If I'm blessed to reach 56 years of age, I hope to be a better man than I am now, at 42. I hope to be more gracious, to have found some peace, hope not to be nursing ancient grudges.
I hope, in other words, to be nothing like 56-year-old Diana Ross. Or, for that matter, her erstwhile fellow Supreme, the also-56 Mary Wilson.
What was supposed to have been a triumphant tour reuniting the most successful American pop music group of the 1960s was canceled last week, a victim of microscopic ticket sales. But in its short life, I think, the so-called Diana Ross and the Supremes "Return to Love" tour offered a vivid reminder of an underappreciated truth:
Older is not necessarily wiser.
Consider. We have two women who, from just out of high school through their middle 20s, sang together and hated each other. The gossip was that Diana was threatened by Mary's having the better voice and Mary was annoyed that, despite her superior chops, Diana was the star because she slept with the boss aka Motown chief Berry Gordy. It didn't help that Diana Ross reputedly has an ego best described as whopping.
Flash forward 30 years. Neither woman has done much of note in ages. A promoter ponies up money for a reunion tour. Ross is to get $15 million, Wilson, a reported $3 million. And the fighting starts. The women snipe at each other in media interviews. Mary, insulted by the pittance offered, declines to tour. Diana, determined to prove she doesn't need her former partner, hires two pseudo Supremes and hits the road.
The road hits back. In part to pay Diana's monstrous salary, promoters set a top ticket price somewhere north of $250. Ticket sales are beyond abysmal. Now, mercifully, the tour has been canceled. And somewhere, you just know, Mary Wilson sits gloating.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting here thinking, didn't most of us get this kind of behavior out of our systems in high school? Didn't the prom queens come to realize that the world doesn't center on their smiles? Didn't the girls who were excluded from the popular crowd move on to find crowds of their own? Didn't we grow, change and become better people?
I like to think most of us did. Even those of us who were in show business. I used to cover pop music for a living, and I remember when guys like the Eagles, Aerosmith, and Crosby, Stills and Nash got back together. They'd confess that the battles of former days now seemed stupid and small. They'd laugh at things that once seemed important enough to go to war for.
We tend to believe that kind of maturity comes automatically once you accrue enough birthdays. You get some living under your belt, and it leads, inexorably, to wisdom. But that's not always the case. And exhibit A is these two aged ingenues.
Or, as Mama used to say: Ain't no fool like an old fool.
I tell my son sometimes: Grow up to be a man. It's a waste of time to grow up to be a boy.
Which is what it comes down to, I think. A waste. Waste of time, waste of life, really. Why spend 56 years on the planet if at the end of it, you're still going to be the same person you were in high school, still fighting the same people about the same stuff that troubled you back when you had bad skin and a bouffant?
If I get to be 56, I hope to have the wisdom of the years, hope not to be carrying the same old baggage. I won't be perfect, but man, I hope I'm not still in some 40-year-old snit.
So ladies, thank you. Because if nothing else, "Return to Love" is a cautionary tale, a warning of what happens when you fail the continuing, everyday work of simply growing up. It's a reminder that you don't get wiser because you get older. You get wiser because you work at getting wiser.
"Someday," they once sang, "we'll be together."
You and I should live that long.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.