This week I was the closest to Oprah that I may ever be in my life, geographically. She was in Edmonton for some kind of concert. I didn't go, but I did hang out downtown the day that she was here in the hopes that I might run into her at Dairy Queen or whatever. No such luck, and I don't know what I would have said or done had I actually seen her in person, but it would be a great anecdote to dust off at a party, because everyone at that party would love to hear an Oprah story.
My theory is that everyone has an Oprah story of their own. Whether you love or hate her, she has been such an ever-present figure in pop culture for so many years and her show was on every day, that every person remembers an episode or a guest or something to do with her. I had a great uncle, for instance, that I barely ever saw and who died when I was quite young. If memory serves he had throat cancer and skin cancer and some other cancer and his final years were rough. But he said he saw an Oprah once about conjoined twins and there was one set attached at the forehead. He said something like, "If those gals can get up and face the world every day, I sure as hell can." I met a drunk girl at a party once who told me that her mother had seen an Oprah about depression and realized that her youngest daughter (drunk girl's sister) exhibited a lot of the signs and began to take her to counseling. Drunk girl insisted that "Oprah saved my sister's life!" When my best friend Ryan and I were teens, we were watching an Oprah that was about teens and there was a pre-taped bit from confused parents and one mother said, "The word I keep hearing is 'poser'! What's a poser? Am I a poser? Is Dad a poser?" I don't know why we found it so funny, but Ryan and I will still say to each other, "Am I poser? Is Dad a poser?" But the Oprah episode that remains so resonant with me is a medical one where they determined Your Real Age.
Oprah had this doctor on who said he had devised a test which would tell the participant his or her Real Age. It used factors of biology, genetics, but mostly lifestyle, which was the selling point of the book they were hawking. So if you were thirty years old but smoked and drank and topped your pizza with pretzels and marijuana cigarettes, your Real Age was 56 or something. Oprah was jazzed to take the test and this was when she was in a thinner period so she was all to happy to boast that she exercised daily and ate celery instead of birthday cake. She was in her forties at the time and they said her Real Age was 33. You could tell she was pissed. She thought she'd be 17 or something. She said, "I also cut out drinking coffee altogether. I know how bad coffee is for you." And the doctor said, "Oh coffee doesn't really do anything to you one way or the other" and I thought she was gonna fly into a rage. A funny post-script to this Oprah moment is that when I looked up the Real Age guy, it was Dr. Oz! So this must have been an early appearance before he became her pet or her son and was issued his own spin-off talk show, that's mostly about what your poop means. But I don't give a shit about that (ha ha HA!) because it's the Real Age thing continues to fascinate me today.
Dream: Create my own Real Age test.
Goal: Achievable. Remember when somebody's age was one of the most important factors in your relationship to them? In school, for instance, having a friend even one year younger or older than you was just weird! But now, even though it makes me sound like a Dateline-calibre predator, it's clear to me that biological age is a pretty artificial stricture when it comes to connecting with people. I have friends and coworkers who are younger and older than I am, sometimes by quite a few years, but it really isn't something I notice. I remember at one cashiering job teasing a guy called Anthony because a new hairstyle made him look like Tony Danza circa Who's the Boss. I did my best "SaMANtuhhh!" and asked him what Mona was up to, then explained the reference when he didn't get the joke and he said, "I was born in 1992." But except for that exchange, our nearly ten year age difference didn't come up around the cash register. So age as it translates to years on the planet isn't the best indicator of how old someone truly is, and it's time someone came up some new methodology.
Plan: Create new factors which indicate your real age. You can do this at home! Using your biological age as a guide, find your new age with this handy guide.
1) Do you have to take your pants off when you get home from somewhere? Add 5 years.
2) Have you ever broken up with someone by text? Subtract 7 years.
3) Have you smoked salvia? Subtract 5 years.
4) Did you just Google "salvia"? Add 5 years.
5) When you're having a shitty day, do you blame "the universe" (subtract 10 years, baby), blame yourself (subtract 5 years, drama queen), or take action to ensure your day is less shitty? (Add 10 years, you wise old soul).
6) Remember the episode where Joey thinks DJ was drinking at a school dance but she was just with some boys who were drinking and sprayed some beer on her dress and Joey told Danny and Danny punished DJ and she said, "I can't believe you would take his side instead of your own daughter!" (You are exactly as old as me)
7) Would you drop everything for a roadtrip to an outdoor musical festival? (-5)
8) Do you sometimes catch your own face in the mirror and see your parent staring back at you? (+5)
9) Turn on your contemporary rock radio station right now. Add 1 year for every song that plays where you can name neither the title or artist. If you use an app to cheat and identify the title/artist, you don't need to worry about this one as you are a young person.
10) Do you ever look at your bowl of cereal while grabbing breakfast in the kitchen with your boyfriend and think, "This is MY bowl! In MY kitchen! With MY boyfriend! Is this my life?" Then I don't know what to add or subtract because I don't feel young or old but I feel this feeling nearly every day.
Okay, maybe Dr. Oz is smarter than I give him credit for (although he can't be that smart because he's always wearing scrubs on his show like he just came from surgery and it's like give it up, man, we know you're a doctor, alright?) because this Real Age stuff is hard. I don't think it is arbitrary minutiae like pop songs or salvia or apps that tells you how old you are. I know I feel young when I can stand for an eight hour shift, head to the bar and dance and drink the night away, and I know I feel super-old the morning after. I am as young as my youngest friend when they say something new and insightful that I've never heard before but completely agree with and I think, "My mind has been BLOWN!" But I am as old as my eldest friend who says something I've long held to be true and I think, "It's always been that way, hasn't it?"
I'm never sure just how old or young I am supposed to feel because of the Oprah effect in my own life. I feel like I'm moderating a new episode every day because there's always someone new to meet and something new to learn. And sure, there are some days when I'm vegetative and parked on the couch with ice cream and cookies (just like Oprah, you can be damn sure), but most of the time I feel like the host of my own show, the writer of my own magazine, the head of my OWN channel, and I figure stuff out for myself. Otherwise, what does that make me? Am I a poser? Is Dad a poser?