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By Nicholas S. Racheotes

I’m a no-account gunslinger, riding into a peaceful town on a black horse with a black hat. (That’s me, not the horse, with the hat.) No, wait—I’m a terrifying alien in a never-before-seen craft from another galaxy, ready to stir up trouble for the home folks who have troubles of their own. Later, I’m sitting in front of the television, talking on the phone, and putting the finishing touches on a letter to my friend in the army. It seems like what’s “in” fashion one day is “out” the next.

Fiddle-faddle, we’re in a fashion battle. Do you ever catch yourself wondering whether there is any such thing as “the latest?” Join me in trying on a few of the following:

The latest barbaric sport in which fit young men brutalize one another for the amusement of beer-swilling yahoos and should probably be banned? Football in the twenty-first century is what boxing was in the 1930s.

The latest collection craze? You were nobody unless you collected stamps, records, baseball cards, Pokémon cards, Transformers, Legos, and now apps on your phone.

The latest thing in style? We could fill an app or two with all the things that make us “sexy.” Choose the right hat, coat, pair of truly uncomfortable shoes, designer handbag, overpriced watch, or necktie (necktie, really?). Drink wine, chug energy drinks, smoke cigarettes, get tattooed, eat bacon, and drive the right car.

The latest health trend? Early to bed, early to rise, make accounts receivable healthy, sleep on the “best mattress,” chew gum.

Ah, Ben Franklin, you had it right.

Did I fail to mention the high dudgeon of the eternal curmudgeon? Maybe I should have, because nobody uses those once fashionable terms dudgeon and curmudgeon. Young minds have been “poisoned” by everything for decades: comic books, radio, television, YouTube, the movies, romance novels, teachers, the clergy, politicians, sugar in cereal, time spent watching sports, their friends, rock ’n’ roll, rap, hip-hop, folk music, gangs, not belonging, idleness, overscheduling. How have we lasted so long?

Our survival lies in how we answer this question: Do we own trends or are we owned by them?

While we’re on the subject, what trends do we hear from anguished parents? “I can’t talk to my kids.” They’re always shooting cap guns, spinning hula hoops, listening to loud music, playing with their computers, texting their friends. This lament is usually followed by all the things that have supposedly been lost: the art of letter writing, exercising, respect, fruitful conversation, patriotism, the sacred truths that made us great. So, where do we end up after all is unsaid and undone?

If the French are correct when they say that the more things change, the more they remain the same, then the truth or half-truth that accounts for our survival lies in how we answer this question: Do we own trends or are we owned by them? Please, be warned, here comes a little philosophizing. What is it that never changes? It’s that we—those of us who become legendary and those of us who simply live fully—are greater than the era in which we were spawned. Put more simply, the best are those who are bigger than the “now” in “trending now.” How might one break from the “trends” of the twenty-first century?

1. Reclaim your time from social media.

2. Ignore the cynicism surrounding you.

3. As everyone’s mom used to say once upon a time, “Remember, what comes out of your mouth is as important as what goes into it.”

4. Keep in mind that a good mattress is hard to find.

5. It’s not what doesn’t kill you, but love that makes you stronger.

— V —

Nick Racheotes is a product of Boston public schools, Brandeis University, and Boston College, from which he holds a PhD in history. Since he retired from teaching at Framingham State University, Nick and his wife, Pat, divide their time between Boston, Cape Cod, and the rest of the Western world.

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