Monday, January 27, 2014
No Cure Like Travel
The surprising joy of a cruise ship is that you can so easily find places to be on your own. Get up early and it's just you and the ocean.
Those moments make up for the times - really not all that often, if you choose your trip wisely - when you realize that you are essentially on a large mobile hotel with a few thousand strangers. And they're not all, to be honest, one's own kind of people. This trip, though, was pretty much devoid of horrors, and there was people watching aplenty. The age range was wide, although children were blessedly few and on the whole the crowd did skew toward the golden years.
One might make an interesting study, just from a single cruise's worth of passengers, about all the many different ways Americans these days choose to grow old. When I was a child around my grandparents, the way they were seemed immutable and entirely the only appropriate way to behave once one was past a certain age (at the time, I would probably have pegged that age at about 35; now I'm willing to up it a little, say to 60). They were sedate and dressy; they ate at regular hours and made soft wheezing noises as they rose and sat. The ladies had hair in varying shades of white and gray and palest lilac; they had different jewelry for different times of day and delicately repaired their lipstick after dinner, gazing into tiny compacts discreetly pulled from their omnipresent pocketbooks. The gentlemen, cardiganed at any moment they weren't actually in jacket and tie, smoked cigars after dinner and tended toward naps at unexpected moments.
These days, though, while a few such dinosaurs remain (one enchanting old dear we much appreciated had a bewitching series of tropical-themed breakfast necklaces, one of which featured fuschia parrots, each coordinated with her jewel-toned twinset outfits), they are few and far between. Today's oldsters, after all, are children of the '50s or a shade earlier (or even a shade later), not, as with the grandparents, of the last round of oughts. A few seem desperately to be clinging to youth, with unsuccessful eyejobs that create tight little circles of permanent surprise in place of any meaningful expression (if female) or deeply regrettable hair issues (if male). Some genuinely are vigorous in ways that belie their years, marching up and down the Promenade Deck or Zumbaing away with their granddaughters before lunch. A few seem simply to have given up, tracksuited, man or woman, at breakfast or dinner, slackly complaining about perceived slights from the pool waiters as they bide their time until the next Jack-and-Coke or Bud Light.
Sooner than later, of course, I'll be one of them, and I do hope I do it right. I may not to lash out quite as far as parrot necklaces, and cigars have no appeal (never have, even though I was raised in a house of smokers and worked for years in industries in which smoking was practically enforced), but I'd like to think that, come the day, I'll still enjoy my early mornings looking out at the ocean and will do so in a stately cardigan and minimal complaining about the perfidies of Kids These Days.
Well, at least no more than I indulge in right now, while still comparatively a child...