Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wish I could help--but I'm too old

No one wants to help the nation’s economic recovery more than I do. With an IRA that has tanked the past 12 months, cost of living on the rise, friends losing jobs right and left because of the slowdown and the constant barrage of news stories about corporate greed on Wall Street and in banks, I really hope that Barack and the boys can turn things around.
Just wish I could help.
You see, I’m not in the right age group, the 18-49 year olds who, according to the “experts,” are the only ones with spending money. This comes from the world of media, where your viewership, listenership or readership numbers don’t matter unless you score high in that “18-49” range. The TV Nielsen ratings have a category for 18-49 year olds of its own. Radio listenership has been heavily measured in that same demographic for years (along with other smaller demographics—radio ratings are more dissected than a body on an episode of CSI). Newspaper circulation numbers don’t necessarily follow that same guideline, but you can bet advertising agencies are very focused on what those 18-49 year olds are doing.
This really hit home when I saw that one of my favorite TV shows, “Without a Trace,” was cancelled this summer by CBS. The show was regularly in the top 25 in the Nielsens, and even in the 18-49 year olds, it was ranked at number 19 last week. I’ve read about the cast—they weren’t ready to quit. The writers seemed okay with continuing a scripted TV series for an 8th season. So what’s the deal? Well, apparently WOT didn’t consistently land in the top 30 of the “18-49” group last season. So CBS, a network that has ALWAYS appealed to an older audience (the average age of a viewer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric is 62), pulled to plug on “Without a Trace.” Like its characters, the show will disappear in the fall for no good reason.
Don’t get me wrong—I love that 18-49 age group—particularly since my fiancé is in it. But for some reason, because I’m not in that range anymore, my viewership, listenership or readership habits don’t matter.
So I can’t help the economy, because, according to the rules of media in 2009, I DON’T HAVE EXPENDABLE INCOME.
Wow, what a shock that must be to my mortgage company, my credit union that financed my car, and to all those checkers are Walmart who see me use my debit card every week. Hey, don’t bother processing those charges and cashing those checks, because I’m over 49 and DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY.
Obviously this type of thinking—the categorizing of ANYONE for any reason, is flawed. The bank customer who wanders into the lobby one day dressed like he just fell off the hay wagon could very well be the person who invented them. The nicely-dressed businessman in the tailored suit presenting his latest investment strategies to a room full of entrepreneurs could very well be a crook. See Bernie Madoff.
Likewise, you shouldn’t judge a book by the “age” of its cover. If we are over 50, don’t assume we aren’t still interested in contemporary music to load on our iPods, hot cars to drive, improvements to our homes, nice places to travel or new items for our wardrobes. I’ve been 18-49, and I can tell you for a fact that I have A LOT MORE EXPENDABLE INCOME NOW then I did for many of those years in the golden age range.
So I apologize to President Obama, our country’s financial leaders and the nation as a whole that because I’m over 49, I will be unable to help with the financial recovery through my buying decisions and purchases. I’d really like to help.
But I can’t.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


When I was a child, like most of my friends, I wanted Christmas to last all year long. And not just because of the presents.

In addition to the spiritual, the holiday meant many contemporary things to me—the wonderful aromas of my mother’s freshly baked cookies and pies in our kitchen, the brightly lit and decorated homes and yards in my hometown looking like a scene from the song Silver Bells, the wonderful Christmas dinner we shared with family members, and the “Hi Neighbor, we’re wishing you well” friendliness of people all around us. For at least a few weeks each year, it seemed everyone was in a good mood, thankful for what they had been blessed with, and willfully sharing with others. Of course the presents were a part of the excitement as well, but they became almost the dessert to the entrée of love and caring I felt leading into the holiday. Yes, I wanted Christmas to last all year long.

Well, be careful what you wish for, because now, it is Christmas all year long in my neighborhood. Only without the smells, bells and Wishing you Wells.

That’s because in my neighborhood, half the homes still have their Christmas lights up.

My parents decorated the outside of our home each year on Thanksgiving weekend, usually on Friday, and we left our lights up and turned on through New Years’ night. After that, the lights came off the rafters and the decorations off the lawn, and life moved on. Granted, I grew up on the West Coast, where we didn’t have snow and ice and slush clinging to our rooftops and gutters until after Valentine’s Day. Still, in the many years that I’ve lived here in Utah, there are ALWAYS a few days during the January/February thaw when those lights could be taken down.
Only not in my neighborhood.

This became apparent to me shortly after New Years. A few homeowners had begun removing their lights and decorations, but many didn’t. The snow that fell rather generously in December was pretty much melted by late January, but it was still Christmas at the Stevensons, Pecks, Johnsons, Whites (fill in a neighbor surname here—they probably still have their lights hung up). By St. Patrick’s Day, I saw shamrocks and leprechauns taped to the inside of windows, even as strands of Christmas lights stayed attached to gutters, or hung down over porches.
Each morning when I took my two-mile walk around the neighborhood, I observed reindeer that had fallen over, manger scenes coming apart, deflated Santas still attached to unplugged air pumps—all could have gone on sabbatical until Turkey Day. Apparently, not in my neighborhood.

Which brings us to a very important date in the next week or so for these neighbors—June 25th. I call this Santa Equinox, the date exactly six months since last Christmas, and six months before next Christmas. This is the day when the still-hung-on-home decorations move from “not being removed by lazy homeowners” status to being “the first decorations put up by proactive, celebratory homeowners” status. Suddenly, because I DON’T yet have my lights up, I’m the “slow one.”

I still love Christmas, and everything it stands for and means. It is a time to celebrate life and love and happiness and peace. Perhaps in their own way, by leaving lights and decorations up into the Dog Days of summer, that’s the message many who live around me are trying to convey—that we should carry the message and meaning of Christmas with us every day, all year long. Or maybe they’re just slackers.
Either way, come Thanksgiving weekend this year, I’ll be back in my yard, hanging lights from the rafters, placing reindeer and candy canes on my lawn, and trying elusively to get all of those extension cords to somehow come together for the six weeks of electrical tradition that signifies my holiday celebration. After that, they head back into the shed.

Because the light of Christmas should last all year long, but not Christmas lights.