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On the Outs, and Loving Every Minute

Why should we care about staying current?

March 30, 2004|Betty Rollin | Betty Rollin is the author of "First, You Cry" (HarperCollins, 1976) and "Last Wish" (Perseus Books, 1985) and a contributing correspondent for PBS.

It's spring and I have a new goal. I am trying to be more "out of it." The very phrase, "out of it," is out of it, so I am off to a good start. The other reason I am optimistic is that, if truth be told, I have been out of it for a while, but I'm just now turning it into something I want to be, instead of something I don't want to be.

For example, in the past I've felt a bit foolish having never seen the TV shows "The Sopranos" or "Sex and the City" -- the reason being that no matter how well done they were/are alleged to be, they sound trashy to me. I was never inclined to make the acquaintance of mobsters, even those who regularly have their heads shrunk. And I was somehow less than curious to learn about the sex habits of women who wore very high heels. In fact, we don't have HBO, which I know our friends in New York, where we live, think is odd.

I say "we." Yes, my husband is in this with me. Since he is a math professor, he has had a really good start. I don't know whether you know any mathematicians, but if you mention, say, J.Lo to a mathematician, he is likely to think you are talking about something red that is refrigerated. I know who J.Lo is, but I don't want to know. In fact, she is largely responsible for my new goal because I decided that something is wrong with my life if I know who she is or isn't on the verge of marrying. And it's not just J.Lo. It's everyone in showbiz. I have nothing against them personally. I just feel my head can absorb just so much information and, now that I'm getting older, I'm pickier about what's in there.

I confess I got somewhat hooked by the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" show on TV (which may be "in it" in some social worlds but is wildly out of it in mine), but we have never seen "Friends," "Everybody Loves Raymond" or any of those other people everyone loves. Nor have we seen any of those reality shows, except once for five minutes. I don't know about you, but my life is too short for even five minutes of Donald Trump.

We do go to the movies now and then and have a nice time. But that's because we don't see any of the movies you're supposed to see. I saw previews of some of the Oscar winners, for example -- and, although they seemed awfully well done, they looked upsetting.

My husband and I are also united on the sports front. He has a passing interest in University of Wisconsin football games -- his alma mater -- but there it ends. I have never been to a professional game -- not football, not basketball, not baseball. I've noticed we can get away with virtually zero interest in sports in New York, but not in the rest of the country, where you run the risk of not only being out of it but being thought weird and snooty.

This is not only about show business and sports, however. (I may be about to lose you here.) We don't have a car. Partly that's because of living in New York, but not entirely, because many of our friends have cars. Did I mention that I don't drive? Not that I don't have a driver's license. You can't live in the United States and not have a driver's license. You would never be able to get on an airplane. Obviously, I learned to drive once. But I haven't done it in 30 years or so. When I lived in Los Angeles, I bought the only car I ever owned -- a green Hudson for $100. Sometimes we rent a car to go out of town. (My husband can drive.) There's always an embarrassing moment when they ask , "Do you prefer a Chevy Camarro or a -----." As if we know one car from another. My response is usually, "Red would be nice."

More? I don't have a cellphone. Perhaps, if I had a car, or a child, I'd have a cell. But I have neither and I don't live in the jungle -- there are public phones everywhere -- and I don't understand the people I see crossing the street against the light, phone to their ear, arranging a business deal or having a fight with someone who, in my opinion, they should remove from their lives.

I do e-mail, but that's pretty much it. I don't "surf the Web" or enter "chat rooms" or buy anything online. I like stores, and I'm not interested in making friends with people who are invisible and who have only first names.

Here's the big one: I seem to have lost my ambition. Not to be ambitious is a great way to be out of it. First of all, you stay home more. Some of the time you're home, you're horizontal. That is, reading or napping. Now and then, someone will call and say something like, "I won't keep you long. You must be so busy." I've learned not to say, "No, it's all right. I'm just lying around reading Proust," because it throws people. They think you're having a breakdown.

The big enemies of out-of-it-ness are, of course, guilt and shame. You have to get rid of both. I'm well along the way. Occasionally there is slippage. When I look out our apartment window, for example, and see everyone scurrying about, I start to feel I should be out there too. But the feeling goes away when I turn around and eat a peach yogurt.

Is out of it a better place to be than in it? Well, in many ways -- if you're interested in stuff like happiness, self-acceptance and peace of mind -- I think it is.

But that's probably because I'm out of it.

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