"growing up in the 40's and 50's, I had classmates who were engaged. that's what girls did at that time.... As I got into my 20's, my mother kept pressuring me to get married. I had absolutely no thought of it, whatsoever." [an interview]Read Now
MW: Just before I turned on the recorder, you were talking about why you hesitate to give unsolicited advice to your grown children.
Anonymous: Yes. Because if your children do not take your advice, they will push away from you. It happens alot, when parents try to pull and rein them in, you really push them the other way. It doesn’t turn out how you think.
And then you take the case of that boy who was just picked up; he kills four people in a drunk driving accident and he gets probation, claiming that he had no moral compass to know right from wrong. His defense for the drunk driving -- he was 16 when he did this -- his defense claimed that because he came from such a wealthy family, they set no rules.
MW: That’s the affluenza guy!
Anonymous: Yeah, so you go from one extreme to another. That one is really extreme. Now, why a jury or a judge would fall for “affluenza,” I do not know. Makes no sense. It's kind of as stupid as that woman from McDonalds who spilled coffee on herself, and she got millions of dollars. How ridiculous was that?
MW: And now they have to write on the cups, ‘Caution, Hot.’ Because before, it wasn’t on there. Because you know it's hot.
Anonymous: How stupid.
Anonymous: I have seen certain products - I can’t remember what -- but it really made me laugh. I don’t remember whether it was a household product or hair product -- but I remember it said ‘Not for human ingestion.’
MW: (Laughs) Yeah, like, you have to be told not to eat this? But that's for the law. But it's all stupid, I see what you’re saying.
Anonymous: Yeah, sometimes people lack common sense. It's almost as if it's been bred out of Americans. Common sense.
MW: How old are you?
Anonymous: 72. I’ll be 73 in April.
MW: What would you go back and tell yourself at 35? Now that you’re 72.
Anonymous: Hmmm. Probably would have gone ahead and graduated from college. But then when I did go back, I had gotten sick. I’d developed thyroid disease and I had part of my thyroid removed. And that was just as I had started college again, and at the time I was in Topeka. What would I do again?
MW: Or what would you tell yourself. Now that you’ve lived all this life, if you could go back and tell her anything, what would it be?
Anonymous: Hmmm. I kind of remember that… I don’t know. I really don’t. (Long pause) I should not have gotten involved with somebody that I got involved with. That’s just something I wish I hadn’t done.
MW: Why? Why shouldn’t you have gotten involved with him?
Anonymous: It just was not good for me.
MW: Hmmm. That’s the thing about life is that sometimes you can’t know what is good for you, until you know what is not.
Anonymous: Until years have passed, until it's gone, and you look back. And we always do stupid things, don’t we?
MW: Did you love him?
Anonymous: I don’t know. I’m not sure. Really, when I think back, I don’t know.
MW: Have you ever been in love?
Anonymous: Hmmm. Not truly, no. When I was growing up, it was the 40s and 50s. I had classmates who were engaged, that's what girls did at that time. You got married and you were a housewife. As I got into my 20s, my mother kept pressuring me to get married. I had absolutely no thought of it, whatsoever. Do you know what an old maid school teacher is?
Anonymous: That was gonna be me. And I was very content. And I knew that as long as I was working, I thought that I’d just continue living at home because when I was in grade school, a lot of my teachers were old maids. They were not old, but that was the connotation. Anybody who was like over 30, I guess, was an old maid. I had numerous teachers, and not just my own personal ones, but in the school system, who were not married, who lived at home.,
MW: With their parents?
Anonymous: Yeah. It was like, I saw nothing wrong with that. And I would have been very happy and this is what I wanted to do, but my mom would say, this one has grandchildren, when are you going to give me grandchildren and get married? But that was the furthest thing from my mind. It would just never, never cross my mind, really. And that’s why I don’t pressure my children. If you want to get married, fine. But don’t do it because you think Mama wants you to.
MW: So what happened? Did you just tired of her saying it and one day…?
Anonymous: I guess. I met somebody, my first husband. He’s the father of my first two children. And we got married. (Long pause). I never stayed married more than five years with either of my husbands. (Laughs)
Anonymous: After my mom died and my dad was sick and I went back to live with my dad because he had diabetes and was suffering from renal failure. He was on dialysis three days a week. He was in the hospital. The doctor told him he could not go home alone. He says, my Sweetie Pie will take care of me. And suddenly I’m getting phone calls -- Dad wants you to come take care of him. I had a wonderful job. And that very day, got a promotion with an increase in salary. I had a really good job. This was like a Thursday night. He says, my Sweetie Pie will take care of me, so my sister calls me and says, this is the situation, and he’s refusing to leave the hospital. The doctor says, either he goes to a nursing home or he has full time care. And he thinks…
MW: You’re gonna do it.
Anonymous: I gave up my job -- I mean this was so rushed, you would not believe. I called my boss that very night and told him what was going on. I said, I'm just gonna have to go take care of my dad. Because by that time my mother was dead and they were divorced by then. He had nobody. Who was gonna do it?
MW: Your sister couldn’t do it?
Anonymous: I don’t know if he asked her.
MW: He wanted you.
Anonymous: (Nods) I never asked. I never did. But he made arrangements for me to fly out. I did this in just a few days.
MW: And you had how many children then?
Anonymous: Five. But at the time, they were all older and on their own except the youngest was in highschool. I wanted to go first before I took him out there. So I moved him in with one of his older siblings and he was fine. Then I moved away and took care of my dad until he died. But one day Daddy and I were sitting outside on the porch and I happened to tell him, I said -- because it was so comfortable-- I said Daddy, this is the way I wanted to live. And then he told me if he had known that my mom was pressuring me he would have put a stop to it. But he said, I never knew that. He never knew. I told him, I said, I would have been so happy, and he said, I didn’t know that’s what you wanted, that you never wanted to get married and have children.
MW: So what do you think, when you look back, which way was better? You told me the other day that you can’t even count your grandchildren. I mean for someone who thought they’d have no children and now you have five children, and…?
Anonymous: About 15 grand-children I think. Now you know that’s ridiculous.
MW: And all these kids are going to go off and have kids. You’re going to be Great Grandma, Great-Great Grandma, Great-Great-Great Grandma.
Anonymous: By that time I’ll be dead.
MW: You’ll be dead but you’ll live on in all these people. And in their memories.
Anonymous: I hope so, and I hope they have good ones. It would be nice. But I never pressured -- and my son always said -- Mama, you never pressured me to get married. But he met this woman and he said he knew right away this is who he wanted to marry. So I’m glad he’s happy.
MW: You’re such an independent woman.
Anonymous: I think so. Probably why my marriages didn’t go too well.
Anonymous: Well in the first place,my first husband was an alcoholic. He was really bad. And the second one, I guess I just didn’t want to be married, really.
MW: Did you want male companionship or you didn’t care?
Anonymous: Didn’t care.
Anonymous: My girlfriends and I, like on Saturday nights we’d go to the bars and dance, meet guys. Let them buy us drinks. Have a lot of fun. That was life. That was fun.
MW: Yeah, you don’t need to like, do their laundry and cook for them… (laughs)
Anonymous: Oh no,no,no. (Laughs) No, no, no, no, no, no. Uh uh.
MW: See, and that’s the thing, it's like, nowadays women may not want to get married, and it's more accepted. But in terms of being more accepted, people say things like, I don’t know with these women nowadays, they don’t want to get married, and they act like that hasn’t always been the case with some people.
Anonymous: Either that or you’re gay.
MW: And why I gotta be gay just because I like my own company?
Anonymous: And it never… getting married was not something I had thought about. It never. It just never crossed my mind. All I wanted to do was teach. Teach high school.
MW: Did you ever become a highschool teacher?
Anonymous: I did some student teaching in a middle school. Middle school was nice. For whatever reason the school administration thought I’d be better teaching elementary. But I didn't want the little ones. A lot of older women seemed to do better with the lower grades but I didn't want that. Upper middle school and high school was what I wanted.
MW: So how did you feel on your wedding day?
Anonymous: I don’t remember.
MW: You don’t remember your wedding day?
Anonymous: No. You’re asking me stuff I don’t remember. I guess it's like out of sight, out of mind. It was not memorable, perhaps. It wasn't the most exciting day of my life.
MW: What was the best day of your life?
Anonymous: Oh my, my, my. (Long pause) The best day? Thats a good question. (Long Pause) That’s neat. (Long pause) One of the best was when I moved here. And I was also excited when I moved back home with my dad. I guess, having my children. And I think when my youngest son was born, I was shocked because I thought I was going to have another girl. (Laughs) I had four girls. I had all girls clothes.
MW: You had to go buy all new stuff!
Anonymous: Mama helped alot. She bought baby boy clothes. But I was like, shocked. Never imagined that I’d have a boy after four girls. I just figured another girl would be nice. I like little girls.
MW: And their clothes are better.
Anonymous: Bigger selection. But he was a nice child. All of them are. They were good children. They were nice children. But I enjoyed coming out here, oh my goodness. When I left to come here, it was was snowing. I was so glad to get out of dodge, I can’t tell you.
MW: I want to go back to something you said earlier. You said when children are grown, you can tell them what to do but they may not take your advice. What does that feel like… when you want different things for them and they aren’t…
Anonymous: Well, because they’re independent. And, you might hope they would listen to you. Quite often I don’t give advice because I don’t think it would be welcome. I think it would be more resented. And sometimes depending upon the situation, it's not welcome. And its more like, you’re interfering. Although they know really down deep, you’re not interfering -- you’re offering the best you can.
MW: And if they feel like you’re interfering, then they don't talk to you. And that hurts.
Anonymous: Right, right. I learned that from my mom. Don’t interfere in your children's lives.
MW: I want to switch gears for a second. I know my grandmother’s mother’s name but that’s all I know about her. What's something you’d want the grandchildren that will never meet you -- your great, great, great, great grandchildren -- what’s something you want them to know about you, from your own mouth?
Anonymous: Oh my. What about me? (Long Pause) Do you mean, like personality wise? I think I'm kind of a reserved person. I have always been. Not quite shy, but reserved. I am -- and I will describe myself as this -- I'm a socialist democrat, and I think that speaks to Bernie Sanders, that’s a term he uses. My daughter always says, Mom is left of left. (Laughs)
MW: (Laughs) Really?
Anonymous: I am a social liberal. Always has been. You know sometimes I wonder where it all came from, my attitude of… when I was growing up, seeing gay guys walking down the street holding hands was not unusual, especially in New York.
Anonymous: I’d go down to the Village -- I used to hang out -- oh my God, I could tell you some stories, since we’re talkin’ -- I need a cigarette first. I used to sneak over to the Village when I was like, between 10 and 12, and hang out in the East Village. James Baldwin was down there one time, and Richie Havens. I’d go hang out with the beatniks. They’d give me cigarettes and buy me coffee.
Anonymous: Somebody would walk me back to the terminal so I’d get the bus and get back home before my mother knew I’d skipped town. She had no idea until I told her.
MW: Are you serious? (Laughs)
Anonymous: She was shocked. She said, that’s where you were? (Laughs) And I’d hang out. I just had the greatest time.
MW: That sounds amazing. Wow. That’s awesome.
Anonymous: I had the best time. I’d just sneak over and go to New York. But getting back to the social issue -- it was quite common. A lot of gays were in the East Village back then so to me it wasn’t unusual. But where my social conscience came from, I’m not sure. I’ve always been like this.
MW: Live and let live.
Anonymous: Around the corner from where I grew up was a beautiful Catholic church, there was a nunnery and the public Catholic school, and some of my neighborhood friends went to the school, and on Saturdays, Catholics went to confession. And quite often my friends would ask me to go with them. I didn’t go to confession but I’d sit on the pew and wait for them, and maybe that's where I developed my appreciation of Catholicism, but when I say appreciation I think I mean the pageantry because a lot of Catholicism I do not subscribe to. But I love the pageantry. When Pope Francis was here, I followed him everywhere. People would text me and I would text back, don't bother me, I'm watching Pope Francis. The whole time he was on TV from the time he came on in the morning I watched every single minute of it. I was enthralled. It was wonderful. I enjoyed it. Like I said, I do not subscribe to all the beliefs or principles but its the pageantry, I love that.
I remember I was at bible study at church and I made the statement that whatever God somebody believes in is fine, and my pastor said, oh no no no, there's only one God. And I had to tell him I disagreed. I believed Buddhists and HIndus and Muslims, Christians, whatever you are, are entitled to believe in whatever God you choose. That's a choice. And just because I am a United Methodist and support my church wholeheartedly, I do recognize other faiths.
MW: I wish more people were like that.
Anonymous: I don’t understand why people aren’t.
MW: Because they believe that just their god is the right one, and telling other people they’re wrong is somehow proving allegiance to their god. That makes them good in their religion.
Anonymous: Yeah. But who's to say you’re not gonna meet a Hindu in heaven? (Laughs)
MW: (Laughs) You get to heaven and see Ganesh chilling with all his arms, like what?!
Anonymous: So, that is their beliefs. Maybe we as Christians may find out that things are not exactly what we thought they were.
MW: And that’s just the thing -- no one knows. No one.
Anonymous: Uh uh.
MW: And folks just be arguing. But how do you know?
Anonymous: I would never try to change someone’s religion. But at the same time, leave me alone about my own. I don't know, did I answer the question? I don’t remember what it was now….
MW: I don’t either. That’s what happens. (Laughs)
Anonymous: (Laughs) You get old and your mind starts wandering. Oh, dear.
MW: So how old do you feel? I feel like no one ever feels their age when they get older.
Anonymous: Seventy-two. I feel like if I didn’t have spinal nerve pain that really hampers me I might feel differently. But this is kind of debilitating, it really is, to be in constant chronic pain. But at least I can still get around somewhat. I mean I'm in pain all the time but I have my mind. That makes a big difference.
MW: It's clear too.
Anonymous: Yes it is. Sometimes I think I'm a little foggy but… you know what I hate about getting old is looking old. That's the one thing that's terrible. When your face starts falling and there's nothing you can do. Well there's something you can do but nobody's sticking needles in my face. I don’t like when you get lines. That part, I don’t like.
MW: My mom feels the same way.
Anonymous: Do you know that older women are the most invisible members of society? There’s been some studies done. We are the most invisible members of society. Its…. people don’t see us. You can see a group of older women and you probably wouldn't be able to tell anybody what they were wearing or what color hair they had. They are just invisible.
MW: That sucks.
Anonymous: We’re just ignored.
MW: Do you feel ignored?
Anonymous: Yeah. Sometimes. Occasionally. But... (Long pause) Maybe occasionally but I wouldn't say it's something that happens on a routine basis.
MW: You gotta get really good at pinching people. (Laughs)