This is what 80 looks like

Joan Dideon

Stayed to long at the fair?

“Loss” is the word I think of when I think of Joan Dideon. She is brilliant and chic and a cultural icon as well. But I associate her with the time when Merrie was dying. Merrie and I and others went to see Vanessa Redgrave in “The Year of Magical Thinking.” It was Merrie’s last trip into her beloved New York, on the occasion of her 48th birthday, the last one she would have. The book and play are about a lot of things but for me they are all about loss — of Dideon’s husband (the “year” is the year following his death) and her daughter, who would pass after its publication.

So Dideon is alone now and she looks alone in this photo. One of the lines from the book — although I’ve forgotten its context — is “Have I stayed too long at the fair?” Until I figure that out, here the lyrics from the Billy Barnes song, best-sung by Rosemary Clooney.

So wistful, so much about being passed by and alone. And there’s even a reference to the midway: “The lights of the midway are fading above me, have I stayed to long at the fair?”

wanted the music to play on forever,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I wanted the clown to be constantly clever,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I bought the blue ribbons to tie up my hair,
But I couldn’t find anybody to care,
The merry-go-round is beginning to slow now,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
The music has stopped, and the children must go now,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?

Oh, mother dear, I know you’re very proud,
Your little girl in gingham is so far above the crowd,
No, daddy dear, you never could have known,
That I would be successful, and so very much alone.

Here in New York, I’m many worlds away,
From people who are dear to me,
Here in New York, I’m learning every day,
How very sad a carnival can be.

I wanted to live in a carnival city,
With laughter and love everywhere,
I wanted my friends to be thrilling and witty,
I wanted somebody to care,
I found it was easy to capture success,
But now I’d be willing to settle for less,
The lights of the midway are fading above me,
Have I stayed too long at the fair?
I’d better run home to the people who love me,
For I’ve stayed too long at the fair.

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