June 22, 2005

Don Oprah

Oprah gets a retail snub in Paris, and if some of the ever-changing facts of this story are correct, it’s a racial slur, certainly, as well as commentary on her lack of celebrity power in Paris. But a crucial piece of information is being overlooked:
She arrived after closing time!

As anyone who works retail can attest, there’s nothing more annoying than someone banging the doors at 6:45, when it clearly states in airbrushed letters to the right of their anguished expression that the place closes at 6:30. No employee wants to stay on to cater to a tardy customer unless a whopping commission is guaranteed, and even then it’s just bad manners to expect everyone to stay over just for your retail whims.

And as anyone in retail can attest, the second most annoying thing just may be when celebrities throw their weight around. They assume that simply because they are famous, special attention should be paid, discounts should be given and, yes, the place should re-open when it’s closed. I realize a celeb’s positive retail experience could result in positive PR for the establishment, but just how often does that happen when compared with how often they fuss it up?

I’m the last person to get uppittude about special star treatment, since I’m a celebrity junkie. But as a retail employee who gets abused by customers multiple times a day, I've gotta say this:
when the store is closed, it's closed, and there's truly nothing inside that's that important (just ask your Buddhist friend, Tina), so realign your priorities and let it go.
For Oprah to want a store to remain open because of who she is goes against her supposed empathy toward the underpaid working girls who would have had to stay on to help her out. Yes, the French are rude, but so was Oprah, and I hope she doesn’t make too big of a stink about this.

But then again, it’s not a good idea to piss off Oprah. Putting herself on the cover of every issue of her eponymous magazine certainly qualifies as egomania, and she’s been fingering her narcissism hard for a long time now. The media seldom overlooks this type of over glorified self-worship (Trump, Paris Hilton, Geraldo, etc.), but in Oprah’s case, there’s barely a negative comment made. Why is this?

I have a (barely) cockamamie theory:
She has overwhelming amounts of money, power and influence. She has hordes of devoted minions to do her bidding. No one dares say a dirty word about her. Then, she insists upon keeping every aspect of her empire in Chicago…

She is obviously now the head of the Chicago Mob, the don of the Chicago Mafia family! Mull it over, add it up, not as preposterous as it seems, and quite the coup. And is that a My Little Pony head in the Hermes manager’s bed?

June 21, 2005

Senior Collective

There were 3 of us chatting about the certainty of destitution in our twilight years. As each of us are approaching 40 at varying speeds, thoughts of eating Alpo out of the can at 80 start creeping in. While wondering what retirement homes will be like when we’re ready for them, JB pops up with this scenario:

Come our elderly years, there will be no Medicare, no Social Security, so no retirement homes for us. We’ll all wind up living in group homes. Not some patchouli, organic-growing hippie commune, god forbid! Not senior communities with on-staff nurses and Tuesday shuttles to Wal-Mart. Instead, we’ll be collectives of friends sharing the same house, or makeshift families of 7 pooling their meager resources to pay rent and utilities on some ground floor 2-bedroom apartment.

He said the idea only hit him as he was yammering, but it’s a wise and pragmatic forecast. We’re the generation who were the objects of custody battles when divorce became easy and trendy. We’re the kids who had to adjust to ever-changing configurations of step-families being forced upon us. And we’re the ones so shell-shocked by all manner of traditional families being blown to pieces that we only trust and rely upon our friends – our family of choice.

When talking generations, we have to define them, and then realize we’re talking in sweeping generalizations. For instance, of the 3 of us sharing the Senior Collective light bulb moment, both the guys’ original parents are still together, while my father is in competition with Elizabeth Taylor for Most Marriages. In this group, I was the exception. But usually, it’s easier to count whose original parents are still together on one hand.

About a month after this conversation, my father’s fifth wife’s daughter-in-law (or Kathy, for short) started thinking aloud about what would make a more desirable retirement community for people our age:

Each person or couple has their own small place, all of them very close together, surrounding one common area. Not like condo complexes where you pay a monthly fee so someone mows the lawns and you can ignore everyone. But a group of family and friends sharing one large lot, with everyone pitching in and taking care of one another.

When 2 different people at 2 different times come up with similar ideas, I know there’s a generational mind-set at work, and it’s already trying to find a way to work with our dim prospects for the AARP years. Maybe some Gen Xers with money are changing new-home trends, but most of us hope we can merely survive the Boomer’s aftermath relatively unscathed.

William Strauss and Neil Howe have done all the heavy lifting on generational studies, and on their prediction of the Crisis of 2020, they wrote, “Controlling the Boom may indeed emerge as the 13ers’ most fateful lifecycle mission. This will be the generation best able to deflect any Boomer drift toward apocalyptic visions. In an age of rising social intolerance, the very incorrigibility of midlife 13ers will at times be a national blessing.”

They go on to predict that this Crisis will interrupt our peak earning years, and that “history suggests 13ers will suffer a rough and neglected old age. Those who fail to provide for themselves will end up poor, by the standard of the era.” If the details they go into were a movie, it would be an NC-17 horror flick. And because Gen X will be the last generation to come of age before this “history-bending crisis,” we will be seen as rusty relics from the past because we still won’t believe in the Shangri-la that everyone but us is frolicking in.

Should even a tiny percentage of these historically based predictions come true, the Senior Collective idea goes from intriguing to necessary. And since we’ll be stranded within our own cultural wasteland, we might as well do it pop. Much like The Beatles’ in Help, we’ll walk through separate entry doors into a common house, and living together like The Monkees, our Families of Choice will be there for you, I’ll be there for you, too.