I had kind of a shitty day today. Maybe it's just the September back-to-school seasonal dread... it persists well into adulthood where you are forced to acknowledge that mixed in with the old fall apprehension was a sprinkling of anticipation-- new people, new challenges, new teachers, new tasks. Hope, I think it was called... a little excitement-- an opportunity to use your new pens and notebooks-- a clean slate-- resolutions... and somehow always some new boy in your class you'd never noticed who gives you extra motivation to wear your new fall wardrobe.
At this point in my life, I've given up Halloween. The natural indignities of aging are a sufficiently terrifying disguise; if I don't have a gig I quietly avoid my apartment-- leave the candy bowl by the door. While I do enjoy seeing children in costumes wandering the streets, I don't really need to supply my rich neighbors' kids with goods they're forced to discard or donate. Let the homeless eat cake and sweets: God's Love We Trick-or-Treat.
I divide my girlfriends into two groups these days: the go-getters who travel and eat out and socialize and jump around at the gym... and the ones who isolate and sit home passively waiting for old age to seep in like slow-rising floodwater. The former group-- they go to meet-ups and class reunions because they have never been thinner, or richer, or more (or less) single; they wear make-up to the grocery store and subscribe to dating sites. The latter have stopped trying to look seductive; many of them were formerly beautiful and have nothing to prove. They had some richness in their life (or not) and no longer want to advertise. Both groups have used or use drugs-- recreational or prescription-- Group 2 with limited benefits.
One thing they have in common with my male friends seems to be Facebook. Group 1 posts meals and travel-logs and happy group-shots of family and friends celebrating. They use emojis and abuse exclamation points. The latter group members comment and 'like' passively; they look forward all week to Throwback Thursdays, spend way too much time on the Manhattan-Before-1990's page, and observe all new deaths with personal mourning posts. For the Goth sympathizers, the Plath-ites and Genet-lovers, grief is a comfort zone. We are in our shadow-years... and yet all of us are shocked by deaths among our peers. There is an epidemic of disease-chronicles, treatment logs and Go-Fund-Mes because baby boomers often failed to heed the ubiquitous and ancient warning that youth is not forever. Many abused their bodies and failed to squirrel away money for a rainy sick day. So they post... they confess... they cry publicly... and we look and sympathize and occasionally help.
Both groups are political pundits and animal aficionados, chronic chronologists and nostalgia nurds. Within categories they find sympathizers and like-minds; they join pages and compare breeds, refer and recommend books, art and music. And they lie. The first group maybe more than the second-- they lie to themselves and they lie to us. They photoshop and post old pictures as new; they 'like' things they don't like, out of reciprocal courtesy. Some of them post happy pictures of themselves with children who have not spoken to them in years. They pass away-- some from sudden accidents or medical anomalies, some from chronic disease they did not disclose, some from the illness described in great detail in posts-- and some-- just suddenly-- suicide, hours after a non-loaded comment or observation, a wonderful meal-- an event. Their friends are horrified-- that is, their Facebook friends. Their real friends-- well, where were they? Watching their page as though it was life, failing to read between lines (i.e., posts)... and how much time is left, after our social media binges... to listen to friends, to reach out?
Part of what disturbed me today is the fact that despite all the public presence we have, there is a huge lack of truth-telling and genuine, soul-to-soul communication. I was horrified by a friend's failure to disclose things which are very pertinent and shocking, in a way. And I was provoked into providing an opinion by a couple who visited me-- throwing out queries and remarks, and expecting facebook-style comments rather than a conclusive, solid discussion. I let them have it, my dose of reality... and I suspect I will not see them again soon. Do I feel badly? I do.
One trend that bothers me is the exchange of money on facebook-- the Go-Fund-Mes, the campaigns and gifts-- the charity birthday apps which are admirable... but how many of us pledge before a cyber audience, to emoji accolades, and fail to 'see' our unfortunate neighbors and homeless who lack the organization to even ask... or who ask and ask and are chained to the poverty treadmill of hopelessness?
Today on the way to my afternoon job, a dollar bill literally floated by my head in a small wind, like a cartoon. I ran after it; like a playful child or a bird, it would land and then take-off again, flapping and cartwheeling in the cool air current. I persisted, to the entertainment of pedestrians until I captured it under my shoe. I waved it in the air... no takers... well, I guess I'd earned it. Not my dollar, I wanted to announce... Not my president-- 'Not the planet I signed up for', my bandmate says at least five times daily. But I pocketed it anyway, knowing-- not unlike the moments and events on our timeline, it would be spent and re-spent... given away or received... valued and appreciated or misused and wasted... but would not remain for long.