Viet Nam was the backdrop to my youth.
I cried for hours when President Johnson announced he wasn’t going to run.
Though I worked for anti–war candidates, I intuitively knew that he was a great domestic leader who had done more for the country than any president since FDR.
When I began college in 1968, freshman girls in my school had a 10:30 PM curfew on weekday nights and One AM on weekends.
Two years later the dorms were coed.
I don’t think I need to go into the history of the era it’s documented everywhere. And I’m writing my own memoir because I do have the nerve to think I had a life that was a bit more interesting than average.
In the late 1970’s I formed a woman’s group that met at my apartment every Saturday for years. One of the members went to grad school for Human Resources, and immediately became a vice president at a major movie studio.
Even she wondered about her place in the world; how she fit in both the work and social worlds.
We four had endless discussions that lasted way after the meetings ended and nights had begun.
I admit I began the group in part to get my boyfriend out of the house, on my day off (his was everyday,) but the meetings turned into something we all remember as a turning stone in our lives.
How do I understand which of my problems belonged to the era? And which belonged to nonverbal learning disorder (NLD)? Remember I didn’t know I had NLD. I thought I was the most grounded psychotic in the history of the world.
I understand it might be hard for many women in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s now to understand the insecurities even the most successful of women felt then.
But our place in the world was precarious. Women were just entering the professional workforce in droves. Women had never been real police people before.
Couples were getting married and divorced in records numbers in part because the rules and roles were changing and we didn’t understand the new ones. Basically because there were no new rules.
Our lives were uncharted. If we confused our depression era, World War Two became-grown-up-in-parents, we confused ourselves more.
There was solidarity in our confusion. Us girls became friends with males–both Gay and straight; and had friends-with-benefits long before somebody made up that term. I will never apologize for the way I lived. Except for the messes it had nothing to do with NLD.
I searched for my birth mother, and in the process discovered a cult of deeply troubled people who used their being adopted as an excuse for everything from a hangnail to heroin addiction and more.
I would never say that every adoption is a good one, but problems are never usually caused by one thing. That was one of the few things I knew to be a truism.
Life in the 1970’s and 1980’s was a confusing time. Maybe people in other areas of the country hung onto old ways, had traditional marriages and careers, but in New York and Boston–the two places I knew best—the times they were a changing. And changing fast.
Understand this. I wouldn’t have traded most of those years for anything.
Yes I had problems but more than that, much more than that, I had more friends than I could have ever imagined; good jobs; a rent-stabilized-mini-loft-studio just off Fifth Avenue on East 63rd Street that was perfect for being alone in; perfect for small groups; perfect for large parties—and I had incredible ones twice a year.
It wasn’t so good for sharing with a boyfriend but I had boyfriends I could share it with.
It wasn’t a convenient location. There were no laundromats I could walk to, supermarkets or drug stores.
But the owner of the ripoff store a few blocks from my house had a crush on me and would send over things he thought I should have, not what I ordered, when I was sick. He wouldn’t charge me. How he thought Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup was a good soup to be sick to, I have no idea.
Especially when I was recovering from food poisoning I had gotten at Marigold’s a restaurant right next to the ripoff store. My date, a pretty well known Soho art dealer and celeb in his own mind was droning on and on.
The salmon had a sauce; I couldn’t tell if the salmon was off, the sauce was gross, or I was so bored I was imagining my food to be deadly. (The conversation I had with myself was the best part of the night.)
The next morning I made it downtown to Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, one of what was called “the big fifteen” law firms where I was supervising a project for another company. Within hours I was holding onto walls. They paid for a cab to take me home. Cabs and meals when you worked late were the two big perks for a paralegal.
I didn’t really think on the first two days home—-too busy being sick. On the third day I resolved never to eat on a date again unless I truly felt comfortable. Then after a major relapse a few hours later I resolved never to go on a date again..
That lasted until I fell in lust a few months later.
The day a Duane Reade opened on East 58th Street between Park and Madison was one of the happiest days of my life. Really. I had to go at 8AM on Saturdays as it was the least crowded time of the week but that was a small price to pay.
Then came Korean groceries on Lexington Avenue. Open 24 hours a day they brought less pricey food, flowers and safety to the neighborhood.
Gay owned card shops seemed to open everywhere. And flower shops. $10 bouquets of roses. There was a beauty to New York I didn’t remember seeing before, except in the parks, the flower district (parts of the West 30’s and West 20’s,) and the West Village.
Laundry remained a problem. But I had Alexanders, Bloomingdales and then the Limited to solve pesky wardrobe problems. Now I have my first washer/dryer. After six years they’re still a miracle to me.
I traveled often. The first time I went to Europe alone I was 20. After that I had friends to visit, people to visit and much more.
And you think my life was sad? Filled with gloom and doom? My Gay friends began getting sick. At first we didn’t know what was wrong. After three years there was a name we could affix to the problems. AIDS was one of the biggest tragedies of my life. I get angry at younger Gay men who don’t take it seriously. Then I think: “why should they?” Progress is a wonderful thing.
I talk about the problems of NLD but I don’t talk about the good things it has caused because I don’t know what good things about me are a product of my personality, family background, the times I came of age in, or NLD.
It’s easy to talk about the problems on this page. I never thought people would find me to be a harbinger of gloom and doom. I have regrets, and thought that normal. I wish I could do many things I can’t do but….
Ok I know I would have accomplished much more had I been able to master tech things that seem to come naturally to most people. I would love to be more organized. But in the scheme of life I think I’ve done really well, and I am proud of myself.
And I hope to live long and prosper. Kinehora!