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From romantic to spacey (08/15/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

I remember singing along with Kate Smith to "When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," putting me in a melancholy mood, a naive girl too young to date. One of the first TV programs to grace our living room back home was the "Hit Parade." What fun! "What's Behind the Green Door?" Must have been "The Purple People Eater."

A "Sentimental Journey," a haunting nostalgia - remembering back when. As I listen to the six CDs I ordered, the tunes put me somewhere else. Somehow familiar, the World War II and Golden Greats would have sprung from my diaper days and before.

Outdated lyrics take the listener back to an era when there was, discretely, a lot left to the imagination, and to the bleeding heart. There were romantic interludes, twilight times, and the rollicking "Juke Box Saturday Night." Today, with rowdy rap concerts and karaoke jams, everybody gets into the act.

Old definitions: Today's senior citizen would comment, "I remember when a man was a man and a woman was adored." Back in World War II days, words had meanings no longer recognized. When Gramps went "shining," a gal was the ultimate recipient of his earnest pursuit. Today, "shining deer" is an illegal activity, punishable by law. A shiner is still a black eye, no matter how you look at it. Moonshine has lost its glow.

The tapes: My favorite tune on WWII is "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," sung by the Andrews Sisters. The only reference to that today is to say, "See ya! I gotta boogie." "Ooo Lah Lah!" was once uttered for, "Wow! What a looker!" Today more cleavage is all too common, giving Frank Sinatra's "I'll Be Seeing You" a whole new meaning. "I Don't Want To Set the World On Fire" - I just want to fire-up occasionally.

"Here Comes the Bride" has been carried down through the years as a classic. On a sour note, "There Goes the Bride" seems more New Millennium. Nothing is sacred. Scandals are splashed across newspapers and TV screens. Through the Kennedy White House years, there was pride and respect for our nation's commander-in-chief. Tabloid tattletales didn't go there.

Gail Sheehy, author of the 1977 "Passages," chronicled a redefinition of middle-age. "Thanks to increasing longevity and a 1960's-spawned sense that human beings can go on growing and changing all their lives, American adults were moving beyond the traditional adolescence-marriage-work-retirement paradigm," reports Jon Spayde, in the August Utne Reader interview.

Sheehy labeled the transformation "second adulthood," which she defines as "the opportunity for self-assessment and radical change that comes in the 40s and 50s, and carries her ideals forward into the post 9/11 world, with its profusion of new worries and challenges."

Hard to fathom, the author announces, "The fastest growing age group is women over 100." Sheehy evaluates new life trends. "If you don't find your passion and define your life (when approaching 50), it's going to be too late."

Look around your college campuses for grandparents, far more "in the real world" than the tottering, apron-bedecked, hair in a bun grannie of the 1940s. "Mairzy Doats & Dozey Doats," and all that jazz!

Women in their 50s today are flying from their cocoons. The article reports, "I spent my 30s and 40s living out my husband's life and my children's lives, and now it's my turn." Turning 60? I have five months to go. No sweat. Follow the masses - get a motorcycle, change partners, take up kayaking, make peace and reopen estrangements. Retrain yourself to use computer technology.

Seek a new career, or slow down to more aesthetic involvement. Start your own business. Be aware of the tremendous connections across the generations, with grandchildren or ailing elderly family members.

Thanks to Gail Sheehy for being so 2004!

Auf Wiedersehen to all the sentimental romantics who don't get around much anymore!  


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