Monday, May 05, 2008

The Way We Were

If you have an email address, and are of a certain generation, you probably have received at least one. Always forwarded, usually in bulk by a friend about the same age, these emails list things we should remember more or less fondly from our childhood that speak of simpler yet better times that these-young-folks-today will never "get."

Sometimes the theme screams WE SURVIVED, as in growing up not having child-proof medicine bottles, motor vehicle seat belts, or product safety warning labels on every damn thing. We remember when tobacco was not bad for you (also) and when do-gooders where not always trying to protect us from ourselves. We were tough, ran with scissors, snacked on lead-based paint, and turned out OK, not like these over-protected wimps today.

Others are lists of simple low-tech toys and amusements that brought us joy, usually compared favorably with expensive modern electronic gismos that young folks today might as well implant. "We didn't text message, we passed notes!" WE HAD FUN ANYWAY, PROBABLY MORE! these lists assert.

A third type of list references artifacts from our childhood which are only found today in antique stores and attics: 45 rpm records, roller skate keys, milk bottles, black & white TVs, rotary dial phones, and on and on and on. These lists evoke both nostalgia and I KNOW WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY WORK AND YOU DON'T BECAUSE I WAS THERE AND YOU WEREN'T, YOU UNFORTUNATE DUMB ASS.

A variant are the growing up/getting older lists. These poke fun at things we used to do, as in 25 SIGNS THAT YOU HAVE GROWN UP
1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them.
2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.
3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.
4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.
5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator.
6. You watch the Weather Channel.
7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of "hook up" and "break up."
8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.
9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify "dressed up."
10. You're the one calling the police because those %&@# kids next door won't turn down the stereo.
11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.
12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.
13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.
14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.
15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.
16. You take naps.
17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.
18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.
19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.
20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good shit."
21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.
22. "I just can't drink the way I used to" replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again."
23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.
24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.
25. When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking "Oh shit, what the hell happened?"

(thanks Wyc) or the indignities we are beginning to face as a result of aging. Many of these have to do with creaking joints, the digestive system, the effects of gravity, hair, soft things getting hard and hard things getting soft, hearing, CRS, and sex. In deference to my more sensitive readers - mainly my daughter - I will skip the graphic details. The curious might try Suddenly, a site I found doing research for this post and will probably not visit again, ever. GETTING OLDER IS NOT FOR SISSIES! WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE - YOUR TURN IS COMING:):):)

Finally, at the bottom of many of these lists is a "message." These are the least amusing parts as they frequently promote a right-wing agenda that imagines a past better than it really was for most of us and ignores anything resembling progress over the past 50 years - especially for other than well-to-do white men who have their metal drivers, Viagra, and tax breaks. Usually blame is directed toward someone or some thing other than themselves (usually our politicians or governments) for todays ills. Pick your ill. IF WE HAD MORE PATRIOTIC, GOD-FEARING, RED-BLOODED AMERICANS - REAL MEN AND REAL WOMEN LIKE ME AND MY FRIENDS - ACTING LIKE GOD AND I KNOW THEY SHOULD, WE WOULDN'T BE IN SUCH A MESS TODAY. ANYBODY SEEN MY FLAG LAPEL PIN? While some of the ideas contained therein may be worthy of discussion, they sure do ruin the mood.

You just knew this post was heading somewhere, didn't you?

Just in case any of you thought these lists were unique to the internet and our generation's most perfect youth, I present to you a document I found going through my late mother's effects. I suspect it was given to her at one of her high school reunions.1937
This from a generation that grew up during the Great Depression and as young adults bore the brunt of WWII. It seems our generation is not the first to seek comfort in a selective reading of the past. Damn. One of my mother's generation, Simone Signoret (1921-1985), was right, "La nostalgie n'est plus ce qu'elle etait."

May I humbly suggest to my daughter's generation it is never too early to start gathering up material for your own lists. I can't wait.


Malindi "the daughter" said...

like, oh my god, father, have you ever watched I LOVE THE 80's on VH1?? that is totally something for my generation (with it's radical references to the Popples, Milli Vanilli, and tight-rolled acid washed jeans). but wait, you lived through the 80's too - what gives? i mean, where's the beef? what do you call the decades we've rocked together??

(my sincere thanks for not elaborating on the 'hard things get soft, soft things get hard' part.)

welshwoman said...

Uhh, you pretty much sound like an old fart here, Bibb-san. We people who've been around since the Iron Age aren't supposed to have these snippy attitudes. -- arg