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Chatterbox: Seems like old times


Most average people disapprove of the proliferation and hypocrisy of photoshopping models’ and celebrities’ wrinkles, pimples, and body flab. Years ago, we talked about airbrushing photos, presenting unrealistic images of real people, and even using false eyelashes to advertise mascara (illegal in many nations).

Well, our memories often get glossed over, too. Though almost always involuntary, most people just tend to romanticize “the old days,” and the older the days are, the more romantic they can get. So, before we get too gooey about life a generation or three ago, we should agree on two things.

The first is that life always seems less complicated in its past context (no matter when or for whom) because progress – good or bad – always complicates life. Generation after generation, progress adds flavor, convenience, safety and even increases life expectancy, but it also has a cumulative effect while speeding things up to boot.

Just as the passage of time creates more history to learn, it also delivers more technology to master, and that means increasing the speed at which we must master it. Humans have continually transitioned since day one but, like a snowball downhill, the momentum continues to intensify.

The second thing we may agree on is that our romanticized past may be true – for us, to us, as we remember it and, perhaps, even as it really was but with all the hardness sifted out. Even those who had hard childhood experiences still remember life in general being simpler. Obscured by time and innocence, it may be our story, but as seen by a child insulated from much of that hardship, not to mention at a time when technology was easily conquered by us.

This may be why “the old days” seem simpler and, therefore, better. This may be why we reminisce with such fondness about them, or wish our young loved ones could grow up “back in the day.” In any case, real or photoshopped by time, everyone’s past seems to remain more of that lemonade commercial than any “present” can be. Such is the nature of time. In many ways “those were the days,” because a kid’s life most often seems that way.

So, when we wax poetic about our youth, it’s far more likely that it’s just exactly that: our youth, and the carefree times it delivered. It’s our youth in our yester time that makes life seem so much better then, and every generation that ever talked about “the good old days” was remembering much more of the good in their own youth than actual life at that time in America – or the world.

Progress changes everything, every minute, and changes are unfamiliar. It all leaves us uncomfortable, and technology, passing us by at warp speed, just plain leaves us in the dust. With the exception of those incomparable math skills we were taught way back when, most of what we ever learn gets antiquated fast as life “on the daily” speeds by. We may feel less competent or less familiar even in our own surroundings.

Let’s face it; anyone over 55 is now asking 2-year-olds how to turn on the television. To add insult to injury … the toddlers do it. I was gifted a new CD player for Mom’s Day. My daughter had to show me the volume control. It’s got (oh, no) an app so it can work with my phone; I’ll probably have to take a class. We taught our parents how to use the Hi-Fi and the VCR; now our grandchildren show us how to make friends with Alexa. All of this high speed reality is what makes anyone’s old days seem embracing.

Our youth is in our charge and filled with promise and activity but, as we age, our kids take the reins – beyond electronics. They become the daily custodians. They co-ordinate special life events and simple gatherings, they take over the holidays, tell us how to organize our pantry, pontificate on why we should downsize, paint the house, or sell off our collectibles. We start to feel “dethroned,” disempowered, and that we have less control and, worse, fading purpose.

Even with air-brushing, when celebrities hit a wall in their career they say it’s time to “reinvent themselves.” In this case, we can take a tip from them: If we don’t find our second wind dancing in the moonlight in a summer state, perhaps we best take some classes. Every past may be lovely, but it isn’t a future.

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