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The Back Side

by on April 25, 2018

The Back Side

by Marco M. Pardi

mpardi.com

The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened.” SAKI 1870-1916.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

I’ve had some experience with people who retired from careers. And, I’ve had experience with people whose financial circumstances provided a life in which they never had to work. I think there is an interesting difference between these two groups. For clarity, I’ve always viewed people who stay at home taking care of children and “keeping house” as career workers, in many ways working harder than those who can go to an office or other job site. And, although women have entered the workforce with as long or longer hours than men, they are often expected to continue performing most or all of the tasks assigned to women before work out of the home.

As early as the 1960’s figures began to appear indicating that, ultimately, retirement kills. A sudden feeling of being set adrift, or cast off and forgotten, a general decline in overall health, a loss of interest in things and activities of long standing, a loss of “purpose”, an increase in substance dependence, all pointed toward support for that conclusion. Until very recently women in Western societies had a lower life expectancy than men. And it wasn’t all attributable to statistical flattening due to death in childbirth. Women had to shift from caring for children to caring for adult men. And, someone still had to do the chores and the cooking and cleaning. Women may have changed the object of their efforts but their efforts remained essentially the same, albeit somewhat redirected.

And so I took an early interest, albeit academic, in the different post retirement lives of men and women, recognizing that women do not really retire. At first it seemed men died not long after retirement; figures published years ago gave male airline pilots about five years post retirement. The numbers in other professions did not vary that much. So it was easy to attribute the shortened life span to the nature of the work. Too easy. I met some airline pilots who outlived their life expectancy by several years and I began to wonder. Still, never having been in the life insurance business I did not have the data used by these companies to calculate policies and therefore could not look at a particular person and project a likely lifespan.

What I did begin to notice was a very distinct difference in social bonding between the two groups: Females tended toward a higher frequency of female group activity centered on shared interests; males had far fewer such bonding patterns and a higher probability of just staying at home and becoming sedentary. But before we rally to physical activity as a panacea, I would assert that a female bridge group is not particularly physically active – except perhaps for all the talking going on. The important variable here is not sore facial muscles but actively engaged personalities.

Of course, men also have card games. With a lifelong disdain for playing cards I can’t draw on personal experience with any groups. But my informants tell me male card games are quiet affairs, often lubricated by alcohol and, to a lesser extent, cigars. The game seems a venue for the extras, the booze and cigars, as much as an end in itself. So just how social the event really is becomes questionable.

Some readers will flash to the FOX-P5 gene, the gene which, in a complex context, enables vocalization. From mice to humans female mammals uniformly display a more active FOX-P5. This is not a criticism; it simply presents an apparently adaptive feature. One presumes then that the vocalization is a social event.

This raises a new angle on a question which has been with us for a while: Are social media replacing face to face contact? The answer is obviously Yes. But my interest pushes me to wonder if this is more pervasive and more in depth among males than among females. I suspect it is. Furthermore, I suspect this is a self validating activity which goes on to amplify itself; the more people (men, in this case) succeed in communicating electronically the more likely their next attempt at communication will be electronic.

I think the implications are serious. A group, retired males, which is already somewhat socially isolated as individuals is rewarded for hardening the isolation further. This must certainly affect even long term relationships with significant others such as children and spouses. And, in mirror fashion, it must affect one’s relationship with one’s self. Who am I but words on a screen? If those words can be deleted with a simple click, what does that say about me?

One writer, a woman I knew decades ago and with whom I have resumed communication in the past few years, writes an absolutely impeccable blog ( at:
foodfaerie | A topnotch WordPress.com site )

For a person like me, who appreciates the finest use of language, this blog is enveloping on many levels. Yet, it is not well known and there are few comments on each offering. She says she enjoys writing for its own sake even if no one reads her thoughts. But that’s a tough standard for me to meet.

I read an average of one science/technology book per week. With almost every page I hear my self thinking, Oh, this would be great to incorporate into a class discussion. But, I left college teaching four years ago. And still I’m constructing lectures and class discussions. My blog is not intended as a podium for me but as a forum for readers to interact. I suppose it is a grasp at some sort of social life in an otherwise very isolated existence. But the startling ratio of few respondents to many readers has me wondering if most readers are male. Is this retirement?

Some would say retirement erases a sense of purpose. As I’ve written earlier, the “purpose driven life” and the “find your purpose in life” swill drives me crackers. Ontology is not my field. But what am I doing here? And before I ask whether what I’m doing matters, perhaps I should ask where I got the notion anything I or anyone else does is supposed to matter. To whom, or what? Were my careers simply ways of distracting myself so I could get to this point, like reading a book on the subway? No, there’s no train going back where I came from. How and why did I get here? And where is everybody anyway?

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9 Comments
  1. Mark Dohle permalink

    One of my greatest pleasures is to see women who are friends interact with each other. There is a freedom that they have that I envy. In the Navy, I would meet with some of my sailor “friends” and we would sip wine and talk. We had to have the wine, otherwise, we would not know what to talk about. I guess it opens up the unconscious as well as dampens the fear of exposing oneself. Women don’t seem to need that, well from what I have seen. I also find it easier to talk to women and I am sure that many men experience this as well.

    I have known men that after they retire seem totally adrift, bored, lost and they drive their wife’s crazy. I knew one man who shot himself. He simply did not know what to do with himself, perhaps when he looked inside, he saw nothing.

    I think it interesting that many in our culture find the concept of the ‘inner path’, or ‘inner life’ foolish and a waste of time. Yet if we do not have a center to stand from, what happens when the props are taken away, and they will be taken away if we live long enough. It has started with me at 69.

    The development of the soul is given 5th place in many lives if it is that high. Or they want a path that is a quick fix, which can’t be found. So when things fall apart, or they are forced to live a more restricted life, I believe the void can be something terrible, and perhaps the ennui is the worst thing that we can feel, just a dull ache and nothingness. Yet below that is a deep place of life and light along with the darkness and struggle.

    Ok, sorry, kind of dark, but I believe that human life is much more than our cultures lead us to believe. Perhaps that is why I am not against religion if it is rooted in spirituality, one that grows and does not become stagnant. I believe that many drop their traditions too early and do not spend the time needed exploring what they have in their own backyard.

    Peace
    Mark

    • Thank you so much, Mark. Your comment is far better, more inspirational, and more thoughtful than my article. I hope readers bother themselves to view the comments. Your comment really deserves full discussion – and appreciation. Marco

  2. Mark Dohle permalink

    Well, you do spark me my dear friend, a muse of sorts ;-).

    Peace
    mark

  3. Ray Rivers permalink

    Marco – let us not forget that both presidential contestants were past their seventies. That Trump will be 74 /75 when his first term is over and still he is claiming to be seeking a second – that should make us stop and take account. So long as we can, we need to be active and involved – we need to resist the temptation to just give it up – it’s may seem all too much and too tiring – and of course it is but that is life we are talking about…. keep blogging friend.

    Ray

    • Thank you, Ray. I don’t know the demographics on our readers, but I for one will certainly take your advice to heart. The men among my close neighbors each have some infirmity, to the point we’ve begun an unofficial daily telephone network to see who needs what – or if they are beyond needs. I’m one of the younger ones, so I’ll keep your words in mind and try to set an active example.

  4. This offering set my mind spinning, and yet it explained so much. If socialization is the key to a long and healthy life, then I was doomed to die young, assuming I am not already too old for that. I have always been a social satellite, clinging to the edges of whatever group happened to catch my interest at the time. At one time I had a group of my children’s friends to fill my time; karaoke was my social outlet at another. There is no one I can call for conversation; even my husband has his head buried in his tablet most of the time. Those I would call “friend” are accessible only by electronic means.

    What this explains for me is why I continue to accept those within my acquaintance who so obviously only keep me in their lives for whatever services I might provide for them. I guess I need to feel useful, even if this is only a few steps from being used. These relationships are aggravating and sometimes toxic, but do they help me stay alive?

    To comment on Br. Mark’s remarks: I admire so much his search for truth, and that he has over the years also shared a little of his doubts. I also am a seeker of truth. I recently came upon a piece that I believe belongs to all of us: “Never seek outside yourself for what you already have inside.” Some of us seem self-contained, and yet on some level we still need others.

    • Wow! Thank you, Rose. I’m so glad this piece was helpful. Of course, “helping” to uncover facts is not the same as helping to manage those facts once uncovered. I like your examination of the relationship of self to others. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve begun asking myself what measurable things I’ve done for others.

      Yes, Br. Mark is a true wellspring of honesty, coming from a depth most could never fathom. As are you.

  5. Marco the duo of books ‘Younger Next Year’ is initially about exercise for health, but the last half is about the ‘limbic’ system and keeping it active. It is largely about connections and socialization and points out that women generally manage this more easily than men.
    It may have to do with ego, upbringing and whatever which has traditionally been about keeping your problems in and dealing with them ‘like a man’. I have certainly not managed to divorce myself from that stuff.
    It also may have been that for many men more of their social like revolved around work and without it they had no fall back. They also had a place, a status, power and a position dictated by work. It seems that retirement can be a democratizing event.
    Our group here, initially based on half a dozen of us who were in the same grade and often class in high school, has resumed after the large middle segment of our lives were over. Many are within easy driving distance, but some scattered.
    Robert was responsible for bringing in you fellows south of the border, except for Arnis whom I’ve know since he was a teenager.
    This link has made the experience richer and certainly would not exist without electronic communication. I see this as one of the big positives of communication.
    Women in recent years were living longer than me. I think the gap is closing. More women reach the age of 100 than men, but the men who make it are in better condition than the women. Maybe they are the social ones.
    Most of the guys here in our group have fairly dedicated interests and activities, not so much isolation in them. alex

    P.S. I saw a couple of ads here. Do you have ads. or is this just on my computer?

    • Thank you for your very informative and inspiring comments, Alex. I feel younger reading them. I’ve long been aware of the effects a workplace persona can have on a personal life. It didn’t take many admonitions from my then-wife that I was “professorial” around the home to make me more self observant and considerate – a fine line without being “condescending”.

      Yet, I’m also aware of my social isolation of the past few years. This makes me very appreciative of the interactions we have in our email group.

      Ads? I’m surprised and dismayed. Although WordPress is free, I pay for this site to obtain extra services. I see no ads on my end. And I do not derive a penny in reimbursement for the site.

      Again, thanks for the comments and I’ll look for those books.

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