It is natural for anyone over 60 to grow nostalgic with the passage of time. After all, where did that time go and why so quickly? But there is another issue that comes with advanced years and that is the extent and acceleration of change.
When most commentators discuss change they invariably mean technical developments such as computerization, cell phones, fax machines, supersonic jets, which have profoundly changed our lives. But I, on the hand, am far more startled by cultural change — how we live, speak to one another and the gap that emerges in generational views.
I recently read an article in “The Country Chronicle” that corresponds to my own confusion with the present time. For example, when I grew up “gay” meant you were happy; people cut grass — they didn’t smoke it — and my mother used “pot” to boil noodles.
I can remember when men didn’t hug and women didn’t curse. Baseball players didn’t do a little dance around home plate when they hit a home run and basketball players didn’t preen in front of a television camera after a dunk.
I was once obliged to call older folks “Sir and Ma’am” and had to cover my mouth when I coughed. I could never eat outdoors unless it was at a picnic or a hot dog stand. And if my gum wrapper fell outside the perimeter of a garbage container, I felt guilty if I didn’t pick it up.
Yes, that was many years ago. In fact, it was so long ago that people actually took responsibility for their actions. Who would have thought of suing the government if you fell down and broke a leg in a public facility?
There was a moment when “time sharing” meant getting together with the family and “quality time” meant a walk with mom or dad. If a friend asked if I “made out,” he usually meant did I pass the exam. Kids routinely went to the movies for excitement, not titillation.
When I played basketball the last thing you would do on the court is embarrass an opponent. On report cards, most teachers believed God gets an A, teachers get a B and students get what’s left — if they work for it. Senior year in high school was not a time for trips and public service — classes were held and students were expected to attend. How quaint!
If someone told me right and wrong are relative, I would have introduced him to my uncles who fought in World War II. The ensuing conversation would be very brief. A “home entertainment unit” was a family sing, “hard rock” was redundant, and “scoring” was solely related to points on the basketball court.
I have a difficult time with “assisted living” as a concept since I assume it’s an old person using a cane. Similarly, I don’t know when the middle years reached the sixties and adolescence ended at thirty.
Food tastes have certainly changed. I can remember when pasta was spaghetti and coffee didn’t have foam at the top of it. When I went to a restaurant no one ever asked me how I liked my fish cooked. Moreover, I still don’t know why anyone eats uncooked fish, albeit that’s the only way my daughters like it.
Courtship is yet another antediluvian idea, a distant cousin of bar hopping. If someone talked about “hooking up” it meant installing a shower curtain in the bathroom. “Getting to first base” meant hitting a single. Sex and the single girl were oxymoronic except, of course, for the fast girls who didn’t remain single very long. A “pill” was a dull person, but he didn’t prevent pregnancy. People lived together, but they generally got married first. And wives needed husbands to have babies.
Rap was something you did when the doorbell didn’t ring. Hanging out was what you put on the line to dry. Cool was the way you drank lemonade and a “hottie” was my mother’s chicken soup.
A navel was never exposed, tattoos were for sailors exclusively, and basketball players wore shorts, not short long pants. “Dis” was a sound made by angry cats. Hip-hop was something you did when you played potzie on the streets.
There was a time when .240 hitters didn’t make it to the majors much less get million dollar contracts. Men had hair on their chests and women didn’t have hair under their arms. If asked, “where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?” the answer was center field.
All was not right with this world of my past. There were wars and poverty, racial conflict and recession, but I was less confused. Yes, there has always been a generation gap, but now it’s a valley and I’m afraid it’s too wide to cross. What I hope for is a cycle with some return to the culture I best remember. Anyone for charlotte russe?
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