I try to be a modern woman, to roll with the changes. If it’s new and improved and makes my life easier, I’m typically all over it. My generation has had more than its share of innovations and progress, and I’ve always been quite pleased to be a part—and a recipient—of that progress.So I was thrilled recently when I found a gadget I’d been wanting for my children: It held the toothpaste tube and squeezed “just the right amount!” onto the toothbrush. I picked up the box and started examining it, when I felt a niggling doubt in the back of my brain. There was something bothering me, but I didn’t know what. I put down the box and walked away.
Sometime later the doubt became an actual thought: At what point do we say, “Um, no thanks. I can do that myself”? When does “new and improved” become “I have never learned how to use a percolator coffee pot”? I mean, aren’t there some things we should just know how to do?
This challenged me because I love, for example, my microwave. I loved disposable diapers, and I love detangling spray for my daughter’s hair. I also love that curling irons replaced curlers, and hand-held blow dryers replaced the alien-themed hair dryer that we used to sit under and pray to God wasn’t actually frying our scalp.
And there is so much more. When I was a kid, we had a rotary phone, and I thought we were the coolest people on earth when we bought our first push-button phone. Then the cordless came along, and life really couldn’t get any better. Next came the car phone, which initially weighed about 80 pounds and took up the passenger seat; now it weighs six ounces and connects to the entire world via voice recognition.
Computers came out when I was in college; at the time they were so bulky and intimidating that I used a typewriter for another decade. Today, as I write this on my LCD-screen slimline desktop, I’m excitedly awaiting delivery of my purse-sized netbook, which will allow me to have fun with Facebook and check my e-mail while I travel without a separate carrying bag.
My music has gone from 45s and albums to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs to a 1-square-inch clip that plays 250 of my favorites while I walk the dog. And I doubt my kids would even believe me if I said there was a time when we had to get up out of our chair to change the channel on the TV. Or that we’d fight over what to watch because there was, in fact, only one television in the house. Or that children’s programming, except for Sesame Street, was unheard of anyway.
Even our pet gear is new and improved. The dogs have collars telling them where they can go and when they can bark. There are water bowls and food dishes that fill automatically, and cats have litter boxes that clean themselves. If I could build a scratching post that brushes them at the same time, I’d be rendered completely obsolete. My pets would then kick me out and keep the house, which was probably the plan all along.
But is OK to just say “no”? Is it possible, sometimes, to admit that we like things the way they are? I did it with computers those many years ago; I also did it for a while with texting, although that was mainly because I couldn’t see the keys. Now, with my progressive bifocal lenses and large-print cell phone screen, I’m, well, I wouldn’t say a texting maniac, but I’ve sent a message or two. To the right people, no less. Most of the time.
Or instead of “no thanks,” we might say “not yet.” And while I’m thrilled, personally, to never have to hear the telltale ringtone of dial-up connections, I think that for some things, like squeezing the toothpaste, my kids need to know that “new and improved” isn’t always better. Sometimes “old and the same” isn’t so bad.
Just look at their mom.
Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.