Be an Active Senior!

unnamed-5.jpgI participated in the Women’s March that happened in my home town. It was a wonderful, loving, empowering day. It only happened a month ago, but it was a very long month. Since then, I have been much busier than I have been in  many years. I decided to form a small group of Trump “resisters” at the senior apartment complex where I live. I have been keeping in touch on line, holding meetings where I live, and attending meetings of community groups. I have more contact and connection with my neighbors than I ever had in the six years I have lived here. I have regained a sense of purpose. In short, Donald Trump has been good for me. If we are successful in our efforts to prevent our democracy and our planet from being destroyed, what is happening now may prove to be good for our country, as well. A devious effort to divide us may end up pulling us together.

Unlike some people, I don’t think we are out of danger yet. I think it is up to every one of us to do what we can to resist the arrogance of a man holding the office of president who believes he is beyond the rule of law and the irresponsibility of representatives who won’t stand up to him. Our constitutional rights and protection by the government are being undermined. The constitutional restraints on the presidency have been ignored. Those of us who love democracy have good reason to be alarmed. It is our right and our responsibility to do something about it. As retired people, we have a wonderful resource not available to those who are still working and raising families: Time.

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Another resource we have is experience. Hey, we’re the baby boomers! We were the ones who protested the Vietnam war. Many of us marched for civil rights and nuclear disarmament. We worked for women’s rights. We were the youth movement of the sixties and seventies, and many of us have been politically active right up to the present. I admit I am one who has not. I got involved in raising a child, going to graduate school, developing a career, caring for parents, and so on. There are a lot of people like me out there. Now is the time for us to get involved again, if only in our own self interest. We seniors rely on Social Security and Medicare. Many rely, as I do, on affordable senior housing. Programs like this may be and probably are at risk along with the Affordable Care Act. There are new young activists who bring their energy, intelligence, tech savvy, and sense of the future. Together we can do this!

Some time during the intervening years I found myself sitting in a hot tub in a small coastal town with a group of artists. I think it was the early 1990’s. Sounds like it, doesn’t it? We got to reminiscing about the ’60’s and ’70’s. I remember saying, “We think that the shift in consciousness at that time was about a youth culture, but that wasn’t it at all. It was planting the seeds for us to grow into wise elders for the coming hard times.” I didn’t actually know what I was talking about, but I clearly remember saying it. My own words stuck with me. I can tell you we are those – hopefully – wise elders. The time is now.

One Nuclear War with China (or Korea) Can Ruin Your Whole Day

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Back in July, I read an article in The New Yorker about Tony Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz was the coauthor of Trump’s best selling book, The Art of the Deal. He spent considerable time with Donald Trump and was one to raise the issue of Trump’s temperament making him unsuitable for office. He described Donald Trump as extremely narcissistic and as having a short attention span. He also described him as belligerent. We have seen these personality traits on television during the campaign. He also knew next to nothing about how our government works or about foreign relations. By now he has been briefed and would know a little more, it must be assumed. Schwartz pointed out that it is not a good thing to give someone who so easily takes offense and is so ready to attack sole responsibility for authorizing a nuclear war, as will be the case when he becomes president.

Since the failure of Communism, the threat of nuclear war has faded from our imagination. Global warming seems to present a more clear and present danger. We really can’t avoid that now, but we could ameliorate the situation.  But nuclear war is still possible and only a countdown away. In some ways the danger is greater than it was in the 1950s. More countries, with less to lose, possess nuclear warheads. Most of the people living today don’t remember the terror in the period after Hiroshima. I still remember air raid drills from my school days. A siren would sound and we were told to get under our desks and cover our heads. I crouched there shaking all over my body. I knew you couldn’t survive an atomic attack. I was never sure it wasn’t really happening at that moment.

Trump’s temperament has been mentioned less often recently. He seems to act more civilized. I doubt, though, that his personality structure has really changed. Nor do I believe it was all just an act. Even with advisors he won’t have the experience to interact with foreign leaders in a non-incendiary fashion. He has displayed an interpersonal tactic of winning by intimidation. I don’t think this is a strategy he has developed intentionally. I think it’s his basic personality since early childhood. I can’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing. I happen to have a background in psychology. Apparently, intimidation has worked for him in business, but it won’t always work in diplomatic relations. Donald Trump’s recent phone call to Taiwan may have been deliberate and strategic, but it was ill advised. It can’t be in the best interest of the United States to alienate China.

 

Trumpitis:

I voted for Hillary. I voted for her because I thought she was competent and, frankly, safe. I voted for no change. Not all change is good.

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It’s the sick and disoriented feeling I and many of my friends have had since the election last Tuesday. I haven’t written here in ages, but thoughts are going through my mind and now it’s time for self expression.  This is a Boomer issue, since we were always interested in change, in peace, in human rights. We cared. We voted.

 

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I voted for Hillary. She wasn’t my first choice. I didn’t vote for her because she was a woman, although I think electing a woman president is important, and I was glad to vote for a woman. I voted for her because I thought she was competent, experienced, and, frankly, safe. Trump appears to be very impulsive. It frightens me to give him the power to start a nuclear war, which the voters have done. To tell you the truth, I voted for no change. Not all change is good. I trust Hillary to keep things on an even keel. I felt that was the best that could be expected. I just wanted someone who could safely steer the ship of state. Someone I would get in the car with and trust to drive me home.

This is an older person kind of choice, conservative in a sense. I wanted to conserve the gains we had made in the past eight years. I wanted to conserve our beloved nation and our planet. No, I didn’t think Hillary was the most progressive choice. I thought that she was backed by the establishment, and I was flat out amazed that she lost.

The events since the election have caused me to fear civil war even more than I had feared the specter of nuclear war. Demonstrations turning violent, the surge of hate crimes and KKK marches are very upsetting. A nation divided can not stand. I have fear for the fate of our nation. Economically, I fear a major depression.

I am trying to understand what happened. I have been thinking: Does democracy work? I hope it does, and it’s a serious question. As many people have mentioned, I have thought about whether the electoral college system is necessary. How sacred is our constitution? Could some of it be outdated? When you question any part of the constitution, does it endanger the whole of it? What if we lost the Bill of Rights? What about the second amendment? I have been thinking about women in American politics. Many other countries have elected women. Why do we lag behind? What kind of president will Trump be? Who voted for him, and why? Will they get what they expect? I plan to address these and other questions in upcoming posts.

 

 

How to Use a Dating Service

I was talking with someone who reads my posts.  She is married, and in no need of a dating service. Lucky her!  However, some of her friends are dating.  As we spoke, it became clear that while my last post, “The Dating Game,” gave people a sympathetic experience to relate to, it didn’t offer much practical help.  I started to give her a few pointers that I had already passed on to a couple of friends, when I realized that this information would be useful to more than a few people.  My advice is mainly oriented to the woman’s point of view.  Guys also might find some of the information helpful.  Some of the content could work for the gay and lesbian dating scene, as well.  I know that dating services do serve the gay community.  So, gals, here goes.  Take a deep breath.

Women, you have to recognize that in our age group, there are many more single women than single men.  There have been more women than men in our cohort all along, since the Vietnam war.  As we get older, the ratio of women to men increases, due to the difference in longevity between the sexes.  This means that in the dating world, we are the job seekers and men are the employers.  You know how in today’s job market, there are over a hundred applications for each advertised job opening? You can’t just stand around waiting for the job to find you.  It is the same in dating.  Many of us have been taught that it is the man’s role to seek out women.  There are undoubtedly strong cultural and biological reasons for this, but we have to counteract the impulse to just wait, to a certain extent.  Not too much, because men have the same programming, and want to maintain a semblance of leadership in the mating game.  It gets tricky.

If you do use an online service, how you look and what you say is very important, just like in life. This is equally true for men, by the way:  I have simply clicked past and disregarded many potential dates because they didn’t have a photo or say enough in their profile.  Put your best foot forward.  Several photos are better than one.  You probably want both a head shot and a full body shot, unless you can’t get one or the other to come out flattering.  There is nothing wrong with photos that aren’t you, but show things that you like. I learned this from the men on the service I’m using.  Some are great photographers and have wonderful landscape pictures, others have snapshots of pets or prized possessions. It’s like a little photo essay that tells a lot about you.

When you write your profile, try to think about things that make you stand out.  How are you different?  Everyone likes candlelit dinners and walks on the beach.  Think about what you really like, even if not everyone might think it’s special.  It’s special to you.  Do you do needlepoint? Do you especially like old monster movies? Fishing trips? Tell about it.  Why do you like it?  Do you particularly like fresh brook trout for breakfast or is it more about spending the whole day in nature? What’s your idea of a great first date?  Oh, going to dinner.  How original!  Of course, that might be what you do, but what would you want to have happen?  Would you laugh at each other’s jokes, discuss Elizabethan love sonnets, or compare lives?

Usually, the service invites you to say what you are looking for in a relationship or in a partner. Think about your values.  What is important to you?  Honesty, financial stability, social activism, romance, travel?  My sense of this question is that you want to make sure to mention the things that are absolute deal breakers for you and then leave it kind of general.  People will self-select away from you if they don’t recognize themselves in your description. I know I do, when I read men’s profiles.  Think about the quality you are describing and whether or not it’s really important to you.  For example, you may write that you want to meet someone “adventurous,” and you are thinking about being willing to try a new sushi place, but a very nice man may avoid you because he’s been thinking about sky diving but hasn’t worked up the courage.

OK, women, now here’s the hard part.  Once you have enrolled and posted your profile, you might have to take some initiative.  You may get some response from men, but not necessarily the ones you want to meet.  I, for example, have no interest in a long-distance romance, and have to politely refuse offers that come from across the country.  To find men in my area, I had to use the search function and put in some criteria.  I selected an age range, a distance I was willing to travel, and non-smoker. Then. start looking at the pictures and profiles the service provides for you.  Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find much at first.  You really have to stick with it, just like selling cosmetics or looking for a job.  If you haven’t dated for a while, it may be a good idea to go out on a date or two, even with someone you think you probably wouldn’t be interested in, just for the practice.  A friend of mine said she did this, and I think it’s a super idea.  Think of it as a lark and a free cup of coffee!

You have to expect that you will often make the first contact, in the form of a written message through the service.  Don’t just pick one guy and write a long letter to him and then sit waiting for him to write back!  You don’t know enough about these people to be that selective.  Write to as many fellows as you can find that meet your criteria.  Say something nice about them, a little bit about yourself, maybe something that isn’t in your profile, and ask a friendly, curious question.  Is that an antique desk in your photo?  What kind of fishing do you like? Are your dogs both Pomeranians?  This invites a reply.  The person to whom you are writing will look at your picture and read your profile, and if he is interested, he’ll write back.  Gentlemen write back, politely but firmly, even if they are not interested.  You will do this, too.

Now.  Here’s the tricky part.  You write to him once.  You do not write to him again until and unless he writes to you.  The ball is in his court.  It is exactly like a game of tennis.  You return the ball promptly when it’s in your court, then it’s his turn.  Then your turn.  Keep doing this until someone, probably the man, suggests a meeting.  Say yes!  You aren’t doing this to brush up your writing skills! It’s fine for you to suggest a time and place.  Do not give your phone number, email address, or street address before you have met this dude in person.  This common-sense rule works for men as well. Scam artists come in all ages and genders, sadly.  This having been said, at some point you have to trust your gut feelings about a person.  The first meeting should not be a big-deal date.  Meeting for a drink or a cup of coffee is a good idea.  That way, if you are uncomfortable, you can get away rather soon, and if you’re having a good time, you can extend it.  Better yet, make a second date.

Good luck to you!  Let me know how it goes.  Next:  How to Go on a Date

The Dating Game

A couple of months ago, I signed up for an online dating service.  I don’t know what possessed me to ruin a perfectly good life that way.  Well, I do know.  A friend talked me into it.  That’s what they all say, isn’t it?  I was having a great summer – travel to Brazil and Seattle, afternoons spent by or in the swimming pool, tan and blond (an effort to go gray run amok) and feeling invincible.  We were three of us in the pool, and the older of us was telling the other two we’d better get out there and meet people while there’s still time.  Pretty dire.  “Meet people” is a Boomerism, and those weren’t her exact words.  I don’t think she said “catch a man,” but it’s what she meant.  Now or never.  Get going, girls, on the count…one…two…tackle!  Oh, please.

None the less, as I said, I was invincible in those now-past warm months.  I usually do take a dare.  That sounds wild, try again:  I respond to a challenge with a willingness to take risks. I signed up. I chose a service specifically for older people.  The first few times I logged on to the site were discouraging.  Everyone looked so old!  The men seemed to fall into one of two categories: monosyllabic every-day Joes with their ball caps and fishing gear, and the New Age Mr. Perfects, always looking for Ms. Even-More-Perfect.  Narcissus ready to attack Echo for her lack of self-esteem, and imperfect mirroring. Not to mention chipped nails. I knew they wouldn’t even answer my emails.  As for the regular guys, well, I might have to suck it up.

Dear readers, I would like to say that I am doing this for you, but that wouldn’t be the case.  I know you want to know what dating is like after fifty or sixty years of age, after years in a relationship and out of the dating scene.  I know that I have to write about this sooner or later, and I will need some experience.  Seriously, before this I was thinking I’d interview friends for my material.  I am not back out on the dating scene for Boomerage.  I am doing it for me.  Although my last relationship must be chalked up as a total failure, there are elements that I miss:  Someone to share feelings with, to tell the day’s events to a sympathetic ear; someone to laugh with.  Daily hugs.  Dancing at midnight in the kitchen.  I have friends, near and far, mostly women.  Just when I’m feeling alone, the phone rings, and there is one of my friends, eager to know the latest events in my life and wanting to share her experiences.  I get to know that I’m not alone, but it ain’t the same as having a partner at home..  No way, no how.

I finally got some emails from men in my area who weren’t so damn special and weren’t bozos either.  What do you know? I thought to myself, maybe this is OK after all.  I went out on some dates.  I got a hand-shake, followed by more e-mails.  I got a kiss, followed by more dates.  Lord’a mercy, it was working!  I can report first hand on dating after sixty.  My life is getting interesting.

First, let me say, this is something I didn’t envision for myself.  I thought that by this age I would be in a lasting relationship.  I’m willing to bet that other singles my age and older had the same expectations.  Men and women alike, straight and gay, want a secure situation for their old age:  The hug and sympathetic gaze to come home to.  We don’t really want to get dressed up and go out all that often.  It’s too much trouble.  If we were in a long-term relationship, we could mumble complaints to our partner, remind each other to take a nap that afternoon, have someone’s help to knot the tie or zip the dress.  When we are dating, we have to do this more frequently and we are on our own.  Is that tie straight?  Is the dress too tight?  Is what we want to show, showing; and what we want to hide, hidden?

Wardrobe concerns are just the tip of the iceberg.  I have to tell you, dear readers, that dating post sixty is no different from dating at any age.  If anything, it is a bit more nerve-wracking.  The stakes are a bit higher.  More than ever, we want a stable relationship.  The biological clock for pregnancy is one thing.  This is the big biological clock.  We are more vulnerable.  More than ever, we fear a mistake.  We could be abused financially.  A wrong relationship could take us just beyond the age at which we seem datable and attractive.  If we become ill, the person we’re with could fade out or become abusive.  These concerns may not be conscious, but they loom in the background, making the usual dating angst bigger and darker.

You may remember the drill:  Will he call?  What if he doesn’t?  What if he does?  What should I say? If I’m too distant, will he give up?  If I’m too forward and affectionate will I push him away?  Why did she say that?  Does she think I’m stupid?  Is she manipulating me? And so on.  I get nervous before a date, depressed afterwards.  For someone who was on a very peaceful, even keel it’s like buying a ticket for an extended roller-coaster ride.  I’m just not getting the “whee!” part yet.  I am in the white knuckles stage.  Perhaps, after a couple of times around the loop, when I’m more relaxed.  On the other hand, I am getting an opportunity to see into some of my deepest hurt places.  In my world, this is a good thing.  I can process and resolve them.

Dating should be fun.  When I was in high school, I remember it was lots of fun.  People in their twenties seem to enjoy dating.  As mentioned, the biological clock appears to up the ante and increase dating angst for many women in their thirties, while guys are still cruisin’.  This sets up a discrepancy that men apparently continue to carry in their cellular memory – the desperate woman, trying to catch any man at any cost.  A very skewed picture, far from reality, but I think it’s in the mix.

For me, I went through a divorce and was unexpectedly on the dating scene once before, in my early fifties.  My experience then was very different from my present experience.  I took it extremely lightly and had a ball!  My thinking was that the main mistake people make in dating is to take it too seriously and fail to have a good time.  I was not goal-oriented.  I was just out of a marriage.  I was in no hurry to do it again. I went out with men I met through a dating service, old friends, people I happened to meet socially.  They say fifty is the new thirty, and, physically, I felt much the same as I did at thirty.  I had already raised a family.  No clock was ticking for me.  Perhaps I was not serious enough, because I ended up in a dead-end relationship.  On the other hand, I might have landed there anyway.  At least I had fun.

Outta’ the Way, Gramps

Our culture has been youth-oriented since at least the turn of the last century.  There are many reasons for this.  At the turn of the nineteen hundreds, it was still a relatively new country.  Youth and energy were needed to settle a big country, build roads, canals, railroads, telegraph and telephone lines, dams and skyscrapers.  Old, traditional ways, associated with the “old country” in Europe, were being scrapped and new manners and mores invented. We streamlined convention and approached things directly, adopting a manner that is still associated with Americans in business and diplomatic circles.  We had the cocky self-assurance of young people who really don’t know what stumbling blocks may lie ahead.

Wisdom, on the other hand, is associated with aging.  Wisdom profits from our own mistakes as well as the mistakes of others, and has the humility to admit to being wrong.  As a nation, we are aging, but our value system hasn’t shifted from a love of what is new, fast, and clever to an appreciation of the wisdom and inner peace that is traditionally associated with age.  We baby boomers are quickly swelling the ranks of the over-sixty population, but rather than using our numbers to insist on dignity and respect for elders, we try to pretend we are still young.  We dye our hair, we don’t ask for discounts at the movie theater, we want to be called something other than “grandpa” or “grandma” by our kids’ children.  We like being told we look younger than our age.  We don’t like being called “old.”

I admit I participate in this.  When someone tells me I look younger than my sixty-five years, I beam and say “Thank you,” instead of taking the braver and more mature stance in paraphrase of Gloria Steinem, “This is what sixty-five looks like!”  Although I’m supposedly on the path to “go gray,”  I still see the hair colorist every few months.  When someone tells me I’m not old, I don’t argue much.  In my private thoughts, I think, “I am much younger-minded than others my age,”  and so on.  Of course, keeping the mind and body functioning on a par with a younger age is a worthy, life-enhancing goal.  Considering all things young more desirable than the wisdom and perspective that has been gleaned over a lifetime is not.

In the workplace, younger people may be faster and have sharper memories.  They also have a handle on the contemporary popular culture, since we idolize youth and encourage young people to take the lead in determining what is “of the moment.”  As throughout the twentieth century, technology plays a part in perpetuating the value of youth over older age:  Young people have, at each generation – not of humans, but of computers – a better handle on the state of the art.  This perpetuates both the youth culture and the hiring practices of the work place.  What is lost is the value of the human skills that it takes a lifetime to learn.

Young people fall in love, but it takes a lifetime  really to learn to love.  Tolerance for others, patience, perspective and other human values invaluable to the work place take many years to develop within us.  Younger people may grasp and incorporate the corporate culture, it takes wisdom to truly think in terms of “we.”  The same can be said of the political arena.  Politicians and corporate types may well be over forty, but the competitive values of our youth oriented culture are the values they reflect.  In fact, as a nation, we are growing older.  Isn’t it time we grew up?