Recently, I heard about a seventieth birthday party where a jukebox loaded with tunes from the '50s was rented . . .
Remind me—when I’m seventy—to act my age: global and open minded. Remind me not to be a stereotypical old woman, the kind who wants to hear Oldies played on a jukebox for her birthday or receive crocheted afghans and sachets as gifts. Or a card with pages of Remember When trivia.
Remind me that I’m wise in the world. Remind me, because I don’t want to end up intolerant and narrow-minded. I want to celebrate the many good changes occurring in my lifetime. Let everyone see me as an old woman who’s comfortable with diverse self-expression.
On my birthday, how about taking me to a rock concert, a rave, or a hip-hop marathon? If those don’t work out, maybe we can see a skateboard championship or get tattoos together. I don’t really want a tattoo, but I refuse to be a blue-haired clucker who condemns every tattoo she sees, or the set-in-her-ways crone who longs for the days when girls wore skirts that covered their fannies and boys opened doors for ladies--the "good old days" when people shook hands or (god help us) curtsied, instead of high-fiving. I love the now! Maybe standing outside a tattoo parlor and admiring the newly decorated body parts would be a nice compromise.
I am glad to be a modern woman who appreciates a diversity of tastes and attitudes. I love country western music and plainsong, alternate rock and bagpipes. I’d be hard pressed to choose between two museums if one featured Rothko and Pollock and the other Cassatt and Renoir. I’d happily take a plane to see a Christo installation or stand in line for tickets to Rent. I’d also love to take you on a tour to appreciate far-out buildings, such as Seattle’s own Experience Music Project designed by Frank Gehry or its public library by Rem Koolhaus. But I deeply appreciate the classic beauty of the Parthenon, long to see Monticello, and am moved by the serene simplicity of a Japanese garden.
I refuse to exclaim, as I snip past a store from which strobe lights flash and booming music blasts, “I don’t know how anyone could shop in such a place.” Neither will I boycott a display of religious art from the Vatican because of the wealth it represents. What's not to enjoy? I try to be open to different viewpoints about art and music, literature and film. I try to take opportunities to grow and learn. It takes all kinds of self expression to make our world.
When I sit in my idling car at a red light, I do not want to be one of those old people who glowers in the rear-view mirror at the car behind with its woofers cranked up into a throbbing beat, asking what so many of my contemporaries do: “Why would anyone turn on the radio that loud?” Bring it on! Sometimes, when I’m driving alone, I crank up the volume on hard rock. And sometimes I sing along at the top of my voice with Christian folk music.
Why can’t old people enjoy what kids, middle-agers and all those other age groups enjoy? I can be ornery and irritable, but I’m trying not to be biased. Yes, I can be opinionated. But I’m still trying to be open-minded. I’m as comfortable with gays as with straights. And I’ve found a way to be nice to enthusiastic evangelical Christians, providing I’m not being pushed to buy into their doctrine. I feel I must tolerate uptight narrow-minded bigots, or I’m displaying the same behavior I dislike. Oh, and did I mention some of my good friends are Republicans?
No matter how the aging process plays out in my life, please don’t let me get intolerant. I’m so grateful to have gotten beyond the “good old days,” when homosexual orientation was frequently cloaked in layers of secrets and denial and upper-class whites insisted their "negro servants" were incapable of fending for themselves. The time when war was considered a noble and righteous endeavor. I’m glad to be here in these challenging new days—in the agonizing and wide-open world of now. It’s my world, and I love it as much as anyone does.
So when I’m seventy (and I’m almost there), don’t hand me a CD of Perry Como and expect me to swoon. I’ll take a U-2 album any day.