When I am an old woman, I’m going to wear a ridiculous string bikini when I go to the beach or a pool. My varicose veins, wrinkles, saggy bits or rolly bits offend you? Deal with it. I won’t care—all I’ll want is to feel the sun on every part of me.
When I am an old woman, I’ll dye my hair pink—or maybe old lady brown if that’s what I want—or maybe I’ll let be sparse and grey. Or maybe I’ll have a collection of wigs. Oh, yeah. Wigs. I could totally rock a wig collection. Beehives. Betty Boos. A Marilyn Monroe, and an entire shelf of Lady Gagas…
I’ll probably trade my collection of fuck-me heels for all sorts of sensible shoes—but I’ll paint my toes all the colours of the rainbow. And wear toe rings. Ha!
I’ll wear ridiculous costume jewelry. And a fannypack. Or maybe, I’ll finally develop a taste and passion for tiny purses. And purse dogs? Or I’ll have 12 cats. Anything could happen.
Frankly, I’m not a hundred per cent sure what kind of old woman I’m going to be—I’m unpredictable, or so I’d like to think—but there is one thing about my old age I can promise you right now—the promise I want to make, right now, today, to my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. And to yours, too. And it’s this:
When I am an old woman, I’m going to love young people.
Or, to put it another way: When I am an old woman, I’m not going to sit around talking about how young people today suck.
Children, grandchildren: I promise. I’m going to love you, and I am not going to slag, abuse and dismiss your generation, because it is different—younger—than my own.
Old people have always abused young people. You know? The so-called “traditionalists” hated the baby boomers. The baby boomers can’t stand millennialists; don’t understands Gen-X. “Young people today are no good!” “They know nothing!” “Ungrateful!” “Entitled!” “Spoiled rotten!”
Nothing new, of course. There’s graffiti from Ancient Rome to that effect, and I bet 40-year-old Cro-Magnons sat around their fires at night abusing the young ‘uns. “Those spears they insist on using! What the hell’s wrong with bludgeoning an animal to death with a stone the way we used to do it?” “I know! And have you seen how they’re stitching the skins together instead of just loping them over their shoulders? What’s up with that?”
D’you know how you know you’re getting old? It’s not a chronological thing. It’s when you start to hate young people. It’s when you start to say things like “children these days are so badly brought up,” and “what the heck are those mothers thinking?” and “don’t get me started on teenagers today” and “in my day, we used to know how to work.”
Yeah. D’you know why you’re saying that? Entire books have been and will be written about that, but let me boil it down to this: you’re peaking and passing your prime, and you see them coming up behind you, and into their power and it scares the shit out of you.
It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic—because, no matter how much you slam young people, no matter how much you belittle them and their values, the end game is this: you’re getting older and older. You’re gonna die. They’re going to take over.
And you’re going to spend your evening days bitching about how they’re mucking it all up.
Cause you—you’ve done such a stellar job of it in your time, eh?
Anyway. That’s not going to be me. Me, when I’m an old woman, I’m going to love young people. I’m going to think they’re amazing. Because, see, I already do. When I look at my children, and their friends: fuck. Blown away. These little souls think in amazing ways. Love in ways most of my generation is not capable of. When I look at my older friends’ children—their teenagers, their twenty-somethings who are coming into their own as adults right now: they rock. They’re moving into new frontiers, charting new life paths, taking career and professional risks their parents couldn’t have imagined. They’re amazing.
Not unilaterally amazing, of course. I’m not one of these fuzzy-wuzzy people who love all humanity, definitely not a natural-born humanitarian. I know my children’s generation is full of wankers, losers and assholes. But so is mine. And so, dear Great-Aunt Augusta, is yours. Frankly, you’re not such an awesome prize yourself, dear. You’re judgemental, narrow-minded, terrifyingly selfish and, how to I put it not-so-gently? Racist.
I’ll take the wankers, losers and assholes of my generation—and of my children’s generation—over the median of what defined “normal” and was acceptable in yours anytime.
And when I’m an old woman—I’m going to love young people. I might not understand their values or passions or technologies. I might not like their clothes and music. But I’m not going to dismiss everything they love, do and make as worthless or somehow lacking because it’s different from what I loved, did and made.
I’m going to love them.
Late last week, several of my beautiful blogging sisters participated in a parenting around the world carnival where they took on helicopter parenting. Their pieces were absolutely thought-provoking, each in a different way. If you didn’t read them last week, I encourage you to pop over and have a think with them today:
Deb @ Urban Moo Cow: I would rather he break his arm
Jessica @ School of Smock: Your Hovering Doesn’t Help: A Quiz and a Simple Step
Sarah @ Left Brain Buddha: CTFD: The Tao of Parenting
Stephanie @ Mommy, For Real: Advocating for Your Children vs. Being a Helicopter Parent
Carisa @ Carisa Miller: Do You Read Me: Giving My Children More Space
For bloggers I love only (you know who you are): Triberr. Check it out. It’s a total time-saver. I’m at Ain’t Nothing But a Blog Thing with some of my favourite bloggers, and if you’re a homeschooling blogger, I want to get a Tribe going under Undogmatic Unschoolers.
For real people (ha! you know what I mean): I’ve got this project on the go that would benefit from the Very Important People involved having the perception that I have a social media presence that matches my stats, so if you don’t already follow @nothingbtbook on Twitter Follow @nothingbtbook or like
Nothing by the Book on Facebook… do it. You’ll be able to say you knew me before I got stinking famous, and I won’t contradict you.
I am sure going to try to love them as best as I can!!
I know you will. 🙂
Fantastic! Derision of the young is one of my pet peeves, and having worked with a lot of “kids these days,” and befriended many along the way, I find myself defending them tooth and nail every chance I get. Example: just two nights ago, sitting around a campfire chit chatting with family, a person younger than me started complaining about how weak kids these days are, and how if “all the lights went out” they wouldn’t survive a minute. I noted that, in my estimation, the first and largest die off would be old people who can’t live without fancy medicines and climate control and automobiles. Kids these days would fare pretty well, I reckon. (Sometimes I enjoy ending conversations before they even start.)
Anyway, this isn’t about me: your article is awesome and made me smile a lot.
Awesome, thanks, Brian. You know what the bonus of loving young people when you’re old is? We’re probably NOT gonna die alone and neglected cause our children and grandchildren and the kids of our neighbours will actually like hanging out with us every once in a while…
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You’re sofuckingcool. I’m going to love them. Not all of them, but most of them. Also? Spot on about old auntie being selfish and racist. That.
You’ve got an Aunt Augusta too, eh? Sigh. Don’t everyone…
I’m definitely guilty of millennial-hating, I must admit. I will have to take your words in stride. 🙂
I must say, however, that the elderly in our society are not revered for their wisdom nearly as much as they should be (I’m also a little guilty of this, but less so), which could contribute to why they hate us so much. Just sayin’.
My grandma is almost 95 and she still coordinates all her outfits and dyes her hair. I can’t imagine being like that when I”m older, since I barely do it now, but I hope I am some kind of equivalent. I’ve always said I’m going to be that little grandma in sneakers fast-walking around the track 12 times. That’s more me than painted toe nails. 🙂
(oh, and thanks for the plug.)
It’s a too-way street, relationships, always. If you treat young people like shit, you don’t inspire them to treat you well. And vice-versa…
We live in a building with tons of old people, and they are all nice to Claire. Really, so much nicer than the younger folk. I love it and so does she. Some of them do have fancy-colored toenails too. Also awesome.
I adored your commentary of Ancient Roman shit-talkers. And like Deb, I have done my fair share of millennial-hating, too. You make great points. I will refrain from allowing Miley Cyrus to warp my perspective of the “next generation.” Kidding. Or am I?…
Repeat after me: every generation has its wankers, losers and assholes. Yours. Your kids’. Your grandparents.
And have you ever noticed how old people feel entitled? I mean, I’m a really respectful person (despite how I come across on my blog – ha!), but I cannot stand it when old people look at me, struggling with my stroller full of groceries and my toddler who refuses to sit in said stroller and will not hold my hand and walk in a straight line, and wait for me to open the door for them or get out of their way. It drives me BONKERS!
And I’m totally with you. When I’m old, I’m going to be that fun granny who swears and talks about sex and dances to everything. 😉
You’re going to buy your granddaughters Big Ben shaped toys, aren’t you. I can see it already…
My 9yo daughter & I did a workshop recently. There was a separate parent session where we were invited to share our “concerns” about our kids. I had to walk out after ten minutes, I couldn’t take another “he only wants to play Nintendo” or “what if all the computers crash and they have NO SURVIVAL SKILLS?”
I rejoined the group once they were done whining. We were asked to reflect on the two massive whiteboards scrawled with everyone’s “concerns”, which was my cue to point out how these supposedly enlightened parents were behaving EXACTLY like every other generation that went before, thinking it’s a BAD THING that the world our kids are creating is different from ours. That’s HOW IT’S MEANT TO BE, for the love of God! Always has been, always will be.
Ooh it feels good to be able to come over here and rant! Thanks! 😉
Welcome. Anytime. Always. D’you know what happens to civilizations that don’t change? They COLLAPSE. Ask Jared Diamond…
Fantastic post! I can’t stand it when older people trash the younger ones. Can you imagine if it were the reverse? The young ones would be considered discriminating and horribly disrespectful. There needs to be equal respect for both seasons.
All relationships are two-way, right? And it’s darn hard to love and respect someone who disses you at every turn. Aunt Augusta, this is why we don’t visit you more. I’m sorry.
I agree with all of the above, totally rockinfantastic. You are un-old-able, Jane. I love you.
You know what? You’re awesome. I always say I’m never going to cut my hair. I’m gonna be the old lady with the long icky hair, but then I think icky yellowy gray hair will take color nicely, so I think I’ll just pick a different color everyday.
On the serious side, your right, and it’s hard, but your words are important.
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