Friday, February 15, 2013

Watch me grow old!

Having a profile on Facebook using my full name (including maiden name) as well as this blog with my full name, and recent photos of me on both, I have been the object of a few private friends who wonder why I am so easy to find on the Internet and why on earth I am showing what I look like as I age.   (I have a cousin who refuses to be accessible anywhere on the Internet!)  In spite of real concerns like identity theft, which has been successful on much less public information, this is the way I have chosen to present myself to the world.

I have approached aging in one way:  Gradually.  For instance, you will always see a current photo of me on Facebook and on this blog.  Every Christmas we take a family picture and it's not just of the kids, either - Ed and I are in it every year.  Why do I do this?  Why do I have the guts, as someone once said, to put my aging self out there for all to see?  Why not give people from my past the pleasure of remembering me as I once was?

Well, surprisingly, it's a selfish motive.  I don't want someone who knew me years ago to come across me or a recent picture of me and think, OMG she's gotten so old!  If they have had access to my aging self, it won't be such a shock.

Several observations back me up on this one.  Take our kids.  We see them every day as they are growing up, and their growing is so gradual that we hardly notice until they are ready for a new size of clothes or until we compare their school pictures from year to year.  But what happens when relatives see them after a long absence?  "Oh, how you've grown!"  Parents and out-of-town relatives in this case are observing the same exact kids.  But the delayed experience of watching them grow day by day is counterbalanced by the shock of someone else first seeing them after several years of not seeing them.   I expect folks to be happy to see me (some, at least!), or maybe nervous about seeing me (some, probably!), or even just curious to see me - but I don't want them to be shocked.   Not a good thing.

Think of the celebrities we have seen age gradually, and those we haven't.  Consider Sally Field.  If she had enjoyed her time in the limelight as Gidget or the Flying Nun back in her youth, then retired from the public scene, and years later PBS wanted to produce a documentary about TV shows from that period and grabbed her out of retirement to be interviewed - we would be disconcerted to see all of a sudden an old Sally Field, and it would be as if she had aged 48 years immediately.    But Sally Field did not retire; she kept her face in front of the camera for other movies, for other TV shows, for commercials, and in fact I just enjoyed seeing her in Lincoln.  We saw her age gradually and beautifully.  Maggie Smith is another one who stayed in the public arena for decades.

Now to the first question:  Why am I so easy to find online?  I have had the occasion to try to find people from my past, such as my good friend Annie, and let me tell you, even with all the information out there, it is very difficult sometimes - especially if you are looking for a female who might have changed her name several times with marriages and/or divorces.  I was fortunate to eventually find her, but I decided early on to just put myself out there and let the chips fall where they may.  I would love, for instance, to see what some folks from my high school look like these days, but pictures are hard to find.  I can even look on Facebook and still not be certain that that is the person I'm trying to locate.   Probably the main reason we feel the need to look up people from our past is simple curiosity - but in addition, there are shared memories, of course.  The older we get, the more important those memories are.

The only thing my graduating class and I have in common is that we went to the same high school - but that encompasses a lot.  We shared the same teachers, were exposed to the same education, remember the same assemblies, the funny things, the sad things, the frustrating things that we encountered.  Most of us lived within a certain radius of the school.  We were all about the same age.  Taken in a broader context, we shared the same society as we grew up - the things going on in politics, in movies and music, hairstyles and clothing.   We share a common bond.  I didn't have a particularly pleasant high school experience, but I grew up with a lot of intriguing classmates, many of whom are sadly now dead.   Every year some more of those shared memories get lost as the survivors get fewer.  I will always wonder what some of them did with their lives.

So that is why I'm "out there."  If anyone wanted to find me, here I am.  I'm easy to google.  This is what I look like, if you're curious.  These are my interests.  These are my life experiences, my response to growing older, tales of my wonderful family, stories of being a minister's wife, packing up and moving from Tennessee to Maine - the whole caboodle.   Now if I ever get to go to one of my high school reunions, maybe, just maybe, there will be someone there who is not shocked to see me.  And that is a good thing.

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