Mind the (Generation) Gap

1950s laughingFor me, turning 40 was a breeze. 40 was a joy. 40 was a snap.  I looked hot at 40.  Now I look good… for my age.  See that sneaky little caveat there?  For my age.  Three little words that make a capital B Big difference. A wise friend once told me it wasn’t 40 when things started heading south, but 43. Damn if she wasn’t right.  Never mind the breasts and cheekbones and neck lines packing up and heading for warmer climes. Never mind the number of birthday candles or the time it takes you to scroll down to your birth year on those stupid slide bars. Aging gracefully, as a concept, is a lot easier to contemplate when you are still in your thirties.

You can go gray before you’ve kissed your twenties good-bye. You can even, to paraphrase Lady Gaga, be born that way, like a friend’s son who rocked his white streak in his little NICU incubator. Sun damage, smoking, a life lived hard enough to make your face look like a cotton shirt pulled straight from the washer can make you look far older than your years. You can dress in braided leather belts and pearls and penny loafers and matching twin sets from cradle to grave. Me? I still wear leopard print and cowboy boots to go with my new graying streak. I need to make an appointment for my next tattoo. Sunglasses more often than not hide the deepening crow’s-feet, the crinkling eyes. Holding the iPad above my head when FaceTiming my mother helps with the sagging neck line. But nothing, nothing, prepared me for the wrecking ball realization that I have become that person.  The one over there in the corner mumbling about days gone by. The one waxing nostalgic about how good we had it ‘back in my day’. The one convinced that current trends will certainly be the downfall of civilization. The one silently vibrating with indignation over the behavior of the teenagers I see–the lack of manners, the language, the eye rolls, the blasé slouch that fairly screams ennui and apathy and entitlement.

That person.

Of course, I remember thinking the same thing about my parents and their friends (and I should note my parents were younger than I am now when I was a teenager). I remember thinking the 40-something year old guys draped over bar stools chatting up 20 year-old girls in my local were pervy and sad. I can just about remember how many times my own eyes rolled heaven-ward at the idiocy of my parents; of how they just didn’t get it. Now of course I’m the mother and my husband is the father. Now I have body parts that are losing their fight with gravity. Now I know some of those 40+ guys chatting up 20 something girls and am witness to the indescribable weirdness that is watching second and third relationships play out over social media. I’m the one sitting across from a friend’s teenager and his girlfriend,watching them laughingly whisper behind an upturned hand, wracked with the niggling suspicion that they are laughing about something they are certain we are too old to ‘get.’ They’re likely right. Thankfully, pop music has proven to be even more insipid than it was when I was a teen, saving me from any hearty complaining; so far. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did have to look up ‘Dubstep”. And my husband recently told me that the house music that was at the forefront of his clubbing dee-jaying days is now fondly referred to as “Dad House.”


I am turning into that person who starts sentences with proclamations: “When I was a kid!” “When I was your age!” “You don’t know from!”. You know you’re old when you blame the state of current affairs on failing to force your kid’s friends to call you Mrs./Mr. last name. You know you’re old when you seize upon something current and imbue it with the destructive capacity of a kamikaze nuclear weapon (for me, it’s the iPad. My mother told me for her it was Mtv. I’m sure for my grandparents it was the Beatles or Elvis). You know you’re old when you lead the rally cry to bring back detention or most dangerously, when you start to fight change for no other reason than what was wrong with the way we did it?

I have very little in common with today’s teenagers.  That this bothers me says more about my difficulty in accepting my age than anything else. I’m not supposed to have anything in common with these lithe, shiny bodies–these new stars shooting their way across their own night sky. I had my turn to shine bright, and I did.  Now it is their turn. That of course doesn’t mean that I can’t get cantankerous about their behavior, as I find myself doing more and more.

As an example: Today two teens sat gossiping or texting or snap chatting or What’s Apping or whatever it is they do on the bathroom floor, blocking the door from opening inward. The door was glass. They could see me and did, but they didn’t move. So I pushed the door open onto them and ‘accidentally on purpose’ stepped on one of them.  “I’m an adult!” I wanted to scream. “When I was your age….”

Photo: examiner.com
Photo: examiner.com

When I was their age. A lifetime ago.  A lifetime ago I would have died a thousand deaths if a friend of my mother’s told her that I had been seen lacking somehow–(Me! The girl with the Robert Smith hair and the Siouxsie eyeliner.) I may have inwardly thought they were the most uncool, ridiculous people ever, but they were adults, and I knew enough to know that I was expected to respect their standing in the order of things. But I was me and that was a long time ago. Lack of respect for authority, for adults, is nothing new. Thinking your parents and your parent’s friends don’t know anything is nothing new. Blasé and apathy and ennui are nothing new. Thinking that the generation that preceded you is full of shit is nothing new. The irony is, of course, that they are thinking the very same thing about you. And so I find myself there, treading water in the channel between.

Just last night my oldest son looked at us and said: “But you don’t know how I feel, because you didn’t have iPads when you were kids!” There are so many things wrong with his statement that it is deserving of its own post. So for now, I remain, the cantankerous and contemplative oldish woman over there in the corner, basking in the irony, trying to figure it all out. Minding the generation gap.

(Doublewhirler first used the term mind the generation gap, and I’ve been itching to use it ever since.  Cheers to my fellow cantankerous adults.)

19 thoughts on “Mind the (Generation) Gap

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  1. I hear you and you are shot on with your observations. My problem is I don’t feel like I’m 50ish and it’s hard to reconcile how I feel on the inside with how I look on the outside.


    1. Kathi, I feel similarly, most of the time. Sometimes lately though I have felt, if not old, then NOT young ;-). But I didn’t want this piece to be about all the things that suck about getting old (though the first draft was heading in that direction) or really about how bad teenagers are (the second draft), but about how it’s hard riding the line in between. I hope it worked!?


    1. I can, and probably will, end up writing an entire post based on that one statement. I hate iPads. I really do. As for the 40 somethings, well…..I just won’t go there ;-).


  2. That was lovely to read.

    I must really be a mess because I don’t believe I have nothing in common with teen agers, I believe they’re doing it all wrong. Seriously, you call that rebellion? What are you, a wimp? That doesn’t even rate on the scale of rejecting authority!

    To make matters worse, I am in complete denial about being “one of those people.” I believe the world really is going to hell in a hand basket. Oddly enough, I seem to have found intergenerational harmony with that one thought. Bit scary, but last week we had four generations all agreeing, yep, the world is changing and not necessarily for the better.


    1. That is scary. The world is indeed changing, in so many ways. I’m not going to lie and say it’s all for the better, though for sure some of it is. It has to be, right?? I won’t be able to open my eyes in the morning if I don’t believe that. As for today’s teenagers…it’s a different world for them. In the past few months I’ve gone from shouting “I used to have to go to the library and look things up and read them” at my son to feeling slightly sorry for him as he has to learn to parse the information that is available to him. Sometimes I think it’s harder or these kids living in an overloaded society than it was for us. But only time will tell. One hopes….


    1. True, Elyse. And as I pluck my gray eyebrow hairs, that will be my mantra. I feel (in my bones, of course) that this is a time of acceptance and settling for me, much like my own teenage years–there’s that irony again–and once I settle into it, it will be a wonderful place to kick back and relax in. The problem is, I’m only about halfway there!


  3. I’m exactly in that place right now – my kids are 12 and 14. The main difference is I’m sure my parents were stricter than we are; I KNOW I wouldn’t have got away with half the things my kids get away with. This is partly my fault for being lax and partly because the whole culture of parenting has changed radically over the last thirty years! Can’t agree with you about Ipads, though. I love being able to plug my tablet into the TV and watch practically any film you can name and I love being able to access even the most arcane knowledge out there without having the leave the house. It’s so easy to check your facts these days and that’s a massive boon for writers.


    1. Oh, the research capabilities are insane, I give you that! I guess what I don’t like is the constantly available, portable, plugged in ness if that makes sense. As much tv as we watched as kids sometimes, you couldn’t take it with you, you know? But, again, it may just be me being a cranky, aging woman.


  4. Brilliant post, Dina – Dad’s House! Ouch!! Thanks for keeping us “hep” as my parents would say when trying to irritate me as a teen (small payback for my myriad of irritating teenage ways).
    The line I find hardest to walk at this age is not dressing my mutton as MTV’s lamb…although NYC is pretty full of aging fashion dos and don’ts. I try to take as many mental notes as possible, but I think that in the end it’s all about attitude that carries off the leopard print and cowboy boots. 😉


    1. The Dad House thing made me laugh too. Yes, the mutton dressed as lamb problem. One that I am facing as well. How to keep a bit of the funk without getting too funky, if you know what I mean. Attitude goes a long way for sure. The times, they are a changing, and there are interesting things afoot.


  5. My only consolation is that when I am in my seventies and eighties I will probably get to watch my children, now know-it-all teenagers, turn into parents of teenagers in their turn. I am practicing my photography so I can capture that moment when their jaws hit the floor, and they realise they have in turn turned into me.


    1. Yeah, that’s a real shocker, isn’t it. That moment when you see your future mapped out before you because you’ve seen your parents live it out before. Shudder.


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