This essay originally appeared last Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer
We’ve been around long enough so that when we hear about a new trend, we immediately think about the old-school version. That’s because everything old is eventually new again.
This is especially true in fashion. If we had kept those bell-bottom jeans from 1968, we could have worn them again in 1998. When we saw Jessica Simpson’s new beach cover up in People magazine, we immediately thought it looked a lot like Marcia Brady’s 1972 maxi dress.
Texting is so 21st century, but every time we see teens pounding away on those tiny little keys, we picture the telegraph operators in all those old movies, furiously tapping their keys to get out the breaking news:
BABY BOY MATTHEW PAUL <STOP>
BORN MARCH 3, 1936 <STOP>
8 LBS 2 OZ <STOP>
ALL ARE WELL <STOP>
Back in the day, you paid by the word for your telegraph message, so you kept it short. Hmm, that’s a lot like Twitter.
Today, with “unlimited talk and text” packages, there’s no need to edit yourself. As anyone with a teenager can attest, the breaking news goes on and on. When we text our kids, it’s hard for us to know when to end the conversation.
Okay, see you later.
Okay, love you. Bye.
Love you, too.
If they stopped after “love you,” shouldn’t we love them back? How do we end these texting conversations? We need to bring back <STOP>.
Another trend is crowdsourcing on the theory that many heads are better than one. When the Sam Adams Brewery wanted to come up with a new beer, they turned to crowdsourcing. They asked their Facebook fans to choose among various beer characteristics – body, hops and color. The winning beer will be brewed this spring.
In corporate speak, crowdsourcing is defined as “bringing external input to an innovation process.” Blah, blah, blah. We’ve been crowdsourcing for years, and we call it asking our friends.
Back in the day, we polled the girls at our school lunch table: Should we be a witch or a fairy for Halloween? We asked our dorm mates if we should call him back. We surveyed the moms at the playground to see how long is too long drink from a baby bottle.
Even though we now have 185 Facebook “friends,” we wouldn’t dream of asking these kinds of personal questions online; we like to source our answers from among a very small and select crowd.
Then there’s the Slow Food movement. It focuses on locally grown foods, sustainable farming, and concern for the planet. When we hear the phrase Slow Food, we can’t help but think about Sunday dinners at grandmom’s house. The brisket went in the oven at noon. We set the table at 3 p.m. The courses seemed endless and so did grandmom’s trek from the kitchen to the dining room as she tried not to spill gravy out of the large platter of meat and potatoes. Oy, that was a Slow Food movement.
We don’t have a crystal ball to know what old idea will come back in brand new packaging. But when cupcake stores reinvent themselves and start selling multi-layered jello molds as the next trendy indulgence, we want it known that we’ve been eating “rainbow desserts” for years.