Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tea and Bullets


Have you ever noticed that old people love dishes. I am one of those people. They usually get it for their wedding. I am old but don't fit that demographic. I figured my mother-in-law would cause too much of a guffule at my wedding since I wasn't Jewish so we just went to city hall forty years ago and got married on our way to school for the day. ( Smartest thing I ever did but I didn't get dishes.) However, I am totally into ceramics. I have inherited several sets. I even read about it all the time. Did you know that Charles Darwin married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood of the famous Wedgwood China family. It was the Wedgwood fortune that financed the Beagle voyage. Whenever I go to Ashley's, the biggest china store in Toronto, to look at China I only see old people in flea bitten minks looking for replacement pieces for their china. Now that gay people can marry I sometimes see gay men arguing over china patterns in the newlyweds registry section. I totally get why they feel strongly about a creamer or a sugar bowl. It takes a boring cup of tea into the realm of entertainment.

What I particularly like about the above picture of the china ( I think the blue and white pattern is Royal Copenhagen) is that it combines both of my favourite things. I love violence and china. I adore yelling at people and then threatening them. It is an old habit and old people have trouble breaking old habits. Now I can have a ceramic gun that is pretty and it can match my pattern. This is really old people heaven. Thank you Wedgwood, Spode and Royal Copenhagen for thinking of everything.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

old people like penmanship

I used to work for a national magazine and write an advice column. I received hundreds of letters and I could always tell how old the person was by their penmanship. If they were over 75 they wrote in the Spencerian method. It is a cross between what we would call Cursive writing and calligraphy. If they were over 85 they would write in the Spencerian style with a little bit of a quiver in the letters. ( see picture above)

If the writer was between 65 and 45 they wrote in cursive writing of the Palmer school which is a slanted writing with specific style to each letter.

If they are under 40 they wrote with a smidgen of cursive style and a smattering of printing.

If they are under 30 they often wrote in cursive and when they became anxious or tired by the end of their four line letter they often fell into block letters.

If they are under 20 then the writing is usually block lettering and then becomes larger and more scrambled when they are expressing an emotional thought. It often looks like the writing of "Son of Sam",the paranoid schizophrenic who wrote to the newspapers in 1976. ( see printed letter above)

There are a lot of reasons for this decline in penmanship. We now have computers and the school system no longer sees the need to teach penmanship. Cursive writing is going the way of the Dodo bird. You can only get a job as a Dickensian scribe with good penmanship. Now schools stop teaching penmanship in grade two if they teach it at all. There is actually a lot to learn with proper cursive lettering in terms of motor coordination in the hand, wrist, and shoulder in order to form letters . You have to learn how to hold the pen, and how to glide across the page. Remember doing it with that pen that had that fat round bulb in the middle so your untrained hand wouldn't slip. It is no wonder that those in their 20's and 30's write like they are in first grade--that is when they stopped learning it.

It saddens me to read the letters I receive from these poor ill equipped young adults. They would often apologize for their lack of penmanship and grammatical savvy. Now people learn computer programs instead of penmanship. There are several problems with this shift in learning. Very often what you learn in the field of technology is outmoded before you even finish school. A perfect case in point was when I was in graduate school in the dark ages, I opted not to master French but another language--a computer language called FORTRAN that would be of use forever in my work on computers. It was the hardest course or language that I ever took and it was completely outmoded before the ink dried on my Phd. It disappeared within two years. I have no idea where it went but no one ever mentioned it. Whenever I say I know Fortran people say "Wow, are you old". Those that learned decent cursive writing are still plugging along. If I'd taken French, I could at least get a Mac Poulet in Montreal at McDonald's without having to repeat myself.

It is quite shocking to receive hundreds of letters from all age groups. Old people not only write legibly and as though they have some personal discipline, they also know how to compose a letter with a salutation, etc. Young people just dump out their feelings in a higgedy-piggedly style that is harder to decipher than the Rosetta Stone. Old people use compound sentences full of independent and dependent clauses accompanied by the right punctuation. Young people struggle to get their meaning across in simple sentences. I sense their frustration at not having been taught the tools of simple letter writing. The letters that have decent cursive writing also contain appropriate punctuation. The old people know exactly what they want to ask and never resort to the terminology of the undereducated young people. The young person says, "you know what I mean" or 'get it?' or 'whatever' instead of clearly explaining the problem. They count on my having experienced what they have experienced instead of explaining what is on their mind.

When I showed these letters to my husband, he commented on how sad it was that some of the young people have been to university while the older ones will often say they are from a farm in Saskatchewan and never went past grade eight. The correlation between decent writing, proper grammar and punctuation is positively correlated with age not educational level. What does that tell you?

Anyway at this point I am raving - but if you had to read the hundreds of letters that I have had to decipher for hours-- you'd rant as well.



There is so little written about older women in terms of 'erotica' I thought you might want to hear this little ditty on video.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

bird watching

Old people really like watching birds. I know because I'm old and can do it for hours. On my old farm in Ontario I can rock on my front porch and watch the ruby throated hummingbirds come to the feeder that I fill every day. They are really into sugar water. Sometimes I have a coke while watching them and then I know we are having the same treat.

Did you know that hummingbirds are the evolutionary link between birds and bees? They eat nectar like bees, buzz like bees, but have wings and feathers like a bird. They are the only bird that can fly backwards. They also have really tiny feet. I love to discover one of their nests. As you watch this video remember that the whole nest is only the size of a walnut shell, yet holds the mother and the babies. Catch this video:

If you are not sure if you are old but are on the cusp -- say 50 to 55, then you can see if you are glazing over at this point in my hummingbird tale. If you can't take anymore and would rather shop or look at guys or girls then you are not really old. I think bird watching is an electric-kool-aid-acid test for old age. Or maybe like the hummingbird the birdwatcher is the link between the aging and the elderly.

emailing grandchildren pictures

A lot of old people are grandparents who love emailing their grandchild's picture to you. Beware of this really annoying habit as they can be sneaky. They often don't say "grandchild in my arms" in the subject line since, of course, you would press delete. Instead the subject line reads "don't miss this!" When you open it you see a new grandchild that is hard to distinguish from an iguana. There are dozens of pictures and your computer gets clogged with images of someone you do not know, will never know, and has no interest in knowing you. EVER

The best one I ever received was labeled 'granny and grandchild swim class.' The only thing worse than seeing a grandchild is seeing a wet one emerging from the pool. It looks a bit like the missing link between man and fish. The tag line attached to the photo was interesting in its profound delusion. It said 'please don't forward'. I guess that grandmother was afraid that her picture of 'tot and granny swimclass' might go viral.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Masterpiece theatre

Have you ever noticed that you have to be over 50 and closer to 60 before Masterpiece theater on PBS appeals to you. It is not as though I am old enough to remember the Dickensian workhouse, but I guess I am close enough for those 19th century scenes to come alive. Whenever I have my young friends over to watch my giant TV and I have a great night of Middlemarch loaded in the VCR, they yell, "Are you kidding. Costume Drama is for old people." Actually that is not true. They yell that when I am in America. In Canada they say, "This looks great" and then they fall asleep in their popcorn.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

stuff old people like

What is really scary is I just woke up and realized that at 62 years of age. I am old. What form did this revelation take? There is always an incident that drives it home. In my case there were two tip offs. The first occurred last year. I was going to a wedding and I hobbled into the TV room teetering on one high heel and one flat shoe and asked my three grown (or so they say) sons who were watching the video 'Jackass' ( That's how grown up they really are) which shoe looked better with my suit. One son said in a totally matter-of-fact tone, 'Mom wear what's comfortable. You're old. No one is looking." The other two nodded in agreement. I staggered out of the room into the dreaded daylight. He was only trying to say 'why not be comfortable.' My husband said 'I have no idea why you are upset-- didn't you know you were old?'

The next event that sealed my identity as an old person happened just last week. We are restoring a farm house and I gave all of the carpenters coffee and then went upstairs. Walking past the heating grate I heard one of them say, "I bet she was a looker." Key word was. I hoped for some dissension in the group; however, the others agreed. I only wished I'd put some arsenic,( or instant coffee) in their cups. Again my husband said he thought that was a compliment. Clearly men don't mind getting old. After all, they are respected for what they achieve. As they get older they achieve more. Women are valued for how they look. As they get older they look worse (if youth is the measure of true beauty.) Joni Mitchell said it best in her song Raised on Robbery when she says the woman is 'sitting on her groceries'.

I've had my mourning period. It's over. Middle age is over. 'Tall', 'blond', 'thin' and 'athletic' are no longer in anyone's lexicon when discussing me. Yet, I have an annoying habit of tying to find the up side in a situation.( my friends hate this about me.) Well there are several advantages to old age and I am enjoying them all. I no longer have to wear high heels, run for lipstick when someone arrives at my farm, or dress to go to the store. It is actually quite freeing once you realize and accept that you are no more interesting than wallpaper. Invisibility has its positives. I can be a closet sociologist. I can simply analyze the way old people behave in our world. The stuff they like is a reflection of who they have become and that is a reflection of how they are treated. I wonder if old Japanese people would like the same 'Stuff' since they are revered in Japan and in North America they are a symbol of what you do not want to become. That's why no one looks at you. They fear getting old like you.

Oddly enough this is the best time of my life. The kids are grown and no longer tell me how un-amusing I am. They never married so I don't have to have grandchildren and take them to smelly swimming classes. I can come and go as I please with my husband, who by the way, is also old. I was a psychologist for 25 years in private practice and now I am retired from that and can write what I want when I want. I have no more clocks or obligations.

I've decided to write a blog on Stuff what old people like. I hope to add a new thing every time an item or idea hits me. I'm aiming for one two a week. So if you're old stay tuned. If your young you can tune in to this crystal ball.

The first thing old people like is plastic surgery, particularly face lifts. I just got back from Buenos Aires where even the women in Burger King have bandages on their heads. A compliment in my forties used to be a woman saying, "You look great" or "You look rested." Now the ultimate compliment is "Have you had work done?" That means you look good enough to have had plastic surgery. The best kind is of course the 'work' that cannot be detected by the naked eye. You are supposed to be flattered and respond, "No, not yet."

I like this photo of Faye Dunaway above. Now there is a face lift that must have been done with a fork lift. I think most of her skin is folded in that hat she's wearing.