Guest Column

Unraveling, acrylic on canvas by Marcella Peralta Simon





This is not my century. As far as I’m concerned, you can highlight the last twenty years and send them to “trash.” (Control-A, “delete.”)


No one should have to experience two revolutions in one lifetime. I was born in the pre-digital age, which, at the time, seemed an ever-accelerating period of change, but these days innovation is moving at warp speed: Mrs. to Ms. to #MeToo, shift cars to automatic to driverless, people into folks, corporations into people, and people into robots.



Life was undeniably more relaxed when choices were limited. Consider the supermarket, that monument to stress. The cereal aisle literally brings me to my knees. Go try to find Corn Flakes amid the alien Corn Chex, Corn Bran, Corn Squares, Corn Bursts, and Corn Pops.

Mustards alone exasperate. Oh, bring back the simple days of Gulden’s and French’s and the arriviste Grey Poupon.

These days I stand temporarily paralyzed in the produce department, as frazzled as fries. Will it be kale, mâche, endive, arugula, romaine, mesclun, oak leaf, Boston, baby spinach, or grown-up spinach? 

Remember iceberg lettuce? It never got slimy.



Digital clocks have replaced the hands of time to no benefit. Once time was fleeting. Now it’s a fugitive 24/7.

There are three of them in my kitchen. The microwave agrees with the TV, but the oven begs to differ. And you can’t trust them. Digital clocks are literally impulsive. The only time they agree is during a power outage. Plus they’re boxy, mean-looking—and they blink.

I learned to tell time by moving the big and little hands from number to number on the face of a cardboard clock. Time was a pie. It took up space. It had gravitas. 

Children no longer have to tell time; time tells them. God forbid they should have to count by fives. They have calculators for that.



Compared to some of the other indignities I’ve had to suffer, flushing may seem trivial. Just because a toilet can flush itself automatically doesn’t mean it should be allowed to. I don’t need help with flushing. I was a good flusher. It was part of my job as a person. Now, you never know whether the toilet’s going to flush just as you sit down, or while you’re there— which can be alarming–or when you get up, or not until you close the stall door. And tell me, is it really simpler to try to wring your wet hands beneath a noisy blast of hot air than to dry them briskly with a paper towel?  



Don’t even get me started in civility. Was there ever any reason whatsoever for switching from the friendly “You’re welcome” to the dismissive “No problem”? Must I have a nice day even if it’s evening? Please don’t thank me for choosing whatever service I selected. I had no choice. You were my only option, and besides you’re a recording. Sincerity has taken a terrible hit.

Beeping at people is rude. Beeping used to signal that it was time to get out of bed or, after a reasonable amount of time, to inform the car in front of you that the traffic light has turned green. Today you don’t know if the dinner’s microwaved, a truck is backing up, your seat belt’s not fastened, the toast is ready, the laundry’s dry, or the house is on fire. 

And what’s the point of warning me that “objects in mirror are closer than they appear”? Either make the objects look as far away as they are or forget it. 

Whatever happened to standards? Does every theatrical performance deserve a standing ovation? How can all news be “breaking?” Ask a simple question that used to require a simple “yes” or perhaps a modest “I think so” for an answer, and now you get a bloated “absolutely.” Wasn’t “yes” yessy enough?

And why do parents heap undeserved, abundant praise upon their children? Why do they respond with an automatic “good job” even when their kid has done a mediocre job? Whatever became of conditional love?



A password used to be what you needed to gain access to the neighborhood tree house. (Mine was “ish-ka-bibble mammy toots.” I never forgot it.)

But my computer forgets mine. A bright red message, “Forgot your password?” taunts me regularly. What enrages me is that they dare to think that I, not they, forgot my password. No! No! No! My passwords are unforgettable: Apple’s is HoneyCrisp and Google’s is BabyTalk; Netflix’s is BingeWatch.

Although I write each password down, even if it is unassailably memorable and correct, sooner or later they all pass away. I must abandon them and choose another. They go to that great random word generator in the sky from which new passwords are issued. Passwords must have caps, lower case, and numbers, and they must have eight characters. So how about SnowWhiteAndThe7Dwarfs?



To be fair, computers are wonderful for research. Go ahead. Ask a question. “Is Benedict Cumberbatch his real name?” And they’re great for word processing, as long as you remember to “save.” And who among us wasn’t happy to give up white-out, which took minutes to dry, in favor of “delete?” 

But when Amazon closed most of the retail stores in my town, I was obliged to shop online. I asked for “Women’s brown leather boots size 9,” even though I know that for the next few days those boots will walk all over my Facebook.

Then my computer started to ask me questions, some of which I found quite personal. Do I want to share my location? No! I am none of your business. But apparently I am. What am I to do when my computer tells me that a software update – ios12.4.1 – is available and will be auto installed later tonight? Without my permission? Do I want it? I assume my computer knows what’s best for itself, only to find out the next morning that I must first install something else that I don’t know how to do. I am the idiot at the genius bar. 



As sure as grapes turn into raisins, snazzy tattoos turn into saggy dragons. (Think upper arms.) Think regret.

I’m nostalgic for bumpers. Now, when I turn in my leased car after having been rear- ended for three years by entitled people who don’t leave notes, I must pay.

I know that yet another new way to listen to music is certain to be revealed any day now, but since my attic is already a graveyard of 78, 45, and 33 rpms; 8-tracks; cassette tapes; and CD players, “new and improved” doesn’t impress me the way it used to—especially the “improved” part. But isn’t Spotify a good name for a dog?



You can’t say we weren’t warned. In 1985 Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death. In 1970 Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, warning us about the dangers of high-speed change. Recent scientific studies show that technological changes are now accelerating beyond our capacity to absorb them. Mark my words. Your iPhone runneth over. You’re ruining your posture. And you’re all thumbs.



Silent Sisters
Profiles of the Short Lives of Karen Carpenter, Patsy Cline, Cass Elliot, Ruby Elzy, Janis Joplin and Selena Quintanilla-Perez
by Ellen Hunter Ulken
With raging talent and heartfelt bonhomie, these twentieth-century American women sang their way to stardom. All died before the age of 36. Within separate chapters, one for each celebrity, the book reveals their triumphs and tragedies, the details of their final hours, and explores the notion that frantic, constant, touring schedules may have contributed to the anxieties and dramas surrounding their early deaths. Through these illustrated pages, the reader will become familiar with these outstanding singers and their music. Endnotes, bibliography and discography are given for each subject. Ellen Ulken began writing later in life as a retired person. In 2005, she wrote Beautiful Dreamer, The Life of Stephen Collins Foster. Through Arcadia Publishing, in 2009, along with Rebecca Watts and Clarence Lyons, she contributed to a history with pictures and captions of Peachtree City, Georgia, where she lives with her companion, Jerry Watts, MD. Silent Sisters: Profiles of the Short Lives of Karen Carpenter, Patsy Cline, Cass Elliot, Ruby Elzy, Janis Joplin and Selena Quintanilla Perez was published in 2014. She and Jerry are members of The Peachtree City Writer’s Circle, The Friends of the Peachtree City Library, The Peachtree City Garden Club, and three historical societies. Available from Amazon,, or your independent bookstore.


Mary-Lou Weisman started her nonfiction writing career as a journalist for a local newspaper, then as an essayist and feature writer for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and other national magazines. She has taught memoir and personal essay writing as an adjunct professor at The New School and currently at her local library. Ultimately she abandoned magazine writing in favor of writing books. She thinks of herself primarily as a satirist, although two of her five published books are as serious as she knows how to be. Mary-Lou is joining Persimmon Tree for one year as our Guest Columnist. Go to ArtsMart to purchase her books.

Marcella Peralta Simon is a retired Latinx grandmother, splitting her time between Cambridge, UK and Kissimmee, Florida. She has been a diplomat, university professor, and instructional designer. She writes poetry and short fiction. Her artwork has been featured in Smoky Blue Literary and Arts MagazineBeyond Words Literary MagazineTofu Ink Arts PressPersimmon Tree, and The Acentos Review.


  1. It’s breath-taking that you can take many of the annoyances of life,things that annoy me as much as they annoy you, and transform them into the raw materials of a laugh. Everything you say is true, but it’s much more fun to read your version of it than to hear my version in my head. A couple to add to your collection: adding “like” to a sentence as if it were punctuation (even people who are learning English as a second language do it, like really they do), or filling in my credit card number for me when I order something on line. But, like, it’s amazing — totally, literally, etc — how you manage to be astute and hysterical at the same time. Brava.

  2. Terrific rant! I’m with you. I’m downsizing and was just told no-one will want my books that I’ve cherished. Cd’s anyone? No takers. My Mom’s Haviland fine China? They’re obsolete too. Yikes.

    1. Hi Barby –I’m delighted that you enjoyed my rant. I suppose I (we?) am as obsolete as your mother’s Haviland fine china. I wish you’d been with me in the attic last week when turned over the entire contents to Junkluggers. Now I have no past; just a future. Very cheering!

  3. Dear Mary-Lou Weisman, thank you for your spot-on iRant! I wish I’d written that–I say, do, and protest the same things, all the time. Not sure whether I’m older than you are (I’m nein x 9), and I admit I know more about how the internet works than I usually let on when filing a complaint. But I’m starting to boast about driving an old car (no “entertainment” in it), using an old PC (on which i don’t watch videos or stream anything), and refusing to get a “smartphone,” With you all the way in resisting the digital dictatorship!

    1. Hi Jacqueline — Thanks so much for your response. Although I have forgotten my times tables, I think I am older than you by about 4 years. Good for you for at least wading in the muck of he 21st century. Is it intellectual heresy to say that I simply don’t want to learn anything new?

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