Follow Janet On Twitter!





Posts Tagged ‘baby boomers’

Things I Never Thought I’d Do

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Been reflecting on aging recently, looking at my adult life through the eyes of my younger self. I remember studying my parents and thinking, “I’ll never do that.” Or “Are they CRAZY?” Seems as if I’ve turned out just as crazy as my parents. Here’s a list of things I never thought I’d do when I grew up.

Number One: Say things like “I don’t understand these kids today.” In my defense, what the eff is up with young dudes showing their underwear? The cool kids shuffle along with almost the entire length of their boxers hanging out with their belt around mid-thigh and the crotch of their pants at their calves. I saw a teenager the other day with the outline of his junk clearly visible through his underwear. Vile. When I was a kid, if you dared to show even a micro-inch of underwear, someone would grab it and pull it up to the middle of your back and give you an epic wedgie. I think wedgies ought to make a comeback.

Number Two: Put ludicrous amounts of pepper on my food. This one sticks out in my mind more than any on the list. I used to watch my father in horrified shock as he used the pepper grinder to turn his food black. He didn’t just use a little pepper, he made his food look like volcano eruption fallout. Dad’s forearms were massive from all his pepper grinding. I think it was how he got most of his exercise. I have not yet reached his blackout phase of pepper application, but I’m getting close. I think I blacken my food with pepper because my taste buds are burning out and I can’t taste as much as I did when I was a kid. Either that or my latent pepper deficiency gene got activated.

Number Three: The contents of my bedside drawer would become the same as my father’s. Tums, reading glasses, Kleenex and back scratchers. Horrifying. Dad’s bedside table contents always disgusted me. Why would you need peppermint candy that was chalky and horrible-tasting? How many pairs of glasses does one person need? Adults blow their noses so much, they actually need a whole box of Kleenex by their bedsides? And what’s with all the backscratchers? Are adults really this blind, sneezy and itchy? Do they have no taste? Answers? Yes, yes, yes and yes. I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now or I’m not sure I would have allowed myself to grow up.

Number Four: Refuse to acknowledge the limitations of my eyesight. I am now one of those idiots in denial you see in grocery stores with their arms extended as far as they can, squinting at the fine printing on the soup cans to make sure they don’t contain monosodium glutamate. I’ve been practicing balancing cans on my feet at home so I’ll be better prepared for the inevitable. So. Humiliating. Why can’t I remember to carry glasses with me? Because I think I’m mounting a subconscious aging protest. Like if I don’t carry glasses, it means I can see and am still young. It’s also because I hate carrying crap around with me. I already have to carry Kleenex and Tums and ibuprofen with me everywhere. Pretty soon, I’ll have to drag around freakin’ carry-on luggage just to hold my Old Lady emergency supplies. Ugh!

Number Five: Talk about getting older. There is nothing that makes you older than talking about getting older. Which is what all my friends and I seem to talk about these days. Well, that is when we can hear each other. Rock-n-roll was not kind to my generation’s hearing. I’m getting good at smiling and nodding.

Number Six: Be convinced by current events that the world is coming to an end. My grandmother was convinced that the fabric of society was disintegrating. I thought she was insane. But with global warming and the global warming deniers; our failing healthcare system; our failing safety net; our failing education system—and the news being controlled by the same corporations that are screwing us out of all of our money, polluting the planet and exploiting the workforce—I’m starting to understand my grandmother’s mentality. My bunker should be complete by next year.

Number Seven: Be startled by my reflection. Or recent photos. Who the hell is that old lady? Wow, my face is starting to look like the Death Star, all deep dark channels. And what the HELL is up with the flippin’ jowls? And when did my neck start looking like that? (Insert scream here.) The only thing that’s saving me from total shock is that my eyesight is gratefully fading. If I stand far enough back from the mirror, I look like Doris Day in her later films, all fuzzed out and pretty.

Number Eight: Wear clothes for comfort, rather than fashion. A slippery slope, let me tell you.

Number Nine: Use an old lady cart to get groceries. This is the most humiliating out of all of the above. I feel a thousand years old dragging the damn thing over to Safeway. I feel like I should heap on the Depends, antacids and laxatives, and shuffle back home. I feel like I’m using a walker. Ever since this summer when I had seizures in the emergency room—and the DMV suspended my driver’s license—I have no choice but to use the horrid cart if I want food. Yes, I know I should be thankful I can still walk and I’m alive and all that garbage, but I hate crossing six lanes of traffic on El Camino looking like a crazy old lady when I’m only fifty-bloody-three.

I have decided to stop aging altogether. Next time I emerge from my bunker, I’ll let you know how my refusal to get older is working.

©2013, Janet Periat

The American Nightmare

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

To achieve the American Dream, you must be successful. But our current definition of success is unattainable for most of us. Just when you think you have everything covered, the rates go up or you are fired or disqualified. Or you have a birthday. And then you become a “loser”. According to the current groupthink, the vast majority of us are losers.

To be considered successful, you must first and foremost make tons of cash. You must have a fantastic, exciting job. You must be CEO or at the very least, Senior VP. You must own a four-bedroom house, a family sedan, a motorcycle and/or a boat, and a two-seater sports car. You must decorate the house with new draperies and furnishings every two years. The house has to be kept spotless and smelling fresh, the latter hopefully through a little plug-in gizmo that spews artificial lemon verbena scent throughout your travertine tile-floored manse.

Your children must be stellar scholars, captains of the football team, chess champions and violin prodigies. You must have good health insurance, belong to a gym, and have a Bowflex in your heated garage. You must send your children to Ivy League schools. You must buy every new gadget on the market within 24 hours of its release. You must take expensive vacations and have a second home in the country—or at the very least, take cruises and own a timeshare in Tahoe or Hawaii.

For women there are a few extra things you need to be successful. Number One, you can’t age. Number Two, you must be a size one. You have to wear the absolute current fashion: nothing with more than a two-month shelf life. High heels are a must. Don’t forget the foundation, stylish make-up, perfectly coiffed and dyed hair, and polished fingernails. You must be tanned, gym-toned, get Botox injections and look perfect at all times. And don’t get caught driving the minivan. So embarrassing!

These out-of-reach goals are even more ridiculous considering that basic survival is hardly achievable anymore. My generation has been spending what’s left of their devastated 401Ks taking care of their elderly parents, putting their kids through college and trying to pay down an underwater mortgage. Health care is unaffordable for the majority. How the hell are we supposed to pay for the new roof or sewer line repairs or the dog’s hip operation?

But the worst component of the devastation of the middle class is that our culture considers us all failures. No matter how hard you worked, no matter if you went to graduate school, no matter if you followed all the rules, if you still came up short, you are a loser.

So where do we go from here? First, we need to realize that we are not losers. We’re experiencing a global shift in wealth distribution, and corporate greed on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the 1920s. The skyrocketing cost of health care is busting the budgets of the self-employed and making it too expensive for businesses to hire people over 50. Jobs are becoming obsolete at record pace. None of this is our fault. All of these factors are beyond our control. But how we deal with these changes is within our control. We need to become much more flexible in the ways we earn our living and how we spend our money. We need to save more. But more importantly, we need to redefine success.

We need to realize that society’s “markers of success” are made up, mostly by advertisers. And that the goals focus on the external. Whatever you do to your body will not bring you deep, lasting satisfaction. You will still age and therefore “fail”. That new Mercedes is used the moment you drive it off the lot. Spending hours of time distracting yourself with TV, smart phones and iPods will only make you feel more isolated. You actually must interact with people face-to-face to satisfy your basic, human need to connect with others. Two-word text messages do not promote bonding. They promote ADD.

Happiness comes from our interior lives, not our outside shell. Happiness comes from finding meaning in our lives. Beyond our basic survival, happiness can’t be bought.

The new definition of success should start with some questions: What will put food on my table and bring meaning to my life? Do I really need to own a house? What do I really need? What do I like? Not what you think you should like, but what you actually like. Work on widening your choices. Due to the current economic upheaval, you may need to change careers or move. Consider everything and everywhere that interests you, no matter what anyone else thinks. Stretch. Try something you never thought you could do. And if you’re broke, don’t be too picky. Do what it takes to survive and forget how you look. People who think lesser of you because you took a food server job after you lost your corporate position aren’t your friends. Besides, you never know where any job will lead. You never know where your next opportunity may come from.

Palliative care specialist Bronnie Ware interviewed many people on their deathbeds. She asked them what their regrets were. The number one response? I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

When you’re dying and reviewing your life, what will you be thinking? Will you be proud of your McMansion, Gucci slippers and plasma screen TV? Or the hours you spent in a tanning bed? Or the years you spent staring at the tiny screen on your smart phone instead of experiencing the world around you?

The American Dream has been co-opted by our corporate-profit-driven culture and has become the American Nightmare. We deserve better. Our dreams should emphasize emotional fulfillment, not isolate us and make us feel like failures.

©2011, Janet Periat

Site maintained by Laideebug Digital
Laideebug Digital