The Roundup -

Embarrassing the Youngsters


It doesn’t take much for us older folks to embarrass the kids. Just the fact that we’re old and wrinkly, we don’t have pierced body parts, nor do we sport garishly dyed Mohawk hairdos (to name just a few of the activities youth engage in to torment their elders) causes many youth to dismiss old people as dried up old prunes incapable of understanding the ‘real world’. Since young people have not experienced older age, they often have a tough time understanding old neighbors and coworkers more senior than themselves, and as a result we often discomfit the younger generation simply because we exist.

However, we do have a distinct advantage over youth. We’ve lived through the trials and tribulations of growing up, we’ve been there and done that, so we know something about sowing wild oats and behaving in inappropriate ways. Youth, on the other hand, have never been old so they have no clue about older age and what it actually means when the body can’t always keep up with the mind.

This discomfort on the part of kids becomes extremely evident when oldsters behave outside of the box that the younger generation has placed them in. For example, a few weeks ago I observed an interaction in a restaurant involving an older couple having a quiet lunch together and their waitress who couldn’t have been much more than seventeen years old. The older couple, obviously enamored with each other, constantly touched the other’s hands and played footsies under the table. The waitress, clearly appalled with this outlandish behavior on the part of two old geezers, couldn’t seem to accept the fact that this older couple actually knew how to hold hands and enjoy the closeness and the comfort of the other. Had the couple been twenty-somethings or teenagers, the waitress would have accepted the situation without raising her pierced eyebrow, but to see two old people in love threw her for a loop. She wouldn’t look either the man or the woman in the eye, and although polite, she obviously found it embarrassing that two fossils might actually have romantic feelings. She could barely keep a straight face when talking with them, and did not attempt to make small talk with this old couple.

I can’t blame this kid when I think about it. When I was still wet behind the ears, I knew for a fact that my parents could not POSSIBLY understand how I felt about anything at all. After all, what did they know? They were old, they had no idea what it meant to fall in love, they had no idea just how difficult being a teenager could be, and they had no clue about what was really happening in the real world. They had no idea about boy-girl relationships, they could not possibly understand what made the world go around, nor did they have any idea how to have any fun. In short, how could they have any knowledge of what it meant to be young.

Ha, guess what, kids? We grow up, get a little bit smarter and a little bit wiser with some experience under our belts, and we come to realize that old people are still young people inside, complete with the same strong feelings and emotions that we had in our youth. We may be old, we may not get around quite as well as we did thirty years ago, but we ARE capable of the entire range of emotions, and we still appreciate the company of a special someone.

Why should teenagers have the exclusive right to demonstrate their feelings? They shouldn’t, and they don’t. Seniors, go for it. If it embarrasses youth to see their grandparents hold hands and show their feelings for a companion who has shared years of both hardships and good times, that’s just too bad. If you want to take your special someone out on the town and you feel like holding her hand just go ahead and do it. My parents still held hands at 90 years of age, and my dad always scooted over and sat next to my mother in the back seat of the car when friends did the driving, which may be one reason why they had such a long and happy married life.

I remember a friend of my parents who commented to me on their strong relationship that lasted over 60 years of marriage. When this friend took them somewhere, my parents sat in the back seat and held hands, and more likely than not, my father would slide over and sit beside my mother, holding her close. I can just imagine the shock this poor young waitress would have felt had she witnessed this bond between two old relics of the past.


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