Friday, March 4, 2011

Oh, Please. Grow Up!

There isn't a lot out there more tedious than watching a group of middle-aged dreamers waxing poetic about how amazingly creative and giving they are going to be as soon as they (giggle, aw aren't they the cutest?) "grow up." But here's one thing- that these middle-aged dreamers think that the people around them care to hear about their daydreams.

One guy wants to open a restaurant. One wants to travel. In another ad, a pastry chef wants to "fall in love again." In this one, an elderly banker-type wants to "teach kids." (Aside here: as a teacher, I am SO DAMNED SICK of the common implication that teaching is something that anyone can pick up whenever they get bored or tired of doing their "real" job. Hey jerkoff- when I "grow up," I want to be a CEO who is paid to sit around daydreaming about being a teacher. I'm sure I'll have no problem, looks like an easy gig, right?)

What really ticks me off about these ads is the "life starts when you retire" vibe. Sorry, but AARP or no AARP, for more and more people retirement itself is an unattainable mirage. Stagnant wages, deflated 401(k)s, mounting credit card debt- these are all realities for a growing number of middle-aged Americans, which means they are going to be holding on to their jobs and deferring their daydreams as long as they can. And when they find themselves out on the street due to downsizing or the company's bottom-line decision to hire someone half their age for half their salary....well, let's just say that their aren't a whole lot of options out there for older people these days. Just for Men is on Aisle 5.

And here's another thing- for most of these people, the things they plan to do "When they grow up" are available right now. If they make enough money to go on vacation when they retire, they have jobs that give them vacation time RIGHT NOW. If they want to work with kids, that's great- thousands of full-time workers find time to volunteer RIGHT NOW. Fixing up old houses is something you could be doing on the weekends- lots of people out there need assistance like that RIGHT NOW. What's this "life is for when you are done working" crap? When I hear people talk about what they are going to do when they have time, what I hear is people making excuses for not doing things.

(Another Aside, to the guy who sees a young man playing guitar to ply coins from passer-bys and is inspired not to open his wallet but to announce "I'm going to start a band:" Please, just Don't.)

Here's what you are going to do when you "Grow Up:" you're going to ache. You're going to get up very early and spend three hours reading the newspaper and doing the crossword puzzle. You're going to watch a lot of television. You're going to eat breakfast at 7, lunch at 11, dinner at 4, and be in bed by 7. And that's if you really were successful at socking your money away and retiring on your own terms.

As someone who is (G-d Willing) still 20 years from retirement and who doesn't waste one moment of the day imagining what I'm going to do "when I grow up," I strongly advise these dopes to enjoy life to the best of their ability NOW, rather than waste time and energy imagining some Nirvana awaiting them in the future. Perhaps youth IS wasted on the wrong people, but that's the way it is. We go this way but once, and deferring dreams until you are too old to make good on them is at best a waste, and at worst a tragedy.


  1. This ad series almost makes me want to get behind Charles Schwab's "A vineyard? Give me a break!" guy. Almost.

  2. Watching the commercial, all I could think was, "So why don't you?", especially with the woman who wants to run a marathon. That is not something you want to wait to do if you're AARP age. At the very least, start training and getting into condition to run a marathon. The construction worker who wants to restore houses should get on it while he still has the energy and flexibility to do so. Right now is the perfect time to start working toward your dreams. There's no guarantee of tomorrow or that things won't go tits up between then and now.

  3. My parents retired. After decades of hard work and careful planning (and several health scares), they both finally retired. They traded the camper in for a big-ass RV and spent six months of the year traveling.

    For exactly three years. Then my mother's health declined so rapidly that they're sitting at home right now, waiting for her to be able to start dialysis. After two years of this hell with Mom's health, they're hoping to get back on the road again. She's doing dialysis at home, which is portable and completely doable from their "rolling castle".

    But there you have it- best laid plans and all.

    In this ad, the one doing the construction work- he's probably worked harder than all of the others in this ad and he's going to be the one who ends up with joint-replacements and the pharmacy of pills to take. And he'll be staring out the window wondering if he'll ever be able to check his own mail again, having long-forgotten his dream of wanting to "grow up" and restore old houses.

    (spoken as someone who has had a joint replaced- two years ago this month)

  4. What people tend to forget is why sixty-five is retirement age in the first place; simply put, Bismarck noticed that most Germans in the latter part of the nineteenth century tended to keel over and die well before they reached the magic number. This meant he could pose as a good Samaritan without really doing much of anything.