Infantile? Who, Me?

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11

A recent podcast of “View From My Sofa” nearly had me falling off the elliptical while listening to it at the gym. The humorist, actor, and noted intellectual Stephen Fry was being interviewed, ostensibly about his television viewing habits and favorite TV shows. In the midst of his many thoughts, he suddenly he took a verbal right turn to make a general observation that none of us are actually living in a grown up culture. Instead, we are all, and Fry includes himself in this generalization, infantilized.

Wait, what? How dare he. I’m a grown man after all, with a mortgage even. Speak for yourself, Stephen.

Fry offers two brief examples to buttress his thesis: (1) how commonplace it is now to see grown men get together and go to the theater and watch action movies; and (2) the number of adults who continue to consume “kid” foods, such as milkshakes, long after one’s childhood years.

We no longer put away all childish things,” Fry observes. “Some people might even say that’s a good thing, too;” meaning that maybe it’s not such a bad idea to hold onto those things which offer us comfort.

He finished this particular strand by offering an analogy to what he sees is the virtue of adults occasionally acting childlike, though not childish: Fry posits that the small distance between joy and tears, as represented by a young child’s narrow worldview, is what adults thankfully step away from as they grow older and develop mature thinking patterns. It’s fine to enjoy something that’s geared more to young people… so long as one does it with an understanding that all other facets of one’s life are still monitored and maintained: obligations, relationships, etc. You are still an adult so you therefore have to behave like one.

Ah,” I think to myself, while wearing my Dunder Mifflin t-shirt and still churning away on the elliptical. “He’s giving me a pass then.”

Or is he?

As long readers here know all too well, I’m the last person who will ever cop to acting my age. Gorgeous is an authentic example of a spouse who warily steps out in public each time with her significant other, never quite knowing the antics she’ll be forced to witness (i.e.: oh, and I suppose you’d suppress the urge to comment when the name tag on the supermarket cashier actually said Paige Turner?).

I suspect Stephen Fry isn’t really getting at behavior so much as he is the interests and activities adults choose to make. On that score, I’m hardly in the mold of those in the Greatest Generation.

My dad, a product of the Great Depression and himself a returning World War II vet, had no discernible outward interest in anything other than what would be described as “grown up” activities. He read at least two newspapers every day, three on Sundays; he liked to take walks; browse in department stores; and watch PBS mysteries. Late in life he collected antique coin banks, which he gleefully gave away to his grandkids and also the children and grandchildren of his friends. He held no emotional attachments to very much from his upbringing or his formative years. He never romanced the past, save the occasional Benny Goodman melody or an old black-and-white film he’d happened upon while changing channels.

Dad in 1982, the year I graduated from college. It’s patently apparent that we’re not at all alike, are we?

What Dad would make of my own interests as an adult, I can only imagine. He would scoff at my continued interest in pop music and in buying CD’s and vinyl, especially those occasional special “anniversary” editions which now cost a fortune. He would also raise an eyebrow at how I buy new and used books online when the public library’s collection is free to use. That I’m paying for a handful of streaming services and also paying for cable tv offerings would be a complete and utter anathema to him. I’m also pretty sure he would object to the fact that we own two cars, one of which is financed, while I’m mostly retired and Gorgeous works from home.

But is any of that infantilized behavior? I suspect not.. I do offer the very plausible likelihood that it’s indicative of people who are comfortably middle class in their spending habits; not penny-pinching, though also not excessively squandering either. All of it, including our Amazon Prime membership for good measure, makes us — along with everyone else in our economic group– a composite Madison Avenue analyst’s wet dream.

I don’t think I actually tick any of Stephen Fry’s boxes in displaying non-grown up traits. For instance, I am not a part of any male posse flocking to blockbuster movies, nor am I particularly a fan of kid food. Gorgeous I’m certain would point to my devotion to the cloying but nevertheless — in my opinion– quite hilarious “Young Sheldon” sitcom, as further evidence that my sense of humor has never advanced beyond eighth grade (she’s wrong; it’s college freshman).

In fact television viewing, which was the impetus for Fry’s rhetorical right turn to begin with, remains a stimulator for my generation’s collective personality trait. Laugh-In, SNL, Monty Python, All In The Family, Only Fools and Horses (UK), etc., made us impressionable to cultural phenomena. Later generations were surely influenced by MTV, reality shows, and of course the internet. And on and on it goes.

Lest you feel defensive by anything I’ve written here today, please don’t. We’re all allowed a guilty pleasure or two now and then. I’ll even share one of my pudding cups with you.

Until next time…

35 thoughts on “Infantile? Who, Me?

  1. “You have to crack a few eggs to make an omelet.” Stephen Fry will always be Jeeves to me. Therefore anything he says will have the added weight of P.G. Wodehouse behind it. This makes very little sense I suppose, but that’s how I think of him to this day. Now can I have a pudding cup, butterscotch, please.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, how I recognize that screen door and the traits of your dear, old dad. My dad was a WWII vet also, and collected antique coin banks, too. The kind where you put a penny or maybe a nickel in a dog’s mouth and the coin would go in the barrel. It seems like money was tighter back then for many, and my dad worked hard to support us all. That’s why I think many of our choices would seem wasteful or unnecessary to our dads. My dad did have a unique sense of humor – which is probably where I get mine. In that sense, he wasn’t grown up – but in all the other ways, he was. I am glad the defined roles of age, sex, etc, have been greatly relaxed. I may not like pudding pops, but any kind of candy is another story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, very similar on the banks, Betty! I’m not sure why that started for him. He was already in his late 70’s when he began collecting them. Somehow he managed to give them all away before he died. There were quite a few!

      I agree, re: relaxing on the roles has made it all less strident. I suspect both of my parents would approve of the changes.

      Like

  3. My mom went through the depression so that was her filter when it came to spending. She didn’t have a microwave. Good lord! The indignity of it all. I can’t remember her doing anything childlike except the yearly strawberry shortcake for supper. Although she and her sisters would tell the stories when they got together. I prefer a vanilla pudding cup please.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Childlike qualities are enviable – childish ones not. Big difference!
    So, you keep on liking Young Sheldon and your Mad mags and keep that grin on your face for all of us to smile back at! Oh, sorry, guess that was your Dad’s grin in the photo – heh, heh!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thought provoking, Marty.
    Mr Fry, though a formidable intellect and a polymath of extraordinary talent, seems to have confused infantilisation with the advent of the teenager. Teenagers did not exist in your Dad’s day. They first appeared as a demographic (in America, naturally enough) during the 1950s. The post-war ‘baby boom’, economic expansion (in America), improved quality of life and leisure time (in America, at least) and cheaper cars all contributed to the appearance and explosion of a young, cashed up market for everything from, well, cars to milkshakes.
    With all these exciting cultural inputs being laid down during the formative, hormonally rich teenage years, it is scarcely surprising that a huge nostalgia attends the passions of our youth. And as you point out, we have the time and money to indulge such things.
    As for the emotional immaturity aspect, well that’s a whole other ball game.
    Cheers
    -Bruce

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cogent and informative, Bruce. I do appreciate your thoughts. I’m not sure I knew that “teenager” as a demographic population is such a relatively recent phenomenon. Your point about the baby boom period is something with which I was only skated around the edges in order to keep things concise. But absolutely, my father and all those others helped to create an economic culture that, ironically, was mostly foreign to them. You are right that the car is really the, ‘er, engine that caputalted so much of the culture. All those Chuck Berry and Beach Boy tunes, what were they mostly about? Well, yes, girls, but also cars! I suspect that wasn’t the same experience for Stephen Fry, growing up in post-war England. It’s no wonder then that his framework then would be television — itself quite a luxury at the start too.

      Thanks again for your insightful offering here.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting post and comments. I wonder if some child like things appeal to us because they have good memories attached. A soft-serve ice cream cone is never just a cone because I always remember the Snowman ice cream store that served vanilla and chocolate swirled cones from my youth. Or stores that sell individual candy pieces always remind me of the penny candy store I lived near. Either way, being grown up all the time can get really boring. Happy Saturday, and a chocolate pudding pop for me, please. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes, those swirls. I remember struggling to figure out if I wanted a pure flavor of just one type or whether indeed to “swirl” it with both. Such a conundrum! Nostalgia can be calming and certainly good for the soul. We need a bit of that these days.

      Like

  7. Hi Marty, I have placed “View from my sofa” on my podcast list. I interpret “infantilized” as also a positive term, depending on the context. Keeping the child within us present can add to the quality of life. Good point on childlike versus childish. My brother recently recommended “Young Sheldon” to me, too. Guilty pleasure – Rewatching Seinfeld all by myself and I still burst out laughing – this time I no longer have “the Clapper” to turn off the tv. Thanks for sharing a fun post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Erica. The “View From My Sofa” is but one part of the Radio Times umbrella podcasts. One has to subscribe to the main podcast and then just watch for when they post a “View From My Sofa” edition. But I love Stephen Fry, so that’s what made me listen to this one.

      You have a brother? I didn’t know that! 🙂 Young Sheldon is my guilty pleasure also. I have to watch it alone, though. Gorgeous thinks its inane (my word, not hers). I own one Seinfeld DVD and never bothered to pick up the rest of them, which is a shame. Because it’s a rabbit hole I could definitely see going down endlessly at some point.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was great! I have a few childhood memories. Some scary, like hiding under my desk waiting for the bombs to drop…or pining for the next time Davy Crockett came on television. (I always dreamed of marrying Fess Parker.)
    BUT…when you made me an honorary Jew, it must have given us a connection. I’ll explain.
    I’ve been mulling over a story, which will probably never come to fruition…but it’s about a small town and it’s eccentric people. I have lived in big towns and I hate them.
    Anyway, one of the characters is named “page turner.” (No “I”)
    Another is “Macon Offer.”
    Like I said though…probably won’t happen.
    Oh, and I still buy cds. 🥴

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ‘Young Sheldon’ and Fry & Laurie in ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ are some of my favourite viewing options. I like how Stephen Fry pointed out the difference between childlike and childish, especially the bit about how much we were taught to put away or bury of our child selves in the aim of achieving grown up status. There’s much which is good when seen through the eyes of a child, with their childlike lens. What an interesting post, thanks so much Marty 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah-ha! Another closet “Young Sheldon” view comes out. 😉 I thought it was an especially illuminating discussion from Stephen Fry, Debs, especially when you consider that aspect of it was really just was just an aside observation within a larger conversation. Fry and Laurie is another favorite in our house… but only when someone else is long asleep (she’s a tough audience when it comes to comedy!).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. He’s such an interesting man, I can imagine all kinds of fascinating stuff will come out of his asides. Yup, I have to say that Himself isn’t as much of a fan of Jeeves & Wooster as I. Fortunately I have the full set on DVD so *could* watch on my PC while “working” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Retirement Reflections Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.