, we caught up with her, her father and her mother, who I met for the first time–and who not only shook my hand, but cradled it like a newborn baby for about 10 minutes, thanking me for being so supportive of her daughter and gushing about how much of an influence I’d had on her. Suffice to say, I was feeling pretty good about myself, when the lights started to flash in the theater, signaling the show was about to begin and it was time to head to our seats.
So, I thanked her for her kind words, commented on what a great job they’d done raising such a delightful young lady, smiled, laughed, tossed my head back and set my sights on the fourth row, where we were sitting. Then, feeling very important (since I don’t have my own children to influence and since my nieces and Steppy don’t seem to be all that interested in my influence and since none of their mothers ever thank me for anything), started walking with a proud swagger down the long set of stairs back to my seat. And I was almost home free.
I had only four or so more rows to go, when the lights went out and I suddenly felt my feet go out from under me. Down I went, landing right on my donkey.
Act natural, I whispered to myself, contemplating how to deal with this apparent fall from grace, the humiliation of it, hoping the boss’s family didn’t see me stop, drop, and roll (ever so slightly) suddenly—for no good accountable reason.
Dan, who was walking behind me, tried to catch me, of course—kind of the way you’d catch somebody who’d accidentally fallen off the Brooklyn Bridge into a small tube–but unfortunately he wasn’t in the right place at the right time.
And so I sat there for a moment, alone, gathering my wits until finally crawling my way into seat 4A, the show now fully in progress, lights blazing. As I slid into the worn red velour, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is this what I have to look forward to next? Tripping over everything? Is this what (gasp) 50 will be?”
Well? Is it? Somebody? Answer me.
As if staying on my feet isn’t enough, there’s now the whole accelerated issue of technology. Why, I remember the days when I used to call someone on the telephone and they used to actually answer it. I’d hear a voice and it’d stop at “Hello?” and then wait for a verbal human response, versus going on mechanically, instructing me to leave a message after the beep.
Those days started coming to a clear close when email came along. That was bad enough—people abandoning the phone for firing off too many electronic notes in a row, all of which required me to formulate something informative, pithy and descriptive since I am a writer after all. And, well, there are expectations.
And NOW, it seems like the world is trading in it’s “you’ve got mail“ for that darn TEXTING. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard, that irritating Judy-Jetson-esque alert that sort-of clicks from my Blackberry. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the occasional text. But I really don’t want to have an entire conversation through a series of 140 characters, over a screen the size of my instep.
People, are you listening?
I’m tired. My thumbs hurt. My eyes aren’t what they used to be. And goodness gracious, I am not Celine Dion. I do not have to preserve my voice. I can actually speak. Are you intrigued? If so, give me a ring.
I almost long to have a good old-fashioned conversation–the kind where one person actually speaks into something that allows another person to actually hear it and respond, and then we go back and forth. Live. And in real time.
Close your eyes and imagine.
In fact, it’s in that spirit that I tried to call several people in my world this weekend to, well, chat. And let me tell you: It wasn’t easy.
The first one, my best friend Lorrie, responded in prompt fashion to every one of the three texts I sent in a row. But when I called on both phone numbers—the house and the cell—I got nothing. Voice mail. That’s what I got. And so I had to ask myself: Has somebody stolen her cellphone? Is there an imposter texting me back who’s just too afraid to hit the “power on” button and talk to me? Should I call the police? The fire department? The Federal Bureau of Investigation?
Why is it that in one minute I can get 87 characters out of her, but never a “hello” from the other end?
Same for my niece. My friend Jill in Brooklyn. My cousin Amanda.
And what happens when we get tired of texting? How will we communicate next? Through electronic smoke signals? Mini-watches? Key rings? Universal remotes? Special jewelry? Shoes?
Can you just imagine the keyboard?
Okay, I’m getting cranky. Perhaps it’s because earlier today, in addition to almost tripping over the bottom step in our basement, I went to put my lipstick on without a mirror (as I’ve been doing since I was 16) and had a hard time actually targeting my lips.
Tell me about you? How are YOU doing? Text much? Staying upright? Let me know.
Until next time!