Roughly 10 years ago, when smartphone sales took off, I told my editor we needed to write an article explaining that no one would ever wear a watch again. The time flashes when you access your device, I reasoned. Watches are over.
You are an idiot, he replied.
He was right. People still wear watches for a hundred different reasons, especially “smart” watches, which put many smartphone functions right on your wrist.
So imagine my skepticism when I encountered The Wall Street Journal’s confident pronunciamento that “wallets are over.” The article leans heavily, and unironically, on a 1997 “Seinfeld” episode about George Costanza’s “exploding wallet” and show writer Spike Feresten’s confident, pre-millennial prediction that yes, “Wallets are over.”
Color me confused. Were wallets over in 1997, or are wallets over now? And if wallets are over now, then why did “Schitt’s Creek” star Eugene Levy, featured in a Capital One TV ad, just ask me, “What’s in your wallet?”
Not enough, is the inevitable response.
So much in life is never really over. We thought COVID would be over, and it’s not. Is Trump over? A man can dream, can’t he? The saber-toothed tigers thought they had rid the planet of woolly mammoths, but look — a Harvard professor is bringing them back.
What will they reconstitute next? The frumious Bandersnatch?
Religion is always so over. And then it’s not. Although churches are hardly thriving in the United States, the Public Religion Research Institute’s most recent Census of American Religion noted an unexpected uptick in so-called white Mainline Protestant worshippers, a key component of the WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) demographic.
The WASPs have been over forever. The late sociologist E. Digby Baltzell coined the term WASP and started chronicling the decline of the odious St. Grottlesex-educated elite back in the 1960s. Hot on Baltzell’s heels came Peter Schrag’s 1971 book, “The Decline of the WASP,” with its assertion that “History has apparently abandoned [the WASP], tossed him aside,” transforming this once-dominant elite into a “beleaguered and self-critical minority.”
If Baltzell and Schrag knifed the WASPs, writer Jamie Johnson, a scion of the Johnson & Johnson fortune, stuck a fork in them in a series of 2008 blog posts for Vanity Fair, titled “The Decline of the WASP Establishment.”
But wait! Just last month, The Week published an article, “How the WASPs won by losing.” “They may have lost much of their privilege and cohesion,” author Samuel Goldman writes, “but their creations — including the administrative state, elite education, and charitable foundations — remain dominant influences on American life.”
So are the WASPs over, or not? Maybe they are lying low in their pet enclaves such as Little Compton, R.I., or Vinalhaven, Maine, like deposed monarchists furtively praying for a Restoration.
Around the time I incorrectly predicted the demise of the wristwatch, I reported that Fridays were over, which they were. How did I know? Because I had started spending my Fridays at the old Sack 57 movie theater, watching movies such as “Under Siege” (Steven Seagal on an aircraft carrier) and “On Deadly Ground” (Seagal allied with Native Americans), with its super-authentic-seeming “vision quest” scene.
Seagal, a newly minted Russian citizen, is now Vladimir Putin’s “goodwill ambassador” to the United States. Last month a federal judge ordered him to pay $250,000 in connection with a Serbian cryptocurrency scam. In 2018, the Los Angeles police opened a sexual assault investigation against him.
That’s all more or less the definition of being over.
Newspapers, like caffeine, alcohol, carbohydrates, fats, and any other food category you can name, have been over forever. Then you bite into a favorite chocolate bar, or read an elegant op-ed column, and you think: Hmm. Not so over, not quite yet.
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.