The only real constant in this world is change. As we get older, we change. We change physically. We change mentally. We change philosophically, politically, and, in most cases, economically. We can’t stop change. So why is it what we seem to fight more than anything is change itself?
We get set in our ways. Television shows and what food we’re going to buy at the grocery store become preordained. Buying gasoline from the same gas station every time we fill up becomes a no-brainer. The bartender at our regular watering hole knows our favorite beer.
People have written and sung about change and the role it plays in our lives for centuries. A change of government, a change of climate, or a change of heart can have life changing results. Any coming-of-age story ever written is about changes in ourselves as we mature. One of David Bowie’s most recognized anthems is called Changes. Taylor Swift has a more recent hit called Change. And decades back, the late Sam Cooke sang that A Change is Gonna Come. Obviously, the subject of change has been much studied and written about over the years. And the inevitable conclusion to all this angst is that change is going to happen. Change cannot be stopped.
Being resistant to change is a normal human phenomenon. On the internet, 272 million responses came up when I Googled “Why people don’t like change.” Obviously, this showed there is a lot of research available on the subject and many of the sites have taglines like the top reason, the top five reasons, the top six reasons, the top ten reasons, the top twelve reasons, ad infinitum. A quick perusal of the MacMillan online dictionary revealed thirty-seven different synonyms for people who resist change such as conservative, old-fashioned, square, Luddite, and that great Yiddish catch-all, schmo.
While I’ve never considered myself a stick-in-the-mud, a technophobe, a stuffed shirt, or some of the other descriptions listed, I have to admit that I mostly prefer things to stay the way they are. Like everyone else, I’m somewhat of a creature of habit. I always buy the same coffee at Trader Joe’s because I’m used to that singular taste jump-starting my day. I watch the same local news broadcast in the evening because there is one particular avatar that I enjoy watching more than all the other talking heads. Though I will occasionally sample an IPA or an amber beer, I always drink a very dark or black ale because that is what I like. Why change?
Many times we have no control over change. Losing or leaving a job causes tremendous change. A partner or spouse may pass away or decide the grass really is greener in the neighbor’s yard. Change can come from totaling our car or losing a finger in a home workshop project. Or we may hit a $100 million lottery. Lottery winners always say winning won’t change their lives, but we all know that’s not true. Just the number of new relatives that surface will change their lives forever no matter how much they try to prevent it.
Sometimes we can control the changes in our lives. Do we look for a new job or maybe buy a new computer? Do we exercise today or prepare that seven course meal we saw listed on the Gluttony.com website? Do we finally shoot our neighbor? Choices like these can change our lives and they are in our control. What really drives us bonkers are the changes over which we have no control.
We can’t control how our favorite sports teams perform or whether the El Niño weather will bring us rain or drought. Controlling the prices we pay for gas from one day to the next is not in our power. And lack of control sometimes leads to lack of self-control. If something unexpectedly impacts our lives or makes a radical change to the way we live, we are not happy. We rant and rave and fight back if we can. Sometimes we viciously rebel against change even though we know, in our hearts, that it probably won’t make the least bit of difference.
I’ve lived through many radical changes in my life. I had enlisted in the Army, gone to war, and traveled half the world by the time I was twenty-two. I’ve seen my personal situation change from single to married to single again. While it’s happened to me only once, I have friends who have been through that change three or, in a couple cases, four times, and I’ve witnessed how that changed their lives. Having major back surgery changed any plans I might have had to learn to golf and give Tiger Woods a run for his money. The arrival of children changed any plans I might have had to become a writer and beach bum at the Jersey shore. At a relatively advanced age, I pulled up stakes and moved from New Jersey to Arizona, one of my biggest life changes. Recently becoming a grandparent will, I’m sure, bring even more fundamental changes that I can’t yet even imagine. Some of these changes were under my control and some weren’t. In any case, they’ve greatly impacted my life.
Like most of us, as I’ve matured, I’ve also learned that much of the time there is very little we can do to affect the changes we face. I’ve accepted that some change is normal, even good, and that getting upset doesn’t remedy most situations. However, on occasion, along comes a change that is so dynamic, so earth-shattering, so massive that you begin to question the continuing viability of civilization as we know it. No, I’m not talking about the melting polar icecaps and the impending submersion of Florida, California, and New York. I’m not talking about the presidential contenders consisting of a card deck full of jokers whom I wouldn’t elect as manager for a stadium cleanup crew. And, I am certainly not talking about my new dentures.
What I am talking about is, as of January, 2016, Playboy magazine will no longer be publishing nude pictures of women in their magazine. When I heard the announcement of that change, I was dumbstruck. Playboy? No nudes? Say it ain’t so! Now, I admit I haven’t browsed through a Playboy magazine in probably a couple decades. But there was a time when Playboy was IT! After graduating from the Sears catalog and Pat Kelly’s dad’s nudist magazines, Playboy became a staple for my admiration of nature’s bounties. Plus, the interviews were great. The articles about sex were open and refreshing. The cartoons, from artists like Gahan and Vargas, remain some of the funniest in my memory. The interviews with prominent figures ranging from Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King to Ayn Rand and Hunter Thompson justified the social and literary importance of the magazine. But the pictures were what the magazine was really all about.
From its earliest days in 1953 to the present, Playboy has been all about presenting the sexiest women they could find who were willing to take their clothes off in front of a camera. The ranks of those beautiful young, and, occasionally, not so young women have included Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, Pamela Anderson, Anna Nicole Smith, and Jenny McCarthy. It was these women – not the interviews, not the cartoons, nor the articles – that made Playboy magazine a global success.
Playboy CEO Scott Flanders explained in a New York Times interview that the easy availability of pornography on the internet has killed the market for magazines featuring pictures of nude women. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture,” Flanders explained.
Well, my question to Mr. Flanders is, “How in the hell am I supposed to get the full benefit of a centerfold on my cell phone?”
As Boz Scaggs, one of my favorite singer-songwriters wrote,
“Some change comes down for the better.
You feel it move.
Then some come around like the weather.
You take that in too.
Well, well, you take that in too.”
And some changes you just don’t.