Monday, October 21, 2019

Superstitions after 60

       When I was 12, I broke a hand mirror that my mother kept on her antique vanity.
       Two sources of dread assailed me:
1.      My mother, who would be angry (Livid? Furious? Annoyed?) because the mirror got broken and because I was playing there. We couldn't help it, we three daughters of hers; we loved that vanity with its large oval mirror and mahogany wood curlicues. We enjoyed watching her put on make-up there and fix her hair. Very glamorous!
2.      Seven years of bad luck. I was now facing this interminable sentence simply for breaking a glass object. Why did this have to happen, I wondered, frantically. And who decided this dire fate? Whatever the start of the superstition, I was stuck with it. I did the math – slowly, I was never good at that sort of thing, especially when it came to the number 7 – and calculated I would have bad luck until I was 19. Nineteen! That was forever! How would I survive those long, looooong years of gloom?
An article in the August/September issue of AARP's magazine, cited a 2014 YouGov survey about superstitions: "… almost three-quarters of those over 65 and older reported they weren't at all superstitious." Apparently we elders were the least superstitious among those surveyed. 

I have a theory about that.
The silvering crowd is less superstitious because of experience and current lifestyles.
As a young adult in college, I regularly consulted the I Ching – a Chinese forecasting system – to see what was coming in my future. I wasn't alone. All the lasses did it. We wondered about our love lives, our careers, or happiness. If faced with a decision, how nice to have it decided by a random toss of sticks than by ourselves.
We also consulted Tarot cards, although this was much more complicated, and we soon tired of the effort.
But horoscopes, now there was a quick, easy glimpse into future fame and fortune. Daily review of horoscopes – "horrorscopes" my Dad irreverently called them – was a topic at most cafeteria meals. "Beware of taking a long trip," it would say. "Consider postponing for a day." Then we would wring our hands in indecision. Should we wait? Should we go?
As a college student, I'm not gonna lie, I frequently invoked good luck charms before tests. I avoided ladders so I wouldn't accidentally walk under them, and also black cats. These omens might affect my grades, or my love life, or my future – whatever that held.
For some reason, I didn't trust myself to get good grades or find the perfect mate; I needed a boost from the outside.
Gradually, I fell in love and married, began a career, took numerous trips safely, no matter what was foretold. I had children and worried about them, but I was more likely to consult them directly about my worries than consult a superstition.
Over time, I ignored ladders and black cats. I stopped throwing sticks for the I Ching, or reading my daily horoscope. So did most of my friends. The future was no longer exciting or dreadful, but predictable. Barring a cataclysmic event such as fire or earth quake, we knew how our days would roll out. We had control over our time and decisions. No need for outside consultation. Experience had shown us how to prepare without the aid of predictions.
This brings me to the second part of my theory about why people over 65 are less superstitious than others: current lifestyles.
Retired people do not take tests (well, except for medical ones – another blog post) so we've no need to seek help with them. If we go back to college to pursue a hobby or interest, we aren't concerned about grades.
At 58, I begged a professor of a literature class to at least pass me, even though I was not going to do half the assignments. I did pass the tests. She was kind, she gave me a C-.
If I had received an F, I would have shrugged my shoulders. I wasn't seeking a degree, just information about a topic. A classroom grade didn't matter to me.
This is the crux, isn't it – of believing in superstitions? If we've made it this far in our lives, the future just doesn't matter as much. Whether a day or activity is auspicious or not is unimportant. (See blog post: Second Adolescence about "I donwanna.")
I'm happy to report that as an elder, I am safely past those seven years of bad luck, I have plenty of wood in my house to knock on for good luck, and I only read my horoscope once a week.
Now, I can relax.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Another Laundry Tale: Fitted Sheets Fit to be Tied

Following up on last week's blog about laundry, is this blog about a specific laundry problem. We all know it, we've all hated it, we've all cursed the blessed things: fitted sheets.

This morning I decided to be a good "doobie" and fold the sheets right out of the dryer.

O, the trouble this caused me!

It's those d---ed fitted sheets. Today, I had two sets of sheets in the dryer (actually three sets, but I didn't even remember that!). I  grabbed the first fitted sheet, and discovered it was tightly twisted around another fitted sheet. Suddenly I had a mass of clean, twisty, fitted sheets in my hands. They were like lovers who clung to each other desperately and defied me to separate them or else all the stars in heaven would fall.

Who invented these fitted sheets, anyway? They were to blame for my aggravation this morning.

A quick search on the internet reveals the name: Bertha Berman, an African American woman who patented the idea in 1959. She probably thought she was doing a great service to people who make beds: hospital orderlies, hotel maids, housewives. (Note that I am there with the behind-the-scenes- hard workers of the world.) Her design was for fitted sheets that had corners sewn in a way that would fit the sheet to the mattress. Yay for Bertha for getting that patent!

Before fitted sheets, the bottom sheets on beds were simply flat sheets, usually tucked in with "hospital corners". Even with very clever tucking, the sheets came undone because of the person on top of them tossing and turning. (Is anyone working on how to prevent tossing and turning by a comatose sleeping person?) Bertha's fitted sheets were a big improvement over flat sheets cleverly tucked under, that didn't work. Her sheets still needed elastic garters or other gadgets to keep the sheet on the bed.

Finally in 1990, Gisele Jubinville created a fitted sheet with deep corner pockets that grab a mattress and stay in place. She sold the patent in 1993 for $1 million. [, "About Fitted Sheets", by ) Yay for Gisele!!!

Back to me at the dryer, attempting to untangle my fitted sheets. I had planned a nice, clean, orderly folding of the sheets from the dryer. Usually, honestly, I grab the bundle of clothes in the dryer and toss them into an empty chair to sort and fold later. But today I was going to do the right thing by me and by my sheets: fold them directly from the dryer. 

Instead of orderly, I had a basketball sized bundle of clinging, clean sheets that wanted to fall out of my hands and onto the floor.

Now, our laundry room also serves as storage for light bulbs, flashlights, masking tape, and -- well -- a cat litter box.

I did NOT want my clean sheets to get anywhere near the floor of the laundry room, I don't care how often it gets swept and mopped. Ewww!

I had the top of the dyer to use for sorting this messy mass of fitted sheets, but even that surface seemed too small. 


I pulled and tugged and cursed and yanked and eventually got the two sheets separated. Jeesh!

So much for doing the right thing this morning. Next time, I'll dump it all in a chair and leave it forever until it rots and has to go to the dump because it wasn't cooperating.

Any readers out there have a "fight with a fitted sheet" story you'd be willing to share?

Monday, October 7, 2019

Laundry Math

When I went off to college, I was given – not a new flashy computer, but a laundry bag. Once a week I lugged my full bag (cotton with a drawstring) down to the laundry machines in whatever dorm I was staying in. My Mom made fun of me once. She said, "Oh right. You wash your clothes once a week. I'll have to wash your laundry bag when you get home."

I was offended. I told her, "I wash my laundry bag every single time I do laundry."

She did not realize that I like to do laundry.

At that time there was an ad on TV (back when we only had 4 channels) that showed a woman (of course -- this was an ad about laundry, no men allowed) facing a giant mountain of dirty clothes. She said, "I've got a ton of laundry to do." After telling us how the laundry detergent was special, the ad ended with her happily folding a last towel and surrounded by tidy, folded clothes. She said, "One ton of laundry … done!"

I loved that ad! I loved that she could accomplish such a task and that it looked so well organized when she was finished. Wow! Magic!

All of my adult life I've done the laundry for my family once a week. I have a system that separates clothes based on how they're treated by the washing machine: cold and gently for permanent press (very new in the 70s), hot for jeans and underwear, and warm/normal for everything else. It's worked for me.

And I love at the end, folding that last bit of clothing, putting away neat piles for my family to wear.

Just recently I realized that laundry duty has changed in my house, and not for the better.

Our clothes pile up and pile up and pile up. A mountain of dirty clothes grows above the laundry basket. Then I think, "Well, okay. It may have been two weeks since I last did laundry. Maybe three?  I can't remember!"

Suddenly I'm doing two loads of jeans at a time, two loads of shirts, and an untold number of loads of underwear. Argh!

I'd like to blame this problem on faulty memory issues that come up among the silvering crowd. "Oh sorry. I seem to have forgotten how to do all that clothes washing stuff. Someone else will have to help me … do it, I mean, not just remember it."

But that is just an excuse.
It started when I retired.
It's as though I believed that retired people don't wear as many clothes as before, or that we wear much, much less. How is this possible? We still wear clean underwear every single day (if we remember). And we still wear clothes every day. Sometimes we can wear an article of clothing for two days instead of one.
And underwear … We've gotten to where we have three weeks of underwear items (I'm not going to itemize here). Then, someone must do laundry or someone else will have to go shopping for more.
In my mind, our retired state meant we would wear half as much clothing. Perhaps only half a pair of jeans, or the right half of a t-shirt, and the left half another time. Surely the laundry would be half as full as before we retired, so I could wait two weeks before washing clothes.
But this math doesn't work because it's not based on normal humans living normal modern lives no matter how old we are.
Today I realized I must return to my previous habit of washing clothes every week. I have not – sigh! -- retired from household chores. Maybe if I return to the once a week schedule, I'll go back to the joy of completing the laundry.
Hmm. We'll see. I'll let you know. [selfie of me in front of a ton of dirty laundry]