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Those of us who came of age in the fifties and early sixties never thought much about competition as a fierce, in your face, go for the jugular proposition--we just did it!! It was "second nature" and came with the territory. We understood by puberty at the latest, that our lives were about competition as a major priority. Whether it was for a spot on the cheerleading squad, the homecoming queen contest.

The best social clubs, the right sororities, we were forever trying to "beat the enemy." But wasn't almost all our competition (and the enemy) other girls? If memory serves (and it doesn't always these days), we were competing for boys (dates), guys (older and better dates), and then men (husbands). Lots of us were constantly reminded about the importance of "a good catch" and we knew this was not about halibut.

We outfitted ourselves with, what we hoped, would be the most appealing lure--the bounciest pony tails, the form fittingest peddle pushers, and of course poodle skirts and crinolines. We "fished" at dances, drive-ins, parties, church hayrides, and any other place we could infiltrate. What a shock years later to discover that some of our "catches" were not actually "keepers" and had to be thrown back. Lots of them turned out to be CADS instead of cod. One woman born in 1939 reported exceptionally supportive parents who told her she could be anything or do anything she wanted--except "land a good catch." "I showed them," she explained, "the first man I married turned out to be gay!"

"Being popular" was sort of a holy grail which many of us sought growing up in the fifties and early sixties.

Did your parents tell you as mine did, throughout this highly competitive "man hunt" phase, "Don't worry, your looks aren't that important--it's your personality that matters." Sure. If it came with looks like Sandra Dee's. (Remember the hit rock 'n roll song, "She's Got Personality?") Of course, we weren't ever to brag about good grades or in any way give the impression that we had much in the way of brains ("showing off" was definitely frowned upon). Today, blondes have more fun. Back then, dumb blondes were quite fashionable (and some of them were VERY smart).

Being popular was sort of a holy grail which many of us sought growing up in the fifties and early sixties. That created perhaps the most brutal playing field of all for the competition that so many of us felt compelled to undertake. It's actually hard to remember anything very funny about that daily battle with other girls.

I wasn't especially successful socially in high school--under my name in the high school year book was the quote, "An ounce of mirth is worth a pound of sorrow." I think that translates into, "When all else fails, try to keep 'em laughing." I came up with a rather inventive solution for college. I attended a school where the ratio was two and a half to one--for every two and a half guys there was only one girl. I found my two pretty quickly and didn't worry about the half. In my sophomore year I fell madly in love and the object of my affections declared he was equally smitten.

However when I had to go home half way through a semester because I couldn't seem to shake a bad case of infectious mononucleosis (remember the good ole' kissing disease?), I returned the beginning of the next semester to discover that my heartthrob was seriously going steady with my roommate. I was still too exhausted to compete but did want to strangle both of them. Years later, I visited them after they had been married for a while and had a small baby. I realized I was having a much better time as a flight attendant with a major airline. Boy howdy, I thought, "dumb luck" had triumphed again!

And P.S., don't lose sight of the fact that we competed with each other so mercilessly not because of any personal deficiencies but because we had been socialized to believe that was the real key to success. But, surprise, we figured out the fallacy in that by the time we reached "a certain age" (at which point of course, some of us had pursued careers and were pitted against one another all over again). Women overcoming middle-age and beyond can look upon competition as something that, hey, if you want to do it, "knock yourself out" and have a good time. And if you decide it was never all that much fun in the first place, it's no longer mandatory!

Did you compete for something you care to talk about?

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