Do you find yourself wondering how we got so off track? Do you ever get mad at your cell phone and wonder if we were better off not being so available? Do you wonder how it became normal to shout at a faceless disk like Alexa or Google Assist to ask a question. If you are one of those people, you might be considered old-fashioned. If you think we should not teach early elementary age students about sexual things in school, you might be old fashioned. If you think parents have a right to know what their children are learning in school, you might be old fashioned.
I was having dinner with a friend who was telling me about her nephew getting married. She snarled her nose while explaining that the couple were living together, which has become the new normal. She was a bit apologetic, and exclaimed, “I wish I weren’t so old-fashioned.” I told her that instead of thinking herself old fashioned, perhaps a better descriptor for her would be a traditionalist. Being traditional is being wise to what works and what does not work. Tradition takes hold when activities or behavior get passed down through generations not because they are fashionable, but because they work. Even author Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame who vwas a marriage skeptic, researched marriage around the world through the ages and made peace with the institution of marriage. Due to her intellectual curiosity, she discovered that marriage is the optimal relational structure for healthy connections, peace, healing, wellness and lifelong commitments. The CDC Family Structure Study goes a bit further and determines that marriage and family structure is essential to the health and well-being of children and adults.
Being a traditionalist can be a great thing. It is a traditionalist that uses the phrases “Sir” or Ma’am” when addressing an elder or someone of great stature. Regular use of this language allows one to stand out of the crowd. Those who are being addressed with this reverence feel respected and honored. This trait could be considered old fashioned, but it is delightfully kind and charming because it makes the receiver feel so important. Handwritten notes could be considered old fashioned, but those who are on the receiving end will never forget the thoughtfulness of the extra effort. Asking someone out for a date in person is an old-fashioned construct. While “Wanna hang out?” texts are the usual mode of getting together, the traditionalist delights in face-to-face interaction with flowers and a plan for the evening.
Dressing up for a court appearance, not being vulgar, having young children address you by your proper surname, consistently demonstrating etiquette and manners or not drinking too much at a party can be considered old-fashioned. Yet, they are traditional and conventional because they have stood the test of time and we, who honor these classic traditions, find they make life more pleasant for all concerned. These pleasantries will never go out of style even though many social mores have changed. It is not that difficult to stand out of a crowd, honor others, and be an exceptional human being. It is easy to be above average by being a bit old-fashioned.