Point of View: Then and Now

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Certain truths in life are incontrovertible. Prices will rise, politicians will break their word and we will grow old. As we grow old we tend to look back and remember how much better things were in the “days of yore.” Ice cream cones cost 25 cents, movies were 50 cents for a double feature and cartoons played ahead of the main feature instead of ads. Children respected their elders, women were happy taking care of the home and waiting for their husbands at the end of the workday with a cold martini made just the way he liked it after a tough day at the office.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking, all this recent nostalgia for the old days.  Everything wasn’t as great as we might remember.  For one thing, women’s hairstyles were horrible in the ‘50s. Rules for girls heading out into the world were bizarre. For example, my aunt insisted I wear white gloves when applying for a job in Manhattan and my father, who really did admire me, thought my best bet would be to go to secretarial school instead of college. A secretary is  “a fine position for a woman,” he would say. The fact that I was an opinionated (although frequently wrong) feminist, before anyone knew what a feminist was, didn’t really bode well for any success I might have as a secretary in the Mad Men era.

No doubt times are tough today. Even in the midst of the horror of the Vietnam War we had good music. Young people were passionately involved in efforts to end the war and make the world a better place for everyone.  Today, rap and pop music rule the airwaves and enormous percentages of young people have no idea who Mike Pence is, which might not be so bad.

Today, when young people gather, you will seldom be disturbed by their conversations. Thumbs flying, their eyes are glued to their smart phones. Texting about…who knows what. They are most likely not texting or tweeting about climate change or the state of our sorry union.

Men still control most of the world, which has always been a mystery to me since everyone knows women are smarter. Compare little girls to little boys. While most little boys are outside, blissfully throwing balls to each other, little girls are busy coming up with complex schemes in an effort to outfox everyone in their orbit. Boys are uncomplicated. They tell you what they want and basically keep quiet when they get it. Little girl brains seem to never rest.

But, brains aside, I know the real reason men control the world. Clothes! Men go to business in either a suit and tie or a t-shirt and jeans. Most importantly, they all wear flat, comfortable shoes. Men take about 15 minutes to dress in the morning and when they come home they put on an old t-shirt they have had since college and a pair of jeans that cost about $35.  Most importantly, no one will notice if the suit they are wearing is the same one they have been wearing each day for a week or two. Just change the tie and, voila, a totally new look.

Many women, on the other hand, spend a great amount of time on how they look and dress. Most women spend an inordinate amount of time searching for salons offering a decent haircut for less than a king’s ransom. Make-up must be carefully applied so you don’t look like you have coated your face with products in an effort to hide real or imagined flaws. I won’t even mention the effort required to blow dry a woman’s hair if it is more than an inch or two long.

Shoes…the horror! Women’s dress shoes are not comfortable. Try walking a block or two in high heels. Never mind the new heels that are in fashion today, which are four or five inches high. When walking — carefully — in those extra high heels, women look like giraffes trying to keep their necks straight.

I am not really sure about this, but I think that when men go to work they don’t think of anything except their work. Be it a complex legal deal being negotiated in a white-collar law firm or a carpenter building a new home, men focus on the task at hand. I think they can concentrate on the job and forget about the fact that their kid is showing signs of severe anxiety over their SAT’s score, or which college they should choose in order to pursue their interest in documentary film making, a career guaranteed to earn them just enough money upon graduation to hole up in their parents’ basement for the foreseeable future.

Women worry about everything. We worry about our kids, our husbands and our family members. We wonder if we made a good impression on our children’s teachers so they will think the kid has decent parents and a good home. We worry about our children’s friends and if they are good influences on our kids. Now we can add to our worry list, global warming. We wonder whether or not we should encourage our children to learn subsistence farming so they are prepared to live off the grid once cyber warfare turns off all our electricity.

All this fussing about how women look and dress is exhausting. It almost makes it easier just to cede control of the world to men. Or, women could just start wearing sneakers all the time and men and women could run the world together, which would be a big improvement over the way things are run now.

So, what to do in our brave new world?  I suggest everyone go on Netflix and watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. That guy really knew how to live. We would all be better off following his lead.

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