"If Everybody Else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?"---our parents
Everybody Else still runs marathons in record times, still has their natural hair color, gets mistaken for their daughter's sister, and can beat their teen-age son at basketball.
Does Everybody Else realize that without their shadow we might learn contentment?
Everybody Else. As well known as they are nondescript, as ubiquitous as they are shadowy, we've all heard of them, yet no one I know has met them in person.
As teens we invoked their name whenever we needed our parents' permission or their sympathy. You remember: "But Mom, Everybody Else is spending the weekend at the lake." "But Dad, Everybody Else failed the algebra test too."
Yet our parents weren't buying it. In fact, they had their own reply memorized: "If Everybody Else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" (Of course, this was before bungee cords or they wouldn't have planted the thought).
As young adults we lost track of Everybody Else. They were the ones who went to colleges we didn't attend and entered professions we didn't choose. Everybody Else married when we remained single or remained single when we married.
But it didn't matter. As young adults we didn't care about Everybody Else. We were charting our own course, steering our own ship. We would succeed in our own way, and if there was anything we didn't want, it was to be like Everybody Else.
Yet in recent years Everybody Else has come back to haunt us. The group we invoked as teens and revoked as young adults now provokes us in midlife. You've heard the complaints.
Everybody Else has the perfect midlife body. They don't struggle with (pick one) an expanding waist line, sagging skin, thinning hair, or stiff and sore muscles. Everybody Else still runs marathons in record times, still has their natural hair color, gets mistaken for their daughter's sister, and can beat their teen-age son at basketball.
And speaking of children, Everybody Else's children graduate at the top of their class, star on high school athletic teams and play lead parts in dramas and concerts. They've never taken a drink of alcohol, never smoked a cigarette, or chewed, never skipped school, never lied to their parents, never done any of the destructive things we did as teens. Like their parents, they are focused and successful, on their way to the most prestigious universities on full academic scholarships.
Of course, even if Everybody Else's children didn't have financial help for college, money is no problem because Everybody Else is loaded. No victims of corporate downsizing here. While we were laid off or stagnated in midlevel jobs, they remained and advanced. Now they are financially independent, ready to retire in a few short years with more monthly income than the rest of us gross in a year.
Just once I'd like to meet Everybody Else. I'd like to ask them if they realize how much envy and restlessness they've provoked in me and my midlife friends. Do they realize that without their high profile the rest of us might not get so down on ourselves? We might learn to appreciate our accomplishments more, maybe even forgive ourselves for failures.
Does Everybody Else realize that without their shadow we might learn contentment? Instead of envying what they have, we might give thanks for what we have; we might even decide we are blessed.
But I can't talk with Everybody Else because I can't find them. I've searched, but just when I think I've got one spotted, when I see one who looks the part, a short visit lets me in on the imperfections. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if our parents knew something we don't. Maybe Everybody Else really did jump off that bridge.
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