Monday, May 28, 2012

How Old is Grandma?

Granny must be getting pretty senile at age 59, if she can't remember watching television in the 1950's.


A friend recently sent me a glurge entitled "How Old is Grandma?" about how great things were in Grandma's day, before we had these newfangled inventions like television, FM radio, and women's rights.   I had to chastise him about it, as it clearly was head-up-the-ass wrong on so many counts.  Granny, at age 59, certainly saw television and FM radio, as a youngster, or even the day she was born.   The world is not, in fact, a new and scary place.

The main point of the glurge was not that we have all this technological tomfoolery, but little subtle comments about marital relations, gay rights, women's rights, drug use, and other changes in our cultural outlook - or at least apparent changes.

Because, back in 1953 (or 1947, depending on which version you are reading - and there are many) not only did we have television and FM radio, but we had what was called a double standard with regard to sex.   If a men had sex before marriage, he was viewed as a man-about-town, a stud, or sophisticated and cunning.   The woman, on the other hand, was a slut, a whore, and the lowest of low-life, even if in fact, she was raped.

Ah, yes, the 1950's, where rapes went largely unreported, and if they were, the shame fell upon the woman involved, not the man.  And if she got pregnant?  She was shunned from polite society, and risked death in a back-alley abortion.  And hey, if she hemorrhaged to death, she had it coming, right?  I mean, the bitch was a slut, right?

Yea, Grandma don't talk about that.   You see, women were still basically property back then.   You graduated from high school and tried to find a good man to marry - and not get raped in the interim.   And if the man you married beat the crap out of you, well, you were supposed to be a "good wife" and understand why he was so angry.

Yea, Granny don't talk about that, either.

Of course, it was possible to get a job and live your own life, although even getting into college for women was difficult, unless you went to a "women's college" - which were mostly finishing schools for girls, to help them find suitable husbands.   Things like Medicine, Engineering, or Law were pretty much out of the question, although a brave few dared to try - and were castigated for their efforts.

Jobs were available in "traditional" women's roles - Secretary, Nurse, Teacher - where you could expect to make 50 cents on the dollar (if that) of what a man made.

Yea, the good old days.  They sucked - for women, at least.

And Grandma failed to mention how great it was for Blacks in the "good old days".   While the last documented lynching in the South occurred in 1946, discrimination, segregation, and violence and murder of black men and women (as well as white civil rights workers) continued for another two decades.  Ahhh!  If we could only go back to those simpler times and no have to worry about setting the clock on our VCR to know what time the lynchin' is at.

And Granny is quite proud of being born before we had high-falutin' medicines like penicillin and polio vaccines!   Well, not exactly - Granny is lying again, as these existed before she was born.    But again, the good old days were pretty crappy, and Granny is going to live perhaps 20 years longer than her parents, and maybe 40 years longer than her Grandparents, thanks to modern medicine, which is paid for through Medicare, which in turn is paid for by those whipper-snapper young people, with their earrings, gay rights, and newfangled computers.

And perhaps Grandma forgot, that if she was born in 1947 (or 1953, the age depends on how old the glurge is) that she was in her teens in the early 1960's, and likely was part of the generation that slept together before marriage - and even used (gasp!) birth control.

And no, she did not listen to Jack Benny and Big Band music, if she is 58 or 59 years old.  Likely she listened to Elvis as a kid, perhaps the Beatles as a teenager, and maybe went to Woodstock and smoked that "pot" she now grouses about.

No, the world did not go to hell in a handbasket in the last 50 years.  But that is the narrative they want to sell you in this glurge - that all the bad things in this country occurred recently, and if we could only "go back to the good old days" we would live in a simpler, better world.

But life isn't that simple.   My Grandmother, who was born near the turn of the Century (the one before last, not 1999!) was a "flapper" during the roaring 20's.  She scandalized her Lutheran parents by going to speakeasies in nearby New York City, and even riding around with boys in their cars - the automobile being one of those "newfangled" inventions, like the Victorola and the Telephone.

In fact, you could write the same glurge, 50 years ago, and say that such-and-such a thing hadn't been invented or wasn't around when "Grandma" was born.   After all, we didn't have Gangsters and Bootleggers in 1900!   And certainly not the promiscuous sex that was touted in pre-Hayes code movies.

You see, people have been saying the world is going to hell in a handbasket for so long, you have to wonder why it is taking so long.   In reality, the world isn't doing too badly, and in fact, things are better today that they have been - ever, ever.   We are healthier and wealthier and live longer and have access to things our ancestors would never even dream about.

The best of times, are indeed, now.

And how do I know this?   Because I am 52 years old, only a few years younger than the "Grandma" posited in the glurge.

And I suppose I could write a similar, stupid glurge about all the "newfangled changes" that have occurred since my brief time on this planet - the Internet, iPods, Cable television, gay marriage, whatever.

But what would be the point?

I learned to program FORTRAN on punch cards on an IBM Mainframe.  Yes, the world has changed much since those days.   But compared to 1900, the punch card machine was quite an advance as well.  Get over it, Grandma!

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