On November 4, 2020

With age comes wisdom

By Mary Ellen Shaw

They say that with age comes wisdom. While talking with a friend recently we discussed how a lot of things we thought were “cool” back in the day were actually bad ideas!

Many of us baby boomers grew up in houses where parents smoked. Back in the 50s when we were kids there was no big scare associated with being a smoker. Publicity about the risks of lung cancer or COPD wasn’t in the forefront like it is today.

Children grew up exposed to second hand smoke because nobody told parents that they shouldn’t. It’s natural for kids to try something that seems like an “adult” thing to do. Smoking seemed to fit that requirement in my youth.

I realize now how fortunate I am that neither of my parents smoked. Like all kids I was asked to try it with my friends. They would take a couple of cigarettes from their parents’ pack, along with a book of matches and look for a hiding place to light up.

One such place was in the shed at the back of my house. What a bad idea! There was wood stored in there and how careful do you think a couple of 13-year-olds are going to be? Luck was on our side and my house didn’t go up in flames! I hated the taste of the cigarette and inhaling made me feel dizzy. I wanted nothing to do with another cigarette.

Another bad idea was the sun exposure young people subjected themselves to back in the day. We wanted a tan and would do anything to get it. We lathered ourselves with baby oil and our skin was sunburned for days. A fad in the 60s was to take a record album cover and put aluminum foil on it. We held it to our faces to catch the sun’s rays. Our generation has paid the price for that. As a result we visit the dermatologist quite often to have sun-damaged spots taken care of.

Diet pills were another terrible fad in the 1960s. Although I only weighed 110 at the time (oh, those were the days!) I bought some pills and didn’t tell my parents. I was downtown shopping with my mother and my body felt like a jet plane that could take off and soar. The shopping trip came to a quick halt and the pills were disposed of, never to be seen again!

Then there was the time a friend and I, who both had dark brown hair, wanted to be blondes. We took a bottle of peroxide and poured it over our hair and waited. Eventually our hair turned orange but the color change stopped right there. My friend’s mother sent her to the hair dresser first thing the next morning. I was told that I had created the problem so would have to live with orange hair until it grew out. I didn’t attempt any more color changes until my hair started to turn gray!

Our perspective on various things changes with age.

Recently a long time friend told me that she is helping her neighbor put up a fence in order to stop her favorite bush from being crushed by foot traffic. I reminded my friend that when we were kids we thought every yard on the street belonged to us. When we wanted to get from one place to another we would cut through anyone’s yard and probably trampled many bushes or plants as we went. Now we see the error of our ways!

Back in the 60s the drinking age was 18 in New York State. The phrase “Let’s go over the line” was one that caused a feeling of anticipation for the older teens and worry for their parents. Hampton Manor in Hampton, New York, was the place to go “back in the day.” Cars didn’t have seat belts then and many a teenager probably had too many “belts” of an alcoholic beverage and then got behind the wheel. Our parents had reason to worry!

As the saying goes, “If we knew then, what we know now” parts of our lives would probably have been lived differently. But until we age wisdom escapes us. But it will come if we live long enough!

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