Trendy vs. tried and true

Game of Thrones sure is in our faces as its final season begins. Whether it’s the greatest television show of all times, I couldn’t judge. I haven’t seen a single episode.

I never was good at keeping up with what TV shows are in. ER was several seasons along before I became a fan. Neither was I with-it about anything else; I couldn’t name the bands at the top of the charts or the bestselling books.

During the year I volunteered with Chicago Scholars, a college-prep program for low-income Chicagoans, I was on a team with seven high schoolers and two 30ish mentors. When we’d take a break from business and sit around chatting, I didn’t understand any of their pop culture references. I sat there feeling out of it — literally.

But I don’t feel like an outsider when it comes to GoT, and here’s why: Not one of my friends has mentioned it. The show doesn’t appear to be in with people I know on the far side of 60. We’re more likely to talk about what’s on Masterpiece on Sunday night. In fact, I watched Masterpiece on PBS while GoT’s eighth season premiered on HBO.

I am of two minds about this matter of staying up on popular culture. One thinks that keeping up encourages a youthful outlook and friendships with younger people. The other thinks that we ought never to feel pressured to follow the trends, and especially not when we’re increasingly aware that time is finite.

Considering that I couldn’t keep up when the Baby Boomers — my generation — were setting the trends, it’s probably a moot point for me anyhow. Yet I don’t feel as clueless as I used to because mine is no longer the trendsetting age group. Keeping up with my peers isn’t a concern. None of us seems to care much anymore about trends.

As an example of that, New York Times writer Frank Bruni had a terrific recent piece about how untrendy we are in our eating-out preferences. “What’s the Best Restaurant If You’re Over 50?” was the headline. Bruni, who is 54, said that he and the older-than-50 people he knows seek a reliably good meal rather than the hottest restaurant.

“Virgin sensations are less important; knowing that you’ll be able to hear and really talk with your tablemates, more,” Bruni wrote. “If having that reassurance means patronizing the same restaurant over and over, so be it. . . . Trendy is overrated. . . . I’m increasingly . . . an unapologetic creature of habit.”

The acclaimed chef Ina Garten and her husband eat at the same restaurant over and over, Bruni reported. He talked to several restaurateurs who said their most frequent regulars are older diners, who are disinclined “to submit to cooking that’s about a self-conscious chef’s strenuous inventiveness as much as our simple pleasure.”

Thus Bruni helped me feel unapologetic for returning to Thai restaurants and ordering pad thai rather than experimenting. When I go out to eat, it isn’t for the excitement of trying the current rave. I look forward to having an experience I can count on enjoying for both the food and the companionship. The best way to ensure that is to return to what I’ve enjoyed before. A friend and I go to Brightwok Kitchen every few weeks because it has a gluten-free menu and she has celiac disease. But even if that weren’t the reason, I wouldn’t mind going back there because I like the food.

Returning to past pleasures, instead of seeking new thrills, can have many applications beyond food, such as rereading a book, seeing a movie again, and revisiting a vacation spot. In fact, those examples have greater benefits for returnees than a favorite meal: One gets more out of a book, a movie, and a locale with each repeat encounter.

I don’t mean that I’ll never try anything new again. Of course I will — but I hope not because it’s a sensation with the public. And when I’m leaning toward the tried and true, I ought not talk myself into novelty instead. If an experience is pleasing, the most natural thing is to want to have it again.

*****

ANTI-TRUMP COMMENTS: 59TH IN AN ONGOING SERIES

“Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video. . . . Violent crimes and other acts of hate by right-wing extremists and white nationalists are on the rise in this country and around the world. We can no longer ignore that they are being encouraged by the occupant of the highest office in the land.”
— Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN., after Trump tweeted an attack on her

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