Times Have Changed Or Have They?

April 2, 2022

So, imagine my shock and surprise when I open the mailbox and receive an invitation to my 50th reunion. Not my high school reunion. My freaking college reunion. There must be some mistake I thought as I looked at the name and address. Yep. It’s addressed to me. Right name. Right address. Everything is spelled correctly. Punctuation is correct (always one of my pet peeves.) Margins and spacing seem legit. But surely, there is someone else with my name expecting this communication, surely not I. It’s much too soon for yours truly. Has it truly been fifty years since I received my bachelor’s degree? That would mean that I am officially old. There’s no graceful way around it. It can no longer be denied. What happened to that young girl in the tight jeans and army jacket who was able to score free food from the snack bar staff for her roommates because one of the workers had a crush on her? Oh, the shame of using my feminine wiles to get a couple grilled cheese sandwiches. What happened to that young girl in the granny dress and platform shoes and long hair parted down the middle, hiding most of her face but never hiding that come hither look? She was so innocent with nary a worry in the world, other than how to make enough money to pay for her books next semester. As an aside…I am so out of the loop: do college students today even buy textbooks? How do today’s college kids navigate the world? I suppose they have certain advantages what with all the technology at their disposal, the ability to have information immediately, to order food on a whim, (though I think the personal touch of flirty eye batting can be much more effective, if not enjoyable) to contact seven people simultaneously and set up “something fun” (such an incredibly banal and vintage word. I’m going to need to consult my grandson for a more appropriate and timelier descriptive.) However, I believe they are missing out in so many ways. Walk down the street in any college town. Most of these so-called scholars, and I mean no disrespect, are walking with heads down, ear buds engaged, and noses and eyes firmly aimed at their phones. It’s kind of sad. I hate to use the tried and true “in my day” but in this instance it’s warranted. We didn’t have the luxury of instant gratification, no texting, email, voicemail, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, whatever the latest social media flavor of the moment is. Walking down the street was noisy, filled with talking, laughing, pranks. The same with meals. No phones on the table. No eyes averted to check said phone. You either sat alone either by choice or sadly because perhaps you hadn’t been fully immersed yet into the whole “scene,” or you were raucously enjoying a brief respite from class, the library, working on the dreaded research paper (with a typewriter!!!) using actual reference books. Typing was never my forte and many nights as the deadline loomed for submitting the paper, I would cry in frustration as my bleary eyes and muddled brain would often want to surrender in defeat. And let’s not forget those dreaded footnotes. Ibid and op.cit. anyone? UGH! Carbon paper was our “photocopy.” Unless I am dreaming, I do think we had just been introduced to some type of “white out” or eraser material, but regardless, it was a pain in the proverbial ass. Social plans were made on the fly and hopefully everyone was on the same page. Invariably someone was left out, possibly intentionally for whatever reason, be it drama, bad breath, bad choices, or typical young adult bullshit. For me, I tried to stay above the fray, not because I was so noble, but because I just didn’t know which end was up half the time. I always used to say that I was too stupid to be a phony. What you see is what you get.

My college years, 1968 to 1972, were uncomplicated, all things considered, though if you had asked me then I likely would have disagreed. There were a lot of disturbing events happening in the world in 1968 and forward. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. The Vietnam war was at its height in 1968, with the Tet Offensive. The carnage and loss of American lives was heart wrenching, Its divisiveness had a palpable effect on the country with riots, defections to Canada, and young men barely out of their teens were being sent to fight a war they knew nothing about and didn’t understand. My campus had its share of turmoil. My school was about an hour away from the Black Panther trials in New Haven, CT and there were shutdowns, demonstrations, some police activity, and a small group of students who felt it appropriate to use violence to get their point of view across. I never understood why. The Chicago riots at the Democratic convention were further evidence of the culture of hatred in our country. Today in 2022 it seems it hasn’t improved. For me during this time of war the one thing that truly bothered me the most was the way our returning service men and women were excoriated and disrespected by the anti-war protesters. It always pained me to see people who gave up so much in defense of our country to be treated so badly. I have always believed in having an open dialogue; to my mind that is the only way to get problems solved, no matter which “side” you are on. I bet you thought this was going to be a typical irreverent piece by “the widow,” didn’t you? Honestly, so did I. I don’t know what happened. For those of you expecting more raunch and dirty words, my apologies. I will try to slip something in somewhere…maybe.

Anyway, I am at my grandchildren’s home for a few days, so I am taking advantage of a little down time to bang out this long overdue blog, so let’s get this baby banged out. Enough about old memories from fifty plus years ago. It’s back to that invitation that surely must be a mistake. I apparently graduated from college fifty years ago. Yes. Yes, I did. 1972. I had great professors. I had at least one horrible professor. I made many lifelong friends. I grew up a lot in those four years. Elie Wiesel, renowned writer, and Holocaust survivor spoke at my graduation. He inspired. An amazing human being was he. And here we are, ready to “celebrate.” I don’t plan to attend. The cheapest hotel room is about $350 a night. We are talking New York City suburb prices here, folks. And, as enticing as the brochure and accompanying literature makes it sound, I am just not that interested. I keep in touch with the friends with whom I have always had close relationships. With technology I can log onto the website anytime and see how the campus has changed. Blah, blah, blah. My guess is that the powers that be are expecting a similar response from a lot of us in the Class of 1972. We’re not that interested and hey, we’re approaching 71, 72 years old, arthritis, mobility issues, gastro issues, cataracts, knee replacements, hip replacements, glaucoma, irritable bowel syndrome, just plain irritable, irritable spouse syndrome, you name it, by the time we reach this age, we shouldn’t have to explain. We ain’t coming! And chances are after they wine and dine us and escort us around campus to see the new buildings, and we visit our old dorm rooms, they’re going to want a hefty donation. That will be a big negative from me, sir. My money is earmarked for ME, ME, ME. So, that said, the powers that be have requested that we participate in some sort of updated “yearbook.” We are SO dating ourselves. Earlier I asked about textbooks; let me ask about yearbooks. Do they still publish yearbooks? My guess is a resounding no. Likely, they will send us a link, right?

I don’t have the materials with me as I am away from home spending time with my grands, but my recollection is that I am to provide photos both from fifty years ago as well as from the present. I am to provide an overview of my life as it has transpired since graduation – the good, bad, ugly, indifferent, inconsequential, whatever I feel like sharing. Again, going on memory here, and at my age, memory and memories can be tricky. I am pretty sure they are asking the class of 1972 to provide what we consider to be our contributions to the world vis a vis our work, our personal goals and if any were achieved, our family life, our financial endowments if we are so blessed (not this chick.) and on and on. We are asked to write a brief treatise on what our baccalaureate education has meant to us and what it prepared us to accomplish in the ensuing years, personally, professionally, and I suppose on the world stage.

Folks, I got nuttin.’ Once I graduated, I traded four years of fun, frivolity, and freedom in New York, for parental oversight and sharing a bedroom back home in Delaware. It was and is for all recent grads, a shock to the system. I went back to waiting tables, got a job at an international insurance company, where I worked for a few years in a mind numbingly tedious job. I moved into a dump of an apartment with a girl I hardly knew; big mistake. Kids, sometimes it’s better to tough it out with Mom and Dad. I got married to a decent and kind man. We added two outstanding daughters to the world’s data base, which, in my mind is the BEST THING I EVER DID. I love my girls so much and am so proud of the people they are. End of story. Despite the typical teething, diapers, occasional whining, teenage eyerolls, I can honestly say, they never gave us a moment’s trouble. I like to take some credit for our luck and success. My husband and I believed in a firm approach to parenting, including compassion coupled with discipline, responsibility, consequences, love, and fun. They seem to have adopted some of our parenting practices with their own children. (Although, between you and me, I have never understood the whole concept of the “time out.”) Ultimately, I began a 30-year career with a respected non-profit organization in the public relations sector. It was a job I was and continue to be proud of because we impacted lives, often saving lives. It meant something to me, and my colleagues and I will forever be grateful that I was a part of it. I have been a freelance writer for most of my adult life, still have a small consulting business and those of you reading this are familiar with my blog. I hope you continue to enjoy it. I have chosen to just do it, for the sheer enjoyment. I make no money and will continue to make this a non-monetized venture, though the way our economy continues to sink further into the septic system, perhaps I should rethink that choice.

So, there you have it. Maybe with some edits, slicing and dicing, I will submit this blog to my reunion committee or whomever is running the weekend shindig which I will not be attending. I will accompany it with a few carefully selected photos; photos from my not so misspent youth when I was considered cute by most standards and photos from today when my face isn’t as wrinkled as a lot of my contemporaries (thanks, Mom, for the good genes), but hopefully I have garnered some wisdom along the way. It’s been a good ride. I haven’t set the world on fire, but I think I’ve done OK. I’m satisfied with where I am. Take it or leave it.  

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