A boomer is nostalgic for some things, not others

Ah, memories. Nothing like a baby boomer’s memories from childhood. That’s what Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania’s Leslie Handler, who writes essays for Newsworks and blogs for The Huffington Post, dreams about. She calls them, “The Good Old Days.”

I thought I was only middle-aged. But I’ve been in possession of an AARP card for four years now. So maybe that makes me an official senior citizen. I can clearly recall when my parents would tell us all about the good old days. They would tell us that “penny” candy meant that you got a fistful of candy for a penny. They would tell us that movies were five-cents, and that included a double feature. They would tell how they bought their first house, the beautiful house I grew up in, for $30,000. And I remember thinking, God, they’re so old.

Writer Leslie Handler.

Writer Leslie Handler.

Well here I stand today, 54-years-old, and I can remember when I first started driving, and I could fill my tank for seven-bucks. I remember pay phones, not the portable devices we now carry in our pockets, but the ones that cost a dime to make a call from the inside of a little standing box. And then I remember the big things and the little things. We had big hair, big speakers for our stereos, big platform shoes, and big dreams. We had tiny transistor radios, tiny TV screens, and a tiny choice of channels to surf.

My dad made his living as a plastic surgeon. Back then, they were plastic surgeons, not cosmetic surgeons. They might lift you here and tuck you there, but they also built you a new ear when you were born with none, and made you a new face after the old one went through the frontwindshield. I remember vacations to a little place in the late ’70s called Grand Cayman Island. There was a seven-mile stretch of beach there with only one hotel on it. There were no Ritz Carltons, no TVs, and very few phones. And I remember go-go boots, the wet look, and bare midriff halter tops. Please God, don’t bring back the bare midriff halter tops. I can’t bear the thought of walking into my local Wal-Mart only to find someone’s bra strap in hot pink hanging out of the top of one and her muffin top hanging out of her middle.

But then, so many things are really still the same. Back then, we wore black horn-rimmed glasses. Today, we don’t call them horn-rimmed, but the fashion is still big,black, and plastic. Back then, we wore pedal pushers, today we call them crop pants, but they’re still pants that just don’t make it down to your toes. The Who can still jam, Springsteen still draws a crowd, and yes, we still have big dreams.

Some things have changed for the worse, some for the better, and some have just stayed the same. I really have no desire to go back to my youth and relive the good old days. I was naive, and insecure, and limited in wisdom. I like it just where I am.

A fistful of candy is now around a buck-fifty. A single feature film is now $12, and that house I grew up in can now be found online and valued at $350,000. But of course our salaries are higher and both sexes work, so who’s to say that the value is all that much different.

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

There’s just one thing, one little thing, that I really miss about the good old days. I want to go on vacation. I want to go back to Grand Cayman Island. But I want to go back in 1978. I want to go there without all the big hotels and the tourist shops. I want to go back to no TVs when I could only hear the sound of the ocean. So I need to have a little talk with the future. I need to tell it to please invent an airplane that will take me there. Take me back to Grand Cayman in 1978 because apparently, I’m a senior citizen now and that would take me back to the good old days.

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  1. And back in the good old days we had copyeditors, who would have picked up all the oddly punctuated phrases in this article: “five-cents,” “54-years-old,” “seven-bucks,” “frontwindsield.” And I’m pretty sure midriff-baring tops are back?

  2. Charlie, for what it’s worth, most of those “oddly punctuated phrases” weren’t in the original. I’m the copyeditor who put them in. What’s more, I’d argue that they’re appropriate. But thanks-for-writing. Greg

    1. As adjectives before the noun, hyphenation is appropriate, sure – eg, the “seven-mile stretch of beach” in this article. But “I could fill my tank for seven-bucks”? “Movies were five-cents?” Not in any style guide in the world. Roz is right that people of goodwill will read over these things, but maybe not before stopping for a microsecond to wonder what that hyphen is doing there. The whole purpose of copyediting is to smooth out the little inconsistencies and errors that distract the reader from enjoyment of the content.

  3. At 59i am old enough not to let a few copy editing choices get in the way of my enjoyment of a good essay.

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