Through The Looking Glass – I
August 29, 2009
So I think I may have discovered a way to travel through time, well at least in theory.
On August 25, I went to BridgePoint, a senior assisted living community in Beverly Hills. I figured that to understand how love has been interpreted throughout the ages, it might be a good idea to stop, talk, and soak-in some perspective from “The Greatest Generation.”
I went there with the expectation to hear what their views on love were, but I received so much more. It was a romantic flashback to a time when women described their men as “A man about town;” a time that when you said “I do” you did, for 53 and 69 years till death, and even then they’re not apart.
I was smack dab in the middle of the room, a bit nervous, what could my 20’something years worth of living impart to the ten people surrounding me that together totaled over 400 years of experience? I proceeded to tell them what my blog was about and before I could delve deep into the topic of love, I was asked, “What’s a blog?” My nerves quelled as I realized that in an ever changing world there’s always something new to learn no matter how old you are. Ms. Knowles, the Activities Director jumped in and began to explain to them. “Do you remember the film we just saw, Julie and Julia? Do you remember what the girl was writing about with her cooking? That’s a blog.” After a simultaneous “ohhh” I asked them if love had changed. Alice, who was born in 1926, right away, replied,
“It’s changed quite a bit, the attitude has changed. A lot of it has to do with upbringing and religion, whatever religion it is,” she said, “we all need guidelines.” She continued explaining that many people today don’t seem to have strong tenets when going about themselves and relationships.
She continued, “Life was simpler. It’s [marriage] not as sacred as it used to be.”
When asked their thoughts on co-habitation, the room was split, some saying it was a definite no no and others saying it just depended upon the relationship and the couple. Others agreed that co-habituating before marriage dwindled the romance of unfolding a mystery. Some also agreed that it could give some people the illusion once married, that they don’t have to work things out when it gets reasonably tough. Mimi, 93, who met her husband at a Xavier Cougat big band dance agreed, “People live together without the benefit of marriage.” She explained that it was especially not good for the woman, who besides their sensitivities also have to deal with the possibility of pregnancy.
She continued, “I think it’s a lot more stress on the relationship than if you just got married. One of the other parties can just move out during a time when you could have stuck it out. Now you can just leave, just walk out!” When asked how co-habitation was seen back in the day, she said, “For the most part it didn’t happen, it was considered a scandal.”
When asked about how women and men’s attitudes have changed towards sex. They all believed that people have become too relaxed about it. Alice commented that if she were a guy that her views on respect would affect her activity with woman. She said, “If you were a good person, I would think it would bother me to ruin a girl’s reputation.” Pat, an older gentleman then spoke up, “We’re living in a whole new world, and so much has changed so radically. It’s the thing to do so they do it. Now a day it’s pretty well accepted. I went with a gal for four years and had no sex. I was married 69 years.”
Joyce, an older woman, chimed in saying, “I always thought I don’t want my kids to get a disease. To me there’s always that thought. I wanted them to be respective of women, to always be considerate.”
Bea, a 92-year-old Big Band Singer from the 30’s and 40’s, married her husband, a radio and TV announcer, Andre, when she was 21 and was married for 53 years. “I had an eye for him from the beginning,” she said, “He had a magnificent voice.” She adoringly spoke of him as “a man about town.” What made their relationship work? “We had respect for one another. It [love] was so natural. And communication, that was the key, we never yelled at each other,” she said. “We could enter a gallery and split up and by the end of the day; we would be standing in front of the same painting.” The synchronicity in which she described their relationship was one of kindred delicateness furnished with mutual respect, admiration and love.
Many of the folks at Bridgepoint seem to agree that although people married young, a 21-year-old now lacks the maturity in decision making that a 21-year-old had in the past. Pat explained that besides some people having the fortune of good parents, what made him responsible and mature was working as a shoe shiner since he was an 8-year-old. He earned 90 cents to a $1.50 a day, helping provide for his family. It was his sense of responsibility and care for his family that created the structure for his morals and principles.
As I sat and listened, ever so present, I felt as though I was visiting the past, while I looked at the future of what I was to one day become. It was a flash forward and backwards capsulated within the moments of two hours. I inhaled relief and exhaled some worries, for within the subtext of their account existed the roots to a happily ever after story. Yes they had ups and downs, but by no means were their definitions of a healthy relationship structured with as many complications as our generation seems to be riddled with. It was simple for them because their ingredients to love began and ended with their consciousness of principles, morality, responsibility and respect.
Right before I left and after I thanked them Mimi handed Ms. Knowles a brown cut out of a quote that looked like something out of an aged old newspaper. She read it out loud, “They’ve taken the beauty out of art, the melody out of music, the pride out of personal appearance and the Love out of Love Making.”