Old Men in Poorly-Fitting Pants


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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31 Responses

  1. Avatar veronica d says:

    This is really good. Thank you for writing it.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    They have a responsibility not to interfere greatly with the functioning of our economy (which we’ve misidentified as a society).


    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      I disagree. Schools have been shuttered… not because of the risks to children but to the risks of others. And don’t think for a second this isn’t doing great harm to our young people. It is. And now there is talk keeping schools closed in the fall… again, not for the children but for high risk teachers or those children’s grandparents. We’re asking our kids to absorb this cost so the elders do not.

      Maybe that is the right thing to do. But let’s not pretend it isn’t happening. It is.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Kazzy says:

        With everything, there is a balance. I am with you on harm we are doing to young people, and feel that schools should not be closed. If nothing else, it helps free parents who will be going back to work in increasing numbers. But even more important, at least from my point of view, children need socialization. It is every bit as important as the three R’s.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Aaron David says:

          Agreed. I’m not so concerned about academics, especially for younger ones who have a decade or so to make it up. But the social and emotional regression, the increased sibling tension in many families, social isolation for only children, kids with special needs not getting services… it’s all very real and we’ll probably never know the full costs.

          I appreciate your consideration of these. I’ve seen lots of older people explicitly saying, “The kids have to stay home FOR ME.”Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Aaron David says:

          So how do you think we send kids back to schools run by populations of higher risk people? I’ve seen about 6 different models – all flawed in some way – none of which are actually likely protective.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Philip H says:

            I dunno. Maybe higher risk folks stay home and focus on remote teaching from there. But there is something selfish about saying, “I don’t want to get sick. Keep all schools closed.” And believe me… people are saying that.

            How did grocery stores remain open with at-risk employees?Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Kazzy says:

              They didn’t give any of their staff a choice and then tried to protect them as best they could. Schools can and likely will do the same thing – until we hit a massive second or third wave then the calculus will change.

              It will also be different in medium to large urban areas then ins rural and even semi-rural suburbs.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Philip H says:

                I do hope we can offer those people options. It seems like many schools are considering a hybrid model and allowing folks with higher risks (and/or lower risk tolerance) to remote teach from home seems like a nice compromise. In addition to demographic differences in communities, specific schools may have different risks among their own faculty/staff, such that one school may only need to accommodate a small handful of folks while another may be looking at half or more.

                These aren’t easy decisions, no doubt. Maybe I’m biased… I’m a young(ish) teacher with a low-risk profile and young children; I want us all to go back to school as normally as possible.

                I guess what I struggle with is folks who want to start making policy decisions from the I perspective. “*I* want blah-blah-blah, therefore everyone everywhere should be required to do X.” That is true on all sides. I think we need a broader perspective, weighing the pros and cons of all options and making the best — or least bad — choice.

                If opening schools is in the best interests of a community, they should open schools. Even if that is harmful to particular members of that community. That sucks. But that is part of being in a community and not existing on an island.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Kazzy says:

                If we get something out of this where people can homeschool through their local school district, that would be nice.

                Most public school teachers I talk to say it isn’t possible or desirable in an ongoing basis, but there are charter schools that do it in states friendly to charter schools (ie not ours). That’s something we’re going to keep in mind after our next move.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Trumwill says:

                A lot of schools are looking at hybrid models for the fall, to allow for social distancing (e.g., smaller groups of kids coming in for shorter amounts of time to facilitate more overall groups) and/or parents who don’t want to send their kids back.

                The smart schools are looking to diversify these roles, so you’d have some teachers working in classrooms in kids and another set of teachers doing remote learning, ideally coordinating behind the scenes to make the experiences as consistent as possible. That would be sustainable. The less smart schools are asking classroom teachers to do both. That is not sustainable, possibly not even in the short-term.Report

  3. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    Boom! Yeah, what @veronica_d said. This is really good, and thanks for writing it.

    For some of these, to be a man is to take a beating and not blink.That’s what defines them. Death may win in the end – death always wins.

    It’s bad for them, and the badness sometimes spills over. It creates some resentment. If they have to take it with a smile, why are so many other people frowning?Report

  4. Avatar InMD says:

    Very beautiful piece.Report

  5. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Thanks so much, friends!

    I’ve very slowly been learning that it helps a lot if I write things out by hand in tiny notebooks before trying to type anything on the laptop.Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The cultural and political reactions to Covid-19 are interesting. There are people around my parent’s age, meaning in their seventies, that are taking Covid-19 extremely seriously and are self-isolating. My parents buy and deliver food for them. My parents have always taken their health seriously, so while obeying the rules feel freer to not isolate themselves so much. At the same time, the biggest Covid-19 skeptics seem to come from the elderly or at least the upper middle aged. At least on the liberal side, the sense of abandoning the old might come from the Fox effect.Report

  7. Avatar Aaron David says:

    So, I guess I am one of those men in ill-fitting pants.

    I mean, I am immunocompromised right? Not really part of society. But, make no mistake, an economy, like laws and norms, is part of society, no matter how much you may or may not like its effects. And one of the great things about getting older you start to realize that you have seen this shit before, maybe a different shade but still puke green. And you get better with making that most human of decisions; the cost benefit analysis. How much trouble is this worth? And you see the answer reflected in the eyes of society around you.

    Maybe these old men are so despondant because a large part of society has decided that “white men” should have zero say in things anymore, that they are lower than dog shit in this world, the cause of all problems. I mean, I have heard this, and I am a white man. Others would look down on me as I am Jewish, and still others due to being a ginger, well, when I still had hair. Or a Malthusean might rejoyce in that there is one less person to burden the world with. I mean, that has been an ever present cri du coeur over the course of my life.

    The saddest thing I have ever seen in my life, the other day walking the dog. Three little girls, four to eight I would guess, each one wearing a mask over her face. None speaking or laughing.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Aaron David says:

      Yeah, I’m sure a bunch of old guys are on the street because SJWs added politics to video games.

      Talk about a persecute complex.Report

    • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Aaron David says:

      The men with ill fitting pants aren’t all white, maybe not mostly white, at least in a lot of cities. They are all, however, surplus to requirements and have been told as much in any number of ways. Every time they pop out of invisibility into the forefront, it’s as an annoyance. Don’t think they don’t know that.

      And maybe they are annoying, with a crude pass, or littering, or just buying some complicated collection of lotto tickets when all you want is a soda. And maybe you wouldn’t want to work with them, even if someone really did teach them to learn to code.

      As I age, I see my unattached male friends – the never-marrieds especially – start becoming more prickly and despondent over time, though maybe not in the same class as MWIFPs. There’s always room for the cool aunt, but the cool single uncle is presumed irresponsible and maybe even a little strange. It’s no surprise so many end up living up to it after a while.

      Excellent piece.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to LTL FTC says:

        “…surplus to requirements and have been told as much in any number of ways.”

        Indeed. And yes, it is a very good piece. It is Rufus, after all.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to LTL FTC says:

        The phrase “surplus to requirements” really stings me. So good.Report

      • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to LTL FTC says:

        I dunno. I’m a single woman in her 50s and a lot of the time I feel kind of superfluous. I actually told someone the other day that if we experienced a NYC style spike, and our poky little ICU got overwhelmed, and I got badly ill, the decision made for me – or the decision I’d feel ethically compelled to make if I still had autonomy in the matter – would be for me to be allowed to die in favor of a woman with children.

        My department had (over Zoom) a hard discussion about reopening in the fall yesterday, and I realized: maybe this is how I “eat it.” Maybe this is how my life ends. I am NOT happy with that conclusion, there was more I wanted to do. But I don’t matter as much as other people do, so….I volunteer as tribute, I guess.

        I am not sleeping easy these days, not at all. Lots of nightmares.

        But I also have no one to advocate for me here, I have no one who directly depends on me. If I died, I’d leave a brief hole in a few people’s lives, and then be forgotten, like 99% of humanity.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Aaron David says:

      This is one of the very rare times where I disagree with @veronica_d and agree more with you. I think you carry wounds that are real, and they are showing here.

      Of course, she has very real wounds as well.

      My own life is moving into “old man” territory, and it isn’t all that fun. Even if I may have a few more resources available than many. I know others making this trip and having a very rough time of it.

      But for what it’s worth, seeing little girls wear masks doesn’t make me feel sad. A mask doesn’t mean “I’m afraid” to me. It doesn’t mean, “You might contaminate me” either. It means “I care about you, and don’t want to make you sick”. If you were to see me these days, most likely it would be with a mask on, and that’s why I would be wearing it.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Aaron David says:

      The saddest thing I have ever seen in my life, the other day walking the dog. Three little girls, four to eight I would guess, each one wearing a mask over her face. None speaking or laughing.

      And every one of those girls being taught to make a choice that protects you by wearing those masks. Yep that’s sad. Horrifying.

      You might also want to consider that kids that age (two of my three youngest are in that range) generally pipe down when encountering a stranger walking on the street, and pipe back up when past them. Did so before the pandemic – no reason not to now. Nothing sad about that.Report

  8. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    Just to clear up all the confusion.
    That is NOT a picture of me. My pants fit much better, thank you.Report

  9. This is an awesome post, Rufus. I may disagree with some of the points, or more accurately, I weigh some of the factors differently from how you do. But I’ll find your post hard to ignore.

    If I disagree at all, it’s because I see disregard for the lives and basic interests of others to be part of the human condition and part of the most supposedly “humane” of societies. I don’t say that as a condemnation, especially because I support some policies that evince that attitude. I also believe there are better and worse balances to strike. I DON’T intend to say, “all societies do it to some extent so it doesn’t matter to what extent any society does it.”

    Anyway, thanks for writing this.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    A wonderful piece, Rufus. Thanks.Report

    • Finally back with time to read the comments and write more.

      Across the small Great Plains towns it’s the old ladies in their jewelry and make-up, at least once a week at the cafe or fast-food place for lunch. Their kids moved away, their husbands died, but they’re not going to move unless truly forced to because it’s the only place they’ve ever lived. But the things that cry out for grandmas have disappeared.

      I have been a pseudo-academic for 45+ years now. Pseudo because I’ve never got the credential that would make me a real academic. As a couple of my Ph.D. friends have both told me, “Mike, you lack the tolerance for academic bullshit to finish a doctorate.” Lacking the credential closed many doors, but I made it work.

      20 years ago I started thinking about how being a pseudo-academic was going to keep me busy forever. Retirement means working on your own research questions, it’s just that funding is more difficult. I have a social sciences problem; I have math problems; I have a whole list of odd software projects. Granted that the pants aren’t going to fit — even though my wife smacked me on the backside when I was bent over the counter doing something last week and said, “You’ve still got that cute little butt” — the question is whether or not when I sit down to do nothing, are there a dozen things that I could be doing instead?

      Later this summer Mrs. Cain and I will be moving. We will be close enough to the granddaughters to meet her purposes. Google says the university library is 30 minutes away from the new place by bicycle. And I have hopes that the granddaughters can be enticed into applied mathematics eventually :^)Report

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