I read an article the other day that struck a chord with me. Entitled “Meet the Perennials”[Gina Pell, “Meet the Perennials”, NewCo Shift, 10/19/16, https://shift.newco.co/meet-the-perennials-e91a7cd9f65f#.8ihtv1ojp%5D, it describes a segment of the population that cannot be classified by the year in which they were born. For one reason or another, they TRANSCEND the limits of their generation. I believe I qualify as a Perennial and I make my case as follows.
One of the characteristics of a Perennial is that they have friends of all ages. This is most definitely true of me. I have friends that range from my 83-year-old neighbor (who, unlike the lady downstairs, will NOT be happy to see the back of us), to one of my most beloved friends who is in her early 70s, to my buddies from the shelter who are in their 60s (I worked at an adoption event with them last weekend, and we joked that I had to do all the heavy lifting because I was the “kid” of the group), to a cluster of cohorts in my age range in our 50s, to some younger folks – the ones I consider my “international friends”, in Ghana, Dubai and Sweden – who I met through my job who are in their 30s and 40s. I don’t have many friends in their 30s, though, probably because I no longer travel in circles with folks in their getting-married-and-having-babies years. And then there are the 20-year-olds, my daughter’s friends, who aren’t MY friends but who I know and care about through her. Finally, there are my daughter’s siblings, who aren’t related to me by blood but who I consider my friends. I had a lovely dinner with the 12-year-old for her birthday the other night, and we’re making plans to go to the movies together (I’m dying to see “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and also “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”). I’m fond of her 14-year-old brother as well; when his father asked me to pick him up from school after he complained of a stomach ailment a couple of weeks ago, our conversation in the car was comfortable and easy. So clearly I am not limited to the enclave of 50-year-olds, or even Baby Boomers, who comprise my “age group” when it comes to the people with whom I enjoy spending time.
I may not be up on all the latest trends or lingo, but I am certainly open to new music – there’s great music being created every minute, so how could I limit myself to only the “oldies”, or “classic rock”, like some of my fellows (although that music certainly has its place and appeal in my record collection)? My favorite radio station, WFUV, does skew a little older, but my other favorite source of new tunes is Passport Approved, which I’ve recommended before in these blog posts and features cutting edge music from all over the world – avant garde, ahead of the curve, the latest vibes. I still watch plenty of MTV (and I confess that, until recently, I used to be a big fan of Degrassi but I think I’ve officially outgrown it!). I cannot believe that “The Real World” has been on for 32 seasons – and I have unabashedly watched every one!!
The clothes I wear are timeless – ragamuffin style transcends all ages! When we were traveling through Europe a few summers ago, my daughter scoffed at the women of a certain age who continue to dress in a youthful style– perhaps in an effort to LOOK younger, but probably just because they figured, why not? Women (and men, for that matter) should be able to dress any way they please, without judgment or restriction by their age (although belly shirts and short-shorts on grandmas are just beyond the pale). That being said, if anything, my androgynous trousers-only, oversized outfits are what I imagine the clothes of the future will be: clean and comfortable, sustainably made. The cover subjects in Interview Magazine this month (September 2016) were Jaden and Willow Smith, who themselves could probably be considered Perennials, given that they come across, in many ways, as older than their years – 15 and 18, respectively – and were talking with their interviewer, Pharrell Williams – another Perennial at age 43 – as if they were all peers. The outfits in which they were photographed were baggy, shapeless, unisex things, covering the kids from head to toe, that I actually quite liked for myself (unlike most of the fashion that I see in Interview Magazine which, I confess, I JUST DON’T GET).
Pell says of Perennials, “We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.” I am all about bringing folks together, finding similarities and points of connection rather than focusing on the things that divide and differentiate us. My dream for the world is that humans achieve tolerance and togetherness, building bridges and not walls. That’s the calling card of a true Perennial. (Which brings to mind one highly unpleasant person, (t00) much in the news lately, who shall go nameless, who is as far from a Perennial as a human could be. The ANTI-Perennial, if you will.)
When people first meet me, and even after they’ve known me for a while, I think they find it hard to pinpoint my age. I’ve got the wrinkles (although made slightly less obvious because of the face fat – the ONLY benefit to carrying excess weight) and the little-old-Italian-grandma central spread in all directions, yes, but I’ve got a youthful outlook and a skip in my step. I also don’t SEE myself as a 57-year-old person in my mind’s eye, although when I look in the mirror I can sometimes believe it.
Where I fall behind a little is with the gizmos and doodads of life. Pell says Perennials “stay current with technology”, but sadly I am a dinosaur in that regard. Still, I have an android phone and I’m on Facebook and am capable of sending email and surfing the web, so I’m not TOTALLY incompetent where technology is concerned. It’s not something that terribly interests me, though; it’s just a means to an end of communication and research. If I put my mind to it, I could probably go beyond my current technical stasis, but I firmly believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Who needs a new iPhone every year? Why do we have to constantly upgrade our software and operating systems to version 2.0 and beyond? I’m perfectly content with the level of my digital knowledge at this stage, until obsolescence forces my hand.
Fortunately, I have a kid just beginning her adulthood, so I can rely on her to educate me when I need to be updated on things that matter in life. I never felt a “generation gap” with her; I’ve just tried to keep up with her and impart whatever knowledge I’ve gained over the years that might serve her well (that is, if she’s willing to LISTEN, which she isn’t always – at least not OBVIOUSLY, although sometimes, years later, I can hear my words coming out of her mouth, which always gives me a feeling of secret satisfaction). That’s one of the benefits to being a Perennial: “We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge.” Yes, that sounds like me, if I do say so myself. My roots are sturdy and deep in the ground and I bloom at least once a year!