Wrinkled Wisdom: To Comma or Not to Comma

We’re giggling about a blurb we read recently indirectly complimenting oldies: “As I watch this generation try to rewrite history, one thing I’m sure of.  It will be misspelled and have no punctuation.”

Bunches of articles recently underscored that point with the headline: “People do grammar bad.  Google’s AI is hear too help.”  The headline substituted the homonym “hear” for “here”…the one with an “a”…as in what your ears do.  And, “too” instead of “to”?  “Too” means “also” or “in addition.”  This sentence calls for “to,” a preposition.  To be or not to be!  The media was having fun highlighting a new service aimed at improving spell check and grammar when communicating via Gmail.  

Take the period.  Periods are no-brainers.  They end things, period.  Question marks ask a question.  Oops!  Unless you are a young person who is an uptalker—one who ends statements with an upward inflection that make them sound like questions.   Apparently, kids do it when they’re not quite sure if what they are saying is true, clear enough, or could tick off their audience.  Or, if they are Valley Girls.  

Exclamation marks may be overused, but they effectively express emotion—something funny, exciting, or disgusting!!!   Okay, we’ll plead guilty on that one.  Even semicolons become clear when it’s explained they connect two related sentences.  The colon is an issue for another day.  We are always thrilled when we say “colon” and listeners do not assume we mean a body part.

It’s the use of commas we want to focus on today.  To use a comma or not use a comma can be a challenge for any writer.  Commas deserve special attention because they can make a critical difference to meaning or intent…..even legally.  

Specifically, our focus is on the controversial Oxford comma, the comma preceding “and” in a list of three or more items.  As in:  All’s fair in love, war, and divorce.  It invokes arguments and controversy.  It’s been dropped from many style books used by newspapers and publishers.  It shouldn’t be.  

There are some famous, or infamous, examples of the power of the Oxford comma.  Many people are familiar with the book Eats Shoots and Leaves, written by former editor Lynn Truss, who is gravely concerned about our current grammatical state She hoped her book would stir more people to become punctuation advocates.

The book’s title is an attention getter.  Are we talking about an individual who eats, shoots someone or something, and leaves, or someone who eats greens?   Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, was reportedly hot on the Oxford comma.   A linguist emphasized this with the example:  This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.  Hmmm.  Is the book dedicated to all three?  Or, without the Oxford comma after Rand’s name, are the book author’s parents Rand and God?

A missing Oxford comma cost a Maine dairy company $5 million after its delivery-truck drivers sued the company for unpaid overtime and lost wages.  We are guessing that lawyers are now paying increased attention to the Oxford comma after reading about the exorbitant cost of that missing comma.  

The intensified use of texting and tweeting and emailing contributes to shorthand that is an assault on punctuation…and spelling and good writing.  Love the term disemvoweling, which describes the elimination or reduction of vowels in texts.  OMG!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today? We recognize American English is a living language, but please join us and become punctuation advocates.  Embrace the Oxford comma!  Buy Truss’s book for your kids and grandkids so they can learn to punctuate properly, write a resume that demonstrates an understanding of good grammar, and increase their chances of getting a well-paying job.  Teaching cursive writing is going the way of the buggy whip.  Don’t let punctuation and grammar become a dying art.  Poor punctuation promotes misunderstanding and ambiguity.  Let’s eat Grandpa.  Huh?? Oh, you meant to write, let’s eat, Grandpa.  Whew!

Wrinkled Wisdom: Then and Now

Remember rotary phones?  Love the recent video of two teenagers attempting to figure out how to use one to make a call.  They flunked!    Heck, remember party lines?  They were less expensive than a private line and promoted as patriotic during World War II because they required less copper used for ammunition cartridges.  

Hard to fathom today that between two and 20 families were willing to share the same phone line.  You knew a call was for you because each family had a specific ring—a mix of short and long rings.  No answering service, of course.  Our grandparents had one.  It was not unusual to pick up their phone and hear a voice on the line.  It was soooo tempting to eavesdrop.  But that was a definite no-no. 

Today, we all have cell phones.  Do we miss the old days?  Don’t miss busy signals.  Don’t miss memorizing friends’ and family members’ telephone numbers.  Now, they are right there in our cell phone contacts.  That’s sure a plus as we age…unless our phones crash!!  Don’t miss faxing stuff.  And, pay phone booths?  The kids just look at them and say…huh??  And, speaking of kids, we’re ticked off at the rash of robocalls!  Aren’t these young techies smart enough to figure out how to stop them?  

Remember when “overexposure” simply described exposing a roll of old camera film to too much light?  We sure use that word in numerous, negative contexts today!  And, no more trotting to the drug store to have that film developed.  We all ecstatically graduated to the Polaroid camera, which could produce a finished print in under a minute.  Then, digital cameras were invented.  Now, everyone simply uses their cell phone.  Instant gratification!

Remember when car makes and models were distinct, unique?  Not today.  Can’t tell a Chevy from a Jaguar.  Okay, we can spot a Mini Cooper.  Loved those old 50’s tail fins.  And, two-toned station wagons.  Station wagons???  Yes, we understand that certain shapes and features provide the best aerodynamics, which is why most cars look the same.  We support car designs that are fuel efficient and good for the environment.  But, can’t we be ecofriendly and creative?

It was tough to adapt to wearing seat belts back in 1968.  Today, the safety features on new cars have escalated and the constant alerts are both confusing and frustrating.  Love the blind spot warning system and the backup camera.  But, most drivers say they are annoyed by nanny-tech like the lane-keeping and centering systems and disable many features.  

Remember when we returned our used, glass soda bottles to the grocery store for a refund?  They were expensive to produce.  Bottlers wanted them back.  Then things changed dramatically.  Disposable containers appeared with the words “no deposit; no return.”  Early environmentalists were worried about littering.  No kidding!  We’ve all seen the photos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, and the pounds of plastic trash in the stomachs of dead whales and dolphins.  But, no one ever expected that we would be inadvertently eating and inhaling gobs of microplastics today.  Guess the Food and Drug Administration needs to get with it and require companies to list plastics on food ingredient labels!  

Remember our dance moves?  Our parents thought the Twist was scandalous.  Then came the Locomotion, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Monkey, and the Frug.  Sometimes, we even wow the kids and do the Jitterbug.  Remember the first televisions?  No color—just black and white.  Programming stopped shortly after midnight with the playing of the national anthem. And, oh, only three channels.  

Adolescent fiction is a big business today.  Think Harry Potter.  Remember the reading habits of our youth?  Nancy Drew for the girls and the Hardy Boys for the…well…boys.  That was about it!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  Feel smug that we oldies can’t be beat on the dance floor, even if we are huffing and puffing to make it through the entire song.  Feel smug that we have adjusted to the surge in technology during our lifetime.  Buy a new car while you are still able to learn all the new safety features…and turn off the annoying stuff.  Here’s a fun quiz.  What album did you own as a LP, tape, and CD, and now stream on Spotify?  Let us all know in the comment section.  Finally, plastic litter will outweigh fish in the ocean in a couple of decades.  Think about the grandkids eating/inhaling microplastics throughout their lives.  Let’s get plastics out of our lives!

Let’s Talk about Toys

The holidays are now behind us and we find ourselves totally engrossed by the topic of toys.  Yes, toys—objects children, the grandkids for example, play with after Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.   

One annoying object (noun) to which we object (verb)?  Screens.  We are amazed at the time kids spend playing games on computers or portable gaming monitors.  Not to mention the cost! Do kids read books anymore??  Do they even know they can read a book on a screen? 

Screens don’t require or encourage kids to move around or personally interact with anyone.  We won’t even get into the research indicating links to obesity, depression, and a poorer quality of life.  Nah.   

Yes, kids can play on a screen outside.  But that defeats the purpose of being outside…actually playing.  We think of playing as an activity that includes movement, creativity, and, hopefully, opportunities with peers to learn about collaboration and leadership.  We applaud bike riders, skateboarders, and roller skaters, as long as they wear helmets and refrain from texting.  

To be fair, screens aren’t limited to kids.  All of us have been in a restaurant and rolled our eyes at a family or group of friends looking at their phones…constantly.  You’re eating out.  It’s special.  Have a conversation even if it’s about the latest apps and available upgrades!

We oldies spent a lot of time inventing activities indoors and out when we were kids.  It was amazing what fun could be had with a sheet, clothespins, and a clothesline. Yes, a clothesline.  Showing our age!  Our old baby carriage became a stagecoach.  Hairy poison oak leaves became a bed in our imaginary camp.  Well, that wasn’t such a good idea.  We learned the hard way: “leaves of three, let them be.”

As girls, we played with a lot of dolls.  We loved the diversity…big, small, soft, hard, walking, talking.   Today, numerous dolls objectify women, are too sexy, send the wrong body images, or promote certain tasks and jobs inappropriately linked to gender.  What are these toys teaching our little girls???  Hmmm….not good!

Toys directed to boys seem generally the same—guns, good guys and bad guys, trucks, tanks, superheroes. Although, today, many of these characters have moved to outer space.  

A number of board and card games we played are still around.  But, the complexity of some new games boggles our minds.  Here’s our rule.  If the game’s instructions are more than two pages, we are not playing.

And while we applaud the educational value of various toys, we have observed many sitting on the shelf in favor of Minecraft, which, yes, we know, can have educational value.  We also know there are gamer tournaments and scholarships. But, like readying your kid to play professional sports, have a Plan B. 

We can’t discuss toys without remembering the tee shirt many guys used to wear: He who dies with the most toys wins.  Note the shirt says “he.”  Toys in this context, we surmise, are expensive cars, motorcycles, boats, etc.  It should have read: Toys=$, I win.  Personally, we always thought it was a foolish statement.  If you are dead, someone else simply inherits your estate and enjoys your toys.  They win.

Recent holiday shopping reminded us how choices available at the toy stores have really proliferated.  We were overwhelmed and had difficulty selecting what to buy.  When we were kids, we could count on both hands the number of toys we had.  Not today.  Kids’ rooms are jam-packed with toys.  Is that good news, we asked ourselves?  So, we Googled.  Nope, research indicates that children who have too many toys are more easily distracted and don’t enjoy quality playtime.  Fewer toys mean more creativity.

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  We know grandparents, aunts, and uncles spoil children with lots of toys.  We suggest keeping some at your houses for the kids’ visits.  Donate toys to philanthropic organizations after the kids outgrow them.  Please don’t buy huge teddy bears; they are impossible to clean!  And, whatever you do, don’t buy toys that make noise, including musical instruments. (That flexible keyboard did not go over well with the kid’s parents.)  And, keep toys’ receipts.  You never know.  For their sanity, parents may want to return it.

OK, Boomer

Ok, boomer.

“OK, boomer” may sound to oldies like many innocuous responses from young people.  Maybe you’ve seen a young person wearing a T-shirt that says “OK, boomer” and thought “how sweet.  They’re honoring their elders!”

Nope.  Don’t be naïve.  They are giving us a verbal middle finger.  Millennials and Gen Z are at war with us over climate change, financial inequality, student loan debt, and anything we say they consider stupid or condescending.

The provocation for this generational war appears to have been a video of a white-haired man in a baseball cap and polo shirt declaring that “the millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome; they don’t ever want to grow up.” It went viral on TikTok, whatever that is.  Oh, yeah, yet another social media platform.

Then, a 25-year-old member of the New Zealand Parliament was heckled by an older colleague during her speech about the need for stricter climate change policy.  Without missing a beat, she replied “OK, boomer” before continuing her remarks. The news media blew up. 

The reaction?   Hundreds of products are now for sale, some with the tagline “OK, boomer, have a terrible day.”  The sales success of these products indicates that the sentiment resonates with young people, who will be the first to have a lower quality of life than the generation before them.

Generational warfare is nothing new.  Heck, remember when we were warned not to trust anyone over 30??  And, remember that in our youth, we fought against the establishment and the Vietnam War.  We were in the streets fighting for civil rights and equal rights for women.  Oh, and, of course, there was the sexual revolution.  We fought for contraception and Roe vs. Wade.  We rocked to Elvis and the Beatles, who have influenced generations of musicians.  We smoked dope and are delighted marijuana is finally legal in many states.  CBD oil is a must for oldies.

Instead of declaring war, kids, how about some civil discourse?  If you want to make a difference, we suggest you improve your communication skills.  You reportedly struggle with face to face communication and are the loneliest generation.  You lack important socialization skills.  You spend a lot of time gaming, alone.  (Playing with avatars doesn’t count as real interaction.)  Awkward!  

You reportedly have difficulty listening, know more about Minecraft and Marvel than your jobs and friends, and have little knowledge of geography (where is Suriname?), world history (what was the Cuban Missile Crisis?), and current affairs (who are the Kurds?)

And, generally, you don’t vote.  Millennials continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.  Surveys do show an uptick in young people casting ballots; keep it up if you want to make a difference.  

We need to stop talking past each other and work together to address the environment and income inequality, and promote a more hopeful future for young people.  We’re not all out-of-touch, unhip people who still think it should be 1979 and anything called a “phone” should be bolted to a wall.  We recognize that student loan debt alone is prohibiting young people from getting married, having kids, and buying a house.  

However, if you get smacked with an “OK, boomer” response and have had enough, don’t repeat an AARP executive’s admonition:  “OK, millennials.  But we’re the people that actually have the money.” AARP apologized for that snarky response.  Maybe respond with the famous line from the movie Taxi Driver:  “You talkin’ to me?”  Robert DeNiro says it while looking at himself in the mirror, imagining what he would do if he were confronted by a bad guy.

So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Don’t take the “OK, boomer” attack personally.   Generational warfare is the norm.  We made a difference in our youth.  Maybe it’s time to come out of retirement and become activists again.  We need to think about our kids and grandkids.  We need to take millennial and Gen Z concerns seriously.  And, face it, we need them—to help us adapt to constantly changing technology and to fix our phones.  

Wrinkled Wisdom: I’m Too Old for This (Bleep)

How many times have you heard yourself or someone else mutter: I’m too old for this!!  

It’s stuff that is frustrating, irritating, or repetitive, and stuff we’ve been doing for years that we just don’t feel like dealing with anymore.  It’s a flexible phrase that is so often very appropriate. 

It was popularized by Danny Glover’s character in the late 1980s Lethal Weapon movie series.  Danny blurted it out when the cop he played faced dangerous or frustrating situations.  He actually uttered: I’m too old for this…hmmm…crap. We’ll keep it clean.  

We’ll be PC.  Wait.  That’s one of our frustrations!  Political correctness.  Did you know we should drop phrases like “basket case” and “long time no see”?  One is disrespectful to veterans and the other derogatory toward Asians and racist.  And, we never again can use the word “hysterical.”  It’s derived from the Greek word for uterus.  All these years, we’ve naively used it to describe something very funny!  Nope, it’s now considered sexist.  Ah, we ARE too old for this…(bleep).

The catchphrase can apply to all ages.  Millennials consider themselves too old for online dating, are dumping Facebook, and drinking less beer.  Not surprisingly, we oldies have a different list.   

Some things go without saying.  No more bikinis and speedos.  No-brainers.

Forget outdoor work like snow shoveling or even snow blowing.  That machine weighs a ton!  Lawn mowing?  No.  Even a sit-down mower doesn’t cut it.  (Like that wordplay?)  Then, there is the bush and tree trimming and weeding and raking; and, well, pretty much anything outdoors other than tending our jardinières.  

An adult community with no maintenance seems appealing, but that would mean moving—shuffling around heavy packing boxes and getting rid of a bunch of things.  And, we all know the kids don’t want our…aah…stuff.

Forget cross-country driving.  It’s a challenge.  Well, just driving is a challenge.  Traffic is crazy.  Drivers are crazy.  Oldies are less flexible, so it’s harder to look over our shoulders.  And, the glare of headlights at night can be really annoying.  We wonder if Bruce Springsteen, turning 70 this month, might be considering rewriting the lyrics to his 1973 hit, Blinded by the Light.

Forget standing in lines.  That includes ski areas (think lift, not Lyft with a “y”), hot new restaurants, rock concerts, or pretty much anything related to tickets and popular venues.  (An aside: let’s be honest about how beloved friends and relatives with handicap placards have become!)

And, forget theme park rides.  No roller coasters anymore.  In fact, limit visits to theme parks, children’s museums, playgrounds, and other venues with the grandkids.  Because, they are chockful of, well, kids…kids we are dying to discipline but that is rarely well received. 

We’re also too old for social media nonsense or wearing four-inch heels or tattooing an inner ear…the latest, hottest location for a tattoo, reportedly.  But, we’ll never be too old for guilty pleasures—eating chocolate, sleeping in, spending money on our bucket list, and knocking down our favorite vodka tonic or Manhattan.

So our wrinkled wisdom for today:  Revel in watching others do your home maintenance.  A handyman is a top priority!  Hire a lawn service.  Find a neighbors’ kid to shovel snow.  And remember that this catchphrase can be used strategically and in fun—like when the grandkids pelt you with snowballs.  Other stuff we’re too old for?  Note your observations in the comment section so we can all giggle.  We promise no one will troll you!

Wrinkled Wisdom: It’s Getting Buggy Out There

Let them eat…bugs.  What?  Marie Antoinette insensitively said, “Let them eat cake,” when told that France’s “peasants” had no bread.  But, bugs? 

Yup.  It’s been six years since the United Nation released a report stressing that eating more insects could help fight world hunger, boost nutrition, and reduce pollution.   Apparently, it’s the younger crowd that is taking the lead on eating insects in the U.S.  As one said: “The millennials, they get it.  We can’t have beef anymore.” 

The U.N. noted than over two billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with insects.   Who knew that people in 130 countries consume 2,000 insect species?  We were surprised by the variety eaten—beetles, crickets, cockroaches, moths, flies, mosquitoes, wasps, dragonflies, weevils, ant eggs, butterflies, and cicadas.  In fact, some insects’ popularity as food has caused their population to decline.  That could be a motivation to eat pesky cockroaches.

One late night talk host recently ranted against U.N. bullies who want to make us eat bugs, jokingly pointing out that New Yorkers with bed bugs are technically ranchers.   Okay, funny.  But, insect farming is on the rise. 

Bugs even have a trade association!  It’s called the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture.  Its mission is to become “a consolidated voice to encourage positive growth of insects as both feed and food.”  The organization makes the case for using insects as feed for everything from fish to farm animals. 

The edible insect industry is already churning out protein bars, pastas, and chips made from bugs—mostly crickets.  It brags about insects’ ecological and health benefits.  Brags that raising insects produces fewer greenhouse gases and uses less water and space than beef, chicken, and pork.  And, brags that bugs are also good sources of protein, fiber, and fatty acids.  

That ignores the ick factor.

Yet, cricket flour is a thing, and it’s showing up in those protein bars and baked goods.  Check out the recipes online!  Insect pasta (ground buffalo worms) may be cool with the kids, but we’ll stick with Italian.  Amazon is selling packs of chocolate dipped insects, though they are marketed as “perfect for pranks” and an “awesome gag gift.”  Ironically, the reviews are terrific.

The Insect Club in Washington, D.C., got lots of buzz—forgive us—when it opened in the 1990s, serving its patrons “mealworms Rockefeller.”  It soon closed down.  It was before its time!  

Yes it was.  Media coverage of the Linger restaurant in Denver describes how the “chef tosses black ants with white rice and tops a wok-fried heap of vegetables with diced crickets and grasshoppers”— a dish called Sweet and Sour Crickets.  Yum?

Entomophagy.  This is the word that describes the practice of humans eating insects.  It certainly wasn’t a word we knew, much less pronounce.  Spell check even questioned it.  We wanted to learn to pronounce it so we can be cool, but we doubt we will be participating in the practice.  A study of oldies’ eating habits indicates that we avoid the latest food fads loved by millennials, with 35 percent of us opting for traditional foods.  Over 50 percent of us have never touched avocado toast or tried quinoa.  We’re guessing a higher percentage of us will not be buying cricket flour.

And, we suggest that no one research the source of red dye 4 that colors some candies, yogurt, ice cream, and even lipsticks!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today?  If asked if you’ve eaten an insect, remember that crabs, lobsters, and shrimp are closely related to insects, according to evolutionary researchers.  If you choose, smile and say, of course I’ve eaten insects.  If you want to be annoying, email the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and demand they investigate the conditions in which insects are mass produced.  We’re guessing that animal activists haven’t insisted that insects be killed humanely for food.  We call that speciesism!! 

Wrinkled Wisdom – What Old Lady?

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By Barbara and Marilee

Let’s embrace the term “old lady.” Our generation is reinventing what it means to be an older woman. Let’s take pride in our demographic revolution.
Today, there are more women over 50 in this country than at any other point in history. We oldies are not dowdy, out-of-date, or irrelevant. We are healthier, more vibrant, socially engaged, working longer, and have more income than previous generations. We will not be marginalized.
Women are the majority of Americans, the majority of grassroots donors, the majority of volunteers, and the majority of voters. We matter financially, culturally, and politically.
Yes, “old lady” can be slang for a girlfriend or wife…someone about whom men care. But, other than “cougar,” try to conjure up a single appreciative or respectful word to describe an older woman. Some are really dated, like hag, crone, and harridan, which, like the term “old lady,” were first noted in 1599. That’s really ironic since the average lifespan at that time was around 40.
Think Hollywood. Okay, women heroes tend to be young. However, actress Glenn Close, 72, was nominated for her seventh Oscar this year for her role in The Wife. Last summer’s movie, Book Club, which starred four older women, was a cotton candy of a movie, but a full-blown success. The Netflix television series Grace and Frankie, featuring Jane Fonda, 81, and Lily Tomlin, 79, will return for season six in 2020 and has legions of devoted fans. Bette Midler at 71 was a smash in Hello Dolly. Love the recent article headlined: 50 Actresses Over 50 Who Still Rule Hollywood.

Just smile and roll your eyes at the old, or just older, ladies often cast as witches or evil stepmothers. And, savor the sweet, but deadly, old ladies in the 1944 movie Arsenic and Old Lace.
Last year, the clothing brand Twisted Twee released t-shirts featuring a number of the demeaning terms commonly used to describe us. The young, British founder Suzi Warren explained, “I reckon the time has come to reclaim the rude and unkind words used to describe older women.” Yes! That’s the spirit! Wear those t-shirts proudly!
As for the fashion industry in general, it needs a wake-up call. Fashions on runways, television, and social media are trendy, vibrant, exciting. And, totally aimed at young people. Just look at Project Runway. A recent episode irritated numbers of people by constantly warning contestants not to go full “old lady.” Or too “mother-of-the-bride.” Or too “mumsy.”

Okay, they are throwing more models over 50 on the runways. But, the fashion industry would be wise to remember that we old ladies have quite a bit of purchasing power. And, we aren’t interested in much of the clothing in stores today, which is poorly made using impractical materials that are almost disposable; and, entertainingly, reminiscent of the 60s ,70s, and 80s. Been there, done that.
Hey, we still wear the well-made clothes with classic lines that have been hanging in our closets for years, even decades, because they don’t age. We just cut out the shoulder pads from our 80s’ purchases. We also like leggings and yoga pants, but we are mindful of body type and the occasion.

We have no desire to enter the Notre Dame leggings’ fray instigated by a Catholic mom of four sons. Her letter, published in the college’s student newspaper, implored female students to start an anti-leggings trend after seeing young women wearing them to Mass. We were impressed kids even go to Mass. Lust, you will recall, is one of the seven deadly sins whether at Mass or the gym!

So our winkled wisdom for today? Give whomever dares to call you an old lady to your face a high five! Take pride knowing we are not fearful or invisible—although invisibility has many advantages. Don’t fall prey to trends that are not our friends! Continue to believe in quality not quantity. Embrace your gray hair! And don’t be embarrassed to wear attractive, yet sensible shoes. We older women can teach kids a thing or two about style.

Oh, and P.S. Take solace in knowing we old ladies can nap whenever we feel like it. Our eyes won’t get much worse; our secrets are safe because our friends’ memories are no better than our own; almost all the difficult, major decisions in life are behind us; and we can stop trying to keep up with technology. That’s what the grandkids are for!