Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Are We Becoming Grumpy Olds?

Angry faces, mad at the world, scowling, judging, always ready to lecture the younger generation on how they get it wrong. Does any young person aspire to be a grumpy old man/woman later in life? I doubt it, while young, most of us envisioned empty-nest years filled with fun. A chance to fulfill dreams, and enjoy life, free from the constraints of stressful work. We never planned to sit at home, becoming increasingly angry, as we stare at cable news, saddened and shocked by the changing world around us.

So why do some of us turn into grumpy olds as the years pass and we witness a changing society? Is it simply a by-product of aging that each generation is sure they will avoid, only to find out that it's inevitable? Perhaps a symptom of the aging mind that is beyond our control? Are we all doomed to be that older person yelling at town hall meetings about an America we no longer recognize? Sobering sad thought, that.

A few days ago I was following a Facebook conversation, started by Sharon Hodor Greenthal, who blogs at Empty House Full Mind, concerning Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover. I find Ms. Jenner, and her later-in-life transition, fascinating.  In my opinion the idea that it's never too late to be who we always knew we were, should be encouraging to those in my age group.  It should inspire us to embrace life with all of it's challenges and possibilities, but reading the comments in response to  Sharon's post revealed that was not the case.

First, let me say this conversation was not about the fact that Ms. Jenner had chosen to transition, per se.  It was about her choice to go with a Marilyn Monroe-esque look on the cover, to be, well..., sexy.  It seems the vampiness, for lack of a better word, of her hair, make-up and choice of attire, were a problem for a few of my fellow middle-aged women. 

As I read the comments and added my own, I was surprised by the "thou shalt not" tone of some.  They felt it was not ideal for Jenner to choose to reveal herself, for the first time, in such an overtly sexy way.  Her lipstick, was too dark, the outfit too revealing, the make-up, over the top.  It sent the wrong message, they felt. If Ms. Jenner was going to become a woman, it seemed she must do so in a way that women in her generation felt was acceptable. The fact that today's woman is not confined by the Madonna/whore labels that women of the past had to contend with was not entertained. While the majority of women under thirty-five understand that today's woman is free to wear whatever she wants without fear that it will take away from her accomplishments and intelligence, many middle-aged women don't. Instead, they feel that Jenner has cheapened herself with such a strong display of sexuality. They do not understand that by today's standard, the only thing concerning Jenner's cover that matters, is if Jenner herself is comfortable with it. It's her choice, her decision, she alone holds the power and that's progress for all women, so why does it anger some in middle-age?

After leaving a comment or two on this blogger's post I left the conversation wondering why and how so many in my generation were becoming the new grumpy olds? Why we felt the need to make the entire world live by whatever standard was in place in the 60's, 70's, and early 80's when we were coming of age?  And why when they choose not to, we respond in a way that comes across as anger.

In yet another example, Jerry Seinfeld announced this week that he has decided not to perform on college campuses because, in his opinion, they had become to "pc" for his performances. Things had changed, it seems, from the time of Jerry's heyday. Jokes and comments that were once accepted and thought funny were now considered offensive and in poor taste.  Instead of graciously accepting the changing moors, and either riding off into the sunset to enjoy his millions, or understanding that in the past some groups he targeted may have felt marginalized, Seinfeld chose to complain publicly about what he feels is wrong with today's generation.

Watching the reactions of my peers I could not help but wonder what makes us become so resistant to change as we age.  This generation of young adults was raised by us, and we raised them with the idea that they could change things, make a difference.  That women could have more choices, and that minorities could have more room at the table.  The world could be a better place with them at the helm, we convinced them to believe. Well the time has come, we are beginning to hand the reigns over, and what do we do? We whine, we pout, we complain.  We tell those that we raised to make a difference, that we don't like the difference they are making, everything should stay the same, or change only in ways with which we are comfortable. 

The grumpy old man/woman phase of life is nothing more than a re-visitation of the terrible two's.  It's a power struggle.  Just like the two-year old tantrum is about wrestling control from parents, so too the grumpy old tantrum is about retaining the control we have had for so long, now that the time has come to hand it to our children.  It's tough, it's hard, but we raised them for such a time as this.  Why don't we sit back and watch what they do.  Who knows, maybe we were right when we told them they could make this world better.  Let's not get in their way as they attempt to try. The last thing we want to become is a grumpy old.  We have so many better things to do and be.