I’ve always featured myself to be a bit of a rebel. I’m not sure when or how this self-view started. The first example I remember is in picking the college I’d attend. My sister went to Douglass (then the women’s college of New Jersey). Seven years later, my brother enrolled at Rutgers (the men’s college). The next year, everyone assumed I’d go to Douglass, especially when I was early accepted, even though I didn’t apply for that. I played the rebel and picked Pembroke, the women’s college of Brown University.
By my senior year at Brown, my contrarian tendencies had fixated on motorcycles. I wanted to buy one when I had enough money. That would be a long time off, but it turned out it wouldn’t matter. I visited a store and discovered that I was too short for even the smallest machine that was available back then. My feet didn’t touch the ground when I straddled it as though stopped at a traffic light. When I leaned far enough to one side for my foot to reach the ground, the bike fell over.
While my family might have considered my next phase rebellious, my peers would have seen it as predictable. I became the family hippie. My hair was so long I could sit on it and I wore Jesus sandals that laced up to my knees. That wore thin after awhile. Besides, I was working in Manhattan for what was then a Big Eight accounting firm. CPAs didn’t approve of Jesus sandals.
Now that I’m retired, I’ve started to think fondly about becoming a rebel again. The problem is that I don’t have a cause to protest against. I don’t even have a flag to fly to advertise my rebellion. Let’s face it, when folks reach my age, there’s a fine line between rebelling and being an eccentric old coot.
One thing I’ve considered now and again is dying my hair a weird color. Not all of it. Just a big swath down the middle. Some older women can pull this off, especially if they have short hair, as I do. I never quite reach the point of doing this, because I can’t decide on the right color. Sometimes I think it’s purple; other times fuchsia. Maybe even orange. Then again, bright chartreuse could be an option. But never blue; that's an "old lady" tint. As you can see, crazy hair isn't likely to be my first foray into late-life rebel-hood.
I’ve also thought about getting a tattoo. This won’t seem rebellious to most people, since so many women who are otherwise traditional have tattoos these days. I’ve tried to make the case (to myself) that getting my first tattoo after age seventy would qualify as a contrarian act. That dog doesn’t seem to hunt. It may be because I’m not wild about the idea of getting poked by needles again now that I no longer need yearly blood work as part of my cancer follow up. But stick-on tattoos are a cop out.
The final idea I’ve come up with is to wear a long, dangly feather in one ear. This also fails to take flight when I remember that I have a short neck. And also now two cats who would almost certainly see this as one more toy for them to play with. For sure, a neck full of scratches and an earlobe stretched to within an inch of its life would push me over the edge into eccentric. If I’m going to wear that label, I’d rather do it because I’ve rescued six more cats. (Don’t panic, Jagdish; that’s not happening.)
It looks like I’m going to have to accept the fact that at this point in my life, I’m destined to be a rebel without a cause.