David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]


I have never been kidnapped by aliens. To my knowledge. Although there was a weekend my senior year of college about which I remember very little. Those who do mention having been kidnapped by aliens report remarkably similar narratives. Invariably the alien is described as looking similar to the (second) photo below, overly interested in human anatomy, and has no sense of humor.

Why do all the aliens mentioned have overlapping visages? Either there’s this one alien who really gets around and has been abducting folks left and right for some decades. Or, people claiming to have been abducted somehow communicate their experiences with one another. Which is not to say that there is a fraudulent person somewhere publishing a newsletter with the headline, “Psst. Those wishing to claim alien abduction, could I trouble you to mention that your alien had a countenance similar to that of the alien whom I claim to have abducted me?” Only that everybody seems to be read into what the classic alien mien entails. (Or as Alan Sherman sang, “Eight foot two, solid blue, five transistors in each shoe…”) Just as “zeitgeist” means “spirit of the times” or “the mood of a historical period,” alien abductees report similar aliens.

The zeitgeist of the great depression and the years leading up to WWII was one of “make it do or do without.” Visualize a ketchup bottle, empty to the naked eye. My grandmother would pour a little water into an uninhabited vessel, mush the contents around a bit, and create enough of the substance—the phrase “watered down ketchup” still makes me queasy—to use on just one more burger. And yes, the burgers themselves were “stretched” with cereal, thank you for asking.

Grandma also unplugged the water heater at night. “No one takes a shower at 3:00 a.m.,” she pointed out with emphatic rationality.

Grandma’s frugality was deeply engrained but wasn’t inevitably consistent. On the same week in which she had written me a check to replace all the windows in my first home, she also elbowed me in the throat to get the one remaining on-sale quart of ice cream. Two thousand dollars might have been an ephemeral sum; whereas five bucks had more substance.

At the risk of using the phrase–kids nowadays–zeitgeist for this current generation of adolescents seems to be, “buy me, get me, I want it now.” Just as “foreplay later” doesn’t scan, neither does spend now, save later. Kids receiving a croissant opine, didn’t they have chocolate ones? A kid getting a Lexus for graduation bursts into tears because they wanted a BMW. Perhaps these children have a deficiency in their moral accounts that cannot be assuaged with baked goods or motor vehicles. But the remark from parents that most reminds me of “Paris sucks, why can’t we go to Amsterdam?” is “You got a 96 on your math test? What’s the matter? Don’t they give hundreds at that school?”

That the majority of the children with whom your kids go to school are whiny, spoiled-rotten, decadent, snotty-nosed brats who equate consumerism with contentment is beyond your ability to change. You can, however, model for your children that in your home connection is valued over products. We volunteer, we contribute, we give back, we help out. We write checks to causes about which we feel strongly. We are satisfied with what we have and who we are rather than constantly striving to purchase another designer item. Susie is less likely to fuss about what she is driving if her parents aren’t buying new cars for themselves every 20 minutes.

As always, your child’s opinion of her parents has to be more important than your child’s opinions of her peers. (To be abundantly transparent, to a first approximation, her peers are complete and utter idiots.) And, although I am no expert on the subject, wouldn’t you think that if you cut your own hair–another example of my grandmother’s frugality–you are less likely to be abducted by aliens?

Alien adduction:
when the extra-terrestrials bring you back?
Joke by the author

Picture of David


One thought on “Alienation

  1. Martin

    I always like it when you bring “tales of my grandmother” into your advice columns. But really: $5 for a carton of ice cream?? She would never to my knowledge splurge like that. Must have been on sale for $1.69, which would fully explain the neck jab.

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