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An interesting thing about getting old | Wired Cola

An interesting thing about getting old

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Sad cookie! "You don't like Indian food, do you?"

"No, I like it, it's just that you like it enough that I never feel the need to pick it."

That was the substance of a conversation between TLO and myself, not so long ago.

I'm in my early forties. And just in the last year or so, I've gone from craving novelty in many areas to being satisfied with old favourites.

This isn't a small thing, and it's most obvious with food.

For most of my adult life, I've been both a lover of food and a fairly adventurous eater. The things I haven't eaten probably tell the story best: in my early twenties, I was in the Philippines, and was given the chance to eat the brains of a roast pig. I declined, and I regret doing so today.

I'll try just about anything, at least once. When I eat out, I like to try new places, or new kinds of places. when I eat at a familiar place, I try menu items I haven't had before.

Well, that was true. But I've noticed a gradual process of accepting the familiar that I know I'll like to a much greater degree. Some of this is because I'm done, so to speak: thanks to TLO, I've tried a great breadth of teas, certainly dozens, possibly over a hundred, and definitely covering all the major varieties. While I will happily drink all kinds of tea, if the choice of what to put on for breakfast is left to me, I'll automatically pick Earl Grey (or possibly one or two very closely related black teas). This in a house that has more than 30 varieties of tea on hand at the moment.

Similarly, when I eat out, especially at a familiar place, I'm content to order old favourites over seeking novelties. This isn't universally true, but I can feel this preference slowly closing in on me, for better or for worse.


In my mind, the biggest reason for this is that I know what I like: even on an unfamiliar menu, the chances are I'm familiar with most of the dishes, in one way or another. I have a pretty good idea of what I like, and how much I like it, especially with dishes that show very little variance: I'm not likely to meet a new kind of ika that convinces me to prefer it over a nice slice of fatty tuna.

In other words, having eaten fairly broadly and fairly deeply, novelty is relatively hard to find, and of the non-novel dishes, I'm likely to know which ones I prefer.

But the broader tendency of older folks, especially men, starting about my age, to get set in their ways, is a well-trod cultural trope, and while I'm too lazy to look up any references, I feel pretty confident there's research that backs that up (to mention just one thing, older voters are more conservative voters, and I believe the longitudinal studies strongly suggest this is a process where individuals are more conservative than their younger selves). My confident explanation above may be a post hoc rationalization of a largely physiological change.

What is to be done?

Maybe nothing. Maybe I'm just smarter than my younger self. But I hope that by being conscious of this trend, I'll be wary of being unfairly biased against novelty.

Or perhaps in a decade I'll wonder why I ever fought the urge to get more set in my ways. In the meantime, get off my lawn.