Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn once had a song which went “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” Sometimes it’s hard not to think Bruce was right. I was reminded of that while looking at a story on Bored Panda recently about “40 People Share Things They Used To Love That Have Become Less Fun With Age.” I was nodding along in agreement faster than you could say “hey you kids, get off my lawn!”
Among the lengthy list, “leaving the house – I used to be a social butterfly, but now I have to convince myself to go get the basic necessities”, which led into another suggestion, “shopping.” Yep, I get that, even if I was never precisely a social “butterfly”, Saturday nights used to be for going out and hanging with friends. I used to live near one of the country’s biggest malls and would go walk around it for recreation if I was bored when I was young. I enjoyed looking at the new clothes rolling in and could spend countless hours in the three record stores.
Now, there are no more record stores, I don’t live anywhere near that mall and my attitude is largely “I have clothes, why would I need more?” If eventually something doesn’t fit or has holes in it, there’s a Walmart close by. I did splurge on a blazer not long ago; found it online. I have a nagging fear that one of my deathbed thoughts will be “I wish I hadn’t willingly spent so much time in stores when I was young!”. And Saturday nights? For quietly watching Netflix or reruns with my sweetie in our room. Her employer used to have Christmas parties, I used to look forward to them. It was the one night to be out with a large number of people, which to me was a good way of filling the annual quota. But they’ve not run those for a couple of years. I think the pandemic showed us there are two types of people. One type went stir-crazy and bounced off the walls counting the days til bars would re-open and they would have to shove their way through the crowds in department stores once more come December. The other had a lightbulb go on in their heads and realize “hey! There’s a lot that I can do right here at home!” Guess which category I fall into.
Several people mentioned loud noises and places. Gotcha. If I go to a bar, which is a real Whooping crane-type rarity these days, I want to be able to talk to whoever I’m with without shouting or pressing my ear upto their face. I used to go to a few concerts a year. The Stranglers, Bob Mould, both in the ’80s left my ears ringing the next morning. Now, there might be about half a dozen artists I’d think of going to see in concert and I’d be happy to be well back from the stage. Probably wearing earplugs. And movies? Turn it down, I’d be thinking…if I went out to them, which led to another suggestion “going to theaters to watch movies.”
I must admit, I thought Covid would actually bring about the death of the field of movie theaters. It hasn’t but neither is it a thriving enterprise these days. Why would it be? The reasons are pretty obvious.
First off, now most of us seem to already have a theater in the house! When I was a kid, when my parents got a 26” color TV in the late-’70s we felt like royalty. Livin’ large! Of course, that was the one TV in the house. Now? We have a 42” TV in our room and I recently saw them marked as “small TVs” in a big box store! Watching a 42” TV with stereo sound in a dark 15-foot room isn’t that much different than looking at a 30-foot screen in a 20 000-square foot auditorium. But, the floor isn’t sticky, I don’t have to eat popcorn and if I do want popcorn, I don’t have to pay $10 for a garbage bag-sized container of it, half of which will surely be thrown away. And for the $14 admittance, we can pay a month of Netflix or HBO and watch movies every night. Not to mention, the kicker – if a new movie comes out that I really want to see, it’s probably on the TV the day it hits the theaters. Gone are the days of waiting six months for a VHS tape of it to get to Blockbuster.
Another person noted “commercial radio is unlistenable.” Sadly that’s close to true too. Too little variety, too much repetition, too few people on it with personalities. I could write pages on that topic alone. In fact, I have on my music blog so I won’t bother here.
“Junk Food” someone opined. Check! I was never a huge chips and candy type guy (maybe that’s why I’m not a huge guy in fact?) but the older I get the less inclined I am to want any food that comes in large bags filled with air or that is colored day-glo orange. I still enjoy a chocolate bar once in a blue moon, but for the most part, I’d rather have a salad, or a sammie (which I grant you isn’t the healthiest of snacks when if features salami and Swiss cheese , but sure is tasty and full of stuff that actually looks like food rather than a Dupont chemical tanker manifest in the ingredient list).
But that leads to my next point. Sure there’s a lot I, and many others it seems, don’t like much now that maybe we did years ago. But the flipside is true. There are things I appreciate much more. Fresh vegetables being one.
I appreciate open-minded and pragmatic people more than my firebrand 20-something version did. Especially politicians. The way to get things done isn’t to try and find the extreme zenith of any position and try to shout down everyone else until you get your way (usually soon to be reversed entirely by the next election or change of the tides). Trying to reach a compromise that everyone can live with works so much better whether it’s in the kitchen, at the grocery store, the office or Capitol Hill.
I enjoy “my” music more than I once used to. It’s a paradox, because I listen to it less. When I was young and single, I’d have the stereo on most of the time I was home. For a few years I even typically left it on at night while I slept. I would buy new music weekly.
Now, people are often at work in the house, or sleeping, or we’re watching something together. Not music time. Not so many nights do I put on CD after CD or tune the computer to a fine internet station. But… when I do, I often find myself mesmorized, continually marveling at how good some of those records I’d forgotten or once took for granted are. Soaking them in, in awe and appreciation.
I appreciate now that I can improve other people’s days. Or at least I hope to. Often the best way to feel better if you’re a bit down or stressed is to simply pretend you’re not. Which doesn’t come naturally to me, I might add, but as I get older I learn that sometimes a few good words can change the mood altogether. Just the other day I was in a large store and the cashier, a middle-aged lady looking both rushed by the previous customer and surly, rang me through, barely looking at me. Until she came across an item with A Christmas Story markings on it came up. She brightened up. “Ohh, that’s my all-time favorite Christmas movie” she exclaimed. I told her I loved it too and asked if she’d heard they were making a sequel. She had and we marveled at how little Ralphie still looks the same 30-odd years later and how we hoped it could match the charm of the original. If there hadn’t been a lineup we would have likely dissected Elf, which she volunteered was her second-favorite seasonal film. As I walked away she was grinning and made sure to wish me a fantastic day. 45 seconds, a minute, of idle chit-chat turned her day around, temporarily at least. And mine too to some degree. That in itself gave me some satisfaction I wouldn’t have cared about a few decades ago.
Mostly, I think though the older I get the more I appreciate how special, and many, the good things in my life are. I’ve had bad days, losses, as we all have but I’ve come to realize not to take things that are great – big or small – for granted. That was a message largely lost on 1990s me. Perhaps lost on any teen or 20-something. And for that, I’d say getting old isn’t a bad thing at all.