Monday, July 24, 2017

Dance as Though the Internet is Watching

When I was in my twenties, I looked forward to becoming a feisty old lady -- some day. I wasn't in any hurry, but I imagined my twenty-year old self, still of sound mind, if not body, actively a part of conversations and the general narrative of society some seventy years down the road.

When I was in my thirties, I became a mom. This wonderful life choice helped to keep me young in some ways, while making me feel old in others. My daughter was born when I was thirty-six, quite over-the-hill for the area in which we live. As she grew into a young teen and then a young adult, her tastes were not my tastes. Her music was not my music. But she was the center of my life and keeping up with her interests kept me not only active in her life, but on top of things as well. Looking at the world through her eyes, it was easy to see a young adult perspective on life long after my own young adulthood had passed.

In my early fifties, I retired. (Clearly, my life plan does not involve consistency in traditional timing). Suddenly, I was part of a group where I was the youngest member -- quite a difference from my motherhood experience. Faced with some of the same challenges that concerned not my contemporaries, but those a decade or more older, I was in a great position to get an early start on that cool old lady vibe.

But the opposite happened. Considering things like the cost of health insurance and medication (alongside the cost of college) and recognizing the value of an early bird special led me dangerously in the direction of becoming old before my time. Just as I had to fight to stay a young-at-heart mom because I started late, now I had to fight to remain a young-at-heart retiree because I started early.

Not staying retired helped, and getting a teaching position at a college, where I once again got a first-hand view of the young adult perspective, helped even more. Still, as I immerse myself in serious adulthood (as opposed to the more frivolous variety I enjoyed in my twenties and thirties), it's easy to become, well...


Take last weekend, for example. I had the wonderful experience of being invited to the wedding of a former student. The groom had been one of my students in elementary school, and then again in college. I was so honored to be part of his day, to be included among the family and friends he wanted to celebrate with.

At the reception, my husband and I enjoyed having the opportunity to dance. I'm a decent dancer, but I don't dance like the twenty-somethings. I'm not as limber as I once was and I need to be reminded of the steps to the wedding reception standards from one celebration to the next, but I have fun.

Or, at least I was having fun until I discovered the plethora of cell phones scanning the crowd on the dance floor. I know no one was filming me in particular, but my ability to dance like no one was watching was greatly hindered by the idea that strangers could film me and post what was not intended to be a performance in a public forum.

Photo: Geralt via Pixabay
Crochety. I know. This is what the young people do.

And I love social media -- I do. I just don't like being part of it without granting permission.

The fact is, we behave differently in the private arena than we do in the public arena. I wasn't doing anything to be ashamed of, but suddenly, every mistake felt magnified and every misstep no longer my own business. It wasn't as though I wasn't aware that I was visible; it's just that there's a difference between being seen and going public. I could no longer dance like no one was watching.

Back when I was in my twenties, I could envision myself as a feisty old lady with very little trouble, but I never gave a thought to what I'd be like in my fifties. Middle age was old, but not cool, and not something young adults give much thought to. In my fifty-something mind, I'm still my twenty-something self when I get up and dance.

Unfortunately, there's nothing like a plethora of cell phones to prove me wrong.

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