So it’s the end of another year. The years do seem to go faster except when something ugly is going on. Then time tends to stand still. You name your ugly ~ you know what I mean. New Year’s Eve is an interesting night. I’ve had good ones but for the most part it has never been a “big” night. Perhaps the trend for low intensity New Year’s Eve began when I was barely old enough to actively celebrate. New Years Eve 1965. I had a boyfriend, we exchanged presents ~ though he bought the “wrong” heart ring, if you remember those ~ and Mrs. Fitz exchanged her most memorable greeting upon meeting him. I do not want to offend my Italian American friends by repeating her martini-laden response to their introduction following our “family” Christmas dinner, but I will say he was most gracious and laughed rather than file a complaint with the Italian Anti-Defamation League, a la “let’s change the name of Exit 39S on the Long Island Expressway.” I’m sure we had plans for New Year’s Eve, but between Christmas and New Years I got chicken pox. One of the joys of a having seven year younger brother. I insisted I felt just fine but the budding “pox” said otherwise. It was determined I was probably still contagious, my parents cancelled the babysitter, bode farewell to their two itchy offspring and went to a party. I recall the boyfriend came over but didn’t stay too long, so I was left to Guy Lombardo and lamentation. I remember thinking that I would be 50 years old in 1999. It seemed like, well, the end of the century and unbelievable. In 1965 my parents were 47 and 45, so to me fifty seemed older than dirt. The sadness of JFK was receding and we were sort of back to living the American Dream on the North Shore of Long Island. At the time I had no idea I would look back at this as a decade of extremes, of transformational change and bizarre contrasts: flower children and assassins, idealism and alienation, rebellion with backlash that fundamentally affects our way of life today. “The Sixties were an edgy time of transition, change, and confusion, ” observed journalist Kati Marton in Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our Recent History.” In 1963 Betty Friedan published her book The Feminine Mystique, in which she claimed that ‘the problem that has no name burst like a boil through the image of the happy American housewife.'” I learned years later that the first tranquilizer, Librium, came on the market in 1960, in part to help alleviate the distress many women felt after returning to “waxy yellow build-up” following their stint in the work force during World War II. But they were after “us,” too with the drug. “A Whole New World … of Anxiety” read one of the early Roche ads for Librium, featuring a young woman with a pageboy hairdo holding an armload of books, wearing a short stadium coat and heading off to college. The copy made it sound as though every step in this “whole new world” called out for a tranquilizer. “ The new college student may be afflicted by a sense of lost identity in a strange environment …her newly stimulated intellectual curiosity may make her more sensitive to and apprehensive about unstable national and world conditions.” The ad lists other sources of “anxiety” in a college student’s life — new friends, new influences, stiff competition for grades and tests of her moral fiber — that could just as easily be seen as growing pains, or as a healthy response to the turbulent world of the 1960s, when this ad appeared in The Journal of the American College Health Association. But Roche wanted doctors to believe that they were problems, not adventures, and that they warranted a prescription for Librium.” What I found most interesting is the advertising of tranquilizers were targeted to women. Only women. While Lesley Gore’s hit song ‘You Don’t Own Me’ climbed the charts, Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best dominated television. In 1965 when asked “what is femininity” by Teen Magazine, Connie Stevens, responded “You work at being a good homemaker, making it fun and romantic.” In 1966, the National Organization for Women was formed. In 1968, feminists protested at the Miss America contest in Atlantic City, arguing that the pageant was sexist. In hindsight, I clearly recognize my confusion over the path my life would take. I would get married and have 2.2 children ..or have a brilliant career doing what I did not know ..or run away and join the circus. But on New Year’s Eve 1965 no introspective musings entered my mind. I watched the “ball” drop, Guy Lombardo and applied calomine lotion to an increasingly itchy me. I thought about the year ahead with all 16 year old intentions. Should I wear my new Villager sweater and skirt on my first day back to school? Will my “wrong” heart ring be ok? Pretty shallow stuff, as I recall. Fast forward 48 years…Dick Clark replaced Guy Lombardo and is no longer with us. I am no fan of Ryan Seacrest but I do enjoy the fact that the ball drops three hours earlier now that I live in California. As far as I’m concerned, when it’s 2014 in New York it will be 2014 for me, but that’s probably because I rarely make it to Midnight Pacific Standard Time. I never did turn into a New Year’s Eve Party Animal and happily am married to a man who feels the same way. I’ve also never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Follow-through can be tedious. As I think about this new year I’ve decided I will make a resolution. Just one. But first I will share a story. The last time I saw my Mom in the hospital I gave her a manicure. A first. I remember holding her hands, knowing this would never happen again. When she passed I inherited her jewelry so I stopped biting my nails. I have my mother’s hands and, when they grew, her nails. For many years I shaped my nails differently than she did ~ I’m not sure why, but I just did. But now I don’t. I look at my hands and my nails and I see her. Every day. It makes me smile. I wear red nail polish most of the time, or none. When we moved I couldn’t find my red OPI polish and went to buy another bottle. At the drug store I picked almost the exact same color I always wear and then thought, “let’s try something different” and chose something else. Something very different. I hesitated and said to the clerk, “I’m too old for this.” She said “never,” so my new polish and I left. I tried it and made Jay tell me 100 times it didn’t look stupid. Fast forward to last week when I’m listening to Good Morning America. Being a “housewife” has some down time for meaningless pursuits, so when they mentioned their holiday “deal” I rushed to the site and ordered my Julep nail polish selection at 75% off. They are bold, brash colors. When they arrived I thought “I can’t wear these.” Then I thought, “why not?” I made a decision. I will wear this different nail polish… I will look at my hands and hear my mother’s voice, “You can be anything you want to be, Janet…do whatever you want to do.”
She never really said those words but I know she meant to.
My resolution? I will be bold about things that matter.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Happy New Year, my friends!