What happened to the girl who used to be you?

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Years ago I saw a movie, a disc rented from Netflix, called “Shirley Valentine” (1989).  It sounded like a fun, chick flick comedy, and I was in the mood for something light.  I was watching it alone — don’t remember if Mr. Silver Nail was out of town or at his bowling night or whatever — but when the theme song started, I sat bolt upright, shocked by its appropriateness.

The song is called “The Girl Who Used to Be Me,” sung by the very talented Patti Austin, and the lyrics hit home more than almost any other song I’ve ever heard.  So what was going on with me at the time?  Hell, what wasn’t going on with me at the time?  Menopause, an empty nest — more or less a buffet of craptastic midlife non-choices.

A bird is born to fly, born for the moment, it takes to the sky
And all its dreams are riding on its wings
But if it falls, the dreams aren’t broken
As long as the wind is fair, the sky is always there

Oh, the girl who used to be me, she could fly, she was free
You could read by the light of her smile
Yes, the girl who used to be me used to go dancing
She’s been gone such a long, long while

Yeah, I used to go dancing, for hours and hours at a time.  Those days were long gone.  Pushing the vacuum cleaner doesn’t count as dancing.

She left without a sound, nobody noticed she wasn’t around
And only the moon remembers her at all
The days go by, you start asking questions
And wondering why, why did the dreams all go?
I guess it’s time to know

Would anybody notice if I wasn’t around?  Why and where did the dreams all go?

Oh, the girl who used to be me, she could fly, she was free
And she wrote all the words to her song
Yes, this girl who used to be me, used to go dancing
And I feel she’s been gone too long

I’d like the chance to be the girl who used to be me

The movie is fun yet bittersweet, very ’80s in its hair, makeup, clothes, etc., if you get a kick out of that.  The plot, in a nutshell is this:  Shirley’s a middle-aged, bored, ignored housewife in Liverpool who wonders what happened with her life.  She had dreams.  Where did they go?  She’s so lonely she talks to the walls.  Then her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece and takes Shirley along.  I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.  (Warning, some profanity and nudity, plus some very thick British accents that might take some getting used to.)  As of this writing you can watch the whole thing on YouTube in low-res, although it may disappear at any time.

Shirley Valentine

Now, I have no wish to leave my husband or have an affair (although winning a vacation would be very, very cool), but I certainly could sympathize with Shirley.  It’s that “Invisible Woman” syndrome I’ve written about here and here.

So what can you do?  You can sulk.  Drink.  Overeat.  Do nothing.  Watch chick flicks.  Or you can pull yourself up by your bra straps and get busy.  Think about what you used to enjoy doing and why you’re not doing that any more.  As I said, I loved to dance but didn’t have anyone to dance with.  OK, fine then, I’ll dance with myself and that’s what I do now, via my Xbox and the game Dance Central.  I know dancing with CG avatars isn’t the same as dancing with real people, but it’s still a lot of fun.  And good exercise.

Think of what the girl who used to be you really loved doing.  Riding a bike?  Eating ice cream?  Running through the sprinklers?  Wearing a little glitter or sparkle?  Lying in a hammock for hours reading a new library book?  Then find time to fit those things back in your life.  As Shirley says, “Why do we get all this life if we don’t ever use it?”

Use all this life that’s been given to you.  Play.  Have fun.  And have a great weekend!


2 responses »

  1. You’re discussing an issue I’ve been dealing with for the last 6 months or so. I’ll be reminiscing about an event, realize it occured 20, 30 or even 40 years ago and be gobsmacked. Where did the time go? What happened to all the trouble I was supposed to cause? I am horrified that I have never even been arrested for disorderly conduct! Okay, I’ll stop being maudlin on your blog. Thanks for the reminder about Shirley Valentine. And sorry for being late, but I LOVE the pic of your mohawk! Of course you’re wearing Zoya. lol

    • Wow, tell me about the reminiscences. I’ll be thinking something happened just a few years ago, then I start counting and hit 35 or so. :-O

      It’s never too late to stir things up. I have a list of “100 Thing To Do Before I Die” (don’t want to call it a “bucket list,” although it’s the same thing), and that helps me get things done, to see them actually written down. While I don’t think I want to be arrested, I was horrified to realize that I’d never marched in a peaceful demonstration. So I did that. I volunteered to be an extra in a movie, one that unfortunately died in post-production and never saw the light of day but oh well. Got that Mohawk. Visited Las Vegas. Walked a half-marathon. Again, it’s never too late — go stir up some trouble!!


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