THEY SAY. .
Have you ever wondered who “they” are? You know – that invisible collection of experts out there who seem to have such a stranglehold on every aspect of our lives. Consider:
They say . . .there’s gonna be rain this weekend.
They say. . . you can never go home again.
They say. . .you can’t fight City Hall.
They say. . . short skirts are out. Long skirts are in.
They say. . . Long skirts are out. Short skirts are in.
They say. . . God is dead.
They say. . . God is alive and well and speaking to Rush Limbaugh.
They say. . . Sixty is the new forty.
They say. . . A billion is the new million.
They say. . . Kerry’s gonna win.
Actually, this is but a short list of examples. Try it for yourself. You could go on all day long. And I’ll bet you can contradict each and every one of these statements. So the question comes to mind – Who are these people?
Let’s take the first one – “They say there’s gonna be rain this weekend”. Now, I know that there is such a thing as meteorology. They say that weather forecasters go to school to learn this stuff. But to tell you the truth, I watch the weather because it’s one of the most amusing sectors of television news. I love to watch those guys stand up there and make circular gestures all over the map – as if I knew what they were pointing to! I love to study their style. I love it when they come up with little catch phrases like, “Coastal Eddy”, and then they anthropomorphize Coastal Eddy by saying things like, “Coastal Eddy may be dropping by for a visit this weekend”. My favorite (for those of you who live in Southern California) is Fritz Coleman, who is, in fact, a part-time stand-up comedian and a playwright. But you can’t beat Al Roker for sheer joviality.
But as for predicting the weather, well, it’s an educated guess at best. Once when Art and I lived in Tennessee we were actually watching a weather report on television when a tornado hit our house. (By the way, no mention of the tornado on the weather report, but when we heard something that sounded like a jet plane screaming into the house, we headed for the basement).
Now, let’s skip to the question of fashion. This is one of my many pet peeves. I think that in the case of fashion, there are secret worldwide summits of the fashionista every season. I think they decide which fashion sectors are lagging financially and they decide to goose them up by creating a list of what is “in” and what is “out”. The hope, of course, is that we, like sheep, will herd ourselves into the department stores to buy what is “in”, naturally, discarding what is “out” and distributing it to the “less fortunate”. What bugs me is that it takes me about a year to finally decide that what is “in” is actually attractive to me. (In other words – I’m a slow brainwash). So, by the time I’ve made up my mind that I really do like platform sneakers and I want to buy a pair, they are not only hopelessly out of style, but impossible to find. My sister thinks it’s cute that I still wear slacks that come all the way up to my waist. (Apparently, I’m WAY behind on that one).
And how about statements like, “Sixty is the new forty”. This is building platitude upon platitude. What was “forty” to begin with? Oh, that’s right – “Life begins at forty”. This was supposed to be encouraging for those approaching the ancient age of forty. It was meant to soften the blow of reaching “middle age”. The metamessage was, “Don’t envy those young whippersnappers who are running circles around you! They haven’t even been born yet!” The chilling assumption was that you would most certainly die at the age of 80. And if “Sixty is the new forty”, I assume They are saying that 1) “Life begins at sixty”; 2) Sixty is now considered middle age, and if you are approaching sixty you are not a happy camper, but never fear, because you’ve got a long way to go since – 3) You will die at exactly one hundred twenty years of age. Does any of this make sense to you?
Then there is the collective wisdom that is but a blip on the radar screen. For just a minute, they said that Kerry was a shoe-in. (Sigh).
They say Hillary Rodham Clinton will run in 2008. Who knows? They could be right.
© 2004, Robin Munson