When I was a teenager the words that would catch my attention in advertising were “new and improved!” Those were the siren song for a young man who thought that new was always better. Who wouldn’t want something that was improved? Okay. Maybe my Mom and Dad liked the “old fashioned” things; but not me! No sir! Old fashioned in my eyes was… well… hmmmm… OLD. Who wanted that?! Youth was king and I wanted to part of that royalty. What did parents know anyway? They could settle for old and shoddy of they wanted to be that uncool. I was going for new and improved.
In my twenties I discovered that there might be a possible – and potentially costly – aspect to those new improvements. I was in college and paying for my own stuff. Did you know that the textbook you bought used for $22.83 that was supposed to be good for this and the next three classes in business administration was often replaced with a new and improved edition the semester after you spent that money? Surely the prof would use both books so those who had worked 4 hours at minimum wage to pay for the first book would not have to work 34 more hours to buy the new and improved edition that costs $167.21 thanks to the improvements made to page 385 where they had used the word “there” instead of “their.” Then again, the professor wrote the book and the revision. Perhaps new and improved is not always a step up (especially when you think of all the Milwaukee’s Best that could have been bought with $167.21. Of course you did not have the discerning beer palate back in college days that you do now and need to have a PBR to have a fulfilling adult beverage experience.)
The next occurrence in my life that made me question the wisdom of “new is better” happened on July 7, 1993. At a little over seven pounds, my son made me wonder about all those new fangled do-dads. A simple example comes in the form of cloth diapers. I know what you are thinking. “Don’t tell me you are one of those eco-nazi-rabid-environmental-jerks who thinks that our landfills should not be cluttered with disposable diapers.” No. I’m not. And I’ll thank you not to call me names like “environmental.” I am not mental and have note from my therapist to prove it. (Granted, to write the note they had to untie the straitjacket he is now wearing thanks to our sessions.) I did use cloth diapers when my sons were born. I wore them! It’s not what you are thinking. (I tried. They didn’t fit!) They are perfect drool and spit-up catchers. You put one of those babies on your shoulder and put a baby on top of it and – PRESTO – they will immediately drool, spit, or just plain spew all over it and then proceed to make sure it gets on you, too.
The real nice thing about those diapers was how soft they were. Their mom and I had no money so we enjoyed some hand-me-downs. These were handed a long way down since the last baby to use them was their mom. They were so soft that you had to wonder if they were even there. Sometimes they disintegrated from the bio-hazard that came out of the baby’s mouth so they really weren’t there. That was when we decided to take the bull by the horns (or the baby by the mouth) and buy some new and improved cloth diapers. Those suckers are hard to find!! When we did find them after traveling to 5 stores in 3 states, they were not what we had hoped. Sure, they were thicker. Sure, they absorbed more. Sure, they didn’t have stains from strained succotash. Sure, they were as soft as sandpaper. Wash them as much as you want, they would still be effective at smoothing out raw cut lumber! Old and shoddy wins!
As the years have passed, I have mellowed and found that something old and something new can both be great. I don’t have to have the latest and greatest to be happy. I can handle not being the coolest with the newest things. (O.K. I still like new computers and gadgets.) The new mission for this recovering new-aholic is to help my sons learn from my mistakes. Old and shoddy can still be better than new and improved. If I can just get my teenagers to stop laughing and referring to me as old fashioned, I think I might stand a chance.