The New Year Feels Different Already

NU PURPLE CLOCK

Signs that 2013 will be a different kind of year than 2012:
1. On January 1st Northwestern University won its first bowl game in 64 years.
2. On January 1st I watched a whole football game on television since the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl in 1985.
3. I learned more about probiotics and restoring the good bacteria in your gut than I ever wanted to learn while watching said football game.
4. An anonymous friend sent me a five-day pleasure challenge to start the new year, and I’m taking it.
5. In a few minutes I will drive to my new full-time job and first corporate job in five years. I didn’t sleep well last night and my stomach hurts now. Some things never change.

Car Wheels

I’m starting to smell something fishy and I think it might be me. Husband and I have turned into the guests, who like fish, stink after three day – or so said Ben Franklin. We planned on arriving at my brother’s house Dec. 23rd and leaving again on Dec. 26th. We planned on having enough time for two extended family dinners, wrapping and unwrapping presents, and one family movie day. We didn’t plan on hitting a pothole on an entrance ramp to the highway while traveling at entrance ramp speed, and breaking two wheels. Now all I want by New Years is my two right wheels.

We also didn’t plan on being in the middle of the first big snowstorm of 2012. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except that the new wheels happen to be in Chicago and their shipping will be delayed due to weather. Funny thing, once the new wheels arrive and are installed they will just reverse direction and drive us back to Chicago. Not so funny, perhaps.

So while the car sits in the shop, I sit in my brother and sister-in-law’s kitchen surrounded by holiday treats, sweets, and temptation. I don’t plan on eating two helpings of homemade mac-n-cheese. I don’t plan on eating half a barrel of caramel popcorn. I don’t plan on eating another baked ham sandwich. But in the spirit of my holiday season, I throw my plans out the window and enjoy the present. Friday will come soon enough and with it new wheels and old plans to catch up on. Pass the eggnog.

What Kind of Blogger Am I?

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According to a study of blogging styles and attitudes conducted by Zemanta, a content suggestion engine (according to Wikipedia), I’m a Life Stager/Hedonist/Life Improver. Translation: I write about How to Enjoy and Survive Midlife With A Smile on Your Face, or My Face, as the case may be.

If that sounds like a mish mash of styles and attitudes, it is. According to the study, I’m not alone in exhibiting more than one blogging persona. And that, my blogging friends, is comforting to know for a couple reasons.

I’m forever being asked what my blog is about. I’m forever finding myself searching for a one-word answer because people like one-word answers that quickly categorize who you are, and because I teach marketing. I tell my students that an effective brand positioning statement is consumer-centric and singular in its promise. It is the rare branding success that offers two benefits in one drink. (Miller Lite’s Great Taste…Less Filling!) So if my blog is a brand or a product, it should offer something singular. Something it can own.

Here are some of the words I’ve tried on their own: Transition, Humor, and Midlife. But they don’t work on their own. Transition from what? What’s funny? And midlife, what does that mean? Midlife is about as broad in definition as Middle Class. Far as I can tell, Midlife means you’re not wearing diapers.

However, I also teach my students that a target audience or consumer can’t be defined narrowly by demographics. A brand’s consumer is more nuanced than a woman between the ages of 45-55. My students learn how to develop consumer personas, which include a demographic description along with information on attitudes, goals, lifestyle, and behaviors related to the product.

The Zemanta study highlights, for me, that while a blog has a brand identity, it also has a persona attached to it. Maybe I have difficulty describing my blog in one word because I can’t define myself with one word. Maybe I’ve just rationalized why I shouldn’t even worry about coming up with the one word. Maybe I should just focus on the one thing that differentiates me from the rest of the midlife bloggers talking about the midlife journey with a touch of humor. Right now the only answer – and it is one word or two, depending upon how I express it, is: Me. or Julie Danis. Only I can own that.

Rites of Passage: Mid-Life Marriage

Bride & Groom _NEW

It was a normal blind date at a nice restaurant, when the banker asked me some getting-to-know-you questions.
“Are you originally from Chicago?”
“Where do you work?” And,
“Why aren’t you married?”

Why aren’t you married? That’s the number one question on a single woman’s hit list. Running close, in second place is: “Why isn’t a woman like you married?” The latter moves to first place if any of the following adjectives modify woman: smart, pretty, wonderful. Why isn’t a wonderful woman like you married? Those positive adjectives only underscore the absurdity of the situation. You’re such a catch but still at sea.

Over the course of my extensive singlehood, I collected an arsenal of retorts to questions about my single status:
“Because you haven’t introduced me to him yet.”
“I haven’t found a man that makes me want to share my closets.”
“My husband is still married to his first wife.” And,
“I haven’t met the right person.”

Past dates have also identified reasons for my long-tenured singledom. I’ve been told:
“You’re too independent.”
“You’re not vulnerable enough.” And,
“You’re ovaries are too old.”

Okay, the guy didn’t actually say that to me. But he implied it. He asked, on the first date in a nice restaurant after finding out where I was from and where I worked, “Do you want to have children?”
“Sure, but I want to be married first. Anyway, I have plenty of time.”
“You’re over 30, I wouldn’t be too sure,” he said, and then told the manicurist who had fixed us up his real assessment. He felt I was too old to have babies. Had filed me under reproductively undesirable. He wanted a younger, more sure thing mother for his children.

I married when I was 48 years old for the first time, to someone I had known, on and off, for 12 years. Being so used to the “why aren’t you married” question I was caught off guard when, post-wedding a twice-divorced college friend of mine asked: “Why did you get married at this point in your life?”

I didn’t have a quick answer to this two-part question. Why get married, period? Why get married when you’re past child bearing and rearing age and all the benefits of a relationship can be had without marriage? Why? Why not?
“I married for love and adventure,” I answered.

Marriage was one of life’s great adventures that I had never experienced. Not even pretend experienced. I had never lived with a man before I married. I’m not even sure a man ever stored a toothbrush or razor at my apartment before I married. Not that I’m against co-habitation before marriage, but merging without a contractual commitment never made sense to me, especially as I got older and bought and decorated and redecorated my space in my way. I liked my space. I liked the way I cluttered my space. Control is my friend. Why would I give it up without a license?

Man-Who-Would-Become-Husband, and I met on a blind date in June, when I was 36 and he was a 48-year-old, divorced, father of a college-age daughter. I wanted children and wondered if he wanted more. I broached the subject while kissing on my couch one night.
“Do you like children?”
“Of course, I have a daughter.”
“I mean would you have any more?”
“I could but…”
“You could, good.”
“Isn’t it a bit early to be talking about babies?”

Yes, it was. We dated maybe six times over the course of that summer, and the relationship faded as summer did. His impression lingered though. In a journal entry on the following New Year’s Eve I summed up each date of the last twelve months with three words. Except for Man-Who-Would-Become-Husband, he rated four: “handsome, intelligent, good cook.”

Fast-forward eight years to a charity art auction. A small event, maybe 75 people. Hoping to meet new people – men – a girlfriend and I dressed up in leather skirts and boots and headed off to an up-and-coming but not-quite-there-yet Chicago neighborhood.
“Oh no,” I said as we walked in the room.
“What?”
“See that man over there.” I threw my head to the left and described Man-Who-Would-Become-Husband. “Tall, salt and pepper hair, blue eyes, blonde woman on his arm.”
“Yes…”
“I went out with him years ago and just never called him back.” I told my friend that he was the only man I had dated – if five dates constitutes dating, and in your 30s it just might –to whom I wished I had given more of a chance.
“But he was such a man,” I said, “and I was used to boys.” He told me jokes in German and knew about art past the Impressionists. We danced in Greek restaurants, on his deck, and in my den. But I let him go.

That night I bought a piece of art that I didn’t even like just to spend time talking to him at the auction table. I made sure he had my telephone number and the following week we went to dinner where he did not ask, “Why aren’t you married?” I learned that he had just started seeing someone in London and I told him about a budding relationship of mine in Wales.

For the next two years we casually went out to dinner when we were both in town. His cross-Atlantic relationship ended before mine. For a year, he patiently listened to me agonize over whether or not I should marry the man from Wales. Then one night on our way home from dinner, as he placed me in a cab, he said:
“I’ll dance at your wedding if you marry this guy, but if you don’t, I think we could have something here.”

The walk down the aisle didn’t come right away. My need for control and doing things my way tested and retested our relationship. I insisted we stop at the edge of the crosswalk; he insisted on standing a foot back from the curb. I needed to know the exact directions to a location, and follow them. He expressed a boyish delight in the serendipity of getting lost and then found.

But nothing was more irritating to him than my popcorn rule. I insisted on my own small, no butter popcorn on movie dates. He was perplexed and mildly put off. It was as if I had committed Dating Crime #1. If I couldn’t share something as inconsequential as popcorn could I share the New York Times Magazine? The last squeeze of toothpaste? The final drop of milk?

In my defense, I was used to buying my own movie ticket, my own diet soda and especially my own popcorn. I’m not selfish. I just like to ration my popcorn so it lasts through the first half hour of the movie. Most people I know finish their popcorn before the seventh preview. If I share I can’t control the pace and therefore, my satisfaction.
On one typical movie date night, after we found seats in the front row behind the break in seats, he went to the refreshment stand.
“A small, no butter popcorn and medium Diet Coke for me, please,” I ordered.

He returned with two popcorns, as I had hoped. One child’s size, no butter for him and the jumbo tub of popcorn, no butter for me. Jumbo, as in big-enough-to-feed-the-rest-of-the-audience-please-take-some-as-you-walk-by-popcorn. Jumbo, as in see-how-ridiculous-it-is-to-insist-on-your-own-popcorn-when-you’re-in-an-intimate-relationship-with-someone-popcorn. I got the message as well as everyone else in the movie theater.

So on the next movie outing, in a spirit of compromise and in an effort to see if I could live outside my control zone, I agreed to share a medium, no butter popcorn. Sharing that first bag of popcorn was as stressful as I had imagined. His big hand, which never seemed big before, opened and closed like one of those claws in the arcade game that tries to grab a stuffed animal or plastic encased prize but never does. He grabbed a gross of kernels and started eating. His fist moved from bag to mouth, bag to mouth. I watched him eat and slowly put one, two, maybe three kernels in my mouth hoping that he would see this as behavior he should adopt.

Bits of popcorn decorated his sweater. Staring at me. Daring me to leave them alone. Popcorn shrapnel trailed from the bag to my jeans, to his jeans, and beyond. I cleaned up after him, off of him and off of me. If we were going to make it as a couple I needed to take control in a non-controlling way. I spread a napkin over my lap and created a little bowl-like shape. I poured a large amount of popcorn out of the bag into my makeshift receptacle and handed it back to him.

“It’s all yours,” I said and proceeded to eat by the 1s, 2s and 3s. He didn’t drop as much popcorn on our laps. I got my fair share and munched happily 30 minutes into the movie. I turned to him and said,
“You know, this could work.”

A couple more years and a few more adjustments to coupledom passed before we married. Bit by bit my singledom behavior and habitat have changed: I surrendered half my closet space. I eat real meals for dinner instead of just grazing on pretzels, yogurt, and Diet Coke. I’ve relinquished control over the remote control and sometimes watch the Military Channel, car auctions, and the German news. Some things will never change…my night owl will never understand his morning lark (and vice versa), driving directionless still frustrates me, and I get antsy standing behind a gaggle of pedestrians at a crosswalk.

There is one change that I didn’t make from my single days. My name. This doesn’t bother Husband. “It’s a sign of the times,” he says. “My first wife won’t give up my name, and my second wife won’t take it.” As I see it, there are only so many changes that could be accommodated in my middle age marriage.

Too Much Branding Makes My Week Weary

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Just as I was recounting all the reasons I have to be thankful post-Thanksgiving, including the fact that my iPhone survived two dips in the loo after two 24-hour stints in a bag of rice, a Facebook post from a friend and fellow marketer, Pamela Narins, grabbed my attention:

“NPR reports on the fact that Black Friday was followed by Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and NOW, Giving Tuesday. It is my fervent hope that we will be met with Shut the Heck Up Wednesday, Give Me a Break Thursday, and Oh Please Friday.” I would like to suggest adding No-Name Sunday.

What’s with the need to cleverly name everything today? Have we become such a consumer society that we feel we must brand any and all products and services? And does excess branding increase or decrease the power of a brand to convey meaning to and build a relationship with a consumer? Or to put it another way: Do Personalized Julie M&M’s® muddle my M&M® experience?

Don’t get me wrong. I like brands. My business career focuses on branding, brand personalities, brand audits, brand management, brand archetypes, brand positioning, brand-person relationships and brand planning. Brands belong to companies, products, services and maybe even experiences — go ahead, brand your wedding a palooza — but can you make a normal day a brand?

The short answer is yes. The branded days around Thanksgiving do convey meaning, help consumers complete life tasks and even create community or affiliation opportunities. In that respect Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday are creating relationships with and providing benefits to people. All part of what brands can and should do. The Black Friday shopping experience is different than shopping on any other Friday in the year. The Cyber of Cyber Monday does differentiate it from other Mondays, which is what a good brand does.

However, Monday is Monday. Calling it Cyber Monday doesn’t make it anymore enjoyable. In fact, it adds to the burden of an already burdensome day. First, I have to re-enter the workweek from a four-day weekend of family, food and football and then the branding elves pressure me to spend hours surfing online for deals, plus free shipping.

Along comes Tuesday, which should be called Cut-The-Credit-Card Tuesday if it’s called anything at all, but no, now it’s Giving Tuesday. The idea behind Giving Tuesday started at the 92nd Street Y in New York City as a way to encourage supporting nonprofit organizations during the holiday season. Love the idea and plan to give, just wish my debit card had a chance to cool down from Monday’s activities.

I don’t shop on Black Friday and didn’t have a chance to boost the sales at any boutiques on Small Business Saturday this year. Most Cyber Monday deals passed me by because it was a just a regular (overbooked) Monday in life. My gifts have been made so Giving Tuesday is a Free-From-Spending-Money Day for me. Whew.

Maybe I want to call a Time-Out Wednesday because I’m steeped in consumer marketing and branding and enjoy a non-branded, non-manufactured experience every so often. Much like I enjoyed the time away from my Apple driven life when my iPhone sat in its rice cocoon. Some things should just be what they are. Other things need the brand to be what they are. An M&M® without the M&M® (or a personalized message provided by the M&M®) is just not an M&M®.

Originally published in Huffington Post

Boomer Women: Listen to Your Elders

Boomer women the atlantic

I always enjoyed sitting like a mouse in the corner of the room when my great aunt, aunt, or grandma came to visit. My little ears learned big lessons about just about any topic from those who had come way before me. A recent article in The Atlantic reminded me to listen to my elders for advice on how to navigate the mid-life transition I’m facing today. Bottom line: Accept the age you are, rethink retirement, and immerse yourself in community. I’m all ears for this advice. (Photo courtesy of The Atlantic and the AP)

"Minnie Mouse" "Daisy Duck" "Barneys"

Barneys of New York has spiced up the Christmas egg nog this year, just in time to help me make a point to my graduate-level marketing class. During the lecture on self-concept and gender socialization, I showed images that will be part of the chic department store’s Holiday 2012 window displays.

“It’s undeniable that we encounter gender socialization almost from birth,” I say.

The night before class I saw an interesting quote in my Facebook news feed. The late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm said, “The emotional, sexual and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.’” Interesting, I thought. And if that statement holds true for girls, then it probably does for boys when ‘”It’s a boy,” is declared.

You’ll find few to argue against the belief that the marketing industrial complex is a key driver of gender socialization. Some would say that Disney, with its Princess franchise, leads the way. Little girls fall in love with the idea of finding a Prince Charming while wearing a wedding costume with sparkle slippers. Big girls walk down the aisle in a Disney Bridal gown and satin stilettos from the Glass Slipper Collections at DSW.

“Look at what Barneys has done — with Disney’s approval — to Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck,” I said to my class. I sat back and waited for a response to the pictures on my PowerPoint slide.

Disney’s venerable, happy and realistically-figured (for a cartoon mouse and duck) Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck have been stretched, seemingly starved and served up as high fashion models. Minnie is almost unrecognizable in a pink, non-polka dot dress. Her bow has morphed into a fascinator and almost obscures her ears. Her little white gloves are now full-on opera length and blue. She teeters on five-inch, gladiator-style pink sandals.

Daisy is decidedly more chic, in my book, with a simple animal print dress and bow. But wait — animal print on an animal? Doesn’t seem right. Next stop, Goofy goes glam? Yes, Goofy has been altered for the Barneys holiday display, too. He sports a combination preppy/motorcycle/urban-bohemian look.

From the back of the classroom a hand goes up, “I don’t see the issue, they just look like Barbie dolls and they’ve been around forever,” says a young woman. The men in the classroom stay silent. In fact, the reaction is a non-reaction. Do I need to light a fire under these 20 and 30-something women? Don’t they see the damage this is doing to their sisters, cousins, nieces and maybe even to themselves?

“I see your point,” I reply. But when I was growing up you didn’t get a Barbie until maybe 8 or 9 or even 10 years old. And you got one Barbie. Today, 5-year-old girls think all of their Barbie dolls are passé.” As soon as I say, “when I was growing up,” I see 32 pairs of eyes glaze over and I am reminded of another friend’s Facebook post. Seems that referencing the olden days is one of the worst things a baby boomer can do in a multi-generational work setting.

I might as well have said, “stop listening to me” when I said, “when I was younger.” It’s obvious I have had a younger self. Highlighting the age difference doesn’t help negotiate any differences in viewpoints stemming from said age gap. However, in my defense, I was citing Facebook as my news source ,so I can’t be hopelessly stuck in my olden days.

“Change.org has floated a petition to get Barneys to stop using these images,” I tell the class. No one responds. Not surprising. I saw the petition (yes, on Facebook) and I didn’t sign it. I thought it was a bit ridiculous. Change.org. Shouldn’t its petitions worry about the upcoming election and related women’s issues?

It’s Barneys of New York, after all. How many cities have actual Barneys windows? How many little girls go to those few Barneys with their mothers? How many little girls, who are already playing with Barbie and dressing like princesses, are going to be negatively affected by seeing an anorexic Minnie who looks unhappy because she’s so pinched and misshapen? How many girl-princesses are even going to recognize Daisy in her elongated, pencil thin version? Not many, I suppose.

Why am I getting so prickly and defensive? Because as a good feminist and self-named protector of the self-esteem of young women behind me, I think I should be outraged. But after the non-reaction in class I’m backing off.

I do think Barneys made a misstep, though. Not so much because they gave Minnie and Daisy a runway makeover but because they created unattractive models to market their styles. Barbie would have been a much better choice. No tailor needed to alter her curves for high fashion.

A Short Note On Lists

Forget Me Not Lists

I hate lists
They bring me bliss(ters)
From writing and reading
And seeing my pleading
Of what to do and say
Throughout the day

On my lists there resides
Many plans and other asides
That missed being done
Or were never begun
Oh I hate lists
They make me pissed

jmd jr year crop

1. Do not have that first cigarette. Not even that first puff. You have an addictive personality and it will take years and I mean years for you to quit. Smoking does not make you look sophisticated, attract the opposite sex (quite the contrary), make you skinny (although it does speed up your metabolism), or help you study. Smoking does age your skin, stain your teeth, char your lungs, and foul your breath, hair, and clothes.  Don’t start now. Please.

2. Too much self-deprecation is self-defeating. The right amount of taking yourself lightly is a form of taking care of yourself. That’s okay.

3 . Don’t do gaucho or capri pants. You’re too short. Don’t do big belts. You’re too short-waisted. Don’t get a layered haircut. You’re not meant to wear a shag. Painter’s paints are for painters, not coeds. Bandanas are not a good look, especially the one with three gold coins in the front. Really.

4. Don’t want everyone to like you. That’s exhausting. As exhausting as it would be to be friends with everyone. Be yourself and be friends with those who like that self.

5. Stop assuming people don’t want you to join their group. In fact, assume the opposite and you’ll find more open doors than you think.

6. Offer an opinion. Take a stand. Sitting on the fence may give you a good view but knowing what you believe puts you into the action. And you love action. Remember what your professors write on your papers: “The conclusion could use a little more of you in it. What do you recommend?”

7. Ask questions. In class. During office hours. While studying. While playing. If you don’t understand something you can be sure someone else is clueless too. Ask questions. You will be thanked.

8. Take an art history class. An economics course. Maybe even debate. Learn to play tennis and bridge. Develop an exercise habit.

9. Learn how to be friends with boys. They are more than just potential dates. They may seem like foreign beings, and maybe they are, but they feel the same way about you. It’s good to have friends of both sexes. So offer your friendship

10. You’re too young for could of, would of, should of. Stick with can, will, did. They move you forward which is the only place you have to go.

11. Don’t always look for permission first. Life isn’t a Catholic grade school.

12. Don’t forget the ones you left behind. Let Mom and Dad in on your new life. Remember your little brother. Reach out to your older sister and brothers too.

13. Watch the alcohol habit. Beer is fattening. Jim Beam and 7-Up is sweet and stiff, and champagne has always been a problem. CRM, champagne related incidents, may make good stories, but they don’t reflect well on your reputation.

14. Seek guidance and career counseling. Figure out how your interest in drama translates to another field. Be willing to consider doing something no one else you know is doing, like joining the Peace Corps

15. Learn to develop your own inner cheerleader. Getting support is like love. Before you can give it to someone else, you need to give it to yourself.

16. Don’t skip class, don’t oversleep and miss class, don’t fall asleep in class. Class is good. That’s why you are on campus. Attend class.

17. Smile more. People think you’re standoffish or mean.

18. Beware of M&Ms. Once you quit smoking they will become your next best worst friend.

19. Be more mindful of your finances. Now’s the time to learn to budget

20. Enjoy. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, stop doing it and take a minute (or more) to reflect on why you’re not enjoying it. There may be very good reasons for tears and fears. So cry and worry, and then call up your inner cheerleader and go on. Because that’s the only thing you can do. You have always wanted to go on to the next thing. It’s waiting for you. Go.

Reunions are Just a Memory Event

College Pals With Diplomas

So far 2012 has been a year full of school activities. It started with graduations attended (graduate school, college, high school and elementary), moved to being a specatator at extracurricular activities (college soccer game,  high school cheer leading), and continued this past weekend with a college reunion.

I can sum up the weekend in a word: memories.

Memories were stirred: My room mate reminded me of how nice I was for taking care of another friend who was sick from a night of partying. Apparently I was quite the Florence Nightingale. I don’t remember and am sure I blocked the memory because it might make me sick. Anyway, good to know that I pulled through when needed.

Memories were unexpected: At an alumni-student career networking luncheon I met a young woman who said she was in a sorority. This was the last piece of information she offered after stating her major (Learning and Organizational Change and Political Science), hometown (somewhere in New Jersey), and hope for the future (human relations in a corporation and then executive recruiting.) When I learned that she and I were members of the same sorority I offered my hand and we exchanged the secret handshake.

“I haven’t done that in years, ” I said.

“I never expected to do that here,” she said.

“What just happened? Did I miss something?” the boy sitting next to her said.

Memories were confirmed: For years I have tried to confirm the occurrence and particulars of a summer party that had something to do with the university. I lived in Dayton, Oh and have no memory of traveling to a suburb of Cleveland for a summer get-together of either prospective students or accepted, soon-to-be freshmen students, but I do remember being in a classmate’s back yard. I think I remember another friend being there, she had traveled from Columbus, but this friend draws a blank whenever I try to force the memory into and out of her synapses.

The most salient part of the memory is the  backyard soda fountain and ice cream parlor. At the edge of the brick patio, near the grassy expanse of the lawn was a stainless steel home version of Baskin-Robbins. The father of the house treated all guests to a soda or sundae of their choice. I hung out near the chocolate. I remember nothing else of that event.

At the Saturday night party I beeline to the classmate from Cleveland.  She can make or break my memory.

“Did you live outside of Cleveland,” I asked her.

‘Yes,” she said.

“Did you have a summer party one year and served ice cream out of a backyard ice cream parlor?”

“Yes, oh you remember that too?”

“Remember it, I’ve told stories of that party and the ice-cream for years, not quite sure it was true but hoping it was. Thanks for confirming my memory. Now, why were we there in the first place?”

“I don’t remember.”
Memories were awkward: So you haven’t seen someone in a gazillion years and she sees you at the reunion talking to your college boyfriend. Seems just like yesterday. You and he hanging out. In fact, you and he do hang out with a group of friends and have a great relationship.

“Julie, hi,  it’s Susie. How are you?”

“Susie. Hi, it’s great to see you here. Do you remember…”, and I start to introduce said college boyfriend.

“Yes.  Did you two get married?”

This mistaken coupling is not the awkward part of the story. The awkward part happens when my close friend, Abby,  standing with us says: “Oh, almost.” And then laughs. A lot. But my college boyfriend and I didn’t almost get married and we both don’t really know what to say so I just point out my husband, one of the non-alumni spouses watching the Notre Dame football game in the lobby.

Memories were made: I’m sure they were made but I won’t know for sure until I see my friends and classmates again. Will we remember that one of us announced his engagement? Probably. Will we remember that Northwestern beat Iowa for a record of 7-2? Probably not, but we will remember that the football team played better than they ever did when we were there. Will I remember Susie asking me if my college boyfriend and I were married? Not sure. Depends upon how much short-term memory loss I experience between now and the next reunion. And if Susie is there.

Some people are reunion people, others are not. I like them for the memories that are stirred, confirmed and made. I especially like being with people who help me retrieve forgotten memories that when remembered help make my past whole.

Go U Northwestern! Just feeling a little purple pride today.

 

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