Happy Birthday to me! My actual birthday is in January, but today I’m embracing my true age. I learned to hide my age because my mother felt a woman who’d tell her age would tell anything. My mother once lectured me after an event where I’d shared that I was in my forties. Mama had passed her excellent genes to us kids, and well into her 60s, she looked young and vibrant. She’d preen when a particular family friend called her teenager. Even my best friend coined the term youthful elder in honor of my mother.
As I entered into my 50s, and competed for administrative positions against young people 30 and 40, I lied by omission. I visited my beautician every week to have her rinse away the gray hairs that attempted to peek out. I continued this practice even after I’d gained the positions, not wanting to be the old lady in the room.
After retirement, I accepted my grays, mainly because At 59, it was hard to take hair color seriously. It felt foolish to rinse and style my hair professionally when the actual living of life and the privilege of observing it was so exciting and fulfilling. So, I’m throwing my arms around my age and giving it a big thankful hug because I’ve seen things, and I can tell readers what those things were like.
I watched coverage of John and Robert Kennedy’s slayings. Dr. Martin Luther King came to my church when he stayed in Chicago, and I was there. Boys that I knew went off to fight in Viet Nam; returned home in a couple of years, changed; or didn’t come back at all. The Beatles and the Supremes grabbed us all by the throats and screamed, Hey Jude! Stop In The Name of Love! Publications like Ebony and Essence were picture books that showed Black people as we really were, and I had a monthly subscription to both.
Now, at 72, I dance and sing when a Motown song comes on the Alexa (I only listen to radio in the car), and I remember going to the Regal Theater in Chicago to see the Motown Revue. The Four Tops, Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and The Marvelettes all appeared in one show for a price we could afford. I was a teenager then and a bunch of friends and I would scream and dance in our seats. Then we’d rush out back to see them leave and try to get autographs.
I remember when street gangs got really bad in Chicago and neutral boys would get beaten up or have their new shoes and leather coats taken. They’d come home cold and bloody, but nobody died. I remember when things changed, and those are stories for me to tell.
I sit with my husband on sunny, autumn mornings and reminisce. He says that’s a blog (he always says that). I tell him people don’t care about that and he says, I care. Write it for yourself, and for me. I smile reminded of the old saying, if you build it, they will come. Maybe.
Okay, old age! I’m hugging you, Girl. Show me your privilege!