Columnists can’t resist making predictions, especially in January. You’ve probably read many confident assertions about when Mueller will complete his report, who’ll run in 2020, etc.
But you won’t find predictions in this space. Whenever I feel tempted, I remind myself how often the future has confounded my expectations. Life has been a series of surprises to me.
When I was a teenager, I thought the fads of the moment were going to last – an expensive mistake to make in the 1960s. I bought a Nehru jacket, thinking they were here to stay – they looked smart, and you didn’t have to wear a tie. Soon my Nehru was deep in the closet, and only dictators and Bond villains were wearing no-lapel jackets.
I also thought sideburns were here to stay. Even the squarest of my high school teachers had grown them. Alas, I had insufficient follicles on my cheeks and feared I would go through life looking mangy while everyone else was sporting luxuriant muttonchops. The fad ended, so the joke was on me – and became even more hilarious when the follicles atop my head became insufficient, too.
With feminine fashion, I made the opposite mistake. I thought the miniskirt was gone for good in the late ’70s. What women were wearing then, they’d continue to wear: knee-length skirts, boxy jackets, wide-legged pants. Feminism had made great strides in the ’70s. Women now occupied positions of power, and I thought that in business attire they would put allure on the back burner. But soon hemlines began to climb, and today the female pundits of Fox News sit in a row on their sofa, showing their thighs as they pontificate.
More recently, women decided to lay bare a hitherto covered portion of their anatomy, surprising me again. I was startled when the so-called “cheeky” bikini came in, and thunderstruck when I saw one being worn at Heman Park pool. We’re a long way from Ipanema.
It’s even weirder that this happened in the year of MeToo. Of course, women have the right to dress any way they want and be safe from harassment, but why do they want to dress that way? The answer I’ve heard women give is that they just like to be comfortable. You’re not going to convince me that a cheeky bikini is comfortable. So I’m still wondering. If being touched lustfully is so abhorrent, why is being looked at lustfully so pleasant that you’ll inflict a wedgie on yourself to draw more looks?
Going back a few decades, I remember when I started to get serious about building a retirement nest egg. Tattoos were just becoming popular, and I seriously considered putting all my money in a company that laser-erased tattoos. “In a few years,” I said to myself, “those fools will be so sorry they wrote graffiti into their own skins that they’ll pay anything to get rid of their tattoos, and I’ll be rich enough to retire in my 40s!”
Luckily, I put my money in mutual funds. And retired in my 60s.
It’s a sad sign of how far I’ve fallen behind the times that my feelings about tattoos have remained the same even as they’ve become widely popular. I’ve changed only to this degree. I used to think, while walking down Delmar, “Imagine going out in public with a revolting tattoo like that.” Now I think, “Imagine going out in public with your father who has a revolting tattoo like that.”
What’s surprising me at present is how quickly color-blind casting is catching on. I read that the producers of the new movie “Mary, Queen of Scots,” having spent millions constructing sets and making costumes historically accurate down to the last brick and ribbon, risked that expensive fidelity to the era by putting African and Asian actors at Queen Mary’s court.
I’m for color-blind casting. Of course minority actors should get the chance to play Hamlet. But “Hamlet” is a play in which race is not an issue. In a play where it is an issue, I have a harder time concentrating. I recently saw a color-blind production of “Othello.” This black character was played by a black actor, and Iago and Desdemona were white characters played by white actors. I was supposed to see their skin color, because if I didn’t the plot would make no sense. But Emilia and Cassio, white characters, were also being played by black actors, so I wasn’t supposed to see their skin color. For audiences, color-blind casting is going to take some getting used to.
Perhaps the most wrong-headed prediction of my life was: “People will never spend money on bottled water when water is free.” Now that it’s been established people will buy anything if it’s cleverly packaged, I am willing to venture one prediction: there’s a fortune waiting to be made in bottled air.