There are many things that have become easier or better through the decades. But then there are some stubborn harbingers -- things that are pretty much the same as we remember them from years ago. Here are five things that should have improved by now but really haven't:
1) Dressing room mirrors
Do stores realize how much their sales would soar if they just installed skinny mirrors in their dressing rooms? Yes, there are such things. Target store mirrors appear to be about the worst, adding five pounds to everyone's midriff. A friend swears her behind grows every time she steps into the dressing room at Macy's but shrinks accordingly at Nordstrom's. It's a simple truth: In the wrong lighting with the wrong mirror, we leave the store empty-handed. With the right lighting and the right mirror, we see flattering reflections of ourselves and bring our finds to the cash register by the armful. Why hasn't someone put all those awful fat mirrors on a shuttle to the moon by now?
2) Cereals that get soggy
Texture is an important part of taste. It's why chefs understand that almond slices add needed crunch in a kale salad. And it's at the heart of the appeal of a bowl of morning cereal. Yet once you pour milk over your Cheerios, you are in a race against time. Should you dare put it aside to pour your coffee, by the time you return to it the cereal is saturated and has lost all resemblance of crunchy texture. You look at the bloated Cheerio's and think "That's what my stomach is going to look like in three minutes." Why can't someone make a cereal that doesn't lose its crispiness when doused in milk?
3) White-out still doesn't dry fast enough
White-out was created by a Dallas secretary who mixed up a batch of "liquid paper" in her kitchen blender. Her logic was that if artists could paint over their mistakes on canvas, people should be able to "paint over" typing mistakes too. In 1980, Bette Nesmith Graham -- mom to Michael Nesmith of The Monkees -- sold her "liquid paper" business for $47.5 million. White-out still comes in handy now and again when you have a middle schooler and your computer's printer is misbehaving. But the drying time of the little white dab of white-out remains best-defined as an eternity, especially when it occurs at midnight and your kid has fallen asleep on the floor leaving you to finish his seventh-grade homework.
While in our lifetime we have gone from a generation that wouldn't have sex wearing a condom to a generation that wouldn't have sex without one, the little buggers haven't actually changed all that much. Condoms have been around since the cavemen, although in more recent times their original purpose of preventing pregnancy became an almost secondary factor of their use; people flocked to them because they greatly reduced the chances of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. But honestly? They haven't changed all that much. About the only new thing came in 2005 when Origami Condoms, a small U.S. company, began work on a few new types of condoms including ones for anal sex and for women -- drawing praise from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and we suspect a bunch of others.
Nothing has changed in decades with the electric plug-in iron that shoots out little spurts of steam. You probably have one in your laundry room and drag it out on a rare occasion every few years. In some ways, it’s even more of a challenge today, with that always-too-short cord getting in the way or failing to reach far enough. Even the professional dry cleaners haven’t changed their methodology all that much; the chemicals they use nowadays may be different but the process -- and the results -- are still the same. The real issue here is, of course, that our need for clothing fabrics that don't wrinkle hasn't changed. That brief flirtation we had with polyester in the 1970s? Can we collectively agree to never mention it again and just go back to the wrinkle-free drawing board?