When my son and grandchildren were little there was a breakthrough moment when they could dress themselves. In the dark recesses of my memory I seem to recall a film about a man whose life goes backwards and he ends up as a baby. Judging by the difficulty I have putting my socks on in the morning I think that this might be happening to me! In residential homes all over the country the elderly are encouraged to make decorative objects from old yoghurt pots and loo rolls – and that does fill me with dread – I was hopeless at doing things like that when I was a child. And I find the world very confusing – small children aren’t expected to understand what’s going on, but my grandchildren can certainly make more sense of things today than I can. Take sex for example – certainly you can take it – I don’t want it! Small children aren’t interested in sex – although they are interested in the workings of their own bodies. Then they reach the age of enquiry when they are fascinated by pictures of semi-naked celebrities or even porn stars as seen in magazines that used to adorn the top shelves of newsagents (probably still do!). After that comes a stage where their own sex lives are their major interest. That is followed by a period when they or we are still quite interested in what other people are getting up to and with whom. That phase passes and we exchange gossip about hot love affairs for whispered nuggets about our latest doctor’s appointment. And finally, it comes full circle – we lose interest in sex altogether and fill our time with trying to keep our creaking bodies from falling apart entirely. You reach an age when if people talk about sexual relations you worry that you haven’t sent them a Christmas card this year.
Words that change their meaning overnight complicate things – M & S are changing the name of their biscuits ‘Midget Gems’ to ‘Mini Gems’. Is midget a pejorative term – surely it just means small? We used to talk about Dwarves – and I believe that the medical term is dwarfism. Midget likewise was commonly used but now apparently you have to refer to them as ‘little people’. When I was young children in the playground used to tell people not to be so spastic when they were making a hash of something – never a nice thing to say and certainly quite rightly would never be used today. There was always a certain amount of confusion in my mind as I had never heard the term cerebral palsy and the collecting boxes for the Spastic Society were figurines of children with their legs in callipers which I always thought was connected to polio. You have to be so careful today not to unintentionally offend. Take the word ‘Queer’ – that was a terrific insult when I was young but now it has come full circle, but I am still not sure if it is used ironically or not. And ‘Gay’ was person’s name not something people were glad to be, unless someone they told you they’d had a gay old time – but if they were straight they might be wary of saying that today. Our local dry cleaners was called ‘Go Gay’ – probably wouldn’t call it that today. Pride was something you took in your appearance not a colourful event. As for ‘Eloquent’ – I’d be delighted if someone said that about me. I read recently that several films couldn’t be made today because they aren’t ‘woke’ enough. Blazing Saddles was one, which seems ridiculous as it was the antithesis of racist with the most attractive and intelligent character being the black sheriff! And apparently the Wizard of Oz was unfair to ‘little people’ although the Munchkins by all accounts had a pretty good time – they were paid quite well and were, according to reports at the time, the wildest bunch – drinking and carousing every night.
If you don’t do anything stupid when you’re young you won’t have anything to laugh about when you’re old. Luckily that is never going to be my problem and as usual I have meandered from my original subject – I like to think that this is because I have a busy and enquiring mind although my son claims it is because I have the attention span of a gold fish!