Submit your questions to PJMBadAdvice@gmail.com or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!
Happy birthday, spring babies! I’ve just rounded the corner on a quarter century, and here’s a question from another Millennial, with a birthday problem…
Dear Bad Advice,
Three years ago, I had the best and worst birthday of my life. I was turning 21 and I had a spectacular party at a bar with a big group of friends the night before, and was showered with gifts and cards the next day (including a cake my mom sent me in the mail!). Sounds pretty good, right? Well, that day I also broke up with my boyfriend of three years, whom I’d been hoping to marry. It was the product of a long, painful wind-down that had taken place over the preceding months, but the final straw was when I opened up a box of flowers, and all my friends assumed it was from him…but it wasn’t. He was there when I opened it, and when one of my friends asked what he had done for my birthday, she found out he hadn’t planned anything special at all, not even a card or a nice dinner out. I know some people don’t make a big deal out of birthdays or holidays, but we had always been very thoughtful about celebrating special occasions, making each other hand-made gifts and cards and going out of our way to create a special evening for each other. So the fact that he hadn’t done anything at all had to have been a deliberate move on his part, to send me a message.
I still feel conflicted about that day, because I can’t seem to separate the great parts from the miserable ones. I had one of the most fun, memorable birthdays ever with a group of people who remain some of my closest friends — but I also ended a relationship with a man that I was utterly convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life with (how naive we are at 21). Ever since then, I sort of dread and look forward to every birthday, wondering if it’s going to be just as great, or just as bad. I’m turning 24 this year and I don’t know what to expect. How do I shake this foreboding feeling and just enjoy my day?
- Minerva K.
This sounds like bad advice, but you need a rebound.
As an early teen in the early ’80s, it was just about impossible not to like Michael Jackson’s music. It was certainly impossible to avoid it. With Thriller, Jackson and producer Quincy Jones set out to make the ultimate crossover album — one that would gain black and white audiences in equal measure. And equal airplay, too, back when radio stations were even more racially targeted than they are today.
And boy, did they succeed.
But Michael Jackson the person? It was pretty obvious even then that he was one strange dude. What happened though is what happens to too many child performers: The weirdness went up and up, while the quality of the performances went down and down. By the time Dangerous came out in 1991, the magic was pretty much gone. It sold in the millions, yet nobody was buying it. And by that I mean, nobody was buying Jackson’s pseudo tough/tender/ladies man act anymore. The weird was just too weird.
Then came the obligatory-yet-somehow-disappointing greatest hits collection, the horrifying-yet-believable stories about his sleepover parties with kids…
I shudder even to think about it. His last studio album, ironically named Invincible, came out after years of delays and way over budget — and to a tepid response.
It was around this time he was dangling babies off balconies and looking like a bad drag queen version of Elizabeth Taylor. Oh, and he’d somehow managed to go broke buying giraffes and rollercoasters and stuff. The music had hit bottom and the weird was at the top of the charts.
The amazingly talented and abused little boy who never had a childhood, never really had an adulthood, either. There’s so much blame to go around, you barely know where to start.
Does practice really make perfect? Does it even lead to improvement? One feels instinctively that it should, that the more experience a physician has, the better for the patient. Much of the skill of diagnosis is pattern-recognition rather than complex intellectual detection, and it follows that the longer a physician has been at it, the quicker he will recognize what is wrong with his patients. He has experience of more cases than younger doctors to guide him.
But the practice of medicine is more than mere diagnosis. It often requires manual dexterity as well, and the ability to assimilate new information as advances are made. These may decline rather than improve with age. Too young a doctor is inexperienced; too old a doctor is past it.
A recent paper, whose first author comes from the Orwellianly named Department of Veterans’ Affairs Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, examined the relationship between the years of an obstetrician’s experience and the rate of complications the women under his care experienced during childbirth. The authors examined the records of 6,705,311 deliveries by 5,175 obstetricians in Florida and New York. No one, I think, would criticize the authors for the smallness of their sample.
They examined the rate of serious complications such as infection, haemorrhage, thrombosis, and tear during or after delivery, divided by obstetrician according to his number of years of post-training experience. Reassuringly, and perhaps not surprisingly, experience reduced the number of such complications decade after decade. The rate of complications was 15 percent in the first ten years after residency; it declined by about 2 percent to 13 percent in the first decade thereafter, by about 1 percent in the subsequent decade to 12 percent, and by half a percent in the next. In other words, improvement continued, but less quickly as the obstetricians became more experienced; the authors appear not to have continued their study to the age at which the rate of complications started to rise again (if indeed there is such an age).
That’s the question asked in the 1st chapter of a book I am reading called Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old. From the description:
Do you sometimes wonder how your teen is ever going to survive on his or her own as an adult? Does your high school junior seem oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead? Does your academically successful nineteen-year-old still expect you to “just take care of” even the most basic life tasks?
Welcome to the stunted world of the Endless Adolescence. Recent studies show that today’s teenagers are more anxious and stressed and less independent and motivated to grow up than ever before. Twenty-five is rapidly becoming the new fifteen for a generation suffering from a debilitating “failure to launch.” Now two preeminent clinical psychologists tell us why and chart a groundbreaking escape route for teens and parents.
Drawing on their extensive research and practice, Joseph Allen and Claudia Worrell Allen show that most teen problems are not hardwired into teens’ brains and hormones but grow instead out of a “Nurture Paradox” in which our efforts to support our teens by shielding them from the growth-spurring rigors and rewards of the adult world have backfired badly. With compelling examples and practical and profound suggestions, the authors outline a novel approach for producing dramatic leaps forward in teen maturity, including:
• Turn Consumers into Contributors Help teens experience adult maturity–its bumps and its joys–through the right kind of employment or volunteer activity.
• Feed Them with Feedback Let teens see and hear how the larger world perceives them. Shielding them from criticism–constructive or otherwise–will only leave them unequipped to deal with it when they get to the “real world.”
• Provide Adult Connections Even though they’ll deny it, teens desperately need to interact with adults (including parents) on a more mature level–and such interaction will help them blossom!
• Stretch the Teen Envelope Do fewer things for teens that they can do for themselves, and give them tasks just beyond their current level of competence and comfort.
The authors point out that even young people who appear to be succeeding by conventional standards wake up in their mid-twenties clueless about how to find a job, manage money, cook, or live on their own. They are educated but unable to care for themselves. “Twenty-five is now becoming the new fifteen.”
According to the authors, teens are living in a “bubble” that is undermining their development. They have their room at home, school, the shopping mall etc. but it,
“cuts them off from meaningful roles in the adult world, cuts them off from close day-to-day contact with adults, and it hyperexposes them to peer relationships, which become their primary socializing influences.”
The last chapter of the book points out that the staples of the Adulthood Diet are Challenge and Feedback. Teens don’t get much of it in their lives. We have done away with competition (too masculine, I suppose) and real-world feedback (kids need high self-esteem!) and therefore they never learn to master the larger world.
The book instructs parents and adults in how to teach kids to grow up and be an adult in today’s modern world. That’s no small feat. But better late than never because twenty-five should never be the new fifteen.
Week 10 of my second 13 week season: low carb diet and more exercise, tracking my weight, blood glucose, and body fat. You can follow me at my 13 Weeks Facebook page for daily updates, and you can join Fitocracy (free!) and follow my daily exercise, and maybe even start tracking your own.
On Tuesday the 9th of April, about 2PM, I was at work and feeling very strange. I was sleepy, felt sick and shaky, and couldn’t think clearly. I decided to take off early. But driving home, not more than a mile from my house, well, something happened. I zoned out, I fell asleep, I fainted — whatever it was, I was looking at a green light at the interesection and then I was looking at a red light with traffic starting to cross the intersection. I hit the brakes, I swerved to drive around the front of the CenturyLink truck in front of me, and I almost made it. But not quite. I caught the front bumper of the truck with my left rear fender. I bumped my head against the door frame, and came to a stop crossways in the intersection. After a minute, I pulled off the road.
At first I felt — considering the circumstances — okay. I made sure the other guy was okay (he was) and went to stand by the car and wait for the police.
Then I realized I was feeling really really cold, and even shakier than I had felt when I left the office. I went to sit down in the car and when the police arrived told them I thought I needed the EMTs. Or else it was someone who was calling 911, I don’t remember it very clearly.
Anyway, both an ambulance and a fire truck arrived, and a rather cute female firefighter interviewed me for about 30 seconds before trotting to the EMTs, who came and walked me to the ambulance. I’m somewhat proud of myself for resisting my initial urge, which was to tell the firefighter “Hey, I’m just sick, I’m not on fire.”
The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living; but sometimes I wonder whether the too-closely examined life is not worth living either, for examination uncovers dilemmas where none existed before.
Two articles in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine ask the question of whether employers should, or have the right to, refuse to employ smokers, as increasing numbers do in the 21 states that permit such discrimination against them.
As is by now no secret, smokers are more likely to suffer from many types of illness than non-smokers, and their health insurance is therefore considerably more expensive than that of non-smokers. They impose costs on their employers which weigh upon all workers, smokers or not. (The authors do not take into account that smokers not only contribute to taxes by their habit but, by dying early, reduce pension costs.)
The authors worry that refusal to hire smokers would be discriminatory against people of lower social class, since it is among the latter that smoking is most prevalent. I am not sure that this is right: the majority of people in all social classes now do not smoke, while people who apply for jobs at any particular level are likely to be of the same social class. Except in the case where there is only one applicant for a job, then, it is likely that there will always be an applicant of any given social class who does not smoke. The discrimination remains against smokers, therefore, and not by proxy against members of lower social class.
It may be too stark. If it’s true, there are legions of blockheads out there — people who publish works in literary journals that pay in contributor’s copies; people who publish on websites that have considerable readerships but do not pay their writers for their efforts (there are not a few of those).
I would modify it to: No man but a blockhead ever wrote short stories so that he could send each one to ten or twenty literary journals until one accepts and publishes it, and then have no sense at all that anybody is actually out there reading it.
At least, that was the dictum I arrived at after years of doing just that. As I’ve described, about a decade ago I decided I’d had enough and stopped writing fiction.
That is, “I’ve” stopped; but that doesn’t mean my subconscious has. It still comes up with stories and presents them to me, requesting that they be written.
In most cases these notions quickly fade and are almost totally forgotten. Some, though, persist — in some cases even for years. It’s a standoff: the idea remains somewhere in my head, and I know it’s there but keep declining to execute it, to translate it into typed words on the screen and see what grows from that.
I can think of three of these ideas that particularly won’t go away, like a stray dog who parks himself on your doorstep and mournfully refuses to budge. I thought it would be worth giving a peek at these. They’re probably representative of a larger phenomenon—people who have given up certain kinds of writing but whose “minds” haven’t.
Life does not come with a reset button. That truth struck me whenever I glimpsed the face of my Nintendo Entertainment System. Reset was always there, lurking next to Power, ready to erase both my sins and the virtual world in which they had been committed. A fresh start, another try, Reset offered them free.
Moments like that, moments where some shadow of philosophical truth peaked through the veil of this childish pastime, came often over the years. The most recent occurred while I was playing Fable II on my Xbox 360. Set in a fantasy world with swords, sorcery, and muskets, the Fable series contains many game mechanics above and beyond the traditional hack and slash quest. Among them is the ability to purchase real estate and manage rental property, which maintains a steady stream of gold for upgrading weapons and other items. As I purchased one property and saved up to invest in another and yet another, I quickly realized I was mimicking a truly productive task. Why can’t I do this in real life? Oh yeah, I don’t have any money to start.
The experience of the game inspired me to revisit methods for creating wealth and fostering upward mobility. I won’t go so far as to say Fable II changed my life. After all, I’ve yet to buy that first investment property. However, it did plant a seed which may someday germinate.
Other games have offered real life lessons in ways both subtle and overt. Here are 7 for your consideration.
Trying to locate people I knew long ago through Google and other searches is something I seem to engage in when I’m at a standstill, unable to come up with something else to do. And that situation, since I’m excessively busy, tends to occur late at night, when I should be going to sleep but feel the day is not quite finished, still lacking something.
The problem here is that late at night, before going to sleep, is not the best time to engage in searches that may be emotionally risky.
As a few nights ago when — rather suddenly, without really thinking about it — I Googled “Bill Wiley” (not his real last name) and the name of the high school we both went to, Shenendehowa. It’s in Clifton Park, New York, a small town a bit north of Albany.
Boom — I found his obituary. Shown on the original page of the newspaper of the small California town where he’d been living. Dated March 21, 1994.
So his death was not exactly breaking news. Bill no longer played a huge part in my thoughts, but memories did come up occasionally, and I had even told Tami some stories about him. Memories and stories, it turned out, of someone long gone from this world.
So, as far as my own progress goes, the last couple weeks were kind of boring: I wasn’t losing any weight, my glucose was coming down, but nothing very dramatic was happening.
Since the last time, though, I’ve done several things: I got “after” pictures taken for the first 13 weeks, I have started tracking bodyfat as well as weight, and best of all, I got my post-13-weeks bloods done.
Those are the most fun, so let’s hit them first.
Glucose. My A1c is now down to 5.9 percent, from a starting A1c of 7.5. That means I’ve lowered my average glucose from roughly 170 mg/dL, or just over 100.
My doc was more or less slack-jawed. I had to talk her into doing the A1c, as she didn’t think it could have changed much since the one I had in January.
I’ve cut my metformin to 1000 mg/day from 2500 when I started this.
Cholesterol. Or more generally, blood lipids. Now, remember that I’m following what is, by traditional medical measures, the perfectly wrong diet for cholesterol — heavy on meats, no grains at all, and with roughly 60 percent of my calories coming from fats.
My total cholesterol is down to 123. That’s the bottom of the normal range; that’s a score that the ultra-low-fat Ornish diet would be happy to reach.
Low-density lipoproteins — LDL, the “bad cholesterol” — is down to 70.
High density lipoproteins — HDL, the “good cholesterol” — is up to 26 (up in this case being the good direction.) Although it’s still low as an absolute number, what’s perhaps more important is the ration of HDL tot total cholesterol. HDL of 26 makes my total cholesterol over HDL ratio about 4.7. This is now well under the boundary the American Heart Association recommends.
In other words, while my HDL could be better, I am now in the “good” to “very good” range.
Body fat. I’ve just started tracking this, so the numbers don’t mean a lot yet, but as you can see from the chart, it is showing a real down trend. I’m somewhere around 30 percent right now, and obviously I hope it’ll drop significantly in this 13 weeks.
So far, I’ve mainly been tracking Fitocracy points, which are a kind of arbitrary measure of various kinds of exercise, but handy because it converts various exercises into one easily-tracked number. (I hope to have an interview with some of the Fitocracy people in the near future; in the meantime, if you want to follow me, you can sign up for Fitocracy here.)
Since this 13 weeks season has started, i’ve accumulated 2800 Fitocracy points.
Of course, David Steinberg is doing his own series on this. I sent him some videos which didn’t work out, but I’ve just taken another set. Have a look at his piece this week, in which he makes some entirely unsubstantiated suppositions about how I’ve managed to practically break every bone in my body over 57 years. It’s pretty funny, and good advice.
The Die Hard franchise has reached its Batman & Robin moment: the fifth installment in the once-exciting series, A Good Day to Die Hard, is an unspeakably dull and shoddy product that, were it not for the presence of Bruce Willis, would be indistinguishable from a quickie genre film made for the European straight-to-video market.
Disastrous on every level, the film is ugly to look at, choppy in plot, woeful in special effects (you could have photoshopped a more convincing image of Willis’s John McClane dangling from the bumper of a truck that is itself dangling from a helicopter), and tiresome in its gimmicks. This time, as if to recreate the magic of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which looks like a fine piece of cinema by comparison, McClane butts heads/joins forces with his son Jack (actually John Jr.), who, to John Sr.’s surprise and ours, turns out to be a superspy working for the CIA in Russia. Jack is played by a surly side of beef named Jai Courtney, who vaguely resembles Willis but has all the charisma of your average rutabaga.
At the beginning of the movie, McClane is in New York discussing his son’s plight with a fellow cop. His boy is in a Russian prison, so naturally McClane (who barely knows the kid, having long been estranged from him) kisses his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) goodbye and boards the first plane to Moscow — even though his boy has not requested his help and doesn’t need it.
Russia is seething about the upcoming show trial of a politically persecuted figure, Komarov (Sebastian Koch), who refuses to hand over a mysterious “file” wanted both by gangster-ish Russian authorities and the CIA. Jack McClane, who is undercover as a Russian, arranges to get himself put in the same prison and brought to the same courtroom side by side with the dissident, having offered the prosecution an irresistible deal: McClane will claim that Komarov paid him to carry out an assassination.
This development doesn’t make a lot of sense (if Russian higher-ups can conduct circus trials, why would they need help from an unknown outsider to win a conviction?), but it at least leads to a massive prison-break scene in which the courthouse gets blown up in order to free Komarov and McClane Jr., who with CIA help promptly flee to a safe house.
At least that’s the plan, but McClane Senior, who inserts himself into the drama (despite his son, who calls him John, repeatedly telling him to get lost), messes everything up and finds himself at the wheel of a large truck as the two fugitives flee Russian thugs.
All who love the Free World heard with sadness today’s news of the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, whose physical infirmity caused him to step down from the chair of St. Peter. As the shepherd of the founding institution of the West, Benedict personally embodied its best traditions. He is one of the last men living to have assimilated the fullness of European culture, a member of the “heroic generation” of Catholic theologians that included Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
We will remember many acts of intellectual courage from this pope. One in particular comes to mind today, namely his speech at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006. In the face of great controversy, Benedict cited the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologue: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” And he added:
The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God,” he says, “is not pleased by blood—and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature.” . . .The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. . . . The editor [of the Greek text from which Benedict is quoting], Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry.
Benedict’s commitment to theological truth as he understood it at the expense of political correctness is unique among today’s religious leaders.
Jewish communities in particular have reason for sadness at Benedict’s abdication. He is a true friend of the Jewish people. As Israeli journalist Assaf Sagiv wrote in the Autumn 2009 issue of the quarterly journal Azure on the occasion of the pope’s May 2009 visit to Israel:
Benedict XVI—the former Joseph Ratzinger—is actually one of the best friends the Jewish people has ever had in Vatican City. On the eve of the pope’s visit, Aviad Kleinberg, a scholar of Christian history and a columnist for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, attempted to remind his readers of this. Ratzinger, he explained, “was the confidant of Pope John Paul II, and his immense theological authority was a critical aspect of the previous pope’s moves…. John Paul and Ratzinger buried once and for all not only the accusation of the Jews’ murdering the messiah, but the entire theological theory that the Christians replaced the Jews and are now the Chosen People and that the New Testament annuls the Old Testament. The Old Testament is still valid, declared the two, and the Jewish people is still God’s chosen and beloved people.”
I wrote at the time on the website of the religious magazine First Things where I was then an editor:
Benedict’s unprecedented efforts to draw near to Judaism as a religion were summarized by the Bonn University theologian Karl-Heinz Menke, who argues that His Holiness is the first pope since St. Peter to read the whole of the Gospels as a Jewish work. From a theological standpoint, the Jewish people have had no better friend in the Vatican since the founding of Christianity.
On Tuesday I turned 29. Apparently this is one of those “milestone” birthdays meant to suggest that now I’m really growing old and should start worrying or feeling worse about myself in some abstract way. Apparently when you’re 30 it means that the party decade is over and you should scrape the cheeto dust out of your navel, put some pants on, and finally grow up.
So be it. Growing old has never really bothered me. (Though I wish the hair wasn’t going so fast…) I’ve felt like a cranky old man trapped in a young person’s body since at least junior high. So how about this for an old-fashioned way to really put the last 362 days of the third decade of my life to use: actually writing out a plan for the year. Here’s what I’m going to try to do so that when the 30th birthday hits in 2014 I can look back and not feel too much embarrassment at another wasted year.
In December I declared my “7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal” and then began the process of integrating these general self-improvement goals into both my daily routine and the weekly schedule of my PJ Lifestyle blogging. I left them somewhat vague so over the course of the month more concrete goals could materialize. And here they are, revised from my original list but generalized so perhaps others might still find them useful to consider as potential additions to their own Lifestyle self-programming.
1. Family Life on Monday: Rediscover and Celebrate Your Family’s Origins.
On Monday this week I blogged an open letter to my wife informing her that the time had come to change directions with our Netflix diet. The number of Dexter/Battlestar Galactica-level cable shows on DVD had dried up and new releases offered little hope of consistent entertainment satisfaction. We had to start mining older regions of film and TV history — but could we agree on a path forward?
Turns out we still can. April selected the first option:
1. Watch the entire Criterion Collection. Maybe in order?
You’re always complaining (rightfully) that the past few years I’ve spent too much time on politics and don’t show you weird, artsy movies anymore. Well here’s the mother lode and now we should start exploring it.
April suggested we call it “The Criterion Challenge.” We’re going to attempt to watch as many as we can this year — and yes, as close to in the order of their release as we can. We started last night with my copy of The Seven Samurai (spine #2) and watched the first hour. I’d forgotten how entertaining a film it was — and was delighted when April got into it too.
In charting this new entertainment course for us, we’re really going back to the origins of our relationship. I never realized what a role my oddball movie tastes had for April. When we began dating seriously for a second time in the fall of 2006 (a few months after I’d graduated and she was starting her sophomore undergraduate year), I would drive up to Muncie from Indianapolis on weekends with different art movie DVDs to share with her.
But in the years since our marriage I’ve neglected this original film guide role. My movie obsession fell by the wayside to make way for political warfare and new media trouble-making. Now’s a good time to correct course as I seek to re-balance my life between the legs of culture, religion, and politics. (Instead of the ideological focus that it’s largely been for the last three years…)
And we’re both on the same page in why we’re watching this series of classic films — to further develop our own understanding of the visual arts. What makes a beautiful, powerful image? How does film tell stories and evoke feelings? April and I are going to explore these questions together and I’ll try and blog a few thoughts on each film. Also, keeping with the return to film, for our year off from Disney Land I’m going to make a point to explore the ideas that brought it into existence.
Monday Bookshelf and Blogging Focus: Research the life, work, and ideas of Walt Disney to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In 1967 the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared on the now iconic Sgt. Pepper album, and many, including this writer, considered age 64 “old.” (Of course, I was only 12, but 64 was old at that time.)
But when General Norman Schwarzkopf recently died at age 78, I did not consider him old.
So what happened to change my view of when old age begins?
Well for starters, I got old along with the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are affectionately known as “baby boomers.” Boomers transformed America at every stage of life. Unfortunately, our nation was totally unprepared for all the change we brought every step of the way and now is no different.
Last year at an Aging in America conference, Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, summed it up like this:
“We weren’t prepared for the boomers,” he said. “There weren’t enough hospitals or pediatricians. There weren’t enough bedrooms in our homes. There weren’t enough schoolteachers or textbooks or playgrounds. The huge size of this generation has strained institutions every step of the way.”
Then Dychtwald compared his New Jersey high school, with such overcrowding that students had to go to classes in shifts, to what’s in store for aging baby boomers in the coming decades.
“The boards of education had 13 years to see this coming. What was the surprise there?” said Dychtwald. “But it’s the same today with senior care and geriatric medicine and continuum of care. It’s staggering how unprepared we are.”
Yes, it is staggering indeed — and, as the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For 2013 at PJ Lifestyle we’re going to try to organize the seemingly endless abyss of “Lifestyle” topics with a general theme each day. These appear on the About Us page and include links to some of the articles we’ve published this past year:
We try to blog on seven general subjects each week from a variety of perspectives that do not always agree. The topics include:
Every Tuesday, we post career advice, self-improvement tips, product reviews, and how-to guides as well as blogs on entrepreneurship, disaster preparation, gardening, and self-sufficiency.
The middle of the week requires some laughter. That’s why every Wednesday we’ll have humorous pieces featuring satire, viral videos, goofy images and amusing photoshops, cute animals, slideshow galleries and other memes from across the Web.
On Thursday, PJ Lifestyle is your go-to place for the latest info on pop culture – ranging from movies, TV, novels, music and celebrities – as well as posts about other cultures – like military culture, counterculture, California culture, traditional culture, international culture, odd subcultures, geek culture – and more.
Spend Saturdays finding new recipes and cooking tips, learning about new ways to exercise and stay healthy, reading medical stories, and keeping up with sports and outdoor life.
And on Sundays, you’ll find content featuring interfaith dialogue, religion-based commentary, and posts on spirituality, ethics and morality.
One of the most important contributors to PJ Lifestyle this year has been Charlie Martin. His Thirteen Weeks diet and and exercise regimen has been an inspiration. This past fall Charlie has updated us every week on his progress to improve his health and live a long, long life. We’re going to try to provide more content like this — but on all seven subjects. Not just blog posts pontificating on what should be, but articles documenting what we do. Too often as writers and bloggers we forget that these New Media tools aren’t the end. They’re merely the means to whatever end we want to pursue and achieve. And at PJ Lifestyle that end is a happier, more fulfilling, richer life appreciating all the possibilities of what it means to be free.
I’ve decided on 7 New Year’s Resolutions this year, each corresponding with one of these themes and inspiring my daily blogging. I invite others to join me and offer their suggestions.
“It must be him, it must be him, oh dear God, it must be him or I shall die.”
Before the advent of answering machines, and decades before mobile communications and social media, waiting by the phone for your man to call was an ancient mating tradition that single women of all ages thankfully will never again have to endure.
I was reminded of this dating ritual since we are on the cusp of celebrating what is traditionally known as the greatest date night of all, New Year’s Eve.
While wracking my brain thinking of a suitable baby boomer topic applicable to this holiday, it hit me… New Year’s Eve, 1971, when I was a high school sophomore and my boyfriend was a senior.
All that stands out about that evening was my having to wait by the phone for my boyfriend to call to tell me the time he was coming by to take me to a house party (where someone’s parents were out of town).
As 5 pm turned into 6 pm, turned into 7 pm, turned into 8 pm, I became extremely anxious, especially when my mother said, “Would it be so bad if you stayed home?” (Yea mom, how about the end of the world as I know it.)
When Mr. Considerate finally called at 8 pm the trauma ceased. But thinking back upon that 1971 New Year’s Eve, it was how waiting by the phone helped form five positive personality traits that women like me did not even realize we were developing. Eventually these five traits served baby boomer women extremely well as we made our way through the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s taking advantage of all the new career opportunities that the women’s movement afforded.
Here are the five personality traits aging baby boomer women learned while waiting by the phone.
When you were forced to accept someone else’s timetable you learned it was not just all about you. Waiting by the phone developed patience and was superb training for almost any career and life in general.
This feeling was experienced when you finally realized that he was not going to call after he said (or you assumed) he would. Learning to cope with rejection without feeling like a complete loser was an important life lesson. The key was to think about all your positive attributes that this man was obviously missing. Then move ahead and don’t look back. This concept was easily applied to the professional world, especially if you were a business owner or involved in sales of any kind. Women of a certain age who experienced sitting by the phone waiting for him to call learned how to be resilient in the face of rejection.
3. Self worth/Self esteem
You waited by the phone and he did call. High five! You were on top of your game. All your flirting skills worked and you were the master of the feminine universe. (But sometimes you discovered that he was not worth waiting for!)
Later in life this same initial exhilaration was experienced when you landed a new job or a new client/contract/project was won. But you never let it go to your head. One learned early on that you must never be cocky because rejection in love or life could be lurking right around the corner.
He called, (maybe even weeks after he said he would) and you refrained from telling him that he was an insensitive jerk. But since you were really glad to hear from him you said no such thing. Later in the business world this skill came in handy when “the customer was always right” even if he/she was not.
5. Playing the Game
Once while chatting with some guy friends in my high school classes they admitted to me that often they did not call a girl after they said they would because they did not want to appear “pussy whipped.” (Yes, that was the operative term at the time.) So from this conversation I learned that there was a lot of game playing going on when it came to the timing of “the call.”
As a result, my friends and I would discuss when it was time to stop waiting and time to start living. (However, flirting with his friends was always an appropriate response.) The lesson “stop waiting and start living” developed into positive personality traits that were applicable to many future life situations.
But alas, girls/women today don’t have to deal with any of this waiting by the phone. In fact, waiting is a thing of the past since now there is no stigma attached to calling a boy before he calls you. Girls today will call, text, tweet, Facebook, or email and if that does not get his attention they will have their friends call, text, email, Facebook or tweet. From what I have heard about today’s dating habits, “whatever it takes” to catch the attention of the man of the moment seems to be acceptable behavior.
This behavior is a result of both the instant communications revolution and the women’s movement which generally has made the girls/women of today much more aggressive than my friends or I ever were in high school and college.
Perhaps this more aggressive behavior is cultural “payback” for all the countless hours their baby boomer mothers and grandmothers spent waiting by the phone especially in the weeks leading up to important date nights like New Year’s Eve. For around that time whenever the phone rang, teenage girls and young women were conditioned into thinking, “It must be him, it must be him, please be him or I will die.”
Happy New Year’s everyone!
More on generations at PJ Lifestyle:
Congratulations. You survived the first semester of college! You made it through the first two weeks of sitting in your son’s empty bedroom with a box of tissues, wondering how the time flew by so quickly and how that little boy you used to rock to sleep in this room grew up and moved into a dorm three states away. Pat yourself on the back for not being the stalker parent who calls three times a day and instead settling for creeping on his Facebook page and watching for Twitter updates! You’ve been marking off the days on the calendar until Christmas break, planning all sorts of family activities—a whole month of family togetherness! It’s going to be just like old times!
Before you carve those plans in stone, take a few minutes to read through some of the common mistakes parents of college students make and consider how you might avoid them:
Mistake #1 — Assuming he will want to do….anything…
Most likely your son spent the last two weeks in a sleepless blur, sustained by coffee, energy drinks, and cold pizza. If he’s a decent, conscientious student he hunkered down in the library or his dorm room writing papers and studying for finals until all hours of the night.
On top of that, he attended Christmas parties and tied up loose ends with his extracurricular activities and athletic commitments and squeezed in some last -minute quality time with his new “family” at school. When he arrives home with his duffel bag full of rancid laundry, don’t be surprised if he shows up on the verge of a complete crash or even a meltdown. He may be an emotional wreck from all the pent-up stress he’s been experiencing or he may simply be dog-tired and ready to sleep for three days straight. As a parent, if you can anticipate this possibility and allow some time for your student to unwind and recharge, everyone will be happier and the holidays will be much more pleasant. Manage your expectations and be sensitive to his feelings and energy level. If you expect your child to walk in the door and immediately jump into the flurry of family activities, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and adding to the family stress level during the holidays. It’s best to maintain a flexible schedule, at least for the first few days of Christmas break.
My new car comes equipped with a three month trial subscription to Sirius XM radio and when Patriot Channel talk gets repetitive, I occasionally switch to 60′s on Channel 6, where I know the words to every song.
So the other day I happened to hear a song which really jolted my memory bank. It was A Taste of Honey by Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, but while listening, all I could think about was the album cover.
And if you are of a certain age, you know exactly what I mean.
In 1965 when the album, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, was released the cover was considered “veddy” racy.
And here is the hit song, A Taste of Honey from the album.
Whipped Cream was my parent’s album, but even as a Beatles loving 10-year-old I enjoyed it along with them. However, it was the cover that really made an impression. I even remember spreading whipped cream all over my arms in tribute to the girl on the cover.
This Sirius XM Radio childhood flashback got me thinking about what other album covers made lasting, even mind blowing visual impressions. So here is that small stack of album covers which came tumbling off a dusty shelf in the far reaches of my brain — presented in chronological order.
The Mamas and the Papas — If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
In the middle of 1966 Beatlemania, this album by the Mamas and the Papas was released. To me, the music and the cover were equally impactful, for sitting in a bathtub fully dressed struck me as rather extreme. Chiefly responsible for the brain dent was Michelle Phillips, who was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, wearing those jeans and cowboy boots. I remember getting into our dry bathtub pretending to be her. Yes, I was an impressionable pre-teen!
The Beatles — Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Of course the most famous album cover in history absorbed hours of 1967 summer time fun for me and my friends as we tried in vain to identify all the faces on the cover. Since we were stumped by so many, I remember having to ask my parents. (Oh the horror of asking your parents to explain a Beatles album cover!) But I had no choice since Google was 31 years in the future. Now, in one Google second here is the complete list. (How I love the modern age!)
Psychedelic flower power anyone? Released in November of 1967, this album cover fascinated me. On the inside I loved Cream’s music too, but something about the album design with all the fuchsia colors, totally blew my 12-year-old mind and opened doors of endless creative possibilities.
Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
This 1971 album by Traffic was so graphically unique with its die-cut design, it truly broke new ground and decades later the title song is still one of my favorite classic rock tunes. So here is a 1972 live version to enjoy, especially if it has been awhile since you have heard Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
We must not fret about the passing of album cover art for it now lives on the net with many sites dedicated to its greatness. There are also numerous cover art quizzes that will be used as “game time” trivia at nursing homes around 2040 when I am in my 80’s. (Now at my mother’s nursing home they play trivia contest games with Broadway show tunes and my mother is often the proud winner of a new fluffy nap blanket.)
Speaking of getting old, here is the Whipped Cream girl from that famous 1965 album cover now age 76.
So what classic rock covers blew your mind at a tender age?
And if you can recall them now, remember them for later when a new fluffy nap blanket is at stake.
These are the adventures of Charlie Martin, his 13-week mission to follow a Taubes-inspired low-carb eating plan with high-intensity training, to find out what the hell happens and hopefully lose some weight and improve his health besides. Follow me here on PJ Lifestyle, and on the 13 Weeks Facebook page.
Yeah, it’s Saturday. I forgot to mention last Sunday that to fit in with the new weekly schedule for Lifestyle health-related posts, we’re moving to Saturday. So strictly, this is really sort of week 5 1/2, but roll with it.
This really has gotten to be sort of the boring middle — my blood sugar continues its slow decline, and I’m still more or less plateaued: my weight hovered at 278.2 exactly for 6 days before breaking below that this morning. Except, maybe it’s not a real plateau: my weight is still fitting a trend line of about 1 pound every four days. We’ll see on Sunday.
In the mean time, though, there’s been one thing I’ve noticed: I’ve been letting the exercise slide. There are several reasons, or excuses, for this — I really did feel bad right after Thanksgiving, and last week was a terror, with one all-nighter programming and a cold. But still, I’ve been back to my old habit of the most exercise I get being the trip from the parking lot to my desk at the office, and I’ve been parking closer to the door than usual.
And that nonsense has got to stop. Starting today, I’ll be carefully recording the exercise on Lose It! and I’ll be announcing it in my morning updates on Facebook. Every time. Days with no exercise I’ll also mention in my morning updates. That’ll keep me honest.
I did notice one interesting thing this week. Here’s my Physics Diet chart from the start of the experiment:
The line along the bottom is daily weight; the straight line is the linear-fit trend line and the blue line is a exponentially weighted moving average. What’s interesting is the way it seems there’s almost a pattern to it — a bump up, a plateau, then a sudden decline. I don’t know what to make of that. In any case, the current plateau is going to be challenged quite a bit this weekend; I’m having a little procedure done this Monday, so I’ll be on clear liquids for the weekend.
What? What procedure? Just a procedure.
Oh, all right: it’s a colonoscopy. Happy now? Another of the joys of middle age.
I never imagined what being 40 would feel like, because it never occurred to me that I’d ever be 40. I didn’t think I wouldn’t be, mind you. It was just too boring to enter my brain, and it seemed like forever from now. — Stephanie Dolgoff
Been there, done that, got the postcard. Haven’t we all (I’m not including you whippersnappers in “all” — and P.S.: get off my lawn!)? When you’re a kid, people who are middle-aged almost seem like a different species. You’re young, energetic, and have your whole life in front of you. You’re the male lion of the human world, and they’re not the hyenas you’re going to surpass or the antelope you plan to eat; they’re more the hippos of the human world. You see them around, moving from one task to another, doing things you don’t. You don’t hate them or eat them, but you don’t want to be them either. The idea that you’ll be like that one day seems almost beyond belief.
Theoretically, you understand that it’s going to happen to you, but your brain blocks it out because it seems so far-fetched. “Me? Middle-aged? Like my parents? Well, if….oooh, I like that song. Hey, that’s shiny” and next thing you know, you’ve forgotten about it. Then one day, you wake up old. At least that’s how it happened to me.
True story: from the time I was 25-39, I FELT like I was the same age the entire time, 25. When I moved from 39 to 40, it was almost like I aged 15 years in a day. It was like I went to bed at 25 and woke up at 40.
Unsurprisingly, since I had trouble conceptualizing being middle-aged, it was hard for me to know what to expect. That made aging a wonderland of delightful surprises — if by delightful surprises, you mean taxes I didn’t realize I had to pay and bouts of bursitis in my hips.
1) Declining health: When you’re young, you can stay out all night, work all day, take a physical pounding, and still recover in a day or two. The first one, I can still do. If I have need to go three or four days in a row with minimal sleep and get up at 5 a.m. on the last day, no problem. Granted, I might lie around listening to the alarm clock for five minutes before I peel myself out of bed, but I can do it.
On the other hand, like a lot of people, I’ve accumulated a number of little minor physical problems over the years. My feet are a little too flat, and that, combined with being overweight, proved to be too much for me when I got up to jogging a mile and a half a day on the treadmill. It led to an attack of plantar fasciitis. I’ve always had a bit of a bad back, but over the last couple of years I started to develop some hip pain from spending so much time each day writing in front of a computer. Happily, I took care of that with the help of a chiropractor, but I now have to stretch a couple of times per day, not so much to improve, but just to maintain the most optimal level of health possible.
Is there anyone in the world who couldn’t see this coming? I mean, we’ve all met old people, right? We’ve seen professional athletes who’ve gotten old and noticed that they couldn’t play in the NFL anymore, haven’t we? But somehow, you never quite expect it to happen to you. You’re going to remain just as young, vital, and strong as you were at 20 forever — until you don’t and you’re left scratching your head wondering why it takes so long for your bruises to heal.
‘Few of Those Who Are Single, Irreligious, and Economically Challenged Before Age 30 Will Stay That Way…’
Of course it’s too early to determine with any certainty whether the same maturing process will work its magic on youthful Obama cadres from 2008 and 2012, but there is some indication that the shift has already begun. As the hope-and-change candidate of four years ago, Obama swept voters between 18 and 29 by a truly stunning margin of 34 points, 66 to 32 percent. Four years later, a significant portion of those true believers had moved into the 30- to 45-year-old segment of the population, a group that chose Obama with a much more modest majority of 52 percent. It was exactly the same percentage, by the way, that he received from the same age group four years before.
Chait suggests that the progressive inclinations of this year’s under-30s will remain steady and unshakable as the years pass, citing polling data showing 33 percent of young voters calling themselves liberal in 2012, compared to 25 percent of the larger electorate. But that’s a reflection of their circumstances as much as their ideological commitment. People under 30 are disproportionately single, religiously uncommitted, and earning incomes below the national median. Such voters combined to deliver Obama’s margin of victory.
Among the unmarried, who make up 41 percent of the electorate, Obama won by a margin of 24 percent. Among the 17 percent who say they “never” attend religious services, he won by 28 percent. And with those earning less than $50,000 a year, who comprise 41 percent of the voting public, he enjoyed a 22-percent edge.
The most salient point about all these characteristics is that, like youth itself, they count as temporary: the statistics show that few of those who are single, irreligious, and economically challenged before age 30 will stay that way as they progress through middle age and beyond. And it’s no accident that Romney won big majorities of those groups—the married, the religiously engaged, and the economically prosperous—associated so clearly with the middle aged and the middle class.
Chait expresses admiration for the 59 percent of young voters who agreed with the statement that “government should do more to solve problems” and assumes that this opinion stems from thoughtful analysis of the issues of the day. But it’s at least as plausible that the youthful preference for activist government stems from the relatively small number of those between 18 and 29 who’ve ever been asked to pay for such initiatives. IRS figures indicate that they are vastly under-represented among the bare majority of Americans who pay personal income taxes, and even more under-represented among those who pay at the highest rates. It’s also safe to assume that under-30s include a substantial number who benefit directly from subsidized student loans, either as current students or as recent graduates struggling with debt.
Image courtesy shutterstock / ostill
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Recently while dining with my favorite husband at a restaurant with live music, the singer performed Danny’s Song, an old favorite of mine.
Since I had not heard this song in years it touched a raw emotional chord in my memory bank and the song has stayed on my mind ever since.
At the height of the song’s popularity I was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. Whenever it played on the radio (which was quite frequently) my girlfriends and I would sing along at the top of our lungs.
But above all I remember the lyrics making a huge psychological impact on me, helping formulate my sweet 16 view of love, relationships and future marriage.
Now looking back at the song from my 57-year-old perspective it was the chorus that imprinted itself on my heart.
And even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey, everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes,
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.
As a teenager that chorus spoke to me saying “whether you are rich or poor, love conquers all.”
I truly embraced the message.
Then of course you grow up and strap yourself in for a ride on the roller coaster of life. When hurricanes strike and the roller coaster gets swept out to sea (like this one in New Jersey recently) with you still on it, but your partner is gone and your wallet is empty, then you wise up and realize that song’s message was just a sweet 16 fairy tale.
As many aging baby boomers experienced their roller coaster ride through life, money issues were often deal breakers in marriages.
My peers may have started out singing “even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey” but then we watched as the record got severely scratched or broken after the roller-coaster took some sharp unexpected turns.
Since I like to think of myself as a one person aging baby boomer focus group… and if I was so heavily impacted by this song’s idyllic message, how many of you were as well?
In the comments section, you are allowed to stomp on your ex who stole your wallet, but just do not use real names!
On the other hand, if you are still in your first baby boomer marriage that is a testament to Danny’s Song, congratulations, and please share your story, but don’t make the rest of us feel too bad.
And get caught up on Myra’s previous Baby Boomer nostalgia adventures in this series’ predecessor, Classic Rock and Cheap Wine:
At dinner the other night, a cardiologist spoke of the economic burden on modern society of the elderly. This, he said, could only increase as life expectancy improved.
I was not sure that he was right, and not merely because I am now fast approaching old age and do not like to consider myself (yet) a burden on or to society. A very large percentage of a person’s lifetime medical costs arise in the last six years of his life; and, after all, a person only dies once. Besides, and more importantly, it is clear that active old age is much more common than it once was. Eighty really is the new seventy, seventy the new sixty, and so forth. It is far from clear that the number of years of disabled or dependent life are increasing just because life expectancy is increasing.
There used to be a similar pessimism about cardiopulmonary resuscitation. What was the point of trying to restart the heart of someone whose heart had stopped if a) the chances of success were not very great, b) they were likely soon to have another cardiac arrest and so their long-term survival rate was low and c) even when restarted, the person whose heart it was would live burdened with neurological deficits caused by a period of hypoxia (low oxygen)?
A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine examines the question of whether rates of survival of cardiopulmonary resuscitation have improved over the last years and, if so, whether the patients who are resuscitated have a better neurological outcome.
The 79 million boomers alive today make up over a quarter of the entire American population. Last year, the oldest members of the generation turned 65. For the next 18 years, 10,000 boomers will turn 65 each day, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, the average life expectancy for women in America is 81 years old. For men, it is 76 years old. According to Gallup, the expected retirement age in the United States is 67. So, as Boomers enter into the retirement that precedes the end of their lives, will they find meaning and satisfaction as they age? Will they thrive, flourish, take a slow ride off into the sunset?
This is an enormously important question not just because of the implications it has on the happiness of real people, but also for the consequences it will have on society, social services, and our culture as a whole. As Pew points out, “By force of numbers alone, they almost certainly will redefine old age in America, just as they’ve made their mark on teen culture, young adult life and middle age.”
The baby boomers are becoming characterized by startlingly high rates of depression and pessimism. Boomers are more depressed and less satisfied with their lives than both those who are older and younger than them, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review in 2008.
Women, in particular, are suffering. In the American population generally, women tend to be more depressive than men, and this is true of the boomers as well. In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that between 1999 and 2004, rates of suicide increased by 20 percent for 45-to-54-year-olds, a far greater increase than that experienced in nearly every other age group. Among women who were 45-to-54-year-olds, the increase was a staggering 31 percent. Suicide aside, boomers have found another way to cope with their doldrums: according to the National Institute of Health, between 2002 and 2011, the number of illicit drugs users aged 50 to 59 tripled.
What is going on? This is a generation that is better educated, more successful, and has better access to health care than the generations that directly preceded it. This is the generation whose women benefitted from the gains of second wave feminism.
Experts on aging, depression, and happiness are at a loss for what is causing the boomers’ funk. One explanation is stress. “Much of the research is pointing to daily stress as a precipitator of their depression,” according to Donald A. Malone, Jr., the director of the Mood and Anxiety Clinic in the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic.
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