Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wherefore Art Thou, Good Old Days? ...

It happened insidiously, as I suppose these things do.

There was no marked moment of passage, no physical cues.

But in the month-plus since turning 40, I've transformed into An Old Person.

I grew up in the '70s and '80s, decades marked, respectively, by bad clothes and bad hair. When I was a kid, my father made noise about installing a lit disco floor in the basement.

Thankfully, his ambition stalled out on that project. And anyway, my father doesn't dance.

And I was in no way sad to bid farewell to excesses of the '80s, since the excesses included neon-hued everything and Aqua-Net. I was no friend of the ozone layer. I know that.

But these days, I find myself yearning for an era I never knew, an era I know only from movies and television. An era that surely had its share of strife.

Even having not lived it myself, though, I can see that it's gone. And I want it to come back.

A renaissance of civility, if you will.

The other day, I tweeted, "Dear Hollywood: Remember when you made movies like 'The Philadelphia Story'? Does the world really need to see 'Ninja Assassin'? Love, Beth".

We live in an all-too-violent world. Isn't that enough to sadden and sate us? Why would someone want to slap down $11 to watch two hours of violence? Really? That's what passes for entertainment these days?

I wasn't in love with "Up in the Air," but I understand why people are responding to it so favorably. It's about us. It's about relationships. It's about humanity. It's about how much joy you can hold in your heart one moment and how much pain can replace it in the next. It's a movie that reminds us that, at the end of the day, all that really matters are the connections we have with each other.

And all of that is conveyed with nary a ninja nor an assassin in sight.

Granted, for eons there have been gruesome amusements. Plenty of Romans spent rousing afternoons at the Coliseum watching men get torn apart by lions.

But I'm choosing to focus on the past 100 years.

Mind you, I don't necessarily want to return to an era when men wore hats and suits everywhere they went. Because that would require me to wear dresses and heels everywhere I went. And hats. And pearls. And I really don't look good in hats.

And I know that life wasn't entirely "Leave It To Beaver" and "Father Knows Best." I've seen "Pleasantville."

Still. It feels like there used to be more respect in the world, more connection. Neighbors stopping by their neighbors' homes for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. Evening strolls. Exchanges of pleasantries.

These days, I'm surprised if someone holds the door for me after they walk through it.

It's sad that we even need laws to ban texting while driving. Seriously, people? Can't it wait?

I rarely even use my phone in my car anymore. Granted, that can be attributed to the facts that a) I rarely go anywhere anymore, and b) I have few people in my life with whom I spend any time on the phone. But I'm really trying to live in the moment. Remember when being in your car meant that you were unreachable? When the most technology strapped to your person was a pager, and you couldn't return a call until you got to a phone?

The other day, my mom and I were at the mall – and that's a whole other post, the insanity that passes for "Christmas" in this day and age – when I spied an outfit in a store window.

It was wee, the outfit I was seeing. Intended for a little girl of 2, maybe 3, years old.

The skirt was pink. And short. And slightly shiny. And quilted. With rhinestone accents.

And over the little long-sleeve T-shirt atop the skirt? A faux-fur vest. In a leopard print. (Or was it cheetah?) Done in beige and white and pink. With a pink ribbon to tie it closed.

Excuse me?

I had to stop and comment on it. My mom stopped alongside me. I pointed to it and said, "What is that? What mother puts her toddler in that? It would be fine if we lived in the time of 'The Flintstones.' "

But we don't. Animal skins, even fake animal skins, especially when paired with a mini skirt, don't strike me as appropriate clothing choices for tiny tots.

See what I mean? I am An Old Person. I long for the good old days. Which were in many ways not good, I expect. I'm sure I'm romanticizing.

But I just want to turn it all off. I told my mom, the day we went to the mall, "I want to move to Walden Pond." Being out, among the crowds and the traffic and the lines and the bright lights and the too-much-money-for-things-we-don't-even-need left me exhausted.

All I want for Christmas is quiet and warmth and love. I love getting cards in the mail this time of year. I stop what I'm doing and sit in the comfy chair next to the tree and open my cards. It's the best part of every day. And for Christmas, I just want to spend time with people I love and eat some comforting food and spend the day in our PJs and watch movies and nap.

Every Christmas Eve, my niece makes it a point to curl up next to me on the couch in my mother's living room, in front of the fireplace. Sometimes we talk. Often we don't. But it's one of the highlights of my holidays. Of my entire year.

And there's not a handheld electronic in sight. Just the glow of the tree and the strains of Christmas music from the speakers nearby and the warmth of the fire and us.

Who could ask for anything more?

Update – Further proof of my agedness: I just bought a song by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I can do is nod, and agree wholeheartedly. The days of the Roman Coliseum were the declining days of the empire. When violence and death (and conspicuous consumption) are what your society aspires to, it is in its death throes.

Thank you for saying what I - and I'm sure a lot of other people - have been thinking.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Alison said...

I guess I'm old too.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Good point, Brandon, about the Romans.

And Alison, it happens to the best of us.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI one of the attractions of sitting down to watch two hours of violence in the theater is that the violence is generally structured so that the good guys always win. It's a form of reassurance, because in the real world, no such assurances prevail.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Interesting take on it, Anon. But if no such assurances prevail in the real world, than the good guys winning in the movie is reassurance of what, exactly?

That's a rhetorical question, by the way. : o )

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally understand, Beth! :) I just did an "end of 2009" blog entry myself at now "40-something," and it only makes me reflect on how, gradually, things are finally starting to make sense!

Take care and blessings to you this Christmas!

10:42 PM  
Blogger Rick Hamrick said...

Beth, I found it only right that you ended with a Gershwin lyric.

Being your scout sent to the frontier of aging (your mom is great, but she may leave out some of the good stuff and spin some of the bad stuff), I can assure you that it only gets weirder and less common-sensical.

Keep your sense of humor honed, and you'll be fine.

5:05 AM  

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