For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT'S THE RUSH?
by Nancy Rechtman
When are we going to get there? For those of you with children, you have heard those words countless times. My standard answer is soon. Even if there are four more hours, it's soon. Of course that only holds them for about five minutes until the question arises once again. I just drive along quietly, hoping at some point they'll get tired of asking. Which brings me to the question of the proliferation of portable VCR and DVD players for the car. The jury is still out as to whether they are great inventions or insidious ones. They do tend to pacify our children, actually placating them for at least two hours at a time as they sit, transfixed by one of their favorite movies which they've seen ninety-nine times before, but in the car it's like the first time. And when you have a nine hour road trip in front of you, this kind of hypnotic trance seems to be heaven sent. But do we really want our kids constantly numbed by the tube? What ever happened to car games like finding license plates from all the states or the alphabet game? When I see the blank stares I get from my kids when I make these lame suggestions, I get the creeping fear that I have truly become a dinosaur in the brave new world of flashing lights, buzzers and bells which now constantly assault our senses.
My question is, what's the rush? Why have we suddenly become in such a hurry to do everything faster? We now try to make our kids dress, play and sound like adults. Take a look in the children's clothing department of any store and you'll find mini-me's all over the place. They are all trying to look like pop stars with navels bared and cleavage exposed before they're even old enough to wear training bras! And the schools are just as guilty of trying to push our kids into warp drive when it comes to the curriculum. Why are they forcing our kids to learn concepts that we didn't learn until high school when they are still learning their ABC's? Have kids become more brilliant over the years that they can now absorb all of this information more readily than we could have at their age? Or is it something else?
It's nothing new that children are trying to grow up before they have reached the age of consent. What is unusual is that parents have become aiders and abettors in this new scenario. When we were young, we would constantly whine: When will I be old enough to drive? When will you let me stay in the house by myself? When will you stop watching out the window every time I come home with my boyfriend? Or something to that effect. Today, with the insanely hectic lifestyles we lead, we actually encourage our children to grow up faster than they should. Children are getting their licenses at fifteen years old! How scary is that - giving kids who were only recently frequenting Stride Rite and Toys R Us, the keys to a several thousand pound hunk of metal on wheels with our blessing? This relieves us of the burden of being full-time chauffeurs, but at what cost? And, as much as no one likes to talk about it, when both parents are forced to work long hours at their jobs, often with no family available to help, how many latchkey kids are there in our country who are still in elementary school? The problem is not so much that kids are racing to grow up so fast, it is the question of who is actually there to show them what being grown up means?
We want everything now. Instant has become the defining word of our times. We no longer want to wait for the heavenly smells of a meal cooking all afternoon that used to permeate our grandmothers' kitchens. We now buy frozen food that we shove in the microwave and voila, it's done in ten minutes! But while our meal is being zapped, we are guilted into multi-tasking and finding something else to do. Those ten minutes are precious moments ticking away. A new commercial suggests that we pay our bills on-line while we are waiting for our so-called meal and try to beat the clock. This way we don't waste time with having to write checks, seal envelopes and, heaven forbid, drive to the post office. Wow! And what do we do with all of this extra time that we now supposedly have? We are now on-call twenty-four seven, with computers, faxes, and e-mails sucking away at any family or private time once reserved for week-ends and holidays. Has life become so much more urgent that there is no longer any rest for the weary and stressed?
I was reading an article about television shows that have been cancelled, some after only a few airings. Not that I'm a big fan of the state of television, but what ever happened to nurturing a show along until it finds its audience? Think of classics like M*A*S*H, All in the Family or Cheers which were not instant hits. If those shows aired today, we probably would never even know about them because they'd be yanked from the schedules so fast you'd have whiplash from trying to find them. It's not as if the networks have gems waiting in the wings to replace the now-cancelled shows. Just more of the same. So why not see if there is a diamond in the rough before a show is cancelled, try tweaking it a bit, see if the time slot it's in causes it to be up against the number one show on television which might cause a slight dip in ratings, give it a chance? Again, I suppose I'm being prehistoric here.
The interesting thing about all of this is that while we try to force every aspect of our lives into hyper drive, we desperately try to hit the brakes on the aging process. The advent of the official start of middle age has climbed at least twenty years in our minds, leapfrogging from our forties to somewhere in our sixties. Which would mean we now plan to live until about one hundred and thirty. The baby boomers in particular will not go off into that good night without a heck of a fight. At some point, won't the race to speed up our lives but slow down our age collide in some sort of spectacular cosmic implosion? And then, what will we have left? I shudder to think but for now it's time to zap my mac and cheese and check my e-mails while I review quantum physics with my twelve-year-olds.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail email@example.com.