I met my friend, Rich, yesterday for lunch. It was his 59th birthday and we had to celebrate that achievement. My 59th was in January, so I am the senior member of the Almost Three Score Old Farts Club. We get together frequently to solve the world’s problems and lament the passing of the good old days.
But really when were those so-called good old days. Certainly not the 60’s when we came of age and lost our societal innocence with the deaths of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King Jr., and were haunted for more than half the decade by the specter of Vietnam. The 70’s can’t possibly qualify as good--Nixon, disco, plaid bellbottoms, and polyester leisure suits serve to erase the “good” from those old days. In the 80’s we were too wrapped up in raising our kids and making a living to even think about anything else that might have been going on. The 90’s are still too close in the rear view mirror to be considered “old.” So that only leaves the 50’s as the decade to qaulify as the “good old days.”
So in looking back to that time, I’ve been trying to get a handle on what the feeling was back then. Our cultural ideals were Ward and June Cleaver and Ozzie and Harriet personifying the epitome of family values. Of course, women were still second class citizens and only meant to be housewives. Working women inspired behind the back whispers about their misplaced priorities. “Keep ‘em barefoot and pregnant” was the prevailing attitude to keep them in line. Which makes me wonder--what ever happened to the housedress and apron that was her accepted costume of the day?
“I like Ike” was the predominant political mantra when we weren’t bogged down with McCarthyism and peering behind every bush and under every rock, looking for signs of those despicable commies. Your neighbor’s basement bomb shelter reinforced the dread of nuclear destruction. The bomb drills we had in grade school, when we were taught to assume a fetal position under our desks (yeah, that’ll work), certainly inspired confidence in our survivabilty.
Of course, the birth of Rock ‘n Roll was thought to be the certain downfall of our nation’s youth. Elvis was the Anti-Christ leading us into hell one hip swivel at a time.
Hair styles for men were either crewcut, flattop, or a brylcreemed pompadour with that cute ducktail twitching at the collar; none a particularly flattering look.
Scruffy, poem spewing beatniks laid the foundation for the next decade’s hippies.
And those cars--sheet metal behemoths that sported enormous fins and back seats spacious enough to get even the best girl in trouible. Gas was cheap, though, so driving that girl to the favored make-out spot didn’t put much of a dent in the old allowance.
So ok, were they really the good old days? Or do we always seem to look back through the rose colored prism of age? We like to think that everything was better back then, whenever back then is for us, and that today the world is going to hell in a handbasket carried by the messenger of dissipation and doom. Realistically, though, today is no worse than yesterday, nor a whole lot better. It just is what it is and we have to live with what we have at hand. Those among us who are in the prime of their lives will undoubtedly someday look back on 2007 as being the best of all worlds. For them it will seem so if they use that same rose colored prism.
But looking back is a futile exercize just as looking forward is wishful one. Today is the day you have. Today is the day to cherish. Live each day without the regretful note of nostalgia or the presumption of a future, and every day will become one of those good old days. Then, when you get to being a member of the Almost Three Score Old Farts Club, maybe you’ll have fewer of the world’s problems to solve.