Monday, April 16, 2012

Mrs. Linklater [WCAS'65] Continues to Live A Life of Quiet Desperation

Like most magazines written for the august alumni of a particular college or university, mine has a section just for news and updates on what people are doing. I believe the section for this sort of thing is called "Class Notes." However, I think "Let's Talk About Me and My Accomplishments" would be far more accurate. 
          As one might expect, those who write in with something to say about themselves have usually gone on to relative fame and fortune. Interesting to note, that in a class of a thousand or so, only two or three people have the balls to blather on about how grand their lives have been to date. No one admits it was Daddy who gave them their big job or a well endowed trust fund that financed it. Not that I begrudge them their success. But it sure is easier to climb to the mountaintop when pop's Bell Jet Ranger can land you half way up. Of course, I shouldn't be so hasty with my cynicism. Just having parents who can afford your college education is a huge help these days.  
          Naturally, I'm always curious to see how the graduates are doing at the fine institution where my own parents spent a considerable amount of money. As expected, most of the updates are two or three sentences of pure, unadulterated braggadocio, listing awards, honorary degrees, promotions, inventions, recently published books and articles, and any other types of laudatory accolades that reflect well on the alum. Divorce, disease, and disastrous failures are rarely recounted. I noticed that the older alums spotlighted tend toward white guys in suits. But in the more recent classes, women and minorities have helped to balance out the male WASP contingent.  
          In the most recent issue, several people had received high class professorships, inaugural chairs, that sort of thing. Others had become managing partners of law firms and consulting groups, or senior vice presidents of famous companies, and one was now a highly regarded museum director. Still others had published their first, 20th, and 24th books respectively. Blah, blah, blah. 
          And then, like a breath of fresh air, there was the 64-year-old woman who had "completed 100 cartwheels in under eight minutes at a fundraising tumble-thon for gymnastics programs in her mile high city." It was noted that she was fifty years older than all the other contestants. 
          Now THAT'S an accomplishment. One that can best be appreciated the older one gets. The only thing missing was a picture of the event.
          Equally refreshing was a surprising reminder that some of us have other obligations besides framing our multiple successes and hanging them on a wall. (Names, locations, and dates of graduation have been changed).
          "Jane D. Jones [Business Degree, 19XX], of Anywhere, USA, a retired accountant, is living at her former home with her father, John B. Jones [Business Degree, 19XX]. She is into housework and yard-keeping and trying to shrink her number of hobbies. Seven years ago she adopted a dog that is part basset-hound. She writes, 'Just call me 'stud nanny.'"
          I couldn't believe what I was reading. Quite a departure from the usual self-serving b.s. that passes for news in an alumni mag. I wondered whether writing that she was retired and now living at home with an aging parent surprised the editors of the magazine when they read it. Regardless, she seems to have embraced it, almost gleefully. Which, of course, got me wondering about the rest of her backstory. Was she ever married? Did she keep her maiden name to make a feminist statement? Did she sleep with her boyfriend the last night before he went to Vietnam and get pregnant? Did she give the child up for adoption? Or did she never marry at all? If so, why not? 
          Then I began to ask myself what I might write about my own life. Having never bothered to send in news of my tiny pile of gold stars at the time they occurred, was now a good time to start? And given my propensity for leg pulling, should I take that route or be serious for once? I decided to give it a try.
          Mrs. Linklater, [WCAS '65] -- wait. Let me digress for a moment. WCAS '65 is probably meaningless to you. In the olden days, we might have said I had a B.A [Bachelor of Arts] in English. '65 was my class. That's 1965, not 1865. Even back then, however, my university was calling my degree an A.B. for Artis Bacheloris or something. 
          Now the degree is from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences or WCAS, named after the folks who gave a boatload of dough to the university, earmarked for us liberal arts folks [now Arts & Sciences]. As a result, changing the familiar B.A. or even A.B. to WCAS makes my degree nearly indecipherable. In fact, the delineation of degrees has become so hard to understand that my alumni magazine actually devotes an entire section to a lexicon of all the different meanings for the new unfathomable letters which have replaced the old, familiar ones -- the ones that made sense. In fact, that, in a nutshell, describes the life I live -- replacing the comfortable old ways of doing things with everything new, most times just because it's new -- a thought for another entry that I won't ever write because profound thinking is so not my cup of tea. Profound whining on the other hand, we can talk.  
          But back to my news blurb for the alumni mag. Perhaps I should send in something along the lines of:
          Mrs. Linklater [WCAS '65], a longtime resident of the Chicago metro area, spends many hours of the day on facebook, which she still doesn't know whether to spell with a capital "F" or not. Occasionally she writes an entry in her blog, which, after only eight years, has grown to forty-four followers. A devotee of Starbuck's de-caf tall mocha hazelnut fraps, Mrs. L spends several afternoons working on freelance assignments from a table in back or catching up on episodes of her favorite TV shows on Hulu. 
          Scary. My life in three sentences. Dare I send it in?

2 comments:

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

"Dare I send it in?"

It's public now
You might as well

Mary Wilson said...

I believe, yes. Sooner or later someone will have the grand idea to write and publish biographical blurbs about everyone, and they will decide who you are, if you don't get there first.

Mary