Cumberland Times-News

September 8, 2012

Things will change as you get older

Maude McDaniel, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— That was a lovely vacation — but way too short. I have to come back out of the 20th century, where I’ve been meeting you for the past two columns, and remind myself that, Maude, it’s been 12 years now so get with the modern time we live in.

And that time is, um, 2012! 2012! 2012! Got it now?

This newspaper often publishes quotes from great people on the front page, and one recent one was “You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.” That’s from Pearl Buck, who used to be a well-known author. (Quick, name one book of hers, among several that were wildly bestselling in their time — oh, say about 50 years ago.)

If we use her yardstick, that makes me about a hundred. (Pretty close, actually.) There are a lot of new ideas nowadays, and, sorry, but many of them cause me pain. Lots of it!

Derechos, for instance. Had you ever heard of a derecho before a couple of months ago? Me either. Now I had heard of thunderstorms, And severe thunderstorms. Cloudbursts. Waterspouts, squalls, cyclones, and raining cats and dogs. Did we actually need another way to refer to a really, really severe rainstorm? Well, never mind. We got it. And all because the present generation hates using the same words for things that their forebears used.

Then there’s the custom of taking a word or phrase and making it mean something totally different from its original meaning. “Begging the question” comes to mind. Up until about three years ago, to “beg the question” meant to avoid the question. Now all of a sudden it means to invite or call for the question. OK, OK, I know that what’s important only to word freaks like me is boring to everyone else. But it really is annoying, to see the language change from the meaning you grew up with to another meaning entirely.

And how about sanction? When I grew up, to sanction something meant to approve of it. Now a sanction is what the government does to show they disapprove of other governments. When did that happen, exactly?

Now, starting from there, let me go on to ask a question about something I have thought about for a long time but never mentioned before — when was it that to be a good singer you also had to gyrate. By which, of course, I mean, move. (Some call it, dance.)

Nowadays, if you want to be a singer, you have a decision to make. An important decision, because it will influence your success forever after. (Or until the culture changes which won’t happen in my lifetime.)

Forget the voice. What you really have to ask yourself these days is, do I really have the body for it? Singing, I mean. Used to be that just any old body worked for a singer, and I can show you lots and lots of really unappealing bodies that housed some of the most beautiful and expertly-produced, voices in history. In popular music, Kate Smith comes to mind.

And, of course, there were a lot of classical singers whose voices led you to forget the more unfortunate aspects of their bodies. Since both my readers are over 30 I think you can probably think of one or two that fill the bill. There used to be a lot of, well, robust classical singers.

I’ll never forget the day I made my own personal decision. It was Joann again (remember Joann from past reminiscences here — Joann of the sausage curls and gorgeous clothes in sixth grade?)

Joan sang OK, but the really impressive thing about Joann’s singing was that she moved her body in synch. First time I saw her I couldn’t believe my eyes. She shuffled around in a way that I thought was singularly unattractive, but that has since taken over the world.

At that very moment I had to make a decision — as a singer was I going to gyrate — or stand still? (Don’t get the wrong idea about Joann — even she never pranced around quite as singers do nowadays. We grew up in the 1940s after all.) Still, I had to stop and think: what kind of a singer am I going to be? A mover or a stickler? And even in those days, only one of the answers was going to lead you to success.

I chose the other one.

Aside from the fact that I was raised in a parsonage, it was predictable that I would choose to not move a muscle when I sang. Mainly, the reason is — I am not athletic. In fact, I hate to move. I may have mentioned before that I believe that we are all born with only so many movements in our bodies, so many bends in our knees, so many twists in our elbows, and if we use them all up early on, they’re gone forever! Purposeful exercise may add many months to our lives, but they’re all going to be at the end in a nursing home anyway. Why torture yourself beforehand? (Warning! Do not adopt this point of view. I am all too aware that it is deviant, sinful and against all the modern revealed wisdom of our time!)

Anyway, my point is — times change, If you live long enough you notice everything is different.

Just try not to get annoyed.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears in the Times-News on alternate Sundays.