Thoughts on old fogy-ism and civility |

Thoughts on old fogy-ism and civility

I’ve reached another plateau toward my inevitable passing away. I’ve become an old fogy.

I always wondered when this stage in the aging process would make its appearance known to me. I’ve seen it in others – Uncle Harry griping over Thanksgiving dinner: “Why, when I was a boy, kids were grateful!”

And then there was old Mrs. Thomilson regaling me from her rocking chair with tales of how things were different in the good old days when the world wasn’t headed to hell in a hand-basket.

Watching my temples gray and my belly sag, I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know when.

Now I know.

It happened while perusing a local newspaper and seeing an advertisement for a dining establishment that specializes in Mexican cuisine.

The ad features a man lying out in the sun, au natural, with a large pointed sombrero hiding his head and a smaller pointed sombrero hiding his, well, other head. I know that there are many folk who would see such a graphic display of implied arousal as enormously humorous.

That is why the restaurant ran it. The owners know that it will attract more customers and larger revenues. I just found it gross and in terrible taste. Ergo: old fogy.

This was confirmed later in the same paper when I came across another ad for another restaurant run by an upstanding member of our community and a man for whom I have considerable admiration.

This particular display depicted a 2- or 3-year-old child aggressively announcing his displeasure by displaying his middle finger in the traditional gesture of disrespect. Cleverly, the actual finger is blacked out, but it is abundantly clear what the little boy is doing.

Once again, I am certain that this advertisement is received by the masses as hilarious. I know that it is perceived by most folks as a light-hearted adventure into the edges of advertising appropriateness. Foolishly, I worried not just about how such a picture diminished social standards and contributed to our continual careening into a cultural abyss, but I even speculated on the caliber of parents that would encourage their child to engage in such behavior. Talk about being an old fogy!

The topper came when I read a news item regarding a calendar soon to be sold that will raise money for a truly wonderful nonprofit in my town.

It depicts all manner of respectable local folks discreetly displaying their nakedness for the sake of bettering our community.

Five years ago I would have thought it a stroke of genius. Indeed, when a group of old ladies pulled it off (literally) a few years back in a little New England village, I admired both their courage and creativity as they shocked their fellow uptight residents.

Now I’m the one shaking my head. Now I’m the one bound up in knots. There is no mistaking my post-prime condition. Old fogy. Old fogy. Old fogy.

In less parochial ways, my fogy-ism is made manifest when witnessing just about anything on commercial television. What is it about sexual anatomy, I now wonder in my dotage, that the mere mention of it apparently has people by the millions rolling in the aisles?

And then there is the state of public discourse. I gave up listening to afternoon talk shows on the radio long ago, but that had more to do with politics than politeness. But put me in a shopping mall bombarded by the barbaric language of the street and I instantly transform myself from a modest middle-ager into a full-blown old fogy.

I used to think it was so funny and clever to offer this quote:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.

“Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room.

“They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.”

I couldn’t hide my devilish grin when I revealed that it was actually from Socrates some 2,500 years ago.

“Things never change,” I would confidently proclaim, convinced, as I was, that they didn’t.

I was wrong.

I have.

Despite is dotage, Rich Mayfield

writes a column every Saturday in the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at

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