Guerrilla Aging: Joan Rivers

Posted on September 5, 2014




I din’t intend to write a post about Joan Rivers.  Many pieces will be written by people far more talented than I am.  But the more I thought about it, Joan Rivers, or rather her mentality, was exactly what I had in mind when I created the Guerrilla Aging segment of my blog.

When I first became aware of Joan Rivers, I thought she was funny. She was funny because she was unfiltered.  Her comedy came from thoughts that I had but rarely shared.  She made it OK for me to have those thoughts.

As the years passed, I became less enamored with her, simply because I’m not a fan of red carpet fashion shows.  It’s not that I have an issue with them.  It’s more that I could better relate if the celebs were wearing fabulous dresses they found at Marshalls or TJ Maxx or at some crazy sale somewhere.

I’m also not a fan of celebrity reality shows, and so I didn’t watch “Joan and Melissa.”

I don’t watch QVC.  I knew she hawked a line of jewelry and appeared on those shows herself. I also knew that she had a clothing line, as well.

I rarely read books written by celebs, meaning never.  I knew she wrote books and I attended one of her author evenings last year.  I simply wanted to see her in person.  She wore stiletto heels and talked non-stop. I bought a book, had it autographed, and skimmed it.

I didn’t watch her celebrity fashion critique show, Fashion Police, except for small snatches. She was funny, but she also often crossed the line into mean-spirited. Even celebs have feelings, right?  Or maybe they don’t.

It has only been in the last few years that I began to look at Joan Rivers in a different way.  The sixties, as fabulous as they are, can also be defined for many by loss: retirement, health and mobility, death of loved ones, adult children off and involved with families of their own. Because I was becoming more and more aware of the winding down nature of life into my 60s,  I realized Joan Rivers, 14 years my senior, had been, all throughout this time, winding up. That’s when I really started to pay attention.

We are all capable of so much more than we believe ourselves to be. Unfortunately,  it usually takes some kind of tragic circumstances to propel us to a higher level. Joan Rivers, having experienced tragedy many years ago, was a good example. But in recent years, she needed no tragedy to keep taking a bigger and bigger bite of her own pie. She grew before my eyes, and I was mesmerized.

Joan Rivers, unlike aging rockers, didn’t need to hold concerts in which she played the music that made her famous, to audiences of adoring grey-heads.  Joan Rivers stayed relevant and stayed one step ahead of her adoring, young fans.  They didn’t have to know about any of the barriers she broke years ago for female comedians.  They only had to watch her now to appreciate who she was.  Each time I watched her, I got a powerful message from her: Life is less about the memory of what came before than it is about what is happening now.  Joan Rivers loved what her life had been.  But she loved more the life she was living in any particular moment.  And she loved best the life she was creating for tomorrow. She was irreverent.  She was outrageous.  She was sometimes distasteful. But she was always more than funny.  She was who we all could be if we lived as though there were no expectations other than our own.

Joan Rivers sat at life’s table.  She demanded the finest linens, china, and utensils.  She always had fresh flowers. She was always served food that was seasoned perfectly.  But when the food called for it, she ate with her hands.  When she dropped her napkin, she wiped her face with the corner of the tablecloth. If she belched, she didn’t apologize.  If others didn’t want to watch her, they could eat in another room. Her dining table was always full, and the seats around the table were always taken.