Sunday, September 24, 2017

Getting Older

Getting older is weird.  Because I don't feel old, really, I just feel like me.  In my mind my college experience wasn't that long ago, but it really was.  My high school just had a 30 year reunion.  I remember my high school self, so that doesn't seem distant, but the numbers don't lie.

I think about how when I was in elementary school I couldn't understand why people referred to kids in high school as "kids" since they sure looked like adults to me.  Now even college kids seem very young.  And what used to sound "old" doesn't seem all that old now.  When I was a kid, 50 sounded very old.  Today I have trouble seeing 60 as particularly old, but that's getting into retirement age for many so I guess I have to accept that fact.  I think about how my grandfather was 70 when he died, and that seemed okay at the time because he was an old man, but now I find it shocking he died so young.

The really sobering markers of aging aren't the ones I was expecting.  It's the odd bits of change and history that slowly slip by rendering all your memories out of step.  Realizing news events from my childhood that resonated with me are completely unfamiliar to many of the people I talk to on a daily basis is disconcerting.  I have to explain to my kids things like the eruption of Mt St Helens or the Iran hostage crisis or the Challenger explosion.  Those are peripheral tidbits that don't necessarily come up in school.  But they sound as ancient to them as my dad talking about seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium or people describing when Kennedy was shot did to me.

Then there are just ridiculous things, like when I referred to a small dinosaur toy in the car as a brontosaurus, and Mona asked, "What is a brontosaurus?" and Quinn replied helpfully, "That's what old people call an apatosaurus."   In my head that put me in the same category as my grandma when she used to describe putting "bluing" in the laundry.  (And I want to note that whoever programmed my spell checker must be in my age group, because on my screen as I type, "brontosaurus" is getting a pass, but "apatosaurus" is underlined in disapproving red--and I've checked it on Google twice so it's not my fault.)

The obvious divide between my childhood and my kids' is the addition of the internet.  But the hardest thing about it to get the kids to imagine is that when I was growing up we had to accept we didn't have access to things whenever we wanted.  If you missed a show on TV you missed it.  You saw a movie in the theater, and then maybe later on TV (where again, if you missed it you missed it--our family didn't get a video player until my senior year of high school).  Now if there is an inexplicable and dated show I want to share, or an old commercial jingle I still hum that they want to know what it is, I can pull any of it up online and they, too, can be plagued with old car salesman earworms

Most people I know have been blindsided a bit by the experience of discovering the music we listened to in our formative years is now on the "oldies" stations.  "Oldies" when I was growing up was music from the 50s and early 60s that played on "Honey Radio" (WHNY, Detroit), and my dad knew all the songs.  He seemed amused that those songs were "oldies."

But now "Hungry Like the Wolf" is an oldie.  I get it, but it's odd.  My brother and I once were given tickets from a friend to see Duran Duran when we were both home in Detroit in the mid-90s.  We were cracking up and having a great time and lighting matches instead of lighters and thinking we were hilarious, and the teenagers in front of us kept kind of turning around.  Finally one of them who apparently found us charming, said that it was really nice seeing people "our age" still getting into a rock concert.  That girl is now older than we were then, and I wonder what she thinks of her music having migrated over to the oldies stations by now.

Anyway, the best line about music for feeling old I've heard was one Aden told me about on Tumblr, where a mom was excited that her kids wanted to listen to her 80s music until they described it as, "That weird music from the nineteen-hundreds."

I don't think it's so much people labeling music you grew up with as "oldies" that's surprising--I expected it.  I knew we were getting old when Madonna was now the default shopping music in the home improvement store.  It's the completely losing track of the current music scene altogether that I didn't realize would happen.  I have only the vaguest grasp of musical artists and trends now.  And I don't care.  I completely and sincerely don't care.  I think it's fine if others do.  But if you'd told me in high school that someday I would not be on top of what was out, etc. I'd have thought that was unlikely.  Ha.

And I was expecting my body to change--that's not a surprise.  But I wasn't expecting what my body likes and doesn't like to change.  I used to like roller coasters.  I discovered on Space Mountain sitting next to Quinn a few years ago that I no longer like roller coasters.  It was just the unpleasant sensation of my body getting slammed around in ways that it shouldn't.  When I fall the recovery time is insane, so I try very hard not to fall.  I don't understand the texture of my toenails.  I've become one of those people who needs a lot of light to read, which my son doesn't understand at all, but when we practice Latin together we usually end up with him reading to me and then I translate because he can see the text so much better than I can.  I'm not who I expect to see when I look in the mirror, so I just don't look much.

But I have to say, I don't mind most of it so far.  I feel like I'm finally growing into my age.  The expectations of what is fun in your twenties or even your thirties were never for me.  I like boring nights at home, curled up with someone watching movies, playing board games, working on my own projects, and I don't have to defend it.  Not that I felt I had to before, because I really don't care what most people think, but now it matters even less, so one fewer thing.

(I just asked Quinn what else I do that marks me as "old" and he said the way I refer to making copies as "xeroxing."  Now excuse me while I look for the bluing.)


I just realized I forgot to add the original inspiration for this post!

Not long ago my mom was visiting and for movie night we decided to watch both versions of War of the Worlds.  The original from 1953 my kids just thought was funny, and the remake from 2005 was genuinely scary and holds up more than ten years later.

But I told mom it was weird watching the original because it proudly boasts about being in "Technicolor," and it makes sense that it's in color, but that I remembered it in black and white.  And mom reminded me, "That's because we had a black and white TV."  Which was true.  We had a big color TV in the basement, but the small TV in the kitchen where we watched most of our Saturday afternoon old horror films was black and white.

And my kids asked, "What's a black and white TV?"

It seems like a completely weird idea now, but I remember having a little black and white TV in my room for a bit, and when you shopped for TVs the color ones were just more expensive.  When did they finally disappear?  They kind of slipped away like the tan M&Ms with no mention or fanfare.

That's the kind of detail that just quietly disappears over time, where they stop making Marathon bars, or the fonts change at the openings of TV shows, or certain colors are out of style, and the next thing you know the look of your whole childhood has become a theme day at your kids' school.

Black and white indeed.


  1. I didn't have to click the link to hear the car jingle in my head. Thank you for recalling dad's amusement about "oldies," grandma's "bluing," and all of the other items that you collected here. When I teach about biology to my freshmen students, I attempt to strongly impart upon them how what we see and know in the world today is not what it used to be and is not guaranteed to remain. When human population surpasses its carrying capacity and global climate change is at play, they are witnessing a planet in transition. I honestly have no idea if they feel the weight of this. I don't think I would have taken it as seriously at their age.

    I entirely empathize with your insight about not falling into what was supposed to be fun at younger ages.... and not caring what others think today.

    1. I think there's fallacy that many of us are under when we're younger is that everyone else knows what they are doing and we're alone in scrabbling around and winging it all the time. By the time you get this far you realize everyone is improvising and too busy thinking about themselves to notice what you do anyway. It's a lot easier not to care what most people think the older you get. (But the opinions of an important few mean more.)

      I love your insight to your students. It's amazing what details go unnoticed or forgotten. I think that's a lot of the pleasure in a show like Stranger Things where it's really all built on nostalgia and so many little bits spark recognition and some odd joy. (There was an episode where they built a fort out of sheets and we once had those sheets!!!)

      Probably not the jingle you're thinking of, by the way. The one you're thinking of I couldn't find in my brief search. (The other clip made the kids LAUGH and laugh and laugh, especially when I told them you and I lied to the babysitter to say OF COURSE we were allowed to stay up and watch that show.)

  2. I just showed my daughter the Enjoli jingle - you know, the "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan..." song. She was stunned. And my parents called the refrigerator the "icebox."

  3. I was completely unaware of this brontosaurus business, so I guess I'm old. I am also completely dead laughing about "Music from the 1900's!" SO OLD. I AM APPARENTLY SO OLD.

    My kids don't understand manual windows in cars. That makes me giggle. I actually had a car with manual windows until my oldest was almost two... that doesn't seem THAT long ago...

  4. Reviewing this post, I can vindicate your use of the term "Brontosaurus." It has recently returned as a valid, albeit controversial, genus, alongside Apatosaurus.