So another year has passed. And they do swiftly, like roadside signs, it seems. What beyond the usual resolutions to lose some weight, thin that waist, get some exercise by walking a few thousand more steps a day, wear a trendy mask and watch less TV do we think about? Well, if you’re a senior citizen, that is someone over 50, who is called “sir” and “ma’am” when addressed by a young checkout clerk at the grocery store, you also think about being out of date.
That’s right, being out of date. No longer with it, no longer cool. (Notice I didn’t say “groovy.”) The pandemic of aging is being out of date, left behind like rotary phones or paper maps. So, in this new year, we seniors have to examine ourselves to make sure we’re not out of date. But how?
First we begin with our vocabulary. Like when someone asks, “Did you Zoom today?” We don’t answer, “Well, no, I walked this morning before my breakfast of a chocolate chip bagel; it was brisk, but wasn’t zooming, exactly.” Oops! They meant were we on our computer in a face-to-face chat with family or in a face-to-face meeting. Or when a grandchild asks if you tweet, you don’t laugh and say, “No, sweetheart, I’m not a bird.” Think, think, before you speak — she means do you use Twitter (no, again, not a bird). And, hey, TikTok is not the sound of your non-digital clock.
Second, we check our wardrobe. Like, if you’re a senior guy, like me, do you still wear pants with cuffs or jeans without holes? If so, man, oh man, give them away to someone out of date. And the holes have to be in all the right places, not behind from too much sitting when you should be walking. Senior women have the same problem with jeans. Holes where? In the knees, please. I mean, hey, our outdated clothes have got to sing the blues.
And remember when you fly on a plane, look informal, like wear warm-up clothes and a hoodie. Hey, maybe even cool pjs. None of them crisp shirts and skirts.
Then, third, there’s that thing called technology. Of course we make sure we’re always Googling on our smart phone or texting. In a public place like a restaurant or airport lounge, don’t do anything like read a book. That will give us away, like “Look, mom, at that person in pressed khakis reading a hardback book…how weird.” And, of course, as I’ve mentioned above when asked directions, don’t say, “I’ll check the map.” No, say, “hey, yeah, I’ll Google them.” And whip out that smart phone! And, hey, check out what’s happening on Facebook, social media, now that’s the real gig.
My first flight was on a prop plane when I flew to Chicago to begin as a freshman at Wheaton College. Yeah, I even thought the engine was on fire. But that’s so out of date, and I don’t want to be known as prop-plane grandpa. So now I Zoom on jets. And text, text, text. And, yeah, I remember those small screen TVs and shows like “Gunsmoke.” But, I’ve left that behind, and now Zoom back and forth through 80 channels with my remote.
But, you know, it’s great that some things are out of date. Like segregation when I grew up in Detroit. No Blacks allowed in white neighborhoods. And there were no Black students in my high school or when I was at the University of Michigan. And women were thought to be housewives, not doctors or lawyers. And when I came to Bakersfield College, there were few students from poor neighborhoods. And in Kern, Latinos were thought to be only field workers. Be gone, be out of date.
So, yeah, out with the old, in with the new. And as proof we are not out of date let’s rap:
So, hey hey, you think I’m so out of date
Because I got white hairs on my pate,
But, yeah, it’s so cool to open a book
Cause rappin gets me off the hook,
Oh, yeah, it’s so groovy and great
It saves me from an out of date fate!
So, it so happens that all becomes out of date, except that one thing: love for others, out of date or not.
Jack Hernandez is a retired director of the Norman Levan Center of the Humanities at Bakersfield College.