What’s On Your Bucket List?
An article in the New York Times reported that Michelle Obama and her two daughters were in New York City on a recent weekend to see several shows. “The family split up on Saturday night, with Mrs. Obama and a friend slipping into ‘The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess and then congratulating the cast onstage after the curtain went down. …seeing a production of Porgy and Bess had been on her ‘bucket list.’”
That surprised me. That she would want to see Porgy and Bess is no surprise. I’d like to see that myself. What’s surprising is that she has a bucket list—a list of people, events, places she wants to see and experience before she dies. From my perspective she’s much too young for a bucket list.
The same Saturday afternoon that Mrs. Obama was at the theater I attended a concert at a Fort Lauderdale retirement community. It was a classical program performed by a touring group from Rome and was very well done. Every one of the concert attendees had hair as gray as mine, or sported various degrees of no hair. After all, it was a marketing ploy to attract new residents to the facility.
After the concert, the group of friends I was with began to discuss their bucket lists, and Porgy and Bess wasn’t on any of them. It’s curious that a utensil as simple as a bucket has become a symbol of both death, (kick the bucket), and wish fulfillment, (the bucket list). As the chatter of my friends surrounded me, I remained silent.
I recalled Jack Nicholson in the 2007 movie The Bucket List, telling Thomas, his young assistant, “Here’s something to remember when you’re older—never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart.” For many of us who are gray and gay, the wisdom of that advice is self evident—and perhaps learned the hard way.
But part of my inability to contribute to a recitation of bucket list objectives is the fact that I don’t have a bucket list and never have had one. In one sense that’s good. It means that I’ve been too busy achieving the unstated goals I’ve set for myself, whether they are on a list or not, rather than wasting time wishing and fantasizing about them. But in another sense it makes me wonder whether I’ve aimed too low or settled too easily. Maybe I should have a bucket list.
On more than one occasion I’ve told my partner, Howard, twenty-one years my junior, “If I die without seeing another castle or another cathedral, I’ll die just as happy.” I’ve seen my share and by the fourth day of a tour I can’t remember the unique features of the cathedrals seen on days one, two or three. They all blend together—as do the Broadway plays I’ve seen, the national and international memorials I’ve visited, the synagogues and cemeteries I’ve toured, etc. They quickly meld into a quilt of people and places that continue to enrich my life. The addition of one more isn’t a determinative factor in my happiness.
Do I want to see the Taj Mahal before I die? Sure. But I don’t want to be airborne for twenty hours to do it. Do I want to stay at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City and visit the Oak Room where the literary pundits of the thirties and forties held forth?
es. That would be fun, and I may get there yet, although I think the Oak Room has recently been sacrificed in the name of progress, economy, or some other civic virtue. But trekking in Nepal, walking on the Great Wall of China, snorkeling in the Red Sea—been there, done that.
I’ve also told Howard, “If I die without having another orgasm, I’ll die just as happy.” But that’s because I’ve had a lot more orgasms than he’s had. If my math is right, the age difference gives me twenty-one year’s worth of orgasms, some Viagra enhanced, that he’s still working on. I don’t need one more sexual convulsion to convince me that sex is good, and good sex is a gift of the gods to be cherished. In fact, a feature of the aging process I value is that, having experienced a lot, I can be more selective in choosing new experiences, new places, new partners with whom to be intimate.
The bottom line is that there’s no gold medal for having the longest or the shortest list. He who kicks the bucket is nonetheless dead. So don’t worry about the bucket list. As one pundit observed, “Don’t take life too seriously. No one gets out alive.”
John Siegfried, a former Rehoboth resident, lives in Ft. Lauderdale. He is the author of Gray & Gay, A Journey of Self-acceptance. Email John Siegfried.