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A Personality Plus Wannabe

Posted Oct 18 2010 12:10pm

Growing up, I was a Personality Plus Wannabe. When my aunts described someone as having Personality Plus, it was a sincere compliment which meant that the person shined and glowed in social situations. In childhood, I had not acquired the social skills to be a Personality Plus.

At age 8, my parents and relatives said that I had the brains and that my brother had the personality. We interpreted this as I had no personality and my brother had no brains.

My friend, Diane Marty, who didn’t know me at age 8 and who I met at age 60, disputes the above: “Well, they were infinitely, unarguably, outrageously wrong -- on your account anyhow. I can't say anything about your brother, not knowing him. But if they are as wrong about him as they are about you, he is an Einstein.”

Thanks, Diane, for your much-needed compliment.

At age 9, I played in monthly accordion recitals at Quigley Music Studios in Kansas City. Suffering from a severe case of stage fright, with sweaty hands and a terrified grin on my face, I stood up and played “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” on my heavy 120 bass accordion which was almost as long as I was tall. The evaluator’s comment on the 3 x 5 note card was “Her personality really projects, doesn’t it?” I wondered if he was describing my anxious personality or what other personality traits he observed.

In 1959 at age 10, the song “Personality" reached #2 for Lloyd Price. I remember him crooning:

 'Cause you got personality
 Walk, personality
 Talk, personality,
 Smile, personality
 Charm, personality
 Love, personality
 And of course you've got
 A great big heart
 So over and over
 Oh, I'll be a fool to you
 Now over and over
 What more can I do?

At age 17, I overheard one of my aunts describe me as a “diamond in the rough.” Although she was well-intentioned, I always wondered if she meant that I had potential to be a Personality Plus girl.

From age 18 through age 60, I honestly don’t recall thinking much about personality – what it was, whether I had any, or what kind of personality I had. Then on my 61st birthday, the personality issue once again surfaced.

After attending the World Parkinson Congress in Scotland, Joyce and Jim, my Scottish friends (who Tom and I met when we lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada) took Valerie and me out for a beautiful day of touring the Scottish countryside. Over a delicious birthday lunch at Loch Lomond, we reminisced about our wonderful Canadian experiences. I was stunned when they described me in the past with words and phrases such as:

always being on the go

positive

energetic

frequently entertaining and having people over for dinner with gourmet meals

arranging interesting and fun entertainment such as mystery dinners, ski weekends

spontaneous and impromptu, and

the life of the party.

They even produced a photo from 1986 to document their description (see below):

Cdn thanksgiving-1986  
 From left to right: Jim, Joyce, Kate, Tom in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1986

I couldn’t recognize the person they were describing. Perhaps I had been transformed into a Personality Plus gal in the past and hadn’t even realized it.

On that particular day, after an exhausting week at the congress, I felt like I had Personality Minus, not Personality Plus. Being very quiet, reflective, and tearful, although I was at a party, I certainly wasn’t the life of it. I felt as though Parkinson’s had destroyed my personality with my masked facial expression, quiet breathy voice, sometimes stooped posture and shuffling steps.

On the other hand, I was happy to be reminded that once I had Personality Plus. I left Scotland with a lilt in my voice and a spring to my step.

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