In My Own Shoes: Colonoscopies, replacements and ‘organ recitals’ | Guest Columns

Isn’t it amazing how much conversations with friends change over the years?

When I was a little girl my conversations with my little buddies centered mostly around toys: dolls (I only liked the kind that cried or talked or walked; otherwise, what the hell good were they?); Lionel Trains (I really wanted a layout, but it was too expensive, and besides, I was told “trains are just for boys”); and the Good Humor Man … when would we hear his bell so we could chase him down the street to get our ice cream treats?

Add a few years, and the conversations turned away from toys and ice cream to school clothes, flour and water maps, making ash trays from handprints on clay fired in a kiln, and the question of how come my bike weighs about 50 pounds and only has one speed (slow)?

The calendar pages flipped more quickly now, the leaves fell, and suddenly the bike didn’t feel so heavy anymore, but it’s still slow, and to brake, you had to push one pedal forward and one back. Bummer! Conversations at school now centered around movie stars and what was said in “Photoplay” Magazine about Rock Hudson or Marilyn Monroe or that delicious, scandalous rock ‘n’ roll singer from Tupelo, Mississippi, on whose lower half the camera wasn’t allowed to focus when he’s on the Ed Sullivan Show.

A few years, and the chatter now later of nothing but makeup and boys, dances and boys, fad diets and boys, taking SATs, and electing to take college prep classes that might have a lot of boys in them. Now there were proms and college applications, campus tours, final exams, and constant late-night phone confabs on Princess phones.

College conversations turned from light-hearted patter over endless cups of coffee freshman year, to serious, scary talk over beer and mixed drinks senior year with endless worries about the Vietnam war, the birthday draft, and who might go and who might never come back .

Life goes on, you grow older, and conversations change, mirroring the transitions. Living together, marriage, having children, finding jobs, changing jobs, getting fired from jobs, buying a home, working two jobs to keep that home, the economy. What seemed so important just 10 short years ago now is barely memorable. Conversations now do not revolve around the past but center on “how do we make it today?” and “what’s tomorrow going to look like?”

Suddenly, small talk around the table at wedding receptions, confirmations, and collations are not about who’s getting married next or who bought a new home or who’s expecting. Now, middle-aged guests around those tables with thickening waistlines and graying hair are trading stories about who’s just had a colonoscopy, how bad was the prep, and who in their circle of friends was the first to get a cancer diagnosis. That same gang that used to lie in the sun at local beaches without a care in the world now frequent dermatologists on a yearly basis and care about every little bump or discoloration.

Next we move to the “replacement” conversations, usually with folks 55+. Meet someone you haven’t seen in a while either on the street or for coffee or drinks, and inevitably after “So, what’s new with you?” they tell you! And in great, great detail. Knee replacements, titanium hips, shoulder surgery, carpal tunnel woes, cataracts, and pacemakers, oh my!

In the latter stages of our lives when we meet up with friends and families the talk quite frequently turns to “organ recitals.” “What’s new?” “Well, I had liver problems, Tony had a stent put in, and oh, did I tell you about the kidney stone I passed? It was a whopper!” Usually these organ recitals take place over a meal. You won’t need Jenny Craig, that’ll sap your appetite in a heartbeat!

Remember when conversations were light and easy? When you could brag about your kid’s report card over a cup of coffee, lie about your bowling score, or riff on the latest bestseller, the movie that’s coming next week, or the sale on winter coats? Yes, as you’ve often heard it said, those were the good old days. The only thing was, we just didn’t know it. The simple days of polite conversation when the only thing you replaced was a light bulb, and organ recitals were held in church where everyone was dressed for the occasion.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 21 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at or 401-539-7762.