My sister Andrea, bless her heart, is worried about me. This morning I received an email from her that bluntly expressed some of her concerns. Here's a juicy snippet:
This will sound harsh, but when a 42 yr old woman is playing dress up, posting pictures of herself on the internet, and singing some salacious songs in a cheap bar, the husband has reason for concern. And we can't say it's all innocent. Everything we do, we do for reason. .... I ask why do you feel you need the attention? Are you getting attention from Larry? Are you unhappy with Larry? Are you trying to recapture your youth? Perhaps you're going through a midlife crisis.
This particular sister and I had a rather rocky relationship in the past and lashing out is in her nature, so this didn't strike me as particularly odd. It's just how she rolls, and I love her in spite of it.
What does seem odd to me is how a smart woman like her has managed to go through life without acquiring any creative and unusual friends. More eccentrics in her circle would do Andrea good. If she had more weird friends she'd realize that there's a whole subculture of people out there just like her Disgraceful Little Sister - adults who love to dress up, share pictures and stories about themselves with others and *gasp* even sing karaoke in trashy bars. If she had more creative friends she'd understand that some people don't need a reason to be outrageous; they simply can't help it!
I did have to call her out on the bar comment, though. Larry and I went out a few months back to a karaoke dive and happened to walk in on lesbian night. I sang Touch Myself for him and he and the crowd appreciated the performance. It was fun. I highly recommend serenading one's husband with salacious songs in cheap bars. Those with the spirit to try it might find it more fun than they ever dreamed.
What seems odd and outrageous to my sister seems normal to me not because I'm anything special, but because I've surrounded myself with so many special people that what seems crazy to her seems average to me. Cases in point: My friend April. April is 39, rather portly and not the most attractive woman on the planet. But, oh God, can she light up a room. She has a great sense of humor, lives completely in the moment and is blessed with an imagination that won't quit. April is a Harry Potter fanatic and loves to write fan fiction. Recently I got a letter from her HP alter ego, "Delite" informing me that we'd both been invited to guest lecture at Hogwarts. Of course, how could I say no. I immediately wrote her back and sent the message by owl, of course. April is the goofiest person I know and I love her to pieces for it. And no matter how many years go by I will never see her as old. Same goes for my friend Dan, who starts planning his annual Halloween party in March and works himself into such a frenzy by October that co-workers run the other way when he approaches to avoid hearing about his decorations. Or my friend Elizabeth who - when I told her I thought the holly tree in her yard was enchanted - simply nodded and said, "Yeah, I know."
But April, Dan and Elizabeth are just three examples. Most all of my friends are oddballs, although I still associate with some normal people, mostly out of a sense of sheer pity. I mean, normal people can't help that they're normal. I've always figured being normal is a little bit like being retarded, and it's always better just to be nice. Better them than me.
Creative people tend to gravitate towards one another and are only reminded of their eccentricity someone from the "outside" points it out, usually with much hand-wringing and cries of "Act Your Age!" Those people don't realize that people like me and April aren't about recapturing lost youth; we never really grew up in the first place.
I wish more people would enjoy life, which is too damn short given how delicious it can be. But unfortunately this society conditions more to become conformists than oddballs, to delay gratification until we're too old and sick to enjoy it. Conformist drones are easy to spot; they're largely angry and unsatisfied. But mostly angry. When the oddballs try to have fun or act too spirited we only need to look around to find a drone standing there, pinched-face and sullen, tapping their watch and wagging their fingers as they remind us of the deadline they believe has been imposed on Fun and Games. Those of us who insist on missing that deadline drive normal people to distraction.
Oddly enough though, some of those same conformists - at the first sign of wrinkles - run for their Botox treatment, not realizing that the Youthful Glow isn't something you can pump into your exterior, but something that shines from within.
One day I will be an old woman. As I told Andrea, I'm quite looking forward to it. Should I be fortunate enough to live that long, I plan to have long gray hair and - if possible - be even more eccentric than I am now. In fact, I even have a role model: children's book author Tasha Tudor:
Now in her nineties, Tasha Tudor lives in a house in Vermont where she still writes, illustrates and yes, dear sister - even continues to play dress up. Her collection of Victorian clothing is something to see, and she is known for hosting elaborate tea parties where guests are also required to be in costume.
But I'm not quite there. Not yet, anyway. At a spritely 42 I feel I can still dress up in breast-boosting corsets, plan my trip to Hogwarts and sing salacious songs in cheap bars. Eventually, I'll have to slow down. But I'll never be normal, not even to please a beloved sister.