notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Teacher

I never really expected to reinvent myself at seventy. After all, it took me over sixty years to like myself the way I am. And yet, here I am, trying all sorts of new stuff and being all sorts of new people.

A new/old role for me: Teacher.

Old – because I was a teacher for a brief moment in 1974. I never got much past my student teaching experience. I was an English major in college, intending to be a writer, but at the last moment (I already had more than enough credits to graduate) decided to take the education courses needed for my teaching certification. The extra semester for student teaching in junior high was both fun and horrifying. I had no idea how to teach. Most of the time, I couldn’t engage the students. Looking back on it, I see that I worried more about whether the kids liked me than whether they were learning anything. But there were a couple of moments when it all clicked – and those moments were magical.

New – Here I am 47 years later, finding that I am a teacher again.

This summer, a Connecticut library (not the library where I am currently working) asked me to teach a painting class. The event director had seen my watercolors online, and dreamed up a “Paint Your Pet” class. What a great idea! But I had no experience and wasn’t sure how – or if – I could do it.

But – why not? (which I think is becoming my new mantra.)

So I spent several weeks designing a program to teach a dozen teenagers and adults to paint a portrait of their pet. The library gave me a two-hour slot, which added another level of anxiety.

I needed to practice. My sister, her daughter, and two of her grandchildren offered to take my class, which meant I could practice on folks who loved me. And of course, to see if I could help them produce an acceptable painting in two hours. Oh, and have fun at the same time. I brought a bunch of photos and let them choose.

It WAS fun. Here’s what they painted:

Their ages: 11, 13, 40, and 72. I won’t tell you who did which painting – but I’m fairly certain that if you guess, you’d be wrong.

I was delighted. I COULD do this.

And the next day, the librarian called to say the class had filled up in a matter of days, and they wanted to add a second class.

Sure, I said. I COULD do this.

And I did.

I supplied all the materials, to ensure that everyone had everything they needed. The students brought photos of their pets, and two hours later had a watercolor painting of their babies.

Here are some of their portraits:

I have two more library bookings in the coming months. I think I will contact a few senior centers too. That could be fun.

So far, I have only taught the two classes. But crazily – and perhaps I am reading far too much into it – I think I see a trend.

I taught a variety of students in each class, but each class was also very much the same. They held a good mix of experienced and beginning painters. Both classes were predominantly women with an age range from young adults to quite elderly. But each class also had one man, one preteen, and a couple of teenagers.

And there was a fascinating consistency to their performance.

Let’s start with the men. They were weirdly alike. Although I stressed that they should listen first, paint in the order I suggested, and not jump ahead, both immediately rushed in, and did exactly as they pleased. Then they both got disgusted with their painting halfway through and gave up.

Now, I don’t like to draw conclusions from just two guys, but I couldn’t help but chuckle a little at their unwillingness to listen to directions. And let’s say I was not surprised that they overestimated their abilities and were then disappointed in themselves. But to be fair, one man had come with his wife, and one had brought his teenagers, and it could very well be that they had been cajoled into coming, and were not much interested in the project in the first place.

The younger kids that came were enthusiastic and creative. They were happy to try and also willing to listen. They weren’t babies, so their attention span held up, and they also had confidence in themselves. And they were delighted with their results.

The teenagers were the opposite. Their confidence clocked in at about zero. They thought they were messing everything up, that their paintings were full of mistakes – that their portraits were the very worst in the class. No amount of praise on my part could offset their profound lack of self-esteem.

Then there were the adult women. They represented a broad continuum of age, and they performed along a consistent continuum as well.

The younger women were intense. They were serious and careful. They tried so very hard. They were the last to finish. Look at the paintings above. Pick the ones that are perfect, neat, and detailed. Those are the ones painted by these earnest young women.

My middle-aged students were happy and sociable. They chatted as much as painted. They still wanted good results, and they were proud of their efforts. Each one thought they had exceeded their own expectations. “Look what I did,” one said. “I didn’t know I could do that!”

And the older women! Like the children, they were creative and daring. Their paintings were bold. They laughed at their mistakes. The animals they painted had emotions. These women’s faces – both their own and in their portraits – were relaxed and full of joy.

I am curious to see if these patterns hold up. I think they might. Because in these archetypes and attitudes, I see myself.

I was that confident kid, that insecure teenager, that anxious striving young woman, the accepting middle-aged lady. I even had a moment or two in the man-stage, not having the patience to listen and learn, but still expecting so much of myself.

And now … now I am the old woman. I have given up the self-criticism and judgment. I am focused on the joy.

That makes me a teacher.

Bossy

I haven’t written for a while.

I’ve been trying to decide what to write about going back to work after five years of retirement.

But now I’ve decided – I love it.

I wasn’t bored in my retirement. I write. I paint. I play with my dogs and cats. I belong to more than one book club, which has not only introduced me to some terrific books, but to some terrific humans.

I hadn’t even been thinking about going back to work. But when I saw the job posting for a part-time bookkeeper for our local library, I suddenly wanted to do it.

Now I have been working for two months.

I like it.

It has taken me a while to figure out just what it is I like.

It’s pretty easy work. But not because it’s mindless work. I’m not bored. It’s interesting enough. It’s only easy because it’s the work I’ve been doing for forty years. 

And when I say, ‘interesting enough’ – I think the stress is on ‘enough.’  I love learning. I’m learning Spanish right now. But there is something about knowing a job like the back of your hand that is very satisfying to me right now. To go to work and know you will succeed. 

A comfort zone is not something that you always need to break out of. It can be something to embrace. Especially in these uncertain times.

I also like that the job is only part-time.  

I spent decades working long hours. Americans do seem to take an inordinate amount of pride in working too hard. I was no exception. My self-image as an executive meant that I needed to ‘brag’ about sixty-hour workweeks. After all, those long days and weekends at the office meant that I was really important, right?

Well, now, a few days a week, I go in after lunch and do my job quietly for four hours and go home to happy-to-see-me dogs and cats. I’m really important to them.

But what I like best: I am not the boss.

I am responsible for only my work. Not for anyone else’s. 

For thirty-five years, I have been a boss of some kind or other. At the peak of my career, I had a staff of twenty. I am not ashamed to say that I hated it. 

I was not a good boss. Oh, I wasn’t mean or bossy. Just the opposite, I couldn’t tell people anything negative. I would fix employees’ mistakes after hours so I wouldn’t have to tell them they made a mistake. I gave in to most personal requests, no matter how inane. I forgave over and over until my own job was at risk. Employee reviews were my torture.

I liked my job best when I worked by myself. If confidentially required that I not share my projects or delegate any of the work (which was often), those were the days I loved my job. I am an excellent analyst. I am a terrible delegator.

My saving grace was that I was a good teacher. I helped my staff succeed. And many of them did. I just couldn’t face the ones who failed. They were my failure.

My mother was a registered nurse—a very good one. Over the years, she was offered many promotions. She turned them all down. She said, “I don’t like telling people what to do.”  

I’m like her. Only where she was able to say no to promotions, I said yes. Over and over. I loved each promotion. I loved the title. I loved the prestige. I loved the money. I did not love being the boss.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being bossy. Too many women are told they are ‘bossy’ as a criticism. Women can be and should be good bosses. I’m just not good at it. That’s me. Not every woman. 

Now, at seventy, I am nobody’s boss. 

I was never bossy. And now I get paid not to be.

It’s sweet.

Having Lost My Mind

I have now been retired for five years.

I love being retired. I love living my life exactly as I wish. No schedule. No deadlines. No bosses.

And now I have done it. Or un-done it. Lost my senses.

I’ve un-retired.

I saw a posting for a part-time bookkeeper at my local library.

And all of a sudden, I wanted to do it.

Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to work in a library.

Imagine going to work every day in a place that’s full of books and people who like to read books. That is an introvert’s heaven.

I took a day to think about it. And decided that yes, I have indeed lost my mind.

But what if I could fulfill a childhood fantasy at the age of 70? Why wouldn’t I want to do that? After all, my other dream was to be a movie star, which isn’t so likely anymore.

And I had been a financial executive for thirty years. Bookkeeping wouldn’t be so hard. Just part-time too. I could do it.

I sent my resume. My cover letter said, “I know that my resume is a bit ‘extravagant’ for a part-time bookkeeper. But I’m no longer looking to move up in the world. A nice quiet world is fine by me.”

I got the job.

I have been at it for two weeks now.

On the first day, I was sure I had made a grievous mistake. Oh yuck, I thought. I am matching purchase orders to packing slips to invoices. Didn’t I do that in the 80s? And I’m lousy at it, to boot.

But on the second day, I found some of the purchase orders. And I found staples and paper clips. And the bathroom.

I worked so quietly, the staff forgot I was there. They were locking the doors and enabling the security system as they were leaving, as I rushed down the stairs. The librarians were shocked. Shocked that they almost locked me in, and probably shocked that I am even quieter than librarians.

To be honest, that had happened when I was new at my last job too. After working a little late trying to figure out what the hell I was doing, I got up from my desk, and all the building alarms went off. The police came. The company president gave me the security codes the next day.

On my third day at the library, I paid bills. I put checks in the printer and they didn’t even print upside down. Plus, I got out safely before the alarms went off.

Okay!

Week Two: I made a bank deposit and balanced the cash and produced a financial statement.

And I did it in a LIBRARY!

Unedited

I have a writer friend. Like many of my writer friends, I don’t truly know her. She’s a professional acquaintance. I like her. But mostly because I like writers.

I don’t even remember how we became friends – or, more accurately, internet acquaintances. But it was many years ago. Maybe our first books came out at the same time. Perhaps we belonged to some Facebook writers’ page and got to talking. I have no idea. She’s got a ton of Facebook friends, though, so perhaps people are just drawn to her. I certainly am.

Katharine writes ChickLit. I’m not much of a fan of that genre, but I appreciate the craft and its popularity. Good ChickLit makes for terrific beach reading. It’s light, enjoyable, amusing, romantic. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I would even argue that it’s pretty darn good to write novels that so many women love. Millions of women devour Romance novels and ChickLit. A voracious reader is every writer’s best friend.

Years ago, Katharine’s social media was just like everyone’s – family occasions, good eats, travel, and of course, writing.

But over the years, I’ve noticed a change. A change that lately has been bugging me. Katharine’s social media is predominantly selfies.

Oh, I like selfies. I love to see my friend’s beautiful faces. And I like to see my own kisser when I’m looking pretty good.

And Katharine is pretty. Very pretty.

But not pretty enough. Not pretty enough for Katharine.

Increasingly, Katharine is “fixing” herself.

Facetune is the most popular selfie editor, and I imagine that’s what Katharine is using.

Scrolling through her Instagram page, I have to go back to 2014 to see Katharine looking like a real human. And she’s very pretty in 2014.

In 2015, her selfies looked a little airbrushed. Nothing too dramatic. Just maybe a fix to an unattractive shadow.

In 2016, the airbrushing and photoshopping stepped up. Katharine looked beautiful. But she was beautiful before. Now her beauty looked slightly unnatural.

And at the end of 2016, the Facetune app was launched.

And Katharine dissolved. There are no shadows falling across Katharine’s face. Dramatic lipstick is perfectly placed. Skin perfect. Hair perfect. She has no pores. She smiles a gorgeous smile, but there are no creases at the sides of her mouth.

And it bugs me.

Why is her beauty not enough for her?

I am afraid that the more she facetunes, the more she hates what she sees in real life. She can’t compete with the enhanced version of herself. Who could?

Some are calling this problem Snapchat Dysmorphia. People are going to plastic surgeons seeking to look like their own internet personas.

But here is when it gets more complicated for me.

I know a different person, (I’ll call her Sally), who recently had plastic surgery. And some of her friends are irritated with her. Why would Sally have surgery, they ask, when she was just fine? And when these friends were criticizing what they considered to be needless surgery, I said, “If it makes her feel better, and it doesn’t hurt you, why do you care?”

Oops.

Katharine has gone a little overboard in facetuning her selfies.

But how does that hurt me? Why do I care?

Am I really concerned that she will end up hating herself because she can’t measure up to the image she created?

Maybe.

But maybe I am more like the friends who are criticizing Sally.

I’ve taken some time this week to get honest with myself.

Yes, Katharine’s edited version of herself bothers me. Not only because of her insecurities. Because of mine.

Katharine is beautiful. Naturally beautiful. She’s more beautiful than I am. But apparently, she’s not beautiful enough for herself.

If she doesn’t think she’s beautiful enough, and she’s more beautiful than me, then I must be even more unattractive than I think I am.

That is the thought that hurts.

Katharine is raising the bar too high. If she can’t measure up, then I certainly can’t.

Oh, I do wish that we could accept ourselves as we are and not see our uniqueness as imperfections. We don’t have flaws – we have character. We have distinction.

But here I am. With hair dye and makeup and contact lenses and the very latest fashion. Trying to present a better me to the world.

And Katharine with her Facetune selfies, and Sally with her plastic surgery – that’s what they are trying to do too.

So today I say to Katharine and Sally – “You are beautiful. You are beautiful however you choose to be.”

Tomorrow I may say it to myself.

Oversharing

Today at the drugstore, the kid at the cash register was one of those Oversharers.

You know the type. Most often, it is an older person. Maybe lives alone. Maybe lonely. The old lady at the supermarket who starts by asking you about the pickles you are buying, and ends up telling you about her grandchildren, her arthritis, and how her Uncle Harold used to make, not only pickles, but pickled beets and pickled beans and a bit of moonshine on the side. And Uncle Harold was married to Aunt Helen, but he also had a girlfriend on the side. And they are all passed away now. But how she wishes she had the recipe. For the beets, not the hooch.

But the kid in the drugstore was a young boy, not more than twenty. He was cute, with dark curly hair and red lips.

I walked toward the register with my one pricey birthday card, the kind that doesn’t even say what you want it to say, but if you made one yourself that said what you wanted it to say, you’d look like a cheapskate, so there goes $8.99. (And of course, you know you will screw up the envelope.)

I was still fifteen feet from the register when the boy sprang up from the sunscreen aisle.

“All set to check out?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “I still need a snack.” I have yet to exit a drugstore without a snack.

“Pick a good one!” he said. And I did. Snacks don’t get much better than potato chips. The kid approved. “I like those too. They’re the best.”

At the register, he told me he had just started his shift.

“I didn’t get a ride today. First time I had to walk all the way here. It’s a pretty long walk. And it would be such a hot day.”

Yes, his brown ringlets and forward looked a little damp.

“It’s nice, though,” I said. “It began to seem like we would need our parkas until the Fourth of July.”

He agreed. “Yeah, no kidding.” I’m not sure any place other than Connecticut says ‘no kidding’ as much as we do. But we say it a lot.

He rang me up. I didn’t have my discount card.

“Sorry,” he said. I understand that Canadians say this even more than New Englanders, but we apologize all the time here too.

“I got my tax refund today,” he said, apropos of nothing. “I’m going to buy myself something nice, and then I’ll bank the rest.”

Oh, I thought, the connection might be my snack. A treat. Maybe it made him think about treating himself.

“Good for you,” I said.

“Enjoy the rest of the day for me,” he said.

Well, that was a sweet way to say, ‘Have a nice day.’

A few years ago, this conversation would have made me uncomfortable. Why is he telling me about his tax refund? Why did he need to tell me about his walk?

But now, after this pandemic year, I think about these conversations differently.

Certainly, he was an Oversharer.

But the Pandemic has reminded me that you don’t have to be an elderly widow to be lonely. And you don’t even need a Pandemic to be lonely.

Too many people have no one to talk to. It is such a little thing to discuss your day. Not only do people have to keep their worries to themselves. They can’t even share their small happinesses.

I am an oversharer too. But I have a blog. I have a Twitter account. I can tell everyone important things, like how hard it is to see my mom in a nursing home. And I can share stupid, unimportant things, like how little girls wore big hair ribbons in 1910.

I have platforms that allow me to share. That makes me a fortunate oversharer.

This kid got his refund check. He’s going to buy something just for himself. He just wanted to share that little joy with someone.

He picked me.

That’s really nice.

It’s a compliment. He thinks I look like a kind woman. Someone he can talk to. A grandma that he can share good news with.

“Make sure you buy yourself something special,” I said.

My great-aunt Lillian’s class photo. She’s the little one seated on the left. Hair ribbons in 1910 were huge. I don’t know how little girls held their heads up. Thanks for letting me overshare.

Old Poetry

When I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of poetry. 

Some of it was good – I won a few awards. But most of it was typical adolescent mediocrity. Life is never more unfair or more glorious than when you are seventeen.

Most of it didn’t survive. I remember only orphan lines. They come to me sometimes because of a cadence I hear in something else – a rhythm that sounds familiar.

I worship you. You know that.
I give you all in adoration.
You give me back...

What he gave me back won’t come back to me. But I’ll bet it wasn’t good.

Confession, he said, 
is why us Catholics never need the shrink.

How I wish that were true. I think that poem ended with the guy on the next barstool springing for the beer.

Here’s the end of another:

Do you feel the hairs on the back of your neck
suspecting?

I think that one was supposed to be sexy.

Well, you get the idea.

There is one old snippet of poetry that recently emerged from one of those curlicue folds in my brain. It was a poem of four of five stanzas, I think, about the advantages of beauty. At the end of every stanza was the refrain:

If Nancy were pretty, how easy.

I must have been about nineteen when I wrote that. 

I was about nine when I realized that I wasn’t beautiful. And I saw the tremendous disadvantage of being plain even at that age. Mostly, it was Attention that I was seeking at that age.

At nineteen, what I was seeking was … still Attention. 

And not just from all the cute or even noncute boys. Teachers and hiring managers noticed the pretty girls. Even shoe salesmen waited on the pretty girls first. 

It didn’t change much as I got older. At work, I still saw who bosses and business associates, and even subordinates paid attention to. In my personal life, I was the funny, smart sidekick in every romantic comedy you ever saw.  

(Except one. In 1986, when I was thirty-five, I saw the film “Legal Eagles” with Robert Redford, Darryl Hannah, and Debra Winger. Darryl Hannah was so gorgeous. Debra Winger was so ‘everywoman.’ And in the end, Robert Redford chooses Winger. I loved that movie.)

Something else life-changing happened around the same time. 

I was friends with a woman who was extremely pretty. And as expected, I was her witty gal-pal; the tagalong who once in a while picked up Aphrodite’s cast-offs. By that age, I rather accepted the role with gratitude. I figured that once a man got over the disappointment of ending up with the consolation prize, he might find that he actually liked me. I was, after all, smart and funny, and not ugly. Just not beautiful.

But here’s the life-changing revelation. It was not a singular event. Not a lightning bolt, but a gradual awareness.

My beautiful friend complained to me that although she received plenty of attention, it was all superficial. Oh, she wasn’t above using it to her advantage, she readily admitted it, but she knew the attention was based on the nice arrangement of her body parts, and not who she was.

“No one listens to me!” she wailed.

And I could see the truth of it.

And it was the same as my truth. 

No one listened to me.

So if pretty girls are not listened to, and plain girls are not listened to – is it possible that the problem is not the ‘pretty versus plain’ part but the ‘girls’ part?

I want to be heard.

But so do all women. The pretty ones, the homely ones, the fat ones, the thin ones, the ones with disabilities and speech impediments and empty wallets.

I want to re-write that poem.

If Nancy were pretty, she'd still have to yell.

Not Having Children

(I wrote this essay twenty years ago. I published it here for the first time six years ago. This Mother’s Day, I share it again.)

***

I married when I was forty.

It was amazing at that age how many people asked me if we were going to have children. No, I’d say, We’re not having children. What is amazing to me now is that I thought I was lying. Keeping a secret.

Of course we would have children. Forty is still young.

I’m lucky. Lucky in my career, first of all. I am immodest enough to know that my business success is largely due to brains and hard work, but I am also honest enough to know that a part of my success is the result of just too much time on my hands. I work hard because I have no place better to be. I’m not so much ambitious as simply trying to pass the time as interestingly as possible. People at the office listen to me, value my opinion, and pay me pretty good money. How ungrateful I am to rather have a baby.

And on top of a great career, I found a husband at forty. A nice one. Those horrible statistics say I have a better chance of being hit by a meteor. And I want a baby too?

My husband never quite felt the same way. He’s a few years older than I, and was married before to a woman who could not have children. He got used to the idea years ago that children weren’t in his future. He has no experience with kids. He doesn’t think he’d be a good father.

He’d be a wonderful father. I’ve seen how he adores and protects our little cats – feeding them treats from the table, gently untangling knots from their coats, bragging about their exploits long after his audience has lost interest, and, in time, building small cedar coffins through his tears.

When we married, he knew I wanted a baby. He just couldn’t know the completeness of my desire

Early in our marriage, I was late with my period. My anxiety and happiness overwhelmed me. I found myself sitting still for long stretches, holding my breath, counting the seconds until my life changed forever. Two long weeks. I was terrified that it wouldn’t be true; I failed to see that my husband’s fear was different. A baby would be great…but…financially, things are tough right now, it would be career-limiting for you, we’ll be retirement age when college tuition is due, we could die leaving a child for someone else to raise… I never really listened past A baby would be great. When my period finally came, I was quietly devastated. My husband was kind and sweet, but woven through his condolences were the unmistakable threads of relief. I spent all day in bed with the shades drawn. I’d feel him every so often watching me helplessly from the doorway, as if he knew he could not enter my grief. I guess it would be nice to have a baby, he said. I know how happy it would make you.

I am the most selfish person on earth.

The following month my doctor recommended a fertility specialist. I put the referral in my purse, knowing I wouldn’t call.

But even without professional help, I was sure I would get pregnant. Every month I was sure. For ten years. I still cry when I get my period. I try to keep this private but sometimes my husband sees. He comforts me, and I hope he thinks that it’s just hormones. At my age, it probably is.

I am very jealous of mothers. I am jealous of teenage mothers. I am jealous of older mothers. I am jealous of women who get pregnant the first month they try. And I am jealous of women who finally, finally, after miscarriages and disappointments, have their babies.

And now I am fifty. We’re not having children.

Not having children doesn’t take any big adjustments. I am already living a childless life. Now it’s just permanent. It’s a very good life, and it will continue exactly as before. I just have to make some minor modifications of my imagination.

For thirty years I’ve watched mothers with their children and stored little scenes for my own future. I have stolen other women’s moments like a shoplifter who keeps all her pilfered items in the closet, afraid to wear them. My closet is full.

But these clothes don’t fit me any more. It’s time to pack up these images likes bundles for Goodwill.

The first day of school, Mother’s Day cards and macaroni necklaces. Ice skating, singing Old MacDonald in the car. Chicken pox and computer games; soccer practice. Tantrums. Cheerios in the sofa cushions, bicycles in the driveway.

They are such little pictures. Insignificant really. Someone else’s memories. Time to give them up. We’re not having children.

At the restaurant a young boy rests his head for a moment on his mother’s breast. She smooths his hair. He returns to his pizza. Last year I would have certainly snatched up that moment. But now I have no place to put it. I let it go.

There is an emptiness where my vision of the future used to be. But not forever. I am a women with aspirations after all. So I know that there will be new images. Maybe warm fireplaces and good books. Fresh flowers on the table. Beaches. Sunsets. Conversations. Porch swings. I tend to think these new dreams will be quieter dreams, but I know that they are already waiting for me.

All these years I have been saving money for a rainy day that was secretly a college education. But we’re not having children. The money has been redirected.

My husband and I are building a home in the country. It’s a wonderful home on a breathtakingly beautiful piece of land. We designed the house ourselves. So it has almost everything we ever wanted.

Remember the movie, Grand Canyon? I don’t think the critics liked it, but I did. In one storyline, Mary McDonnell is out jogging and finds an abandoned baby in the bushes. She keeps it. Her husband is not crazy about the idea, but he is Kevin Kline and fabulous and their relationship is perfect and they have such a healthy outlook on life that you know it will work out beautifully.

Sometimes when I am out walking, I keep my eyes on the shrubbery.

Ghosted

I just spent all day writing a long piece on the end of a friendship.

I decided not to post it.

Because I realize that after 1500 words, what I wanted to say wasn’t there.

Here is a short version.

A year ago, a friend ghosted me.

She broke dates, stopped calling, stopped returning my calls. I blamed it on the Pandemic.

We were not soulmates. But I don’t believe much in soulmates anyway. I know from decades of family, friendships, and marriage, that even those closest to you don’t always understand you. And that dear friends can get on your nerves as easily (if not easier) than strangers.

But I also believe that you don’t need to be soulmates to be friends. That sometimes friendship is a matter of proximity and convenience – and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Just think back to childhood when your best buddies were the kids who lived on your block. You played with them because they were THERE. And not only was that okay, it was probably good for you. You learned to appreciate people because you needed a friend, and they were right there, ready to accept you too.

I appreciated this friend’s accessibility. We had some things in common and some things not in common. But she was there.

I am also confused and hurt.

Because she “ghosted” me.

One day, I went to her Facebook page, and all her posts had disappeared. She had not “unfriended” me. But there were no posts to see except her cover photo.

It took me another month to realize that she hadn’t deleted her Facebook posts. She had excluded me. With Facebook, you can “unfriend” someone, and you can “block” them (which is worse). But you can also “restrict” them. You don’t have to unfriend them. You can just exclude them from seeing anything you post. That’s what my friend did.

After writing all day about what I may have done wrong or what she may have done wrong, I realize that it doesn’t matter.

Because what I keep thinking about – all these months later – is how sad it is to be excluded.

Ghosting is a cowardly thing. The ghosters never explain why. They just disappear.

I am 70 years old. I have learned over these many years that not everyone will like me. I want to be liked. I sometimes crave approval. But I also know that it won’t kill me if I don’t get it.

I want to grow. I strive to become a better person, no matter how old I am. But I also have come to like myself as I am. It’s no small accomplishment.

Ghosting haunts me, though. (I like the word “haunts” with “ghosting,” by the way. It’s perfect.)

I keep thinking about teenagers. People who aren’t 70. Who don’t love themselves yet.

If ghosting hurts me, when I am in that stage of my life when I have achieved some level of self-assurance and self-love, how does it hurt those young people who are so filled with self-doubt? I think about this because I know that ghosting is a common tactic for young people.

My audience is not young people. I have no way of reaching out to them. I want to reassure them that exclusion is survivable.

I can perhaps reach a few of their parents. I need to tell them this about ghosting:

It’s awful. Exclusion is awful.

Don’t minimize it to your kids. Don’t tell them it’s nothing. Don’t say it doesn’t matter. It’s silent bullying and it hurts.

Maybe you can tell them this: That you know an old lady who got ghosted and she says it sucks. You can’t fix it, but you can acknowledge it.

Someone asked me if I ghosted my ghoster back. I did not. I refuse to use that weapon.

Please parents:

Start young. Make sure your little ones send Valentine cards to everyone. Make sure they bring enough cupcakes on their birthday. Make sure they invite the lonely kid to sit with them at lunch.

For a whole year now, I have felt like everyone got a Valentine’s card but me.

Me. Surviving.

More Lessons From My Phone

Well, last week I bitched commented about how the interior design game I chose for my new phone wouldn’t let me win.

I took a positive attitude, describing how it was teaching me worthwhile lessons about whether to please myself or please others.

But in truth, I was pretty pissed disillusioned.

I am here today with updates.

I have won. A couple of times. It’s very satisfying. I win fake money to enter more contests. It’s very wonderful fake money.

But more often than not, I continue to lose.

But I have learned a couple of new lessons.

The first is that the folks who cheat are not just lucky – they are blessed. Because the way to cheat is to text your friends with photos of your designs, so they will know who to vote for. These guys have friends that will vote for them even if their designs are awful. Those are some pretty good friends. How nice is that?

And the second lesson is even nicer.

Because I have learned that sometimes (maybe even often) I have lost because the other designs are ACTUALLY BETTER than mine. That sometimes I am not the best. Sounds incredible, right?

But it’s very good to know.

And applicable to,

well,

Just About Everything.

***


PS – Amazon is offering the Kindle version of my latest novel, SISTERS, SECRETS, AND THE JUNIOR PROM, for just 99 cents for the next few days. If you thought the sixties were groovy and that high school was confusing, this might be the book for you. And it has a few important things to say, that I snuck in there while making you laugh.

Winning The Game

You know how we translate age for dogs and cats? Like “Old Jasper is 82 in dog years…”  

Well, if there is not an age-equivalency term for electronic equipment, there should be. Maybe we could call it nano-years.  “This old phone?… It’s 107 in nano-years” – which in human chronological terms means: it’s three.

So on to the story…

My old phone was 347 in nano-years, and a few weeks ago, it sent me a text message saying, “That’s enough, lol” (my phone thinks it has a sense of humor) – and turned itself off. For good.

Now I get swindled all the time by salespeople, because my hereditary niceness makes me a poor negotiator. And also because I am an old lady, and old ladies get taken advantage of as a matter of normal business practice.

So my husband brought me to the phone store that gave him a very good deal, determined to get me a good deal too (which I did not have with old GrandpaPhone). 

The sales associate was a nice Hispanic woman. Right away, I was relieved. Those young conceited techno-geeks that usually work in these places always make me feel like I have to pretend to be knowledgeable or something. When down deep, I am sure that all this stuff inside my phone and television and computer is a bunch of magic sauce.

I didn’t have to pretend to understand what a gig or a ram or a cloud might be (although I am partial to the puffy clouds over the stringy ones). I could let my husband pretend. He may actually know, but I have no way of checking this out, which probably takes the pressure off of him too.

The nice saleswoman asked me what I wanted, and I said, “I want it to have a very good camera because my dog Theo is a Twitter celebrity.” Since my dog is more famous than me, I figured it didn’t hurt to name-drop.

“Okay,” she said, “what else?”

“Well,” I said, “my old phone was all filled up, so I would like one that is roomier.”

She didn’t laugh at me, like a techno-geek would have, although she may have stifled a chuckle. “Understood,” she said. She pointed to a phone. “This one.”

“Okay,” I said, using the sum total of my negotiating skills. 

So I have a new phone!

Since it’s much roomier than my old phone, I decided to add something I was never able to download on my old phone: a game.

I looked at a bunch of different gaming apps, and I chose one that looked interesting. It’s an interior design game. They give you a room, and you pick colors and textures and art to enhance the space. Other users vote on the best designs.

But there’s a problem (besides being a huge time-suck). I suck at this game.

I am becoming increasingly frustrated. My designs are beautiful – but no one else thinks so.

I am ready to delete the game.

However, just yesterday, I realized that this game is important. It’s a perfect metaphor for real life. 

It’s amazing, really.

First of all, there are no penalties for not playing by the rules. Because no one voting knows what the rules are. One particular competition may say, “One item should be pink.” But then the designs are shown to the voters with no explanation. No pink, no problem. In real life, people often win by ignoring the rules. 

Next, there’s an advantage to playing it safe. The winning designs are almost always beige. Or grey. Oh yes, better fit in, better blend in. Stand out too much and you’ll look weird.

Then there’s money. You have to buy the paint, curtains, upholstery, rugs, art, vases, and pillows. They give you a considerable amount of play money to buy your stuff. But – all the good stuff is locked, and you can’t get it unless you upgrade your status – with REAL money. I am not paying real money to win fake money. So I have to use the same boring materials over and over again. Just like in real life, rich folks have an insurmountable advantage.

But here is the critical life lesson: What am a willing to do to win?  

I can play the game to please myself. Choose the materials – however limited my selection – that excite me, and use them in ways that make me happy. And lose.

Or – I can study previous contests, determine what other people like, and design something that will please the voters. And win.

That’s pretty much what I have been doing my whole life. Subjugating my own desires to please others.  

Which is okay, I guess – I like that I am a very nice person.

But this is a game. Do I really have to tweak my personality for a phone game?

NO!

I think I will continue to be a loser who has fun.

my losing design