This does not mean disrespect for Jeanne Roberson whose show is probably as entrancing as she looks, and is said to be very funny.
I couldn’t go because I am so deeply into the idea of redefining age—or ageism, for that matter—and I don’t want to start with a rocking chair.
And maybe not even with a sparkly dress.
A few years ago, there was a lot of talk about redefining what it means to be a man. A lot of talk, and no results. In Bowling Green last weekend, the hotel was populated by enormous men who are in love with cars. In Louisville, the about-to-happen Derby produces adds in the local freebie newspaper for go-go dancers “to spice up your Derby parties.” The big football games still pre-empt every other form of entertainment, and even the news. And an interview with the producer of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was asked if he expected men to see it.
So we haven’t even reached the starting gate on redefining what it means to be a man. In a New Yorker cartoon that came out after the release of Brokeback Mountain, one ancient cowboy asks another, incredulously, “Were we gay?”
Maybe the expansion of all definitions begins with humor, and maybe that is where The Rocking Chair Tour fits in.
We never even got as far as humor when attempting to redefine manhood.
Will humor get us nearer the starting gate when redefining age?
The old fears and opinions, still granite-hard, rule. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reports that some Catholic high schools are issuing 21 pages of rules about what may or may not be worn at proms. If we are afraid of the sexuality hinted at in a teenager’s inch of cleavage or length of naked leg, how will we ever contemplate even the dim suggestion of the same in a woman over seventy wearing a fitted sequined dress? (No cleavage, for sure!)
But if we give up the sequins, the make-up, the hair dye and all the rest of the tiresome and absolutely essential panoply of girl prettiness, what are we left with?
An idea of grayness, dryness.
A sense of removal from the hot pulsing center of life.
There must be a way to turn that rocking chair into a flying saucer, to oar it away with our brooms, into a future far more fearless than the menaced space we barely occupy now.