Wednesday, August 28, 2013

In Days of Yore

Modern technology has certainly made our daily lives easy. When you think about all the conveniences and comforts that we enjoy each day, it's a bit overwhelming.

Recently in a discussion with a few other women, the topic turned to household chores. Noting that our present weather had taken a very warm turn for late August, someone mentioned that in the "old" days, there simply was no air conditioning. This person had been raised in a family of 10, not particularly uncommon 60 or 70 years ago. The mother in that family had been required to perform many laborious tasks, in addition to simply giving birth 10 times.

There was laundry for a family of 10. This was likely a rural or at least a semi-rural environment, which meant work clothes, school clothes and probably "good" clothes for church and other social occasions. Kids needed shirts, jackets, pants, dresses, jumpers, petticoats, underwear and socks. Plus long underwear, lightweight jackets, heavy coats, mufflers, gloves, mittens, etc. Clothes alone -- even excluding linens -- meant a large amount of washing.

There was food for a family of 10. Three meals a day, perhaps including a lunch to be taken to school, mostly home cooked. That was a lot of food prep in the days before microwaves and packaged foods. There were cows to milk, eggs to gather, bread to bake and canning to be done. Even if the mom was fortunate enough to have some help either from a hired lady, a boarder who pitched in or kids who minded the cows, there was a lot going on. Pigs were raised and butchered, an enormous task which consumed at least a full day. The meat was smoked in the smokehouse and could feed a family for several months. However, the pork didn't find it's way to the smokehouse without some guidance.

Chickens were raised for eggs and for meat. Wringing a chicken's neck was not an easy task. As a child, I watched a neighbor kill and de-feather a chicken in the back yard. Suffice it to say that it made a big impression on me. It was a lot of work compared to visiting a local chicken shack for some extra-crispy.

These women often maintained large gardens where they raised vegetables to consume and can. So-called "putting up" veggies was also a significant task, requiring skill and many hands to make the chore worthwhile.

In the old days, there was no trekking off to the store for a loaf of bread when the supply ran low. Bread was made from scratch. It required flour, yeast and a few other ingredients. Once mixed, bread spent time rising. Then kneaded and prepared, it was carefully baked. Such work nearly dictated that sufficient loaves be made to warrant the effort. Bread was usually served with every meal and with a large family, just imagine how much baking was done.

Not to mention such tasty baked treats as cookies, cakes and pie. These were also made by hand, sometimes from freshly grown fruits and vegetables which happened to be around. That meant apple pie and cobbler in the fall, strawberry pie and shortcake in the spring and early summer, pumpkin pie after the first frost. The economical housewife did not waste treats which happened her way. She used whatever was available -- and all of it.

My great aunt loved to preserve the old way of life even into the 1950s. She made her own bar soap, large white rectangles which might actually have done the job, but were unscented, unattractive and generally unwelcome. But she had made the soap to preserve a lifestyle from the past and my mother graciously accepted and used each bar. It seemed like a lot of work for a small item easily purchased for a few cents at many locations.

That was generally the way of the housewife from years ago. They didn't know how rough they had it and so (hopefully) didn't whine too much. They had no way of knowing what would be coming their way in the not-too-distant future.

Strangest of all is the fact that most women in the days of yore loved their lives of pre-ordained domesticity. They wanted nothing more than having children and keeping a nice house. Women of today -- including me, of course -- are stunned at such comments. But I have heard and read time and time again that woman were perfectly content with darning socks and changing diapers. That was all women seemed to want.

Little did they know what was awaiting…

Friday, August 23, 2013


A recent conversation with an old friend prompted me to dust off some neurons regarding my past life. The result was a shocking recollection about the way I used to live.

The conversation began when my friend related a story he had read about a young investment banker in London who recently died at age 22. This tragic death followed three days of working without rest. Granted, the man may well have had some underlying or undiagnosed health issue. But it sounds as though he had simply been working too much.

Extreme overwork has become common, even in other part of the world. In Japan, it even has its own name: karoshi (which translates literally from Japanese as "death from overwork"). The first case was reported in 1969 when a 29-year-old male worker in the shipping department of Japan's largest newspaper died of a stroke. In the 1980s, several high-ranking Japanese business executives died without any sign of illness and the press took notice. Since 1987, Japan has tracked the statistics related to karoshi deaths.

As Japan's economy continued to boom and workers began to crave success, the combination began to claim scores of ambitious executives. Mix that ambition with the Asian tradition of accepting personal blame for failure, and the result has been perilous.

A few years ago, I lived in Northern Virginia and worked inside the Washington, D.C. beltway. It was an exciting experience with an amazing job, earning significant kudos and money. But life was tough and after eight years I bowed out to a simpler, happier life in the Midwest.

I saw first hand the impact of overworking. It stressed workers. It stretched and contorted family life into a strangely misshapened creature. In the extreme, it even caused health problems and claimed lives. Overwork was a monstrous creature then and I can only imagine that the economic down turn has exacerbated the situation. The fear of failure and related job loss must have caused additional pressure on highly-motivated workers.

In nearly every work environment, there are certain workers who will find the situation to be stimulating. They thrive on the challenge of proving themselves in such a demanding atmosphere. Many large businesses are anxious to hire such "go-getters" who have likely spent their formative years overachieving at every turn. These young hires want to prove that they can make it in the big world and are willing to do whatever it takes to impress their supervisors. They may actually thrive under the expectation of failure, boosted by working long overtime and getting results at all costs.

People who I have known in such circumstances actually want to be challenged. They consider the experience to be a trial by fire and are willing to endure this test period. Some will pass and be accepted, perhaps only later to suffer the consequences. For those who don't pass and either resign or are encouraged to leave, they will no doubt find success in some other field, perhaps one that allows for a little more balance between life and work.

Balance appears to be sadly absent from the corporate world today. I once worked with a man who happened to be out of the office when a family emergency occurred. His wife had been taken ill in the middle of the day. When the school called to advise the man and found him absent, they left a message asking if he could arrange for someone to pick up his daughter from school. When the man returned that afternoon and got the message, he did not know the name of his daughter's teacher, what grade she was in or even the name of her school. He scrambled, phoning friends and arranging for help, but the entire office was a bit surprised that he had so little involvement with his own children.

I knew of many such stories.

People worked nearly every spare hour of nearly every day, including weekends and holidays. It was not uncommon to go into the office on both Saturday and Sunday of nearly every weekend. I have worked until early morning (5:00 a.m.) on more than a few occasions. These were usually situations structured by an approaching deadline, so we knew that the end would eventually arrive. And, of course, we were well compensated, to say the least.

But money and appreciation do not remedy fatigue and exhaustion. Thinking back now, I marvel that I could survive such a relentless work life. A bigger question in hindsight is: why.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where Are We Headed?

Sad news was learned today as reports announced that author Elmore Leonard has passed away.

Some readers may be asking "Who was Elmore Leonard?" Obviously, those asking such questions were never big readers of popular fiction or viewers of film.

Elmore Leonard was a great writer of crime and western genre fiction. Among his extensive accomplishments were such books/films as Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre and scores of stories/novels/films. He also penned the popular F/X show Justified. To say he was a prolific writer is more than an understatement.

I read today that he first published a story in Argosy magazine in 1951 and continued writing because it "was fun." This was a man of talent and conviction who could create characters who had something to say. His stories had style and substance and were structured to reveal a lot about the world in general.

Unfortunately, we have been losing a lot of great artists in recent years. These are people who told us a story and made us think. We sympathized with the characters depicted and were able to see the world through their eyes. It takes someone with real talent to capture an idea, reveal it to the viewer/reader and elicit a reaction. This is not a skill that can be acquired through a creative writing course or absorbed from a webinar. Writing is hard work and requires a certain amount of unabashed dedication to the craft.

The highly talented folks of the show business world are leaving us at an astonishing rate. Many of these folks captured our eyes and ears for years when they were at the peak of their careers. Their departure has depleted the talent pool forever. They had talent which enriched us and their songs, performances and endurance are remarkable.

One day soon, the talent pool will be completely dry. All that will remain is the 20-something flashes-in-the-pan who we will be hard pressed to even identify. I flinch now when I am in a conversation with someone and I happen to mention the name of a well-known celebrity from the not-so-distant past. I can see the look of panic in their eyes. "They don't know what I'm talking about," I warn myself as I change the subject.

So far in 2013, the following list indicates a mere sampling of the celebrities who have passed away:

Michael Ansara
Karen Black
Eileen Brennan
Van Cliburn
Dennis Farina
Bonnie Franklin
Annette Funicello
Ray Harryhausen
James Gandolfini
Eydie Gorme
George Jones
Stan Musial
Patti Page
Jean Stapleton
Esther Williams
Jonathan Winters

The list is actually much longer but I narrowed it to include the names of people that boomers like myself will remember. Afternoons wearing my mouse ears with Annette, Steve and Eydie on The Tonight Show, Jonathan Winters making me laugh for decades, Stan Musial in the days when baseball was on the radio. Most of these names triggers fond memories and it's too bad that those days will eventually fade along with the impact of these individuals.

Now people swoon over pimply-faced kids who attempt to sing but whose careers will end when their voices change. We watch movies starring a large crowd of "stars" about whom we have never heard. Watch the search engine news and see how many people have become "famous" overnight. Next year they will be flipping burgers at a Hollywood bistro or delivering pizzas in Brentwood.

Easy come. Easy go.

There are still some people out there with talent. They have endured and will continue to do so as long as they can find a movie in which to appear or some other gig that will showcase their skill. But eventually they will no longer appear and the world will be a lot less interesting.

If you hear of a movie starring one of your favorite actors or see that he/she has written a book or given an interview, take a look. You will no doubt feel enriched by the experience. And it just might be one of the last times you get to see real talent.













Sunday, August 18, 2013

Staying Active

The key to retirement seems to be: staying active.  Analysts have been pondering various aspects of retirement for years now. I thought I would chip in a bit of common sense.

By the time the majority of baby boomers have reached retirement, many of us have worked for approximately 50 years. That estimate includes high school summers spent flipping burgers or helping out with sports programs.

When I was old enough to get my driver's license, I considered myself completely liberated. The summer after my sophomore year in high school, several of my friends landed summer jobs. In the small community where I grew up, there were plenty of jobs which lent themselves to the unskilled and untested. Jobs like waiting tables, fast-food fry cooks and tidying up motel rooms were always available in our tourist-prone town. Add in the proverbial life guard and sports program assistant, and a job could be had if wanted. Yes, such an era did exist.

Even during college in the mid-1960s, there was plenty of part-time work available. While no one could pay all their expenses on a minimum wage income, they provided enough extra money for an occasional treat. Also lifestyles and basic needs were much less demanding in those days, so the little extra money had a much bigger impact.

By the time I entered the full-time work force, most of my friends and co-workers were already familiar with the world of scheduled hours, W-2s and completing tasks. We adjusted to the 40-hour week, wage increases and performance evaluations. It was 1970 and we stayed employed, hopefully, until retirement. Aside from intrusion of the draft during Vietnam, the only people I knew who left the work force were women who took time off to have kids. The days of June Cleaver and staying home with the kids were nearly extinct, but a few woman managed to convince their husbands they were better off at home than working.

Prior to the boomer generation, American society was quite different. It's as though someone drew a line in the sand in about 1940. Men born on one side of the line were dependent on a woman to fix meals and take care of domestic tasks. They had little to no training in handling these tasks themselves. These men liked having dinner on the table when they arrived home. When they married, it was understood that the little woman would stay home.

But for folks born on the other side of the line, things have been quite the opposite. More women entered the work force. They learned how to get hired, hold a job and were able to juggle many tasks at the same time. They could fix breakfast for the family, plan dinner to fix when they got home after work and put in an 8-hour day in between. It took perseverance and planning, but they learned how to take care of two separate lives -- the one at home and the one at work.

Modern life was made easier with the advent of technology. Microwaves came along to help cut preparation time for dinner. A wide assortment of packaged foods sped things up, too. I recall spending hours each week ironing clothes for the week ahead. But gradually the majority of clothes needed little, if any, touching up straight from the dryer. While home life and work life each demanded much of participants, things did get easier over time.

So, let's examine a typical boomer woman. She has worked since her teens, perhaps caring for and raising children, most certainly having to fix meals, do the shopping and tackle a job. It's been a harried and tiresome existence. Then she decides to retire. With the kids gone and the job gone, she can do what she wants on her own schedule. Whether she is still married or is alone, her time is pretty much her own.

But what is it that she wants to do with all of her time? She was so busy for so long that she rarely even thought about she was going to do once she retired. Sure, everyone wants to put their feet up for a while, at least, to relax and contemplate what to do. But there is far more to life than putting up one's feet.

Long before retirement arrives, people need to think about how they want to proceed. There are more hours in the day than they ever imagined and those hours need filling. Remember going on vacation and relishing the time off? You felt so relaxed and happy and began to dread returning to work. That's only normal and many of us felt like that when our routine changed. But when change comes and working has stopped, what about all those empty hours?

The secret to enjoying retirement is to keep active. That does not necessarily mean keep working. But there are plenty of people who do continue working because they tell me, "I don't know what else to do."

There is far too much worry spent considering the monetary side of retirement and not enough time given to the rewarding side of retirement. Both are important but only one is likely to provide some joy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Sometimes it's really nice being alone.

There seems to be a huge fear among adults about being alone. That status is not horrible, to be avoided at all costs. It's actually rather pleasant.

Many of us grew up in an era where one of the worst conditions was being alone. The phrase we feared as young women in the 1950s was becoming an "old maid." The mere thought of living unmarried was something woeful.

The majority of our elementary teachers were old maids. They were spinsters with no sense of style, who wore their white hair in elaborate buns, and daily wore shapeless dresses of black or navy blue with matching lace-up oxfords.

For the most part, these were lovely women, devoted to a life of teaching. When their careers had begun during the pre-war years, many school systems did not allow women teachers to be married. This restriction eased over time but too late for many of these single women who found that time had passed them by. There were a few married women teachers at our grade school. They were far more stylish, attired in fitted suits over pretty blouses. These teachers had actual waistlines, wore pumps and lipstick. However, they were outnumbered.

I used to wonder about these single women teachers who appeared to be so drab. They rarely seemed to smile or laugh. Perhaps they were simply focused on the task at hand. Perhaps they even kicked up the heels of their lace-up oxfords on the weekends. But I doubt it.

And so began the image of the mid-century working woman. Remember TV shows like The Ann Sothern Show and The Gail Storm Show? Working women were constantly doing the wrong thing, falling for one hapless adventure or another. On the job, they were either ditsy and efficient like Ann Sothern or rather homely and pathetic like her long-time co-star Olive (played by Ann Tyrell). They seemed completely devoted to their jobs in an era when few women had entered the workplace.

It would be several years before single women were depicted as having good jobs, nice clothes and enjoying life which occasionally included men. Marlo Thomas' That Girl and Mary Tyler Moore's role as Mary Richards brought the image of the unmarried woman into the 20th century and raised our collective image in the process. We began to think that perhaps being a single woman wasn't so darn bad after all. It might even be fun. At least it looked like fun on the small screen.

Still, singlehood was generally considered a temporary and dreaded condition, a status in real life to be ended at all costs. The dreaded condition theory is likely responsible for the increase in divorce rates that began during the 1960s. Young women were encouraged to get married and find a willing young man to be her partner. These rigidly structured marriages, a leftover from the prior decades, were often doomed almost from the start.

So a large number of women -- and men --eventually found themselves alone, despite the fear of the dreaded condition. At least by this stage in their lives, they had sampled married life and had a fairly good appreciation for what was involved.

Many of the people I knew who had a failed marriage soon repeated the pattern by marrying again. Fairly quickly they chalked up two or more failed marriages. I would say the average number of bad marriages among my co-workers and friends eventually stopped at three.

Today finds a significant number of single women who are facing life alone, for one reason or another. Many of us who have reached 65 and are now single, are single by choice. Yes, by choice.

By observing this issue for some time, my experience allows me to conclude:
*Marriage is not for everyone.
*Marriage ain't so great.
*Marriage hasn't evolved enough over the past century to make it attractive to young people today. 
*Everyone needs to know how to live alone without focusing merely on the status.
*Even participants in the best marriages are likely to find themselves alone at some point.

So if you happen to know someone who is alone, envy them a bit. They might be the happiest people of all.   

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Take a Moment…

School will resume in a few weeks. 

Around the Midwest, the date of the dreaded "first day" varies considerably, with some schools returning as early as mid-August. That time line must have been structured to allow for snow days, early dismissals and teacher conferences.

Remember in days of yore when school began immediately after Labor Day?

It's already beginning to feel a bit like autumn is approaching. The weather isn't as warm as it was in July. Days are growing noticeably shorter. Early mornings are actually cool.

Fall signals the start of several things. Another season brings the return of long sleeves and sweaters. The local swimming pool will close until Memorial Day. Ice cream will sound less appealing. The cycle moves on.

September demands that we return to old patterns. One of those cycles that has been an important part of our lives is the school year. We became acquainted with it from the day we started school.

Each year, we would begin a new grade, absorb what was taught, complete that grade and move on. Nine months, give or take, certainly long enough to have an impact on our lives.

That particular pattern became entwined with our lives at a very young age. We experienced the same schedule from kindergarten through four years of high school and on to college. There are some exceptions, including schools which have classes year around and some districts with a quarterly routine. But for at least 12 years and probably longer, we thought in terms of nine months in school with three months off.

Considering how we are all impacted by the nine month schedule, it's surprising that we are then expected to morph into workers who have to be at a job for 12 months of the year. That schedule seems almost abnormal after all those nine month intervals.

As a result of the impact of this cycle, I find it natural to pause each September and take a look at where I am. Almost like a kid who reviews the back-to-school items I need to bring to class, it seems only natural to think about where I am on the path and what might lie ahead.

Sounds a bit depressing, but that's not how it is intended. For instance, when a child is having trouble with some subject, math, for instance, he/she naturally gets nervous about learning another part of math. Perhaps going into the fourth grade, that student knows he will begin to explore long division. Having trouble with math in the third grade was bad enough and now a new function awaits. Rather than wait until opening the new math book when the year begins, it's good to at least anticipate that you might face trouble. Pondering it now and again simply makes the entire episode less intimidating.

I think people in general should face up to what might await and ponder it once in a while. Things like: What would happen if I lost my job? What would happen if I got really sick? What if…? That's not being worrisome. It's the way a realist thinks. None of us wants to become a worrier but it might be a good idea to think more than five minutes into the future.

Every day we hear about truly dreadful occurrences. Aside from the natural disasters which could devastate any community (earthquake, fire, tornado, hurricane), there is an assortment of awful stories unraveling nearly daily. People being imprisoned for years in a house in an American city. People killing each other with increased intensity. Moguls getting rich off the money that other people struggled to earn.

The list is long and perplexing. You have to wonder about the state of the world.

Yet, there are many things for which to be grateful. When you look at the many conveniences that we have, the comfortable life despite all the unpleasantness, it's really not that bad. But the only way to grasp how good we have it is to stop and savor the moment.

So with the approach of another school year, take an occasional moment to think about where you are and what might lie ahead. Sure, life can be a little intimidating. But so was long division. And most of us even went on to survive algebra, too.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Progress is Our Most Important Product

I love computers and they certainly have made our lives easier in the past few years.  Online banking, online shopping -- the list of conveniences is long.

Like most people, I dislike encountering technical glitches.  The screen freezes for who knows what reason or the printer won’t work.  Issues like those.  It's almost enough to make me want to turn off the darn thing and let it collect dust in the corner.

But I would never to do that.

I enjoy being connected to the entire world which, in effect, is the significance of using the internet.  The whole world connected.  Just think about that.  Not that long ago, when some momentous event occurred, like a world leader died or resigned, it was days before the news got out.  Today when there is trouble in Syria or elsewhere, someone in the crowd likely has a cell phone camera and captures the event.

Last night's news showed newly obtained footage of the recent crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco.  The photos clearly showed the smoldering wreckage shortly after the crash. They were taken from a camera attached to the helmet of a first responder and will hopefully aid in figuring out exactly what happened.  Imagine having photos of other major events almost as they occurred.  Truly amazing.

Unfortunately, despite all of the benefits of computers and related technology, I still know some adults who are terrified of using computers.  In view of how commerce and our very lives are intertwined with computer use, it's difficult to understand.  At the very least, I would think these people might be just a tiny bit curious about the process.

One man I know runs a busy office which relies heavily on computers to generate correspondence, set appointments and balance accounts.  However, this man is among those who have refused to learn more about saving or revising documents, even printing  calendars.  He states that he is afraid he will do something to ruin what is already in the computer.  Further, as long as he surrounds himself with others who understand the process and can problem solve for him, he really doesn't need to know anything more.

Certainly there is a lot of information required to run the world these days.  In one of my favorite movies, Baby Boom, Diane Keaton plays a New York career gal who loses her job and moves to Vermont to start a quiet life.  Upon arrival, she is beset with problems  including a leaky house, a dying furnace and an empty well.  When well dries up, an event which will cost thousands of unexpected dollars, her plumber tries to explain how she will have to run a pipe to tap into the county waterline.  She shrieks, "I don't need to know where the water comes from.  I just want to turn on the tap and have it come out." My apologies if that quote is not verbatim, but the message is clear.  Over-information is overkill.

Over-information can occur when we least expect it.  When the car stops running, the hot water isn't hot, or your watch stops ticking, something is wrong.  What we need to do is find someone to fix it and ask how much repairs will cost.

In that respect, I suppose computers are somewhat intimidating. They may develop problems with printing or some function, but if you are sitting at a desk in your house, how are you going to get help and resolve the problem?  At that moment, you may be required to call some technical whiz to help you.  These people come on the phone and seem brilliant beyond comprehension.  How can they possibly think so quickly on their feet and identify the problem?  When a techie on the phone can tell me what I'm looking at on the screen, well, they could charge me any amount of money and I would pay it.

But even when such events occur, we have to make the effort to pick up the phone and try to get help. Doing nothing is the first step in failure.  We can't be afraid to take a chance.

We shouldn't be afraid to touch a keyboard or drive a car or use a microwave oven.  Yet, I know people who never wanted to learn to do/use any of these devices.  Perhaps they are afraid of looking awkward or making a mistake.  Where would society be if everyone was afraid to try something new?  There would be no airplane, no frozen foods, no electric light bulb, no automobile, no washing machine, no anything.  

At some time, we should all learn to step forward and try something new.  It's called progress.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Let's Face Facts

Some subjects bother me more than others. I try to conceal my dislike of such things as bad drivers, people who obsess about their cell phones, and loud, uncontrolled children. When you get right down to it, there are plenty of daily encounters which can prove annoying.

With that said, today's rant is about the lack of concern over personal appearance. Each time I venture out to shop, eat or conduct any business in public, I am stunned by the general sloppiness that has crept into our society.

I'm all in favor of change when it is warranted. I would hate to see us return to the days when women wore gloves and both men and women wore hats. That era ended about the time that Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower were living in the White House. In old newsreels, footage of prominent men in overcoats arriving at and leaving Congress while doffing fedoras is almost laughable now. Times have changed and some styles are best left in the past.

But let's face it, we are a long way from fedoras and pill boxes with matching veils.

Today's casual appearance has gone off the charts. A few years ago, an adult man might have thrown on some shorts and flip-flops to take out the trash. Now he wears the same attire to go shopping or to the movies, perhaps only checking to make sure that he is wearing his "best" T-shirt, the one without the oil stains.

In the past, his wife might have worn work-out clothes to, well, work out. Now she wears sports bras and leggings to buy groceries. Never mind that people stare. She is busy, pressed for time perhaps, so just don't look if you don't like it.

The other day I saw an extremely heavy woman in skin tight leggings. The poor garment appeared to be grimacing, as if the thread was frightened of what might occur at any moment. The woman was wearing a T-shirt that stopped above the navel, doing nothing to conceal the bulging flesh below it. She was not washing her car or mowing her lawn. She was walking down a busy street in a large city, turning heads and getting honks in the process. It was quite a sight.

What has happened to our sense of taste, let alone our sense of style?

All of this casual dress and sheer laziness is worsened by the fact that few people even care about how they look. They must not have any mirrors in their house. They must never ask someone if "this makes me look heavy." They must have no shame.

This is not to say that we must return to the days of yore and the styles of the day. But it might not hurt us to pause for a minute and THINK how we might look. Am I the only person who has ever caught a glimpse of myself in a reflection from a store window? Apparently so.

To make matters worse, most of us have gotten heavier. Much heavier. I'll admit that I have put on a few pounds in the past five years or so. Emphasis on "few" meaning 10 or 15. But I'm not stupid enough to think I can still squeeze into a bikini and look good or that no one will notice if I wear size 6 pants like nothing has changed. I am fully aware of the matter when I buy larger sizes and tops which help camouflage my temporary setback. We only improve matters when we take steps to do so.

It would appear as though we have all just thrown in the proverbial towel. Why care about anything? Who cares if our clothes hug us where no fabric should hug us? Why bother with things that are seemingly unimportant?

Why? Because how we look does matter.

It's hard to identify precisely when attire began to slide toward the extremely casual. It must have been somewhere in the 1970s-80s, perhaps when Don Johnson began to wear T-shirts under his jacket on Miami Vice. That was about the same time when it became fashionable for a man to grow three days of stubble and still look stylish.

Unfortunately, my plumber now continually sports beard stubble and a T-shirt. Needless to say, he does not look like Don Johnson.