I didn’t have a miserable childhood with crazy, alcoholic parents. I didn’t escape a third-world country after being sold off as a child-bride at 12. I wasn’t raised in the projects by a drug-addicted mother who turned tricks to make ends meet. I’ve never made a sex tape. (You’re welcome.) I’m not fleeing an abusive relationship with my tattooed and pierced lesbian lover. I’m not a woman trapped in a man’s body longing to develop an Adam’s apple, facial hair, and wanting to change my name to Bruce. I’m not psychotic, schizophrenic, anorexic, dyslexic, or eccentric.
Just occasionally neurotic. Although my friends and family might disagree on the occasional part.
I’m a happily married (most of the time), soon to turn 60, lower middle-class suburban white woman packing some extra pounds who has a steady 8-5 job, drives a 20-year-old Honda Civic, and sings in the church choir.
In short, boring with a capital B.
At least to young people and New York publishers. All 15 of them (or was it 25? I’ve lost count) who rejected my funny, sometimes spiritual, sometimes heartbreaking, good-girl-gone-bad-gone-good-again memoir. The best (she says humbly) book I’ve ever written. Of the dozen or more—17—I’ve had published. The most transparent. The book of my heart and soul.
But I’m not bitter. Just “unknown” and not very exciting, apparently.
I sure was in my younger days. Not many (any) girls in my high-school graduating class of 1974 ran off to join the Air Force, fly a typewriter through Europe, and date fighter pilots. Or toss back schnapps and eat wild boar in Germany, tilt at windmills and tiptoe through the tulip fields in Holland, and visit 13 countries before they were 23.
Not to brag (too much) but I also skied in the Alps (okay, snowplowed into cars in the parking lot, but let’s not quibble. I was on skis in the frickin’ ALPS! Were you?) enjoyed a gondola ride in Venice, went au naturel on a topless beach in Sardinia, and tried not to gasp in good-girl, Midwestern shock when I saw the women in the windows in Amsterdam’s red light district. I did gasp at Winged Victory in the Louvre, swim in the Mediterranean, watch Yul Brynner polka across a West End stage in The King and I, eat snails in Paris, frog legs in Luxembourg, and drink ouzo in Greece. (That ouzo left me winding through tables in a taverna doing a Zorba-like snake dance with the waiters and other drunken patrons, smashing plates and yelling “Opa!”)
I also flew a glider over the English countryside, belted out “Don’t Rain on my Parade” on the 3 a.m. ferry from Dover to Calais, and kissed Gordon MacRae. (My childhood musical crush Curly in the movie-musical Oklahoma. Shortly after that kiss, he died from mouth cancer. Just sayin’.)
At first glance, my life now—the year I’m turning 60—may not seem as exciting and adventurous as it was in my 20’s, but who needs all that excitement anyway? These days I’m excited about Sunday afternoon naps.
I’m glad I experienced the wild and crazy things I did (most of them) in my younger days, but I’m happier and more content now than I ever was back then. You couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20’s. Or 30’s. Forties? Maybe. Those were good years. (My first book published at 40.) But I prefer to look forward, rather than back. This year, in addition to turning 60—a number that seems surreal when I say it aloud since I still feel about 43—I’ll also be celebrating my 25th anniversary with the love of my life. And I find that pretty exciting. We’ve only just begun. Cue The Carpenters.
What about you? Are you more content now?