Picture It, 35 Years Ago
Meet our new friend Helen! Her take on the world and the Boomer life she has led is funny, irreverent, and real. We loved her from the moment we met, as she rolled up with her black convertible Mustang, mirror shades, and a pack of Marlboros. We can’t wait to hear some of her stories by way of a regular column right here on Boomer Connections. And without further ado, the World According to Helen, first installment:
To paraphrase the unforgettable Sophia Petrillo from the TV series Golden Girls: Picture it, 35 years ago. I was at the height of my professional career. Not a high-powered executive, to be sure, but moderately successful in my chosen profession. I traveled, met the most extraordinary people who truly raised my game, and took pride in my modest accomplishments. My husband observed my “excessive interest in succeeding” an oxymoron, a troubling symptom of my reluctance to admit defeat. Clocking in 12-16 hour days, striving always to be the best, regardless of who or what I bulldozed to meet the goals I set for myself.
I did have friends and acquaintances outside the workforce, including other young mothers, smug in their Lululemons, sleek pageboys and velvet hairbands, jogging behind their designer strollers. Conversations circled around and were limited to their husbands’ bank accounts, Mandarin classes for their toddlers (whose social schedules mirrored that of a Palm Beach debutante), and the internal political machinations of their local chapter of the Junior League. Who set the best table, sold the most tickets to the charity gala, had the brightest hair highlights. I felt these women were completely removed from reality, as they seemed to fall into a complacency, content with relying on their husbands 401K’s and their offspring’s lofty academic laurels to justify their existence and bolster their self-esteem. I swore I would not travel this route.
Fast forward 30 years later. Our daughter is a fully grown adult, lucky enough to have discovered early on her passion and purpose in life. It has been my firm belief that you can’t help but succeed if you truly love what you do. That she does. She is also kind, loving and intelligent–but unfortunately, with an abysmal taste in choosing men. More on that later. Empty Nest Syndrome wasn’t as traumatic as some will attest to. But what to do with all that inbred competitive spirit bottled up in me? It was difficult to admit, but motherhood had pretty much sapped me of any ambitions to re-enter the workforce full or even part-time. So, I did what any self-respecting, 60+ woman with too much time on her hands, having exhausted all conversation avenues with her dog…I joined a local newcomers women’s club.
Boasting 450 members, my club was a substantial group and provided an opportunity to develop much-needed friendships. Picture it (the ghost of Sophia again!): Serving as President of aforementioned ladies club, deeply ensconced in the political maneuvering that only females can create, I would regale my long-suffering husband with the day-to-day minutiae of the club activities and personalities. I found myself presiding over “executive board meetings” involving heated, hours-long discussions on earth-shattering and global issues such as serving soup versus dessert at monthly luncheons, whether assigned seating was necessary to assure traffic flow, and “unauthorized” editing of our monthly newsletter. Such issues took on biblical importance and severity. To my horror, I began to realize that I had fallen into the trap and become that person I had long ago regarded with disdain! Assigning importance on nonissues that had little to do with real life. Did I really care who had the social panache to serve on the Symphony Committee? Had I sunk this low?
I’m working on rectifying this character flaw. In the meantime, I swear I will NOT become one of those boring grandmothers who regale anyone who will listen with pictures of babies who resemble a dwarfed Ernest Borgnine and post daily Facebook updates of their darlings’ intestinal habits. Of course, I am not a grandmother yet. (Reference aforementioned daughter’s questionable taste in the opposite sex.) But still….