I’ve been camera shy my whole life. Whenever I saw a camera pointed in my direction, I’d do my best to get out of the shot. I marveled at people who started vogueing the minute they saw a lens.
Paradoxically, one of my jobs as a public relations consultant was to get my clients in front of the media. I would tell photographers and cameramen I didn’t want to be in any shots and stayed purposely out of camera range. When my family and friends found out I’d been with someone famous, they always asked “Did you get a picture with him/her?” Nine times out of ten the answer was no. Then they’d chide me for being an idiot for missing the opportunity. There were those times when a photographer would pull me into a shot and take me out of my comfort zone.
When I decided to start blogging, I realized that finding photos to go with some of my posts could be a challenge. There are whole chapters of my life that I have no visual record of because I wouldn’t let anyone take my picture. And, in many of the photos I do have, I look like a deer in a headlight.
However, there were two photographers who were exempt from my ‘Don’t shoot me’ rule. Mort and Alese Pechter were the official photographers for my client DEMA (the trade association for the scuba industry), and they traveled with me wherever I went. Given that I was the spokesperson for the association, I couldn’t shy away from their cameras. The Pechters made it painless, and luckily for me, graciously agreed to photograph events I was producing for other clients. I’m grateful for the beautiful pictures they took of me over the years.
It has been many years since the Pechters shadowed me with their cameras. In those years, thanks to the global proliferation of people who have cellphones with built-in picture-taking capabilities, the world has become a minefield for the camera shy like me. There is no hiding. The time has come for me to get over my phobia. I’m going to bite the bullet and say “cheese.” This weekend will be an initiation by fire. I’m going to attend the BlogHer conference in New York. There’ll be thousands of trigger happy bloggers snapping away, and I’ll be one of them. I even bought a selfie stick.
On September 12, 2015, I will be 70 years old. The number astounds me. As I countdown to 70, I’ve been reflecting on other Milestone Birthdays, remembering where my life was at the time and how I’d spent the summer before each.
Twenty-One: The summer of 1966 was spent training for my assignment as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines; I was going to teach science in an elementary school. My first ever plane ride was from New York to Boston.
There were 42 in my training group. We spent ten weeks living in dorms on the Radcliffe Quad while taking intensive language and cultural studies classes. We rented bikes that we rode around Cambridge. I felt like an Ivy League co-ed. It was a far cry from the experience I had living at home with my parents in the Bronx and walking to Hunter College.
We flew to Manila on September 12th, my 21st birthday. There were champagne toasts as we crossed the Pacific. What a way to start my life as an adult!!
Thirty: The summer of 1975 was dedicated to job-hunting; I had been unemployed for more than a year. The situation was dire; my unemployment benefits were about to expire. Reorganization of New York City’s Addiction Services Agency where I had been working as a manpower development specialist had left me jobless in a very depressed employment market.
What was particularly frustrating was that I was supposed to be a job-finding expert. While at the agency, I had found jobs for hundreds of our clients and a booklet I wrote, “Help Wanted-A Job Hunter’s Guide” had been widely distributed.
A reporter at the Daily News, who thought my unemployment was a great human-interest story, wrote a piece “Job Expert Can’t Find One” that appeared in the paper on August 7, 1975. My phone started ringing the minute the paper hit the stands. The callers weren’t employers with job offers; they were producers and reporters asking for interviews. I did dozens hoping one would lead to a job.
On September 12, 1975, my 30th birthday, I appeared on the TV show Midday Live with Bill Boggs. One of the other guests was Stanley Tannenbaum, an executive at Kenyon & Eckhardt, an advertising agency. In the green room, Stanley told me he thought I was one smart cookie who should be in his business. He offered to send my resume to all the ad agencies in the city. I landed a job as an assistant account executive at Benton & Bowles.
Forty: By the summer of 1985, my foray into the advertising industry was long behind me having left B&B after a year. The Madmen life had not been for me. After a half-hearted job search, I decided to start my own business. Quality Respondents recruited subjects for consumer research groups. A New York Times article about QR, “A ‘Central Casting’ for Consumer Research”, prompted an avalanche of people to volunteer to be subjects.
By 1982, I had recruited thousands of people for hundreds of groups. I was ready for a change. That year, I fell in love with an Israeli underwater photographer who owned a travel company that specialized in exotic scuba trips. I became his de facto public relations consultant. My efforts were so successful that after two years, the executive director of the scuba diving trade association (DEMA) asked if I would be interested in promoting the whole industry. It was goodbye Quality Respondents – hello Marian Rivman Communication Consultants (MRCC). DEMA was my first client, and I represented the association for more than eight years.
With 40 fast approaching, the summer of 1985 was spent getting myself in shape for the globe-trotting life I was starting to live. I took multiple aerobics classes and treated myself to workouts with a personal trainer. I was fit and toned at the birthday party I threw for myself.
Fifty: I had found my calling in Public Relations. By 1995, in addition to DEMA, MRCC had represented an eclectic roster of clients including: UN agencies, programmes and world conferences; beloved children’s singer Raffi; legendary music producer Phil Ramone and global non-profits like the Amazon Conservation Team.
In the summer of 1995, I was working at the UN. This time as a communications consultant for the Secretariat of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women that was being held in Beijing September 4-15. Since it was pre-birthday cleanup time, before heading to the office each day, I’d go to the sports club across the street from my apartment to run on the track and workout on machines
On September 12th, 1995, I celebrated my 50th birthday in Beijing. It was an incredible start to my 50s, which were filled with interesting work, travel, and a few romances.
Sixty: My life was in a VERY different place as I approached my 60th birthday in the summer of 2005. My father had died in January 2004, and I had become my invalid mother’s caregiver. I had moved her to New York from Florida, and she was living in an apartment across the street from mine; she had home health aids 24/7. I was running a nursing home for one.
My pre-birthday summer cleanup included multiple yoga classes weekly, an extended juice fast, and numerous hours with a masseuse. Having stopped jogging years before due to a knee injury, I bought a pedometer and started logging 10,000 steps a day.
On September 12th, 2005 I celebrated my 60th birthday with close friends at a neighborhood restaurant. My future was cloudy; I had no idea how long my mom would live and I would be caring for her.
Seventy: It is now the summer before my 70th birthday. I am no longer a caregiver. My mother died in my arms on April 16, 2014, three months shy of her 97th birthday. My dad had died when he was 90. I have some serious longevity genes.
This summer’s birthday cleanup is a crusade to get my mind, body and spirit in condition for the rest of my life. I’m devoting full-time to the effort. My FitBit (electronic activity tracker) has become my BFF and I’m fanatical about meeting my daily goals, and it’s working. My friends are getting used to my suggesting that we take a walk instead of going out to eat. The neighborhood Equinox Sports Club is my go-to place for yoga and other classes. Trader Joe’s makes it easy to eat healthfully. I am having a blast!
My 60s were spent caregiving. It is my intention to spend the rest of my life at “full throttle.” My Bucket List still has many items that I want to check off.
I hope you will follow me as I countdown to the big 7-0 and as I start my life as a septuagenarian.