About a year ago there was an elderly gringo who, though not an intimate pal, was always very nice to me. He had me over for several holiday dinners and invited me to speak at his church. In his thank you note he stated “You were the best speaker we’ve ever had.”
So I was a bit surprised when shortly after that he started a social media campaign to defame my tours and books on local history and culture. Exactly what I spoke about at his church to his acclaim. It got so slanderous; I had him, and his illogical ranting, removed from the Civil List, Face Book and other web sites. Still I was stunned and confused by his actions until yesterday.
Yesterday I learned he was diagnosed with incurable cancer and I knew from experiences with my mother, and being the head of a volunteer care team for the terminally ill, things go south early on. Often, long before a person realizes they are in the troughs of their final illness, they get cranky. It’s almost as if your body is trying so hard to hide the growth of the disease and your impending demise that the part of your brain with morals, kindness and logic shuts down first to provide more energy for the illness’ subterfuge.
Then there are other elderly gringos I encounter that are simply mean from the get go and go on like the Eveready Bunny in blissful health. For example, one morning I had a meeting with a gal that I’ll call Mrs. Methuselah since she was a waitress at the Last Supper. That morning our oldest resident gringo, Farley, had died around the age of 95.
Thinking the news would sadden Mrs. M I was surprised when she dismissed the news with “He was too old to be alive anyway.” Somehow I think she forgot they were once in the same homeroom.
It made me do a bit of research on aging. I had assumed, wrongly, we get kinder with age. I thought men who were lousy dads, lose their testosterone and become kindly grandpas. Or we simply gain perspective and the corresponding kindness with the years.
Instead I learned who we are in middle school is who we are our entire lives. If, instead of being like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Half Pint, you were a Nellie Oleson, a vindictive, shallow and intellectual limited gal, you have those qualities until you stop breathing. Sure, your beliefs, likes and hair-dos evolve, but the basic you, it seems is set in concrete around 12.
That made me want to go back a step and see how American women in their fifties thought. Given that was now my age, and, for me, fifties have been fine. I’m more attractive to women than I’ve ever been before, happier than I’ve ever been, done with my official education and taking care of others (employees, clients, vendors, kids, parents and spouse) and in good health. What more can an old fogy want?
Well, American women in their fogy fifties it seems want much more.
One book was a series of stories by American college English professors. I thought these ladies would know how to tell a story. Fifty percent wrote about their fading looks and being invisible to men. Since I never relied on my looks for anything, and professionally speaking, being a white man was always a liability in my lifetime, their stories were enlightening.
Forty percent then wrote on the trials and tribulations of looking for a man. Apparently finding one not seriously troubled over a failed romance earlier in their long life is slim. Oddly, I’ve found having already been married appealing to women. Like you have somehow been previously vetted, plus the idea of taking another gal’s man (even if she doesn’t want him) is oddly appealing to most women.
The last ten percent of the stories were on the trials and tribulations of moving for your professor job. For all the moaning about moving, not one of these fifty over fifty gals wrote about teaching, their actual profession. I thought that was telling on how little they ponder about their lives spent in a classroom.
For a comparison, I questioned local gals over fifty for their experiences. Mexican women enjoyed no longer being responsible for parents (now dead), children (now grown) or careers (now over as I know a lot of retired school teachers). They relished their independence and interest in, well, new interests.
That led to jump backwards in age to study Millennials and their leading expert on happiness. He stated parents (aka me) of Millennials short changed our kids with endless awards. Yes, I remember teasing my kids for winning awards like “Best Bus Rider” or “Best Breather” knowing they knew it was silly. But also knowing, as a parent, that award was often the only affirmation some of their classmates ever received.
The Millennials’ expert’s claim that this new generation’s “sense of entitlement knew no bounds” made me laugh. As an employer of hundreds for two decades, and living here with elderly foreigners, I’m all too aware a sense of entitlement spans generations and is more of a national trait than something defined by a generation.
So if who we are is who we were in middle school I can live with that. I can even thrive with the advice that all men turn into their fathers, and women turn into their mothers. It all follows suit with the advice from combative 1930s actress Bette Davis who once stated “Aging isn’t for sissies.”
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin