Photo by Elizabeth Goolian

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A belated introduction

After reserving this blog two years ago and then letting it sit, I started using it in the anti-puppy mill cause this summer. And then I realized that I was posting without letting anyone know who I am or why I'm blogging. Just some crazy old lady (hint: name of the blog) ranting and raving about stuff that matters to her.

And actually, that's pretty much true. As of this date, I'm 63 years old, female, self-employed. And cranky. And getting crankier by the day.

Stephanie Miller, who starts my days off with a bang with her radio show that combines morning zoo humor with politics, talked a lot about cranky old people when John McCain was running for President. Whenever his name was first mentioned, Steph's mooks would play a recording of McCain making a querulous old man sound, and they'd follow that with a mook mimic of McCain yelling at kids, "Get off my lawn!" Which typifies some old folks, no doubt. But there's more to it than that.

Old people (I've stopped referring to myself and my peers as "middle-aged" or "older;" we are old now) become cranky for lots of reasons. Sometimes it's as simple as this: They don't feel well. They have chronic pain, or illnesses. They don't sleep well. And sometimes it's as simple as this: They're worried--maybe about their kids or their friends, but often about money. As in "There isn't enough." They watch their friends die, and they worry about dying themselves.

And there's something else. They see their pasts--things they have loved, that have been important to them--swept away by new technologies and just by the inexorable march of time. Here's an example: When was the last time you mailed your grandmother or grandfather a thank-you note, or just a note, period? We miss things like that. The doctor tells you you have to give up coffee, or butter, or wine. Or all three. You have videotapes and LPs that you love, but you don't have the technology to play them any more. You don't want to be seen in a bathing suit, even though you love the beach. In so many ways, the sweetness of life diminishes a little with every passing year.

But now there's more. Now there's something much bigger that makes us not cranky, but angry. Yesterday, the Government Accounting Office released a report, Income Security: Older Adults and the 2007-2009 Recession, that laid out, in stark terms, what those of us over 60 have known for some time: Life is becoming extremely difficult for us. And we feel cheated.

I'm not unusual among people of my generation in the fact that I started working summers when I was 15, and I never stopped. I worked part-time every year I was in college except for my freshman year. I went to work full-time as soon as I graduated. When my husband and I moved to London, England, in 1971, I got a job and worked the whole time we were there. We came back to the U.S. and I went to work. I quit my full-time job to go to graduate school, but I worked part-time until I got my degree, after which I went back to work full-time. In my 30s, I started putting money away for retirement, and I made faithful IRA contributions. My grandparents and parents were also hard-working people--that's where I learned my work ethic--and they all had comfortable retirements. Not luxurious, but comfortable. No one was eating cat food. When they needed a new car, my parents were able to buy one. I was on the same path.

But now, like so many people in my age group, the idea of a comfortable retirement seems dubious. The GAO, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress, reported that unemployment rates doubled and remained higher than before the recession for workers aged 55 and older. Household incomes fell by six percent for those 55 to 64 years old. For those 65 and older, Social Security and other benefits did little more than help keep them out of poverty. The several stock market crashes we have endured have reduced the amount of money we so diligently put aside--and there isn't time for us to recoup those losses. So household net worth fell for all older adults during the recession, and poverty rates increased for those between 55 and 64. Older people who lost their jobs are finding it much more difficult to find work. They are left with no option other than raiding their retirement savings--if they have retirement savings.

And now, the lunatic right that has taken over the Republican party wants to reduce Social Security benefits--or eliminate the program altogether--despite the fact that Social Security will be solvent and able to pay benefits on schedule for at least 20 more years. Why? Pure greed. Enrich the already rich corporations and let old people fend for themselves. Despite the fact that Social Security is not a government giveaway; those of us who have been working for 50 years have paid into the program via deductions from our paychecks for all that time.

So, yes. I'm pissed. Off. Not cranky. Furious. Many of our elected representatives--the greedy right and the spineless left, all of whom, by the way, suck off the government teat until they die, with extremely generous healthcare and retirement programs--are ready to hang us out to dry so they can line their own pockets with cash from their corporate buddies.

Really? Really? Is that what you think? Because, you know, it's us--the old people--who vote. We vote in school board elections. We're old enough to have had parents and uncles and neighbors who fought in World War II to save the world from tyranny and preserve democracy. We take voting seriously.

And this angry old broad is here to tell you: You fuck with Social Security, and we will kick your asses. Believe it.

So that's who I am.

Just to expand the record, I've earned my living for decades as a writer and editor. I was a dog rescuer for 14 years. And when I'm not pissed off, I love reading, music, movies, decorating, cooking, gardening, fashion, design, antiques, fall, fireplaces, and Christmas. We'll leave the things I don't love for another time. There are plenty of those too.

A very belated welcome to my blog!

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