A rebel without claws | News, Sports, Jobs


The first tremors of the aging apocalypse hit a few years ago – when we realized AARP magazine was the most interesting read in the house. Obviously, there was something seriously wrong here: Bill and I couldn’t be old enough to be the target audience. There was also something seriously wrong with Willie Nelson gracing the cover. His chronological age didn’t matter; why would a country music outlaw be featured in a mainstream senior magazine? The world goes haywire when the dissidents of my youth become respectable.

I had always heard that people become more conservative as they get older. And I swore early on that it would never happen to me. As a teenager, I used to brag about being a maverick — whatever that means when you’re a middle-class kid in a small town. I was frank. I challenged authority. I wore tie-dyes and camouflage pants instead of the Reagan-era uniform of button-up oxfords and chinos. So in retrospect, I represented a Wonder Bread version of the rebellion, but I was still very proud to go my own way.

Recently, I was reminded of this when a high school friend, Bill Brosen, sent me an article about Alice Roosevelt. Alice was Teddy’s brash daughter who upset both the White House and polite society. Exasperated, Teddy once uttered, “I can either run the country or take care of Alice, but I can’t do both.” Alice was fiery and outrageous; smart and witty.

Brosen’s message to me was, “All I could think was that she [Alice] reminded me of you… the great troublemaker. By flexing my long-neglected rebel muscles, I felt honored. With Springsteen “Born to Run” echoing in my brain, my teenage self was awakened.

But later that day, I met a nice lady, who kindly shared that she enjoyed reading this column. In turn, I blushed and awkwardly tried to show him my sincere gratitude. To be honest, I always secretly puff up when someone says they’re a reader. Ah, but pride is a dangerous thing.

As I basked inwardly in that glory, she added: “It’s just nice to read something so wholesome.”

I knew it was a compliment and took it as such.

But it shook me to my core.

This description was in stark contrast to how I have always defined myself. Had I sold in my old age? I can accept that I will never wear a bikini again, that my high heels have been replaced by sensible shoes and that my music is called classic rock. But has someone who was born to thwart the system ever been called sane?

Healthy – soothing like a glass of milk and a plate of cookies. Moral, uplifting and virtuous…wait a minute. These are all positive attributes.

In fact, why would that be a problem?

After some soul-searching, I realized that these traits weren’t flaws, and in a weird, twisted way of being “healthy” makes me a bit of a maverick. This epiphany was a relief, as it tied my fiery dissent to my more mature approach. This change of method, I attribute it to my wise husband. He kindly reminded me throughout our marriage that “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

And what are the dominant tendencies that I kindly fight against?

Ironically, a phrase that has been used, “Politeness is poison” boil my blood. I respectfully disagree. Being polite doesn’t mean giving in.

Politeness is a bridge and an indication of respect no matter where you stand on a subject. Abrasiveness is a wall leading to a “U.S. against them” mentality. In reality, there is no “their,” There is only “we.” So if I’m guilty of going against the grain by seeing the best in people, honoring their ideas, and keeping things light, let that be my rebellion.

When Willie Nelson was asked about staying true to himself as he got older, he replied: “I don’t think my attitude has changed. I always do what I want to do and I suggest everyone else do the same. So, Willie, you didn’t sell, but me?

As I sit in the dark, drink my coffee, and listen to the morning news, I go through a self-assessment.

Has my attitude changed?

No.

Am I more conservative?

I do not think so.

Am I still a disruptor at heart?

A categorical yes, but much more civil.

So what’s the result?

Guess that makes me a milk and cookie renegade.

And I agree with that.

But for now, I’ll pass on the prune bars. Leave that to the old people.



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