July 2, 2012

Marks of Old Age

My mom has started fumbling with her wallet at the register, counting out exact change and trying to unload half a dollar's worth of pennies and so forth. We both joke that this is such an "old lady" thing to do. (I laugh more.) It's not so much the USING of the coins as the FUMBLING with them: "Oh, wait, I think I have another penny somewhere in here...*rummage rummage rummage drop other coins*...Oh dear!...Now how much did you say that was, young man?"

Considering how smoothly and effortlessly I find myself saying and doing "mom things" (those things seem so sensible now, why would I WANT to avoid them?), I don't see much hope for avoiding an equally smooth and effortless adoption of "old lady things" next. Surely generation after generation has rolled their eyes at "mommish" and "old ladyish" things to say/do, and yet each generation in turn has gone on to do those things. (I'm using the feminine to represent both the female and the male, but of course I mean men JUST AS MUCH. No one will mind that, I hope! Why, when I was a child, we all learned that one gender-specific pronoun can easily be used to clearly represent both sexes, and WE turned out okay!)


At this point, I think most of the people my age are still firmly "mommish" types, but the first signs of the next stage are already appearing: little things that still belong to the mom zone, but that are also the first sprouts of the grandma stage to come. (The other day, I referred to a group of people as "young people." It begins.) (Next up, I believe, is "young people today.")

Protocol requires us to joke "And get off my lawn!" after each pre-old-ladyish thing we catch ourselves saying or doing---which doesn't help, since it only causes the generations below us to roll their eyes and file that expression under "old lady jokes." And the important thing here is that we may be following each old-ladyish behavior with a self-mocking that shows we know we're doing it---but we're also CONTINUING TO DO IT ANYWAY. I say to the kids: "I remember when a candy bar was a QUARTER! Now they're 79 cents!" and Paul adds "And also, get off my lawn!" And then later he says, "We didn't even HAVE air-conditioning when I was a child!" and I say "You didn't need it, since you were still chilled to the bone from having to trudge miles through snowdrifts to get to school!" And then we both tell the children how we didn't have email until we were in college, and didn't have color television until late elementary school, and how car phones were a thing, and how computer games were text-only---and the children fail to fully appreciate how comparatively fortunate they are.

Have you noticed that each generation thinks they'll manage to avoid seeming "old," as long as they avoid the exact thing their own parents/grandparents did? A woman my age will say she doesn't want Mom Hair or Mom Jeans---but what she's thinking of are the current GRANDMOTHER hair/jeans: she's filed her OWN mom's style under "mom," but a generational shift has occurred since then. Angled stacked bobs and cute-messy twisted-up hair with side-swept bangs ARE the Mom Hair! Cute dark-wash boot-cut jeans ARE the Mom Jeans! BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THE CURRENT MOMS ARE DOING. Our daughters will speak of such styles with distaste, and will specifically avoid them. "Don't give me Mom Hair," they'll tell the stylist, meaning OUR CUTE HAIR.

I wanted to make a list of the things that right NOW seem "old ladyish" to me, but which may soon seem like a baffling list of perfectly sensible things no one would want to try to avoid. But the trouble is, NOTHING correlates perfectly with age. Many a 30-year-old is passionate about getting the lawn perfect, and many a 25-year-old is exasperated about portion sizes, and many a 40-year-old catches herself trying to get rid of some of these COINS *fumble fumble in huge purse*. And of course many a 70-year-old is in favor of funding education, and many a 60-year-old thinks the way teenagers dress is no sillier than the way teenagers have always dressed, and many an 80-year-old is fully aware of how inflation works. And many things DO change with each generation, as issues shift and as each generation tries to avoid seeming like their own parents/grandparents.

But there are a few things that symbolize Being Elderly to me, and I would like to at least try to avoid (or downplay, or maybe HIDE) these things myself:

1. Fumbling with payment at the register, especially counting out coins. Coins go into an overflowing jar on the bureau, and I don't want to hear any more about it.

2. Complaining about portion sizes.

3. Complaining about how prices have gone up, in a manner that implies I don't understand how inflation/money works. (Aware-of-it comparison stories are still fine: I liked hearing my dad talk about 15-cent ice cream cones and my grandpa tell about buying a house for $7,000.)

4. Voting against school/education taxes. (It's not like I have to vote yes on all of them, but I want to avoid the "_I_ don't have kids in school, why should _I_ pay school taxes??" attitude I have learned to associate with the elderly in my particular district.)

5. Asking people to guess my age, and then gloating when the guesser tactfully subtracts ten years.

6. Complaining that current popular music isn't even music, or that songs/books/movies USED to be good/quality/art, but NOW are NOT. (This area may require vigilance. I have already caught myself claiming that all the current songs are about nothing but SEX and CLUBBING.) (Well!?! Have you LISTENED to the radio recently??) (Now, now, Swistle, settle back into that rocking chair. Shall I hum you a few bars of the simpler/better songs from your own youth? Perhaps "Pour Some Sugar on Me"? How about "I Love Rock and Roll"? Or "Push It" or "I Want Your Sex"? Or I could go on: remember Samantha Fox? 2 Live Crew? Prince? Madonna? Yes. That's what I thought. Simmer down there, grandma.)

7. Explaining to frazzled, exhausted, verge-of-emotional-breakdown women with small children that this is the best time of their lives. (I will find another way to more accurately convey what I mean. Maybe something like, "Oh, what adorable children!," combined with a general policy of not making things harder for the mothers by acting affronted when children exist in public.)

8. Suggesting that things are getting worse and worse with every generation---starting with the one immediately following mine.

9. Complaining about how "weird" baby names are now; why don't people use NORMAL names like the names WE used for OUR babies?


Do you have things you're avoiding, either for the mom stage or for the grandma stage? Have you already found any of those ideas....slipping here and there? (Hey! Sometimes "Because I said so" IS a good reason.)

51 comments:

Nowheymama said...

What about complaining about products that aren't made anymore? Sometimes it's because those were quality items!

Natalie Burke said...

Haha I love this, Swistle. It is right on the money.

el-e-e said...

I slipped. While packing for my vacation last week I found myself doing a DECIDEDLY grandma thing -- putting all my toiletries in Ziploc bags. I ended up with FOUR different gallon-size Ziplocs (shampoos, first-aid, sunscreen, and medicines) in my 'carry-on' bag. Totally hating that I did that.

Only thing worse will be when I start putting my CASH in plastic, like my Grandmother used to do.

Is it coincidence my captcha below is "grveside"???!

Swistle said...

Nowheymama- Ha ha, good one! YES, I definitely have fallen (RISEN??) on this one from "GEEZ, maybe it's because those were OLD and UNHIP products!" to "Why do they have to discontinue everything GOOD, and replace it with stuff that's NO good??"

Rayne of Terror said...

Things I try not to say even though I think it, "Why is denim so thin now? Back when I was a kid, jeans lasted forever."

I try to slip in a little Ace of Base with the SEX at the CLUB music my eldest prefers. Who KNOWS what "I saw the sign" is about? I hated it when I was young and cool, but it's better than DRUNK SEX at the CLUB music.

Suburban Correspondent said...

It's no use, Swistle. Just embrace it. We all seem antiquated to our kids, no matter what.

Cayt said...

I mess with coins at the register, but I'm in the UK, I think we use coins a lot more than you guys.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Swistle, check out the comment settings on Blogger - if you choose the embedded comments, they are much more convenient for us readers. Because, OMG, right now I have to wait for a WHOLE NEW PAGE to open before I can comment on your blog.

Also, the embedded comments have individual reply capabilities...

d e v a n said...

"Don't give me Mom Hair," they'll tell the stylist, meaning OUR CUTE HAIR. --- Oh, surely not! I hadn't even thought of it this way! My cute hair is now the dreaded "mom hair!" Egads!

AnneMeg said...

I do the coin thing too. Especially if I am running several errands in one day. I have the coins...why not USE them. I certainly don't want MORE coins in change. I suspect though the very the fact hat I am paying in cash my be considered old lady very soon. Even my husband just uses his ATM most of the time but I can't help it. If I don't have cash I feel unprepared!

Dr. Maureen said...

How about when you have a suggestion to add to the list of mom/elderly things, but by the time you get to the comment field you've forgotten what it was?

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

What about complaining that things just aren't made the way they used to be? "Back in my day, refrigerators were made to last 20 years!" (I suspect it's TRUE, and it frustrates me NOW, but whenever I say/think it I feel like my Grandmother's ghost is speaking through me.)

I always wonder about the music thing. Mainly because my husband is a music fanatic and is always looking for the latest thing and scouring the indie music blogs for new and interesting songs/bands. I wonder if he'll continue to do that for the rest of our lives and will always be in on "what's hip" or if he'll eventually grow crotchety about music, too? (I am already crotchety about music.)

edbteach said...

Oh my! I loved this whole post but #6 about music is my FAVORITE!! It gave me a much needed laugh today!

Saly said...

I don’t have proof of myself turning into an old lady (YET), but my husband recently went outside in shorts, socks and slippers in order to spritz the weeds popping up through the cracks in our driveway with some weed killer. He looked exactly like my 75yo across the street neighbor.

I do have proof of turning into my own mother by recently yelling to my kids who were jumping on the furniture “This is a house! Not a gymnasium!” to which they were all like “What is a gymnasium?”

Karen L said...

Not going out in the rain, even to the mall. I was astonished one time to hear one of my older colleagues say that she was waiting for a nice day to go to the new mall.

sweaters in warm weather

keeping original packaging

complaining that there is not enough light

scoff at things like registers that display the correct collection of coins to the cashier because clearly the young people cannot even make change! (O it's so, so, so hard for me not to roll my eyes.)

Mom thing: carry a purse. I know I'm in the minority on this one. Anyway, I almost never wear an outfit without pockets. When I was in high school, purses were for moms. That mentality has stuck with me despite the whole Coach/Louis Vuitton business.

I do use coins, but I have them in hand if I've waited in line. I even sort them in my hand if I have the time. People behind me, you're welcome.

Swistle said...

Suburban Correspondent- I've tried them before, but even though all the various comment methods are buggy, that's the one that got the most complaints of people not being able to use it.

-R- said...

My husband took a class last week on a college campus, and he came home talking about what kids are wearing these days. And then I was horrified at the tiny bikinis middle school girls were wearing at the pool this weekend.

We're old.

Barb said...

I always feel like an old lady (I am 29) when I try (and fail) to compare myself to my kids' teenaged babysitters. I mean, it was not that long ago that I was in high school- I remember what it was like! I'm just trying to build rapport, here! They look at me like I am insane.

Lauren said...

I was out with a bunch of mom friends at a bar feeling young and cool when some (much) younger guys starting trying to dance with us. My friend was all giddy and flattered until I pointed out that the guys were trying to pick us up because they thought we were older and desperate. "We're cougars," I told her and we looked at each other with such horror that we laughed about it for the rest of the night.

It's a tough mental switch to go from identifying with the romantic comedy heroine to identifying with the older female secondary characters. Not sure I'm ready!

Jenny said...

It might just be my mom, and it goes along with the portion sizes thing, but OH EM GEE it drives me CRAZY when she announces to everyone how little she is eating.

No one cares, Mom.

I am going to eat 3-4 pieces of this pizza because it is delicious and I am hungry.

Stuff your comments on how big the slice are or how much you've already eaten today and how you couldn't possibly eat more than one piece before my head explodes.

Ahhh. Thanks, Swistle, for that much needed venting.

Saly said...

OH! I just remembered. The couple who bought the house next door--they are maybe 25? I always refer to them as "those kids next door". So, there's that I guess.

Melospiza said...

Ha ha, I loved this. And for some reason - well, probably the education funding stuff - I was reminded of the very, very elderly man who always comes to the school accountability meetings that are, yes, technically open to the public but never actually attended by anyone but the female parents of students at the school. I've been impressed by this guy for four years - what dedication to education! What curiosity about the Way Things Are Now! How admirable, to push himself outside his comfort zone in order to remain involved in the community! Then at the most recent meeting I figured out that he has grandchildren at the school, so it's not quite so selfless as it seemed. Still, when I'm fading into elderly, that's the kind of thing I hope I will do: push myself out of my comfort zone. There are a lot of old lady things that I am sure I will do, and some things I am looking forward to doing (aquatic exercise class! ladies' luncheons! all those things that I don't have time for and also seem too young for) - but I hope I can be proactive about some things.

And anyway, my hair is hopeless. I have grandmother (MY grandmother's grandmother) hair as it is. By the time I'm 70 me and my hair will seem absolutely antique.

Maggie said...

I do many old lady things, but el-e-e, I was so glad just last week that one of them was putting stuff in ziplock bags for travel. A sunscreen exploded on our flight back from Hawaii. Had it not been in a ziplock it would have been all over everything. Old lady behavior saved me!

Old lady behavior that is probably not saving me includes referring to our (25 YO) interns as "the kids," blowing my son's mind by telling him that when I was a kid we had to watch TV shows when they aired because there was no way to record them and watch them later, complaining about how expensive jeans are these days, etc. No indication I'm going to stop doing those things in the near future either, sigh.

Anonymous said...

"I got a lion in my pocket, and baby he's ready to roar..."

-Prince
(Before he was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or that squiggly sign, or just "the Artist" or whatever-the-hell he's called now!)

I think the same percentage of songs are still about sex. There was just more general innuendo back then. Sure, there was George MIchael's "I was your sex" (or what that WHAM?), there was Bell Biv DeVoe's "Do me" among many others, but now we get Rihanna songs about S&M and how she likes it likes it. I guess, it just seems more nasty now. I surely don't recall my parents censoring the radio, so I don't really censor it for my kids. When I heard a sexy song as a 12 yr old, it didn't make me want to go have sex!

I do worry about the future generations' childhoods. My kids are experiencing a much different childhood than I did (my parents and in-laws of course also experienced a different childhood than the generation before and after them). This over-scheduling thing has got to bend/break soon. We might be a lesser-scheduled family than others, but it still feels like a rat race :-(

The hair and jeans? Had. Not. Though. of. that.

Uh Oh!

Slauditory said...

I say that thing about music and I'm not even thirty yet! I also make references to things like Rush Limbaugh and my (college) students have no idea who he is. Also, I am appalled at how many young women wear skirts up to their buttcheeks I am somehow already an OLD.

Erin said...

I swore up and down that I'd never get a "mom cut" (by which I meant the too-short-for-a-ponytail bob that so many new moms seem to go for), but guess what I did in a fit of hormone-fueled desperation at the beginning of the summer (thank God I left it long enough for a ponytail, and she didn't charge me when I went back two days later and said "You were right, I hate it, can you do anything?").

I also swore I'd never become a "cherish these moments" lady but I totally did it to my friend recently. What I MEANT was "one day soon he'll be able to sleep without being ON you and you'll actually find yourself missing the snuggles, I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY BUT IT'S TRUE" but it came out as "Just suck it up and power through the exhaustion and CHERISH THESE MOMENTS!" (I still want to vomit when I think back over how I must have sounded. In my defense, I was once again very hormonal and very much wishing I was pregnant-hormonal instead of the type of hormonal I was, so I was seriously not in my right mind.)

Maureen said...

Great post! Reminded me of last summer, when I was commenting to my husband how these young girls "need to cover up!" after seeing a bunch in the super short shorts. Cut to the next day, going through some old pictures of myself and my sisters back in the 70's. Ummm...pot calling kettle-our shorts were miniscule! We certainly didn't think anything of it, that is what everyone wore and what was available in the stores.

I am beginning to think paying cash for anything seems to be an "old person" thing to do. I use cash a lot, if I don't I lose track of how much money I'm spending. Anyway, more and more cashiers look absolutely taken aback when I hand them actual money. Most don't even know I am offering it, until I wave it around in front of them, they just assume I am slow on the machine with my card.

Joanne said...

I am a pretty old mom of little kids and my four year old is CONSTANTLY telling people when we're out. SHe'll yell at me at the drugstore, "I"m four, right?" and I say, right, cringing because I know what's coming. "You're FORTY FOUR, right Mom?" she yells next. So then I try and NOT do any old lady things at the register, ha! I wait tables on the weekends in a restaurant that we jokingly call Shady Acres, because our early rush is one of old people coming in. So my additions to your list are things I see them do all the time, which is: 1) split the tiniest morsel of food, like two women will split a grilled cheese sandwich, or a side salad, and then they don't eat even half of it together! and 2) complain about the cold as if we are trying to hurt them by using air conditioning when the weather is 100 degrees.

Nicole said...

I really identify with this post. In fact, my heart rate is racing a little bit. MY HAIR IS IN A CUTE-MESSY BUN WITH SIDE SWEPT BANGS RIGHT NOW.

Anonymous said...

Let me start by saying I am 31 and have been old for years.

1. The first time I had surgery, I was 27 and I was astonished at how young my doctor looked. I asked him if he was older than me, just to be sure the was old enough to do surgery on a person!

2. For YEEARS now I have not been able to tell how old "kids" are. If the kids is older than 10 but younger than say 21 I don't have a clue. Everyone looks 12 to me.

3. I've started wearing layers AND a coat with a hood and a scarf during the winter. I can no longer tolerate the "bitter" cold that I used to never wear a coat in.

4. Kids these days, especially the girls, wear way too little for me. Prom dresses are something that I'd expect to see in an adult club not at the local school. . .where there are children.

5.I still try to use the phone book, as all the old ladies do. I know I can find what I need on the internet but phonebooks are so much easier.

See, 31 is the new 85!

DB

Jessica said...

I remember when you (or was it Temerity Jane? Both, maybe?) first posted about “mom jeans” actually being the jeans the generation above you favors, not a set style we can just avoid forever. It’s hard to think of other times in my life I’ve been so shocked. I honestly figured at some point the mystery of why old ladies (of my grandmothers’ generation) favor brightly colored leisure pantsuits would be revealed to me and I’d either start wearing said pantsuits around the retirement community or decide to “stay hip.” I didn’t think MY JEANS would become the definition of what old people wear. And now you’re going after my HAIRCUT.

(If the younger generation starts favoring short, permed hair and/or going to the beauty salon to have their hair set I’m totally going ‘kids these days!’ on them. )

Gigi said...

This post, and all the comments, have me rolling!

And I admit it. I MUST be an old lady since my son pointed out that the price of gas is coming down and I told him that I could remember when it was 99 cents a gallon.

Melanie D. said...

This post, for me, is PERFECTION. Nicely done. But I've gone the other way with it. You see, I tell my friends frequently that I am going to ROCK old age. I've been old my whole life, but my age will finally reflect myself. I am going to look great in a nice pair of neutral elastic waist slacks and a snazzy seasonal button-up shirt. Going to cut my hair short and have it set once a week. I'm going to be that nice old lady who can still drink her kids under the table. Stuff like that.

I do find myself saying things to my kids that make me feel OLD already. Gas was 99 cents when I was in college. I had no email till college. Internet did not exist when I was in grade school. I loved Oregon Trail on floppy disk during library class in sixth grade. We are oldish, I guess. Which pleases me. :-)

Melanie D. said...

True story: I was just laughing at all of the comments here (loudly) and my 8-year old said, "What's so funny?" to which I replied, "Oh this lady wrote a really funny article." My daughter's reply? "Grown up funny?!" As in, not funny to me. As in, whatever mom. From an eight-year old. We have no hope.

alice said...

#6 was awesome. I remember really appreciating that my dad took a rational approach to music - some songs weren't appropriate for the middle school carpool, since the other kids' parents didn't like them, but nothing was straight-up prohibited. And since the '80s had songs like 'Boom Boom Boom (Let's go back to my room), I really can't complain about current songs being trashy.

And I've been old since my late teens, when a friend and I started calling each other 'Bernice' 'Hortense' and any other old-timey name we could think of, because we were already snarky old biddies.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Swistle, at the beginning, the embedded comments had problems; but I haven't had any problems with them in over a year now. And the "reply" thing is really awesome.

Alexicographer said...

What is this "cash" of which other commenters speak?

Remember back when you actually had to have a plane ticket in order to fly somewhere? Travelers' checks? Anyone?

@Life of a Doctor's Wife, my family moved into the house where I grew up when I was 6 months old. My mom still lives there, and she still uses the fridge, the door of which I clutched as I was learning to stand (and then apparently would make some important point in my babbling, swing my arm to emphasize same, and topple over as the door swung open). So ... yes, my mom's fridge is 43 and still going strong. And dark brown. Just sayin'.

Shea said...

You're SO right on the money! I'm pretty sure we're in the same neighborhood, age-wise. I recently went back to school and consistently refer (when out of earshot) to my more traditional school mates as the "12-year-olds". I have to curb the eye rolls pretty often, but mostly I have to refrain from asking for their mothers' numbers so I can send a picture of what they're wearing to class ;-)

The next stage that scares me is bifocals. They're coming. Soon.

UKSally said...

I would really appreciate embedded comments - it's the main reason I don't comment very often/at all.

I hope you decide to give them another chance Swistle :) Love this post BTW.

I realised that my glasses were "mum glasses" recently and remembered how when I first started getting this style (slim and squarish) it was because I DID NOT want the "mum" glasses which were large and rounded.

I've now ordered some large, roundish "geek" style glasses - hopefully it won't come off as desperate!!!! I do really like them!

Erin said...

This is a fabulous post. Fabulous, I say!

One thing I just recently became aware of wanting to avoid (have been thinking of writing a post on this): acting self- righteous about the sacrifices we've made and wanting to impose those same hardships on the next round of parents/ students/ employees. Example: feeling that new working parents need to "figure it out like we did," instead of advocating for improved policies in the workplace which might lessen burdens on family life.

minnie said...

I think about this every time i turn on the car radio to the 70's, 80's and 90's station. i think, "this is the OLDIES station. omg." and then i rock out to cyndi lauder or whatever. :D

Charleen said...

Every time I see Arby's advertising "Mix and Match, 2 for $5" I think "I remember when it was FIVE for $5." Seriously, cannot stop the words from forming in my mind. Every single time.

JEN said...

went to my mom's house last week and found tons of LONG expired food in the fridge. I told her she was now in old lady territory. She's 68.

shin ae said...

(1) I didn't even realize that we don't use plane tickets anymore.

(2) I love this post.

(3) I've been thinking about it for the last two days and I had a short list of old lady stuff I've been avoiding/slipping into, but now I forget it. Which...yeah.

M.Amanda said...

Oh, how I'd love to introduce my kids to the music from my youth, but if I can't bring myself to expose the little darlings to Ke$ha ("... brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack..."), I don't think Tone Loc or the Beastie Boys would be appropriate.

My husband and I are totally guilty of "can you believe what kids are wearing these days?" This ranges from wondering what that girl's mother was thinking letting her teen go out in lingerie to wanting to take scissors to a boy's shaggy hair.

However, I refuse to crank the thermostat up to 80 degrees or wear a dickie under a sweatshirt with shorts and socks the same color as my shirt.

artemisia said...

I am late to this party, but I try to arrange my route such that I don't have to make too many, if any, left turns.

brzeski said...

Here's me: "I only wore this outfit for a couple of hours yesterday, I'll just wear it again today." I remember being SHOCKED and APPALLED when my grandmother would do that. Who would wear the same shirt twice in a week, god forbid two days in a ROW?! What if someone SAW you?! Now it just seems so sensible.

Amy Mingo said...

The baby name thing BUGS me. Just recently we found out that a couple we know in their 20's are naming their soon to be born baby boy Dainjr. Pronounced Danger. Yes. Danger but spelled Dainjr. As if he's Dain Jr. We also know children named Canyon, Keller, Neveah, Salome, and Aloha. Sadly we were never able to have kids but the names we had at the ready were Grace and Luke.

amyunicorn said...

I absolutely love this. And oddly enough, just listened to my inlaws complain about paying school taxes on their property tax notice because "they" don't have kids in school. A-holes.

anne said...

I'm rollin' in late here. Loved this post! The 'generation shift' you mentioned- yes, so true! I think it's also possible to dress as a stylish, put-together mom (one who teeny boppers may look upon as 'stylish', in their own teeny bopper judgemental way), compared to dressing as a completely frumpy mom. I mean, I remember, as a teen, knowing friends' moms who I thought of as being stylish and doing a good job of at least trying to keep up with modern clothing styles, whereas my own mother of course was NOT at all stylish.

Also: here's one to add to the mommy category... necklaces with your kids' names on them. Is it just me or does EVERY mom of young kids have one of these? I'm guilty myself, although mine are just kids' initials. It was very refreshing to see a mom the other day with a necklace with her OWN initial on it, for a change!

Katie said...

Oh I agree on the expired food! That is straight up old lady. And also insisting "you don't need to go buy that food/clothing item/toiletry because I'm just sure I have that somewhere around here." And thinking one chicken breast is enough to feed a family of five.