This post first appeared as a column in the Good Living section of The Press, Christchurch
One of the tasks of retirement that presents itself with a creeping insinuation is protecting the standards of society. Being an elder statesperson somehow conveys that right, or it seems to because one has more time to think about them. It’s not exactly a matter of ‘Things weren’t like this in my time’ or ‘Back in the day…’ whenever the day was. It’s more a question of ‘What on earth can they be thinking about?’
Take language (you knew this was what was coming). The word ‘like’ has lost all meaning, other than to say that one likes something. Anyone below about 30 would say this is as ‘It’s like that ‘like’ has like lost all like meaning, other than to like say that one like likes like something’. Or something like that anyway. Can’t they hear themselves? Don’t they like think about what they are like saying? And one receives some very odd looks if one tries to comment on this. Where’s he like coming from?’ It’s best not to think about it; the attempts to get through the non-working day are enough.
Then there is what I think of as the hard ‘t’. It has come to us from America via Auckland according to my observations over the last few years. ‘We’d bedder get ged going’ ‘Would you pass the budder?’ ‘How are you gedding on?’ It’s even crept into radio and television speak, particularly amongst the female newscasters. Again, there’s not much that can be done aboud id other than to take care oneself.
In the end, the language changes through common usage and there it is. Rearguard actions in this area will not win the war. Well, just one final salvo perhaps and I’ll come straight out with it: I think it’s due to laziness. ‘Bedder’ is easier to say than ‘better’; it is, try it. And sticking ‘like’ into every phrase saves the bother of saying exactly what one is thinking, if in these circumstances one is thinking at all.
Now, this introduction to what this column is really about does not help my cause much although it was good to get it off my chest. It is actually a matter of standards around the house that I’ve been working up to. There would seem to be an essential difference between men and women when it comes to housework and the general state of affairs around the place. I quite like a bit of tidiness and a smattering of cleanliness but this is never, and I repeat, never, up to the standard that my fine wife likes to live by. And I am now at home far more than I used to be.
From time to time this causes a hint of tension that leads to a definite improvement on my part – at least as I see it. A nagging doubt remains though that the improvement is probably not good enough. And it is definitely useful to pay some attention to nagging doubts of that sort rather than to allow them to slip all too easily out of awareness. These moments also lead to finding good and noble things to do that take one out of the house, as well as the odd convivial conversation indoors about the division of labour.
My strong advice to all men who have retired is to re-think your standards around the house, learn to do more cooking, vacuum under and behind things rather than simply what you can see. Above all, just get on and do it; don’t wait to be asked. And then go out and find other standards to uphold.
Which brings me to standards of dress and general deportment. This again is something that needs to be said only to men. Women naturally maintain the highest levels in these matters. As a retired man, matters of hair length, including unfortunately nose and ear hair that seem to put on a growth spurt after retirement don’t often reach conscious thought. And changing one’s jeans more than once a month or so seems a bit much. Take heed; such ways of being do not go down well at home.
Do your best around the house. Try to stay looking reasonably sharp. In other words, the maintenance of standards begins at home. Don’t worry too much about people, even in public notices, not knowing how or when to use the apostrophe, or even to know what the apostrophe is. The difference between ’its’ and ‘it’s’ is hopeless now and the use of an apostrophe in any plural word is becoming commonplace. Just don’t worry about it. Although did I just hear ‘How about pudding the keddle on’ from across the room?
And before you comment, think of John Kenneth Galbraith’s words “Where humour is concerned there are no standards…”