by Jim Harris

It may be hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s even harder to get an old dog to unlearn old tricks. People over a certain age are just chock full of skills and behaviors that are hopelessly inefficient and obsolete. Plus, these folks have no room in their brains for new tricks until they get rid of the outdated material.

We are being told that, in order to survive and continue to contribute in modern times, we must completely retool ourselves and adopt new paradigms and gestalts. Nowhere is this need more apparent than where we oldsters are in the company of people in their teens or 20s. It’s almost as if we were wearing pantaloons and speaking Old English, which, of course, we are. The insurance industry even has a term for it, “Catastrophic longevity,” which they use to describe folks who have lived so long that they’re getting in the way.

So what can we do about it? Unlearn, my friends! Unlearning is the key to success. It’s all the rage these days in corporate America, and it’s alternately described as “the act of dismantling aspects of unconscious memories, thoughts and approaches that are no longer relevant” and “the process of identifying dysfunctional beliefs and interpretations and neutralizing their influence.” “If you practice unlearning,” say the experts, “you will experience transformation.”

But how, you may ask, can I do all this without spending a fortune or traveling to the Himalayas to study with holy men? Simple; just enroll in my new adult de-education school, “The Unlearning Tree.” At our school, we use a scientifically designed combination of modern and ancient mind-control techniques including aversion therapy, immersion therapy, diversion therapy, shock therapy, wonder drugs, lasers, hypnosis, Voodoo, robots, yelling, bribery and acupuncture to purge your psyche of anything older than today’s news. You will also be required to watch a series of instructional videos being run backwards.

“But I’m not old fashioned!” you say. “I’m groovy and with-it. I dig all the stuff that the kids are into today.” Well, if you actually said those words, then you’re even older than I am, but the best way to find out if you need The Unlearning Tree is to answer these few simple questions:

• Do you constantly hold up the supermarket self-checkout line by disregarding proper procedure and causing the machine to crash repeatedly?

• Do you embarrass your friends, family and colleagues by playing the ukulele, whistling loudly, speaking Klingon, folk dancing or giving homemade candles as gifts?

• Did you take an assertiveness course back in the ’80s because no one paid any attention to you, and now everyone hates you?

• Do you think the Spice Girls are the latest teen sensation?

• Do you still send cards for holidays, birthdays or special occasions? How about thank you notes?

• Do you refrain from making phone calls in restaurants?

• Do you shop for clothes at thrift stores?

• Are you unable to decipher any of the text messages sent to you by young folk because you know none of the four million ambiguous abbreviations commonly in use? Worse yet, do you still think a “text” is a book or other printed work?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are the relic of a bygone civilization. But fret not, good people. Our Unlearning Tree courses will have you wearing name brand running shoes and baggy cargo pants in no time. We’ll also have you reading and writing text messages like “A/S/L? <3 C&G ::POOF::” with ease. You’ll be so up-to-date that young people will be saying, “Dag! This dude’s shizzle!”

If the classroom scene is not for you, however, you can still unlearn at home by renting our patented Brain Demagnetizer, which allows you to “clean house” by completely erasing your memory banks. Of course, before you use the device, you must write down everything you know on a note pad and keep it in a safe place, because there will probably be some data you’ll wish to reinstall.

The Demagnetizer is easy to use. Just clamp it onto your head and wear it around the house for a month. It does use much power, so you’ll need lots of D-batteries on hand. Please note, it’s not advisable to go out in public with it on because you’ll look like you have a bomb on your head.

It may be a brave new world out there, but if you’re brave enough to forget everything you ever knew and start all over again, you just might squeeze a few more productive years out of your tired old frame. Good luck, and happy unlearning!