For years I have been reading and hearing about how Generation Y-ers have overdosed on self-esteem. Born in the 80s to the early 2000s, these young people are also sometimes called Millennials. And there have been increasing complaints in the workplace that this generation has an undue sense of entitlement.
Is it true? Maybe.
Research certainly seems to point that way. In 1982, one third of the students taking the Narcissist Personal Inventory scored above average. In 2006, that number was 65%.
This is the generation where every kid got a trophy, no one ever failed, and no answer was ever wrong… just a “good try.”
At work, these Millennials require constant praise. Some companies have gone from an “Employee of the Month” program to ‘Employee of the Week’ awards – dozens of them every week.
I’ve seen evidence of this myself. Several years ago, when I was still working for a major corporation, I interviewed college juniors for our internship program. They were, shall we kindly say, enormously self-assured. One young person particularly stood out. When I asked him what he saw himself doing, he said, “I’d like to be involved in the strategic decision-making for the company.” I couldn’t help but reply, “Would you really want to work for a company that let YOU make strategic decisions?”
But here’s the thing: These self-important, spoiled, egomaniacs may be on to something. Maybe they don’t worry so much about what other people think, because they know they are just AWESOME.
You see, I am from the Low-Self-Esteem Generation.
I’m luckier than some of my peers. My parents didn’t discourage me or call me a dumbbell on a daily basis. They were just honest about my shortcomings while supportive of my efforts. They never stroked my ego, but they didn’t damage it too much either.
My husband wasn’t so lucky. His parents didn’t offer encouragement. He told me about trying to learn to play drums as a kid. His mother ridiculed his poor performance from the very start.”You are just awful,” she said. “You have no talent.” I can see the result today. He is very stressed trying something new. I always have confidence that he will succeed in whatever he does – he’s proven it to me over and over again. But he doesn’t believe it. He’s afraid of failure.
And I’ve worked with a woman so fearful of criticism, she would cry over the tiniest insignificant mistakes. “Don’t fire me,” she pleaded when she needed surgery. What the hell had her childhood been like? I only know that she once mentioned that she grew up in her grandfather’s house, and that he did not allow children to step on his lawn – or make any noise.
Some of our parents had the best of intentions. One of my friends had protective parents. They didn’t want her to be disappointed. They didn’t want her hurt by failure. So they didn’t want her to try. She was plucky enough to defy her parents and take chances anyway. But her tendency now is to get her back up when anyone tries to give her advice. She will do exactly the opposite. Even when the advice is good.
And for us in the Low-Self-Esteem Generation, a lot of our insecurities revolve around our looks. I don’t know a single woman my age who didn’t grow up thinking she was ugly.
I’m one of those. I always hated the way I looked. And my sweet but honest parents didn’t lie to me nearly enough. I hardly ever heard them say that I was pretty. It didn’t help that I developed scoliosis at puberty. My crooked spine was an enormous source of shame to me.
On the positive side, I consider myself the very latest of Late Bloomers. I’m now sixty-five and I feel rather beautiful. Better late than never, I guess.
But it’s tenuous.
This weekend we went to a local theater for a musical review called “The Taffetas” – four women singing songs from the 50s. They were terrific singers.
It’s a small theater and we had good seats. I could see that these young woman were nice-looking but not stunning beauties. What I would call attractive and approachable. Nice.
And at one point in the production, they all turned their backs to the audience at the dramatic ending to the song.
And all I could see were four young straight backs.
And I fell apart just a little bit.
I’ll try to feel beautiful again tomorrow.
Since April is National Poetry Month, I’ve written this blog in free verse. But don’t worry, it’s still weird, silly me in there.
I’ve never lost my love
of personality tests.
Multiple choice in twenty questions
to indicate my Compassion (A minus)
or my Loyalty (D plus)
or my ability or lack thereof
to keep a juicy secret (forever an F).
Back to September ’66
Seventeen Magazine –
They had the best quizzes ever.
I’d tear a sheet from my notebook
and mark my A B C or all of the above
and I’d discover if
my boyfriend was faithful
which would be helpful once I had one
or whether I had what it takes
to join the Peace Corps
or wear Tabu.
I’d toss my answers in the neighbor’s trash.
God forbid my sister should see
that I was a romantic kisser
or that I was reading Seventeen
when I was fifteen
and it was her Seventeen,
which she was.
And now to my delight
I can take my tests every day online.
And learn that my nickname should be
and my aura is Blue
and that though Agnostic
my spirit guide is the Goat.
And just today I confirmed a past life
with a fine famous lover.
None other than manly
Of course that means that I was
Which all makes sense
because I wrote a story once
where the heroine was Carole with an E.
And though I used to think I had been
Edna St. Vincent Millay
(who was also in a story)
I don’t believe she ever slept with
Dear Mr. Gable.
But to be sure, I took the test again
with my second-best answers.
And Gable again.
So there you have it.
Ten days ago, I wrote about the little copycat I was as a kid. And how on one occasion in high school, a pretty and popular girl paid me a small but important compliment by copying my outfit.
Because I wanted that story to be a sweet tribute to the memory of my beautiful classmate, I omitted my two recent stupid experiences with copycats – the incidents that made me reflect on the meaning of Imitation in the first place.
They always say…. (well, my mother always says that ‘they’ say…) “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” It always seemed to me to be not only trite but untrue.
Copying is bad, right? And people who copy you are stealing your ideas, right?
As a general rule, that’s true.
A few years ago, I was part of a blogging group, and after sharing one of my more popular posts, another blogger in the group, published a nearly identical piece on her own blog under her own name. I was furious. And I had every right to be. That’s plagiarism. That’s theft.
But on the other hand, when someone admires you, and wants to be like you, that feels pretty good. You’re a leader. You’re a trend-setter.
Just a few weeks ago, my dog Theo got the chance to be such a trend-setter. He was in obedience class. Theo was a little over his head in this class, which is called “Beyond Basic Obedience.” Due to one freak display of cooperation, he had qualified for the class. (He has since flunked out… we start “Basic Obedience” – no ‘Beyond’ – next week.)
Anyway, he’s in class with all these show dogs and mature little robots. He’s the youngest little dude. He hasn’t got a clue as to what he is supposed to be doing. He’s spinning in circles and jumping around and basically acting like a nut.
And he poops. Right in the middle of the training ring. And the dog next to him, a champion Aussie, the star of the class, observes Theo mid-poop. And poops himself.
That’s what I call leadership skills.
Last month after years of procrastination, which is a synonym for “I have no idea how to do this” – I joined Instagram. I’m not a particularly good photographer, but I don’t have to be. I have pets. Doggy and Kitty pics are all you need to get lots of Likes and Followers on Instagram. My artsy stuff languishes with maybe one Sympathy-Like from a loyal friend.
But those filters and edits are so much fun. I can take a mediocre picture and fix it up later. Why, I can’t even SEE what I am photographing in bright sunlight. I took a shitload of shots of Theo at the beach this week but I couldn’t even find the shutter in the sunlight.. but I kept snapping away, knowing that I could crop and edit and sharpen and highlight, and look like a genius. Only somewhere along the line, I had inadvertently touched the selfie button and turned the camera on me. I had three dozen pics of my crazy-photographer face, and no amount of editing of any of those shots can make me look like a genius.
But back to the story. I finally joined Instagram. And exactly one week later – who joins Instagram?
The Pope that’s who.
I rest my case.
A few weeks ago, Credit Card Insider reached out to bloggers with an idea they called “Financially Fabulous in 2016.” They were seeking some interesting insights for their readers about planning for retirement and saving money.
But I am incapable of writing an interesting piece about saving money.
I may have worked for nearly 40 years in Finance and Budgeting, but that does not mean I can give anyone interesting (or sound) advice about Saving.
I can however – give plenty of advice about Spending.
I’ve been a professional Spender all my life. I excel at it. And now that I’m 65, I can also look back and see where my spending was sound – and where it was stupid. And where it is heading in my senior years.
Oprah Winfrey closes her magazine each month with a little essay called “What I Know For Sure.”
When it comes to spending money after retirement, here’s what I know for sure:
1. Basically, you have enough shit. (CCI Editor, you can change that to “stuff” for your website… but we all know what it really is.) Collections. Hummel figurines, owls, teacups – half the time you started that collection because thirty years ago someone bought you one or two things and you said, “How cute” – and then that’s what you’ve been receiving for your birthday ever since. But you are old now. You have enough butterfly pins. And unless one of your kids – or whoever is going to have to clean your house when you are dead – has expressly said that your stuff is valuable, or they would love to inherit it, STOP collecting that stuff. Tell people to stop buying you that stuff. And then maybe pair down to the select items that have real worth. And by worth, I mean the ones that make you HAPPY.
2. If you are like me, you will never stop loving clothes. You’ll always want new clothes. You NEED new clothes. But NO. You don’t. But like me, you will buy them anyway. Since you are going to buy something you want, rather than something you need, always make sure it is something you LOVE. If you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, watch a couple of her YouTube videos. She may be a tad overboard, but her core belief is one we can all take to heart: Possessions should bring you Joy. So when I say to keep those collectibles that make you happy, that’s what I mean: Joy. And when I say buy only clothes you love: Joy. I know lots of folks who hate to shop or hate the way they look, and their central theme is “Good enough.” I find this singularly true of older people. Treat yourself more kindly. Shop with joy in mind. Just think about it: If you only buy clothes you love, then everyday you will be wearing something you love. How nice will that feel?
3. Food. Good food. Spend your money on healthy food. It will taste fabulous and be better for you. Good food simply prepared is delicious. I am certainly not the first one to say “You are what you eat.” But you really are. If you are 50 or over, think about how old all your bones and organs are right now. Do your car parts last 50 years? I want my stomach to last at least 90 years. And although we are lucky to live in an age where you can get spare knees and hips if you need them, there are lots of parts tucked inside you that really need to be original equipment.
4. I’m a homebody. There’s nothing I love quite so much as sitting in my own kitchen. But as I have aged, I have also become aware that the world is overflowing with beauty and experiences that enrich my mind and my memories. Invest some of your savings in your memories. Travel.
5. Sometimes we all need a treat. I learned when I was broke that I didn’t need a new coat when I felt like some retail therapy. A new nail polish would do it. Find something inexpensive to satisfy that need to indulge yourself once in a while. My husband and I go out for frozen yogurt on Friday night. I like drugstore lipstick. My best friend likes crazy socks. Another friend likes pretty post-it pads. My mom likes $2.00 lottery tickets. Keep it small – but enjoy the frivolous.
6. I’m a book lover. I love my books. I love my Kindle. But most of all – I LOVE the library. What a magnificent institution. You can read whatever you want FOR FREE. That is like one huge miracle. And you get a little socialization at the same time, which can be a rare but good thing for bookworms. Go to the library every week. Spend the money you save not buying books on frozen yogurt.
7. You need a best friend. Of the furry kind. If you do not have a dog or cat, go to the shelter and get one. Early in my career, I worked for several years for an organization that provided services to the elderly. The healthiest clients had pets. The happiest clients had pets. Pets give you a reason to get up in the morning. They provide you with exercise. They make you laugh. They don’t care if you have wrinkles. They bring you JOY. (And dead mice.)
I was one of the all-time worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) copycats.
Being a homely, skinny, weird-looking thing with two older sisters, it was probably inevitable that I would want to copy them.
I both worshiped and despised my sisters – as anyone with older sisters will understand.
They went places without my parents. They had later bedtimes. They had long thick hair, and I had short thin hair. My mom took me to the barbershop for my pathetic haircuts. My sisters went to the beauty parlor.
Christine was smart. Really smart. Astronomically smart. Every teacher she ever had adored her. I was in awe of her brains, but I often hated being her little sister, with so many teachers saying “Why can’t you be more like Christine?”
Claudia was a fabulous musician. And funny as heck. I didn’t say ‘hell’ back then, but she was certainly as funny as hell. (Now that we are adults, she’s as funny as fuck.) No one could make me laugh like she could, and I was completely mesmerized when she sat down at the piano, but I often hated being her little sister, with so many teachers saying, “Why can’t you be more like Claudia?
I may have heard that a lot from teachers, but I never heard that from my parents.
Oh, I tried and tried to be like my sisters. Whatever wisdom Christine spouted, I spouted the next day. Whatever wisecrack Claudia quipped, I quipped the next day. I read their books, played with their toys, listened in on their phone calls. That I wore their clothes goes without saying — hand-me-downs were mandatory in my neighborhood.
But instead of “Why can’t you be more like Christine/Claudia” what my parents said was this: “Why are you trying to be like Christine/Claudia?”
“We already have one of each of those,” my mother said, “We had you because we wanted a Nancy.”
That was a fabulous, amazing, wise thing to say.
But the problem was – I didn’t know how to be Nancy.
So I continued to copy my sisters. Then later, in high school, I did my best to be like the popular girls. Then like the hippies in college. And the executives at my company.
But little by little, I started to become myself.
Slowly and sometimes painfully, I stopped being a copycat. And a few times, people have even copied me.
In high school – it happened just once. Forty-seven years ago, and I still remember.
I was an office messenger during First Period. (Not sure schools do that anymore, but if you had a free period, you could sign up to run messages to classrooms instead of sitting in a study hall) I shared messenger duties three times a week with Diane, a girl so pretty and so smart and so sophisticated it was hard to believe she was still in high school. And I came in one Monday in a new skirt, a dirndl with a lace-up bodice like a little Bavarian barmaid. And Diane – gorgeous Diane – loved my skirt. I told her about the shop in New Britain where I found it, and she asked me if I minded if she bought the same thing. She asked my permission to copy ME!
Now because she was beautiful and popular, I was well aware that Diane would look much cuter in that skirt than me. And I also knew that once she started to wear the dirndl skirt, everyone might think that it was I who was copying her.
But you know… it didn’t matter. I was so flattered that Diane wanted to copy MY style, and that she even asked me if she could.
It was the first time I thought I might actually be somebody that somebody else might want to be. Even if it was just a skirt.
A skirt is a place to start.
And gradually I became the somebody that I wanted to be.
There’s a postscript to this story. Two years later Diane died in a motorcycle accident. We weren’t close friends, but we liked each other. And she copied me once – at a time when I needed to feel admired. Thank you, Diane.
I’ve written before that I thought I could have been be a good doctor – even though my short-lived career in Nursing didn’t exactly go well. (“I Coulda Been Somebody”)
I wrote back then that the hospital work was okay, but that the academic side was drudgery.
That was not exactly true.
I am a great classroom student (when I can stay awake.) In nurses’ training, I excelled in Anatomy and Pharmacology, and most of the other science-related classes where you learn something concrete – something that makes sense.
What I couldn’t connect with was: Sick People.
Not that I don’t have sympathy for people’s suffering. Hospitalization is a very scary thing. I empathize with the seriously ill and with their families. And I even sympathize with folks who feel only temporarily terrible and are bored out of their minds at the same time.
What I couldn’t do was pretend that I could help them in any way.
I’m sure that comes with time. I realize now that just offering someone a glass of water and a pat on the hand at the right moment can make a huge difference. But back then, in my utter self-absorbed immaturity, I had imagined that I would be saving lives, not holding the emesis basin while somebody threw up. I just didn’t know that it was the same thing.
I remember the exact moment when I realized that I wasn’t going to be a nurse.
I was five months into Nurses’ Training. Instead of going into a degree program at a college, I had opted for the nurses’ training program affiliated with a major area hospital. (I’m not sure you can even do that anymore, but back then, it was still quite common for the hospitals to have their own nursing schools, offering diplomas rather than degrees.) I wanted to be like my mother, and that is how my mother got her training. I was also wise enough (amazingly) to want to get right into the hospital and see if I even liked the work, instead of pursuing the academic side that the degree program stressed for the first two years. And while I am proud of that tiny spark of wisdom, I admit that I idiotically couldn’t wait to wear that little hat.
(Here’s a funny little aside. I decided to go into Nursing because I wanted to be like my Mom. But she didn’t encourage it. She honestly didn’t think I would like it. And one of my very best friends in high school wrote in my yearbook, “Ten to one you’ll be some famous celebrity, not a nurse.” I haven’t got the fame yet, but she got the non-nurse part right!)
So anyway, there I was in my little uniform, white stockings, and the adorable cap, trying to be a nurse. It felt like I was trying to be a unicyclist. I had no balance. My best friend in school had just been asked to leave – she had been caught crawling into bed with one of her cutest patients. I was horrified and envious at the same time – my youngest patients hovered around 83.
That particular day, I had walked into the 4-bed room to make up the bed of a recently discharged patient. (Yeah, nurses still did that. Especially student nurses.) The privacy curtain around the opposite bed was completely drawn. And from behind the curtain came a voice – a very authoritarian voice:
“Is that a nurse who just walked in?”
And I froze. I was unable to speak.
“Are you a nurse?” The voice seemed extraordinarily loud for a hospital.
I finally answered:
And there was a bellowing laugh.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I’m a student. First year.”
Again the laugh.
“All I want is your goddamn bandage scissors. They should be nice and sharp, seeing as you’ve never used them.”
So I opened the curtain a crack, and handed the doctor my scissors. My mother bought them for me as a high school graduation gift, and had engraved my name across the blade, just like her nursing shears had her name engraved across the blade.
“Do you want me to help?” I asked, trying to sound like a real nurse.
“Absolutely not,” the doctor answered.
And he clipped the bandage he was changing, and handed me back my scissors.
And I slunk away.
And quit nursing school the following week.
I had wanted to be just like my mother. But that didn’t mean I had to be a nurse.
I could be just like her if I was kind and honest and cheerful.
And I’ve tried to be ever since.
I still have the scissors.
Erma Bombeck, graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949, lived with her husband and family in Centerville, Ohio, and inspired people worldwide with her columns and books about life’s trials and tribulations. Her memory lives on with the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition hosted every two years by the Washington-Centerville Public Library and the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop hosted by the University of Dayton. (Washington-Centerville Public Library)
The Erma Bombeck Writing Competition judges short essays in the categories of Humor and Human Interest, with separate competitions for local and “global” writers.
Essays are limited to 450 words. For me, who can take 450 words to meander through an opening paragraph, that is short-short-SHORT. But I edited and cut, cut and edited. And chopped, chopped, chopped. And I got down down to 445 words. And sent it in.
And it was worth it.
I’m delighted to report that my essay earned an Honorable Mention in the Humor category.
Erma is my idol, and I am thrilled just to see my name written next to hers.
Here’s my winning story:
IN PRAISE OF PANTYHOSE
It seems that Kate Middleton has singlehandedly brought pantyhose back in fashion.
I’m so glad. Pantyhose are marvelous. They are the airbrush of legs.
When I was twelve, my mother allowed me to wear nylon stockings to Church on Sunday. It was 1963. Nylons, though sheer, were inflexible. They only fit because they were shaped like legs. If you were lucky enough to have leg-shaped legs.
I did not.
I was skinny. Very skinny. I like to write that twice. I don’t get very many opportunities these days to describe myself that way.
My nylons bagged around the knees and drooped around the ankles. It was sort of like wearing my own shadow.
And holding them up was tricky. Garter belts are such sexy little costumes. But there’s a catch. If you are skinny – very skinny – (I got to write that again!) your garter belt will not stay up. You have to have hips.
I did not.
With my first pair of nylons I tried my sister’s garter belt. Three steps and the belt and stockings were at my ankles. That could be embarrassing in the line for Communion.
So my mother bought me a girdle – the smallest one she could find. It was a tiny rubber tube. Today I could use it as a waterproof case for my smartphone.
The girdle had garters on the lower seam – snap-hooks that you fastened your stockings to. When you sat down, you had the joy of sitting on the back pair of metal hooks. Ouchy. Often one of the little suckers would let go, and give you a surprise slap on the thigh. And you’d have to surreptitiously reach under your skirt and try to refasten the stocking, where the gap between stocking top and girdle bottom had now become seventeen inches.
And I didn’t even need a girdle. I needed to hold up my stockings.
Pantyhose arrived in Connecticut my first year of high school. It was a miracle.
Pantyhose then were a long way from the stretchy perfection they are now, so they still left me with baggy knees and ankles. But better. No girdle, no garters, no ouchy.
But pantyhose were expensive. So if I got a runner, I just cut off the damaged leg. And waited till I got a run in another pair, which never took long (Thank you, high school desk). I’d cut off that ruined leg. Put both pair on – each had a leg – (one might have to be inside out) – and Voila!
Of course, two pairs of pantyhose were a lot like a girdle after all.
And I could use one now.
In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s my 2015 salute to all girls – in all the wondrous forms we take.
ALL GIRLS ARE WELCOME HERE
Did you know that Amelia Earhart designed her own clothes? I can’t tell you how much I am cheered by this fact.
Recently I had a conversation with an eight-year-old. This girl is nothing like me. I was a girly-girl from the get-go. I loved baby dolls and crinolines and patent leather shoes, and dresses of dotted swiss with velvet ribbons. But this little girl likes none of those things. Instead of dolls, she likes Spiderman; instead of bows, she likes bows and arrows. She cut all her hair off when she was four, and her mother has been persuaded to keep it that way. She is often mistaken for a boy. And she likes it. And I like her.
During our conversation, we talked a bit about movies. I don’t know much about children’s movies. Although I saw “Kung Fu Panda” with this same little girl. I liked it. I think she did too. So we have that in common.
Because it’s so ubiquitous, I asked her if she had seen “Frozen.” Yes, she had, although she added, “But it wasn’t very good.”
This surprised me, because from children, adults, and even that group called “critics,” I heard it was very good indeed.
“What about it,” I asked, was not good?”
“Anna should have been a ninja; not a princess.”
This worried me.
I answered: “Well, I think that you don’t have to be a ninja to be a hero. I think that a princess can be a hero too – if she does the right thing.”
The young girl didn’t respond. But I hope she thought about it.
I’ve thought about it a lot.
Because I hope that in the future, people will accept this small human for exactly what she is comfortable being. But I also hope that she accepts those who are not like her.
I don’t want her to show disdain for girls in pink crinolines. Any more than I want her to be derided for her Batman sneakers.
There’s room for all kinds of girls in this world.
And that is why Amelia Earhart as fashion designer so heartens me. Even 80 years ago, this woman wanted to be an aviator. AND have cool clothes.
And why not?
Am I shallow because I love clothes and makeup?
Can’t this just be another side to a smart and complex woman?
Because I’m happy when my hair looks great, does that trivialize me?
I have important things to say.
Why can’t I change the world while wearing a pretty dress?
I was doing my hair the other day when my curling iron broke. Even though I wear my hair straight, I use one of those big-barreled curling irons to give me some body. And to get all my hair going in basically one direction. I have cowlicks. Year ago, in my college Art class, we were drawing the human figure, and the teacher described drawing hair like this:
Sometimes hair is a solid silky sheet and it reflects the light. Curly hair lets the light through it. And then you have hair like Nancy’s where every single strand has its own direction.
So I was bending my hair into submission, and the curling iron gave up. This has happened about once a year for the past twelve years.
The clamp that clamps won’t clamp. The hinge has become unhinged.
My husband got so aggravated at this recurring aggravation that one year, he took the broken curling iron down to his workshop and devised a new clamp. But the fix was temporary.
That’s because the damn thing is designed to break.
If you are manufacturing small appliances that you sell for $19.95, you don’t want the junk to last forever. You wouldn’t make any money if unruly-haired girls bought your stuff only once. You want it to last just long enough so that unruly-haired girls won’t demand a refund, but instead will just go out an buy another. Like every year.
I won’t say the name of the manufacturer, but you know the one. They make tons of cheap hair appliances, and they have the same name as a movie about a hijacked airplane. Coincidence?
I think that just about everything these days is designed with Planned Obsolescence. My dog’s toys last 3 weeks if we are lucky. But sometimes only five minutes. We once bought a cat toy that the cat destroyed 45 seconds after it came out of the box. I think that was a record. But knowing cats… perhaps not.
We bought a flat screen TV a few years ago. The screen went black one night, although there was still sound. We decided it would be worth calling a repairman. It cost $375 for a new mother board. The board was guaranteed for 90 days. It failed on day 94.
It was a miracle we could even locate a repairman. I’m not sure there is a single shoemaker in all of Connecticut. Shoe repair? Who does that?
And there are bobby pins whose rubber tips come off. And eyeshadow that breaks into flaky chunks and falls into the wet sink. Lipsticks whose tops come loose in your purse and the lipstick gets coated with kleenex dust. Pens that won’t write. Aerosol cans that won’t spray. Towels that fray in the washing machine. Buttons that fall off your coat.
And baking dishes that are no longer safe to bake in. And yes, you know the brand this time too (because it’s THE Brand). The formula was changed a few years ago, so unless you have an old baking dish, you can end up with this:
I think all this “Let’s make shit you have to replace often” philosophy started in the sixties.
Because I remember snagging yet another nylon stocking on the school desk in science class in 1966. I expressed dismay (without swearing, because that would get me suspended) – and the teacher said:
“Did you know that nylon stockings can be made to be run-proof?” He added, “But then how many would you buy?”
“Do you think,” I asked, “that the hosiery manufacturers pay the school desk manufacturers to add a few rough edges?”
“What makes you think they are different manufacturers?” he replied.
So I date the rise of Planned Obsolescence to the 1960s.
But not before.
Because of Cuba.
Cuba’s revolution in 1959 eliminated that country’s ability to buy new cars. So they are still driving big old Buicks and Chevys from the 50s.
And the streets look like this:
Yeah, these cars are still on the road. They are not living the pampered life of antique car shows. They go to work. They get groceries. They are taxicabs.
I want to go to Cuba and see these magnificent displays of automotive longevity. And I want to go there soon. Because, with the normalization of U.S./Cuba relations, it won’t be too long before the Cuban people are all driving unreliable pieces of shit.
Like the rest of us.
The older I get, the more I desire to be true to myself.
That can be a little tricky for women. We have so many faces.
I see my husband – and other men – who seem to have one role, one face. “This is who I am.” they say. And it is who they are all the time. At work, at home, with their buddies – basically the same guy.
But I see women who are mostly like me. We glide from one role to another. We morph and change situationally. Mom and sexpot. Business executive and daughter. Artist and Nurse. Diplomat and housekeeper. Sometimes all in the same day.
I want to be true to myself. But I’ve never been quite sure who that is.
As I get older though, I see that all my various Selves are merging. My multiple personalities are dwindling down. I’m more me.
I’m a laugher. I laugh a lot at both at the office and at home. I even laugh in Yoga. I don’t save it for just one of my personas. Life is mostly ridiculous. Laughing is my consistency.
I’m patient. I wait my turn in line. I stop and let the guy in the beat-up chevy make a left-hand turn. I listen to my husband tell the same story for the sixteenth time. I try not to kill the dog.
I’m an introvert. Oh, I’m a good storyteller and I like people. But I need my quiet time to recharge. I don’t get my energy from hoopla and hubbub. I don’t like team projects at the office and I don’t particularly like parties. Leave me alone. Let me think.
I’m rational and cautious. I think through my decisions. I’m not much of a risk-taker. And despite my tendency to see the funny side in everything, I’m not emotional. I may be a laugher, but I’m not a crier.
And in addition to being rational, I’m also a rationalizer. Consistency? It’s my consistent failing. It may be admirable that I am quick to forgive, but I am also incapable of holding anyone responsible. I’m a terrible boss. I hate to address performance – I rarely even ask for performance. I correct subordinates’ mistakes after they go home. I make excuses for everyone. Most especially, I make excuses for myself.
So I’m not perfect. Which always surprises me. But there’s the plus side – that I can laugh at myself and forgive myself.
And I like myself. In truth, I mostly liked all the various personalities and roles I’ve taken on over the years. But even more, I love the unique and consonant person I’ve become.