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Is Change Constant?

I use Pond’s face cream every day and have done so since my teens, never even considering alternatives ... even if they have the astonishing claim to be “age-defying.”

On the other hand, every season, I notice the fashion “ins” and slightly adjust my wardrobe accordingly: the color (navy); the hem length (shorter); the new wrinkle (mixing patterns). Why did face cream get stuck in 1952 whereas hem length shifts every season? Upon reflection, I think that we all make decisions (conscious or not) about what is open to change and what is fixed. 

Take hairstyles. Some of us have the same hairstyle that we had in our youth. A side part and flipped curls suited us in the ’40’s and we see no reason to change. Others have followed every trend: the page-boy, the ponytail, the pixie cut, the beehive, the curly perm, the just-out-of-the shower look.

Take food. Some of us stopped being adventurous after we learned to accept the idea that lasagna, salad, and bread constitute a meal. Others have gone on to nouvelle cuisine, Thai, Indian, fusion, and, lately, even dishes made of raw kale.

This is not just true of the trivial. Most of us thought about the big questions in our youth. "What is the meaning of life?" "What is the relation of mind to body?" or, à la Professor Higgins, "Why can’t a woman be more like a man?" We came to a comfortable place in our thinking and are content to rest there. Others have a lifelong thirst to ponder these questions, spending countless hours reading or attending lectures.

Even in the fine arts and music, most of us have a place in the artistic spectrum where we call a halt, whether at Andrew Wyeth, Jackson Pollock, or Ida Applebroog; whether at Stravinsky, Ligetti, or John Cage.

And, finally, consider technology. I never even got used to watching television (the pace, the commercials, the canned laughter…) but some of my contemporaries rival my grandchildren in their ability to appreciate the tech wonders of our age.

No profound conclusions to be drawn here. Let’s just say, "Chacun à son goût" and "Vive la différence."

Jeanette Strasser Pfaff '60 is a Swarthmore class secretary and a newsletter columnist for the Carol Woods retirement community in Chapel Hill, N.C.