Good old Frank Sinatra got it all wrong when he sang that the regrets he had were too few to mention. Maybe a guy who could sing that well and was rumored to have dated a whole slew of Hollywood starlets really didn’t have too many regrets, except perhaps his two pack a day smoking habit.
But us regular folks, and particularly those of us in an advanced set of decades, can often look back and point out a few things we are surely regretting. Most of my regrets fall in the category of things I wish I had done, and honestly, some of my regrets are not too earthshattering.
I regret not wearing a higher pair of heels to Prom, since we didn’t really dance anyway and mostly just stood around taking pictures and making sure the hairdo we paid so much for didn’t unravel. I also regret not serving on the Prom committee so that I could have coaxed the band into playing a few more slow dance songs, perhaps more realistically the reason half of us were there.
Others of my regrets are about not being a little bit more daring. I wish I had tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk on one of those days when my dad said it was hot enough to. I suppose I still could, but with all the dogs that take walks on my sidewalk, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the egg if I got it fried, and I hate to waste food.
I regret not being daring enough to jump the ramp on my skateboard, instead just tamely riding it to and from the corner drugstore, buying and consuming way more Necco wafers and Hershey bars than anyone ever really should. I regret not cliff diving in Jamaica, where at least the waters are clear enough for them to have dived in and found me when I cracked my head open and didn’t surface right away, as opposed to some muddy old bacteria-laden lake in Missouri where I could disappear forever.
I regret not learning a second language in a way that I can actually use it. I mean I am fluent in both English and Sarcasm, but Spanish continues to elude me.
I was watching a television show with my family that showed a Spanish speaker trying to tell fellow customers in a grocery store parking lot that her friend was choking. My family wonders what she is saying, and I boldly translate it to be that they have a flat tire and need it changed.
As the show continues, a savvy young man gives the friend the Heimlich maneuver, saves her life, and simultaneously proves I need to get back to my Duo Lingo practice. No tire problem. Yep, I really regret not sticking with those regular and irregular verb translations in Señor Dean’s class.
I regret not watching my grandmother and mom cook…and sew…and crochet a little more. My wallet regrets my inability to do those things also, as I shell out money for Door Dash, alterations, and clever crafts.
I regret not learning to play golf, so like my husband, I too can have something to spend hours away from the house on; not learning to play bridge, so I have a more legitimate reason to buy beautiful playing cards and fancy tallies and bags of chocolate bridge mix; and not learning to water ski, as I assume I have some natural buoyancy at my current weight, and because it would likely have been my best chance to have a good story about breaking a bone, unless you count the earlier skateboarding reference.
Some of life’s regrets are about things we did that we wish we would not have done. One regret which most ladies my age have that fits this category is called the Toni Perm. As I type this, I can still smell the solution which soaked the pastel plastic rollers snugged against our heads. The results of those stinky permanent waves were dicey at best.
Did we get the papers tucked around the ends enough not to have fish hooked straight ends? Did we leave the solution on long enough but not too long to create a beautiful wave and not a Brillo pad nightmare? Did we select the right week to get the perm and let it calm down a little so that our school pictures were not a permanent (pardon the pun) reminder of our folly?
I remember getting a spiral perm once and praying for the beautiful results I had seen on other girls. It made sense that if the rod was vertical instead of horizontal, the curls would be the cherished loose ringlets I desired.
I grew my hair long enough to hold the perm and “employed” a friend who was in beauty school to help. My regret is that I didn’t let her finish her schooling and practice on a few others before me. I think I finally destroyed the last of the photographic evidence of the spiral that spiraled out of control in a funeral-like pyre.
A couple of my high school friends and I have determined that we regret the following: overplucked eyebrows as teens when we now can’t grow any eyebrows that aren’t wiry grey remnants, many of our boyfriend choices, a few of our clothing choices, and our general snarly-ness toward adults who were busy telling us all the time about things we would later regret. I am keeping these things in mind with my current teen.
Despite my efforts to be a healthy eater, I have multiple examples of instant regret regarding food, including getting brain freeze from popsicles or slushies, one last hastily-consumed cluster at an all-you-can-eat crab leg restaurant, and a ghost pepper and milk challenge, to name just a few.
Lastly, and perhaps luckily, because I have a smart mouth and a razor sharp wit, I don’t have the regret that some folks do of not speaking up or issuing a snappy comeback, even if I do later regret some of those snappy replies.
Cathy is a retired public school English teacher and Public Information Officer.