This Old Body: Humanist Society Talk
By Robert Bernstein
"This Old Body – And 99 Other Reasons to Laugh at Life." That was the title of the latest Humanist Society talk given by Barbara Greenleaf. It is also the title of her latest book.
Here are all of my photos.
Barbara Greenleaf has published seven books, starting with her first book contract with the New York Times when she was just 24 years old. She is also the creator and manager of the Parents of Grown Offspring website.
But "This Old Body" is the first humorous book for her. Something about the process of aging "tickled her funny bone".
Her coming to speak at the Humanist Society began with an article about her in the Santa Barbara News-Press. Former Humanist Society board member Anne Rojas saw the article and wondered if such a famous local figure would speak to our humble Humanist Society. Happily, she agreed to do so.
A head count at this event showed we had nearly 90 people in attendance. Almost twice the typical attendance of about 50 people. It seems that Barbara Greenleaf and/or humor and/or aging was a good draw!
Ms. Greenleaf noted that while she rated an article on page 2 of the News-Press, her husband rated an article on page 1 soon after that. Her husband has two master's degrees. But she has three holes in one to her credit. "Guess who holds the power in the family?" she asked mischievously.
The title "This Old Body" is a takeoff on the PBS program "This Old House". Hence, her talk was arranged in "Episodes". She noted that it is a work of fiction. Even though it takes place in Santa Barbara and the husband in the book happens to have the same name as her husband in real life. She says it is "Inspired by a true story."
Humor has a serious side. She notes that there are health benefits to laughter. While it may not sway us Humanists, Proverbs 17:22 states "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
She said that even Native American shamans used clowns for healing. Who knew? "Bring in the clowns."
She listed six health benefits of laughter enumerated by the Mayo Clinic. Laughter:
1) Relaxes the whole body, even 45 minutes later
2) Boosts the immune system
3) Triggers endorphin release
4) Increases blood flow and protects the heart
5) Lightens anger's heavy load
6) May help you live longer. A Norwegian study claimed "Those who laugh, last."
Laughter also helps us learn more readily. Make friends more easily. Sleep easier. And makes us more desirable to the opposite sex. (To a man, having a good sense of humor means the woman will laugh at his jokes!)
No one wants to laugh alone. Which explains why TV sit-coms use canned laughter.
How about Laughter Yoga? She said that there are over 5,000 Laughter Clubs in 53 countries. Even forced laughter turns into genuine mirth.
It even burns a few extra calories which can add up over a year. There is no down side. Laughter has a good price. And there is no fine print on risks.
Ms Greenleaf then launched into some sample episodes of "This Old Body". Starting with "Hair. The reality. Not the musical." She always liked her hair. And, frankly, took it for granted. Until it started "thinning" as it is euphemistically called when you start losing your hair.
Then on to "Height: The Long and the Short of It". She grew up in a neighborhood where most of the families were from eastern and southern Europe. She was used to be taller than most of the other kids. Not so anymore. Statistics show women lose three inches on average by the age of 80. Ms. Greenleaf prefers to think that it is really just that young people are getting taller.
As people entered the event they were handed quips to read. At several strategic breaks in her talk, Ms. Greenleaf invited people to read their quips.
Here was one example from the first round:
"As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't." – Carrie Fisher
She also offered up real personal ads from a Florida retirement home. Mostly from men looking for friends with benefits.
She noted that her wedding dress cost just $99. Her daughter wanted to be married in that same dress. It actually had to be let out to fit her daughter. But the alteration would cost $1,000! Did you ever notice that when the word "wedding" is involved, it invites price gouging?
So, what is the secret to a long marriage? "Cuddling Between the Old Coots" offers some suggestions. Cuddling has many psychic and physical benefits. But there are challenges.
She is lying on the couch while her husband sits in his recliner watching the baseball game. Someone has to move. And she doesn't want to block his view of the ball game. This is a negotiation second only to the Paris Climate Accord.
With all of the aches and pains and joint problems of age, it seems easier to move to the bed. Where things heat up. Literally. She insists that her husband is about ten degrees warmer than she is.
Speaking of husbands. That led her to suggest that the men's clothing department should be a drive through.
The second round of quips included:
"I want nothing to do with natural foods. At my age I need all the preservatives I can get." – George Burns
Ms Greenleaf went on to talk about how Thanksgiving has changed over the decades. Her point was not necessarily about getting old. More about having lived long enough to have seen the changes.
A typical 1952 Thanksgiving depiction was of a mother coiffed and dressed to the nines presenting a plump glazed turkey to an ensemble of happy diners.
Things changed when Cindy saw a film on industrial food production. No more food with eyes for her.
Then came the array of food requests. No fat. No gluten. No walnuts. Only organic. She ended the segment saying next year it will just be bread and water. Assuming she can find gluten free bread.
The third and final round of quips included:
"It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life."
– Rita Rudner
You can hear the rest of Barbara Greenleaf's humorous presentation at the Humanist Society website.
Or, better yet, go to Chaucer's or Tecolote bookstores (or even Amazon) and buy a copy of "This Old Body" for yourself!
Here Barbara Greenleaf posed with our new Humanist Society President Judy Flattery:
Judy was inspired by the turnout for this event and will be considering an even wider range of topics and speakers going forward.
Here you can see what else the Humanist Society is doing and what it has planned for the future. Everyone is welcome!