Degrees of Marlo Thomas
41, I recently dove headfirst into my mid-life crisis at the most
innocuous of times: A friend's 12-year-old daughter asked why I
didn't have a MySpace page, after handing me her iPod and asking
me to skip forward to listen to Fergie's latest hit.
as well have been asked to make a donkey in spats appear before
course, I had heard of MySpace.
course, I had seen an iPod.
I had never actually looked at MySpace or used an iPod.
Because I'm reaching that age, that time in life when
you ever so subtly -- no matter how hip you think you might be --
begin to lose grip with the younger generation. The modern mid-life
crises, I've come to realize, no longer involve little red convertibles
and big-busted young mistresses. They center on technology. And
they always have. We've just not been cognizant of it.
shockingly, I realized -- as my friend's daughter helped me buzz
through downloaded songs from Gwen Stefani and Fall Out Boy -- that
I was a Helen Reddy 8-track away from becoming my parents.
were a number of obvious signs that my parents had lost touch technologically
long ago, and, even worse, signs they simply didn't give a damn
anymore about what the world was doing. Time stopped, and they froze,
like dinosaurs in a glacier, happy in their cold little world, happy
without e-mail or cell phones or DVD players. And that's where it
all went wrong. You can't ever stop trying to keep up with the world,
or it will bury you, like it did my parents.
I destined to be just like them? Let's analyze my technological
parents still have a rotary phone. It is giant-sized and
bright red, like the emergency nuclear bomb phones they had in the
old movies, when the president would pick it up and call someone,
somewhere, to say the world was ending.
today my fingers actually get lost in the number holes. The receiver
is so big, I have to maneuver it, moving it toward my ear or mouth
depending on if I'm talking or listening.
parents bought this phone to complement our home's chocolate brown
decor of the 1970s. I remember, even when I was little, thinking
I needed to plan ahead to make a call, since it took so long to
dial a single number and then have it swing back to the starting
gate. It even made that sing-song bell noise, like you'd hear when
Andy would call phone operator Sarah in Mayberry, R.F.D.
I was home recently, I asked -- with great seriousness -- why they
never switched it out. "We don't need anything else,"
my father said. "It works perfectly fine."
do Jarts," I told him, reminding him of the now-banned pointed
lawn darts game we once loved to play. "But that doesn't mean
you kept them and use them. It's just as dangerous, too. What if
you have to call 911? It would take at least half an hour to complete
you worry about us," my mother said. "We'll be fine."
a message for my parents is just as difficult as dialing their phone,
considering they only received their first answering machine a couple
of years ago. It was physically forced upon them by our family at
Christmas, following a phone conversation I'd had with my mom earlier
that fall. I was talking to her about the disappointing fall color,
when she simply announced, as though she were telling me she was
out of paper towels, "I have to go. Your father is on fire."
seems my father, while burning leaves in a ditch, had set himself
ablaze -- not bothering to bring the hose down with him while he
burned -- and had, indeed, been engulfed in flames for a few moments
before my mother walked to the front porch and screamed, "Drop
he finally did, putting himself out.
she had hung up, I tried for an hour to call them, but the phone
just rang and rang. When I had reached a state of complete and utter
panic, my mom finally answered and said, "The old fart's fine.
I just rubbed a stick of butter all over his burned body."
of sheer desperation, the family presented them with an answering
machine for Christmas, though they have yet to master how to record
a personal greeting. I use the term "personal" loosely,
because my mom's voice -- all Ozarks twang mixed with her oddly
unforgettable personalisms - on the message sounds as though she
has just been kidnapped and is being held at gunpoint and forced
to record the following in a horrified monotone:
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