Recently while discussing parenthood with a young mother, I mentioned the need to repeat certain lessons "like a broken record." She looked at me as if I'd lapsed into another language, and I realized I had, sort of. The language of The Olden Days. Suddenly I felt as obsolete as the phrase.
It reminded me of a story told to me in the 1980s by a Honolulu radio colleague. He had just made his weekly visit to Tower Records. Two attractive young women browsing the classic rock section caught his eye, and he thought he'd introduce himself and offer assistance, or at least his professional opinion. As he approached, one of them squealed, "Oh, look! Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings!" My friend kept walking.
It's always a rude awakening when some young whippersnapper reminds us, however innocently, that we're not the young whippersnappers any more. What do they call whippersnappers these days, anyway?
Having started my broadcasting career at 17, I'd always been the youngest person in my peer group. I was well into my 40s before I realized that was no longer the case. And now that I'm over 50, I'm fine with that. Because most of the time, I feel ageless. I am lucky to be blessed with good health and good genes. And good examples, provided by my eternally youthful mother and the many active folks I see through my work at Kaunoa Senior Services. They've taught me that passion is the key. If you're passionate about something, whether it's a hobby, a person, or life itself, you don't have the time or energy to feel old.
I have several passions; one of them is dance. All kinds of dance. I don't even need music; I'll move to the beat of a dripping faucet. But I really love good old-fashioned club dancing: old school funk, classic rock, down and dirty blues. It's both exercise and therapy for me, and I try to get in at least a couple of sessions each week. Like going to the gym. My Willie K regimen is Mondays at Stella Blues, Tuesdays at Casanova; Saturdays, I'm sweating to the 8-Track Players at Kahale's. And then there's Flashback Fridays, twice a month, at Maui Beach Hotel.
You can't help but feel like a kid again when you're getting down on the very same dance floor in the very same ballroom of your glory days. Only, back then, the name of the room was the Red Dragon and the name on my ID was not my own. The legal drinking age was 18, so it was easy for us to pass with a little makeup and a borrowed card. At 16, I wasn't really a drinker; I just wanted to dance. And dance we did, to the music of bands like Asian Blend and Glass Candle, swaying on our platform heels, nursing our Singapore Slings and Tequila Sunrises.
Flash forward to 2011. Fueled by club soda (three's my limit), I spend the entire night on the dance floor, with or without a partner. I lose myself in the music and become a Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only 17. OK, maybe not 17. More like . . . ageless.
That's how I felt a couple of weeks ago, dirty dancing at Maui Beach. The place was packed with couples my age, some of whom probably danced together there 35 years ago, and energetic 30-somethings, gyrating to music they remembered from their hanabata days. Oh, sorry - another Olden Days term.
So anyway, I was having a ball dancing with myself, when a handsome young man, a local boy, wiggled his way into my space. Following dance floor etiquette, we made eye contact, exchanged smiles, then proceeded to burn up the floor. He was a great dancer and we moved well together. As the song ended - I think it was "Brick House" - he leaned in and whispered breathlessly into my ear, "Wow, Auntie! You sure can dance!"
Auntie?! AUNTIE??!!! My inner tita hissed, "I not your auntie! If I was, I would tell you go home already, past your bedtime! Gunfunnit whippahsnappahs!" Of course, I didn't say
that out loud. I knew he was trying to be respectful, and I appreciated the gesture. But it's one thing when children say it, and quite another when it's coming out of a face that looks as young as you feel. Or felt, until the rude awakening.
I'm getting used to it, though. I no longer flinch when the waiter or the checkout clerk calls me Auntie; in fact, I even smile graciously. And I keep on dancing. Maybe I'll see you on the dance floor one of these nights, and we'll share a timeless, ageless moment. If so, just remember one thing. I not your auntie.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.