Aging Beats the Alternative

When people get to talking about the major changes they’ve witnessed in their lifetime, I find that, more often than not, they end up listing technological advances. Rockets to the moon, computers, television, nuclear power, heart transplants, supersonic jets, the Pill and Viagra, tend to make everybody’s short list.

I’m sure I’m overlooking some obvious choices, but that’s because inventions and scientific discoveries don’t astound me to the extent they do other folks. I’m not certain why that is, but I suspect that I long ago depleted my lifetime supply of awe.

The stuff that used to knock me for a loop were everyday things like cars, phones and electricity — things that actually changed the physical landscape on a massive scale. What truly astonished me about them was the amount of gall it took for someone to assume the world would go all topsy-turvy just to accommodate his brainstorm.

Take the automobile, for instance. Imagine, you wake up in the middle of the night with that particular notion buzzing around in your bonnet. You begin mulling it over from every angle. Right off the bat, you realize that millions of roads will have to be paved and lines painted. Next comes the realization that traffic lights and illumination will have to be provided. By the time you got around to accepting the fact that gas stations and garages would have to pop up like wild flowers to keep all those jalopies running, a lesser man would have tossed in the towel.

Speaking as a lesser man, if I’d been the fellow who came up with the internal combustion brainstorm, I’d have turned over and gone back to sleep. And at breakfast the next morning, I’d have been urging my son to become a blacksmith, a career with a real future.

To my way of thinking, the biggest change that occurred in my lifetime took place during the 1960’s. I refer to the fact that, for the first time in recorded history, adolescents stopped wanting to emulate their parents, and, instead, grown-ups wanted to be teenagers.

Overnight, enormous numbers of adults decided to use sex and drugs as a form of rebellion. A half century later, I’m still not sure what they were rebelling against, or exactly how tie-dyed shirts and platform shoes figured in the overall plan, but I thought they were goofy then and, in most cases, those folks and their offspring remain goofy to this day. So, in case you were wondering where all the liberal airheads come from, now you know.

I have noticed that I’m not as worried about getting old as most other people. I’m happy to say I still turn to the sports section before the obituaries, although I do find myself clucking my tongue over the death of some eighty year old stranger, and muttering, “Someone that young, I wonder if it was murder or suicide.”

Having started losing my hair when I was quite young and never having been what one would call a hunk, I find that I have only one really major gripe with this whole aging process. What’s the deal with the earlobes? I mean, really, one day they look cute and perky, exactly the way they always have; the next morning, you wake up looking like something out of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, with these Ubangi lobes that look as if bones should be stuck through them.

I realize it’s further proof that God has a sense of humor, but I can’t help wishing He had a better one.

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write Burt! Click on the little envelope below to email this article.
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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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    I’m 95 and head still spinning. Does this beat “The Alternative?” Sounds like you are sure what “The Alternative” really is. You’re one up on me.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Nancye: I have never quite understood the reluctance of people, especially women, to tell their age. If I were a woman instead of a 71-year-old man, my inclination would be to say that I was 94, so that people would gasp and say, “You look great for 94. I wouldn’t have thought you were a day older than 83.”


  • Nancye

    Burt wrote:

    I have noticed that I’m not as worried about getting old as most other people. I’m happy to say I still turn to the sports section before the obituaries.


    Me too. However, I never read the obits. I figure if I’m in there, someone will tell me. Actually, I don’t take the paper. I get all the news I care to digest on TV and the internet.

    I don’t mind getting old except I can’t do the things I used to do, such as ice skate and dance, (especially tap dance). When my knees yelled “uncle” I had to stop.

    I ain’t telling my age, but I have two grown children, five grown grandchildren, and two greatgrands. ‘Nough said! :)

  • Burt Prelutsky

    It appears that I am not the only Nervous Nellie when my wife is driving. But I’m in a class of my own because I am always a terrible passenger, no matter who is at the wheel. Unlike most American males, I do not regard myself as a great driver. The problem is that everyone else either drives too fast or too slow; takes his or her eyes off the road when they’re talking; and/or seems oblivious to the fact that just because they have a green light doesn’t mean that some idiot won’t run through a red light.

    Regards, Burt

  • Shirl

    I think the secret is aging gracefully and I’m doing my best. I just feel truly blessed to have made it this far. Now when I ride in the car with my adult children, I play backseat driver, just like my Mom used to do. Now, I know why.

    • Mike Jackson

      I’ve been known to wear blinders with riding shotgun with my kids. Makes for a happier road trip. lol

      • Vince Ricardo

        I do that when my wife is driving which is, thankfully, not often (with me in the car, I mean). I’ve found it has really helped our relationship. I’d like to stress that she’s not a terrible driver, but there are so many things that she does (or doesn’t do) that stress me out, I’ve found it best just to ignore them and enjoy the scenery outside or else turn around and chat with our two boys in the backseat, lol!

  • robin in fl

    hey now ‘kids’..i may have been in grade school for a lot of the 60’s but i was VERY lucky to have been born old..yep..true it is and I LOVED it.

    anything old i was drawn to like a moth to a it old books,old houses and yes ,even old people…while kids i knew were worrying about being popular and liked ,i was always concerned with Fl being overly developed,,yea ,yea ,so i was weird even back then..

    and as far as fashion goes,hey i loved the 80’s thing and remember cutting the neck out of every sweatshirt I had just so it would fall off my shoulder just like in the “flashdance” movie,,yea the movie sucked ,but the fashion was great ,at least I thought it was everytime I put my knit leggings on :)

    I guess the biggest change I think of at this time ,and the one that makes me sad is when i think of this beautiful tropical paradise I was lucky enough to grow up in now looking like a big overly developed pile of dog poo..IHMO!

    so I guess it is what it is and was what it was and since i’m still able to see what I’m typing here ,I guess it’s all not so bad :)..not much I can do about things I’ve now figured out,so I just enjoy my life now and try not to worry about the things I can’t change anyway.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Lily: The real problem with platform shoes was that they weren’t high enough. Instead of merely breaking ankles, they could have contributed mightily to thinning the herd. In which case, Democrats wouldn’t be able to win as many elections as they do.

    Mr. Jackson: I’m confused. Do you miss those days because you got to wear a suit and tie? If so, what’s stopping you now? Or is it that you used to have an office to go to?

    Regards, Burt

    • Mike Jackson

      Hi Burt,
      Sorry about the confusion. I miss those days of yore because folks were expected to wear a suit and tie instead of the business casual attire that is expected these days.
      What stops me from wearing a suit now is being in a completely different line of work, but I do wear a tie. :) And the work is enjoyable.
      I miss those days because I would wake up and my body didn’t hurt. The upshot is when I wake up now, my aching joints quickly inform me that I’m breathing and still ahead of the game. :)

  • Mike Jackson

    Writing as a fifty-one y.o gentleman with a few observations about us “mature” folk.
    1. I have seen mature people of both genders wearing clothing I wouldn’t allow a teenager to wear in public. (in this day and age, should I be P.C. and say “all genders”? Nah. Two is enough.)
    2. If fifty is now the “new thirty” why can’t I do the same stuff I did back then? Granted, an active life can take a toll, but the booths are increasing in both fee and frequency.
    In response to your comment about adults emulating teenagers, I think that is probably because those folks didn’t want to wait for their second childhood to begin. They just quit maturing. Those clothing styles of the 60’s and 70’s were horrid. The 80’s weren’t much better but at least I could wear a traditional business suit with tie to my office. I do miss those days.
    I can tell you the chief upside: Our odometers are still turning. I don’t mind the mileage, but I do wish I had followed a better maintenance schedule.
    When friends and family ask how I am feeling, “I’m standing, my heart is beating, my lungs are breathing, and my mind is still thinking. I can manage the rest.)
    Best regards Sir.

  • Lily

    The platform shoes of the 60’s-70’s were made by sadistic people who loved to hear the sound of crunching ankles as the wearers fell.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Will–Nobody better mention that to Nathan Lane.


  • Will Swoboda

    Good AM Burt,
    I wonder why I never had to shave my ears when I was younger? Too bad we don’t get male pattern baldness in our ears. At 62, I’ve decided, that I will keep my hair cut short and my ears shaved that way, I’ll look about the same when I wake up as I did when I went to sleep. Getting old is not for sissies though.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Marina: What Bernie doesn’t know can’t hurt us. After all, we’re consenting adults. Aging does bring perspective, but it’s not a sure thing. You merely have to take a gander at some of the geezers camping out on Wall Street to realize that lefties never mature, they merely get older and funnier-looking.

    Regards, Burt


    Hi Burt ~

    Don’t tell Bernie, but I look forward to reading your column as much as his.
    I love the comment about the 80 yr. old in the obit. My Romanian grandmother would have me read them to her each day. No matter how old they were, she would always say “teneya”(young). The older she got, the more she said it. I guess it’s all about “perspective.”

    p.s. I guess because I find myself reading the obits on line daily, I find myself thinking the same thing. P.S. Her name was Marina.

  • John Oines

    Maybe with the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ or maybe is was the ‘Industrial Revolution’, the world suddenly became like a 110 volt appliance plugged into 220 volts, spinning seemingly out of control. Rapid change is nothing new. When you look at ancient Egypt with it’s 31 dynasties compared to the entire history of the USA, spanning the length of one of those dynasties or China, a country that has a history dating easily back to 2000 BC, the modern world theme is not stability. I is chaotic change. We better get used to it. It’s been going on for quite a while now.

  • Gena Taylor

    My father used to joke (I think) and say that the first thing he checked in the newspaper every morning was the obits – not to see if any of his friends had passed away, to make sure he hadn’t passed away.
    I joined the army in the summer of 1967, the “Summer of Love,” and when I got out of the Army 4 1/2 years later, and returned to civilian life I felt like I had come out of a time warp. I guess I had been in some sort of cocoon for that period because I couldn’t believe how much things had changed in that short period of time. Before I went into the Army not only the high school students but also the students at the community college I had attended had to wear dresses and the boys had strict dress codes. When I got out, the girls at the high school were wearing short shorts and halter tops and there was apparently no dress codes at all in the collegs. When I had been in high school the teachers would shake me down for library books, since I had a bad habit of reading books in class. After I got out, they were shaking kids down for drugs and weapons – something that would have been unheard of 4 1/2 years before. Brave New World or World gone Insane?!?