From the Editor: Were they the ‘good old days’?

October 10, 2011

Paula MinaertBY PAULA MINAERT — A catalogue called Good Old Days came to our house the other day. It sold things I remember from my childhood but haven’t seen in years: Fizzies tablets to drop in water, metal ice-cube trays with levers you have to pull to get the cubes out, Sugar Daddies, a Fiddlestix construction set, Cherry Ames books, Emeraude cologne.

We get other catalogues selling things like socks to promote circulation, magnifying glasses and cell phones that have big buttons and are just phones.

My first reaction is annoyance that the advertisers are targeting us. They know what demographic we’re in and adjust their pitches accordingly. Just Good Old Days magazine cover nostalgiaanother example of our consumer society, I grumble. It’s all part of my tirade about big business and how it tries to control our lives and limit our choices in the name of profit – their profit.

Here’s part of the tirade: In the past, people actually made things. Families were producing units, not consuming units. They grew their food and made their clothes. That’s operating on a higher plane than people do these days, where our purpose is to spend enough money and acquire enough things to support the economy. Besides, we’ve lost a lot of skills along the way. How many people today can bake bread from scratch or make a pie crust?

Businesses pay less attention to my demographic (60+) than to younger ones because we don’t have growing children at home so we’re past the stage where we buy a lot of things. And we don’t eat out often. Many new retail businesses have come to Hyattsville, but my first reaction isn’t to think how great it is to have a Thai restaurant or a furniture store nearby. I worry about the increased traffic and how we’re losing our small-town feel.

But I had a revelation recently. I realized that I am much freer to do the things I enjoy than I would be if I’d lived, say, a hundred years ago. I have much more time. I don’t spend my days carrying water indoors from a backyard pump or smoking meat or washing clothes on a washboard.

When I thought about it, I knew I don’t want to be a producing unit. I’d rather not spend all my time just surviving. Yes, I can bake bread and make pie crusts but most of the time I don’t want to and I’m grateful I have the choice.

So my attitude is more balanced now, I think, and not so one-sided. Not so much a tirade. There is a lot of good in the way things are today. I can use my free time to try to change the things I don’t think are good.

And I think I’ll take my husband out for Thai food.