Thursday, March 17, 2016

Talking 'Bout My Generation

Photo by Paula Benson
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Since I'm on a roll with lists and ranting, today I'm going to pull up my Granny panties and give all those young people on the lawn a few suggestions on skills and ideas they need to know. But fear not, young readers (we hope we have a few!): there will be a generational rebuttal after I've had my chance to tell you what I wish youngsters would learn already.

1. Map-reading. To be fair, this is a disappearing skill for everyone, not just the youth. I don't have a GPS unit in my car (remember, I'm also the last person in America without a smartphone) but I've driven with them many times in rentals or when visiting family, and the one thing that's stuck with me is the deep divide between following a disembodied voice versus mapping out the way to your destination. In the first place, when SKYNET becomes self-aware and the machines take over, you know your GPS is going to tell you to drive over a cliff. And you'll do it. The second issue? Following instructions doesn't leave you with much of a sense of geography. Do you drive north? South? If you keep heading west, will you reach your destination? You don't know if you don't have a map in your head or in your hands.

(An aside: this actually got me into trouble the first time I visited Seattle. I could not get it out of my brain that ocean = east and kept driving in the wrong direction.)

2. Compromise isn't selling out, it's getting things done. I'm pretty sure it's not a matter of this individual generation; all young people tend toward slogans that are essentially, "What do we want? OUT. When do we want it? NOW." We've got a congress that's devolved to this stage,  and the results aren't pretty. If you want things to change - and lots of us oldsters are 100% behind that - you need to come up with actionable plans and maybe even a way to pay for them.

3. Stop being so obnoxiously hipster about beer. I remember when my generation was doing it back in the 80s with wine, and it was freaking annoying. It hasn't improves in its most recent, hops-fueled iteration.

4. Cursive writing and checks. Yes, I know, you type all your class notes on a laptop these days and only ever send email. Trust me, there will be times when you still have to hand-write something, and it will probably be important. A condolence letter. A heart-felt "I miss you." Thank-you notes to the donors of your 2032 Senatorial campaign. Do you want those to look like they were block-printed by a ten-year-old? No, you do not. And you can also use cursive to properly sign checks, which, despite all the e-payments and chips and phone apps, you will still need in the future. When Buddy Duchene delivers the firewood or the Blow Brothers come to dig up your septic system, they're not going to be carrying those square i-pad payment gizmos. (Buddy tried it, once, but it accidentally got knocked out of his dump truck and cracked, and that was the end of that.)

No, they need to be paid by check, as does the plumber, the appliance guy and the landscaping clean-up guys. Other excellent reasons for checks: buying Girl Scout cookies and making spontaneous donations at concerts, plays, etc. So order some. And start practicing penmanship.

THE SMITHIE: In the interest of equal time and representation, Mom has turned the second half of this blog over to me. One of the first thing we wish older people would realize is that despite experience and wisdom, you're not always right. With that in mind, here's my list of what I wish old folks would learn:

1. Student loan debt. I know back in your day you could pay for state college tuition through a summer job scooping ice cream; in 2016, tuition plus room and board at a minimum cost $20,000/year -- and that's for in-state students at state schools. Most of these are paid for with student loans that have interest rates between 4.29%-6.84% -- and those are the federal student loans. The private ones are even worse. Those don't even get discharged when you DIE. So don't blame millennials for moving back in with their parents after college. We've got $60,000 in debt and nobody's hiring entry-level employees for over $30,000/year.

2. Some people are gay. Lots of people are not heterosexual. Some people don't even believe in the binaries of gender. When you meet these people, or read about them, or hear of their existence, the polite thing to do is smile, nod, and keep your mouth shut. We know you don't understand. Just have some wine and roll with it.

3. It's not "The Facebook" or "The Twitter." 

4. We don't understand the saggy pants thing either, but it sounds kind of racist when you complain about it, so just have some wine and roll with it.

5. This one is specifically directed towards men: do not call younger women "sweetheart," "honey," sugar," or any other pet name unless you are a member of their immediate family, or have been given explicit permission to use those terms. It's disrespectful. None of us like it. But we're not allowed to yell at doddering old guys in public. Also stop telling us to smile. I can't smile, I'm too busy worrying about student loan debt, anti-gay legislation, and the wholesale price of wine.

6. Wine and roll. Just wine and roll. 
JULIA: I believe wine and roll is something both our generations can get behind. How about you, dear readers? What would you tell the young upstarts or old fogies?


  1. I’m nodding my head in agreement over all of these reflections, especially about cursive writing and checks and thank-you notes, and I’m hoping that actually writing a thank-you note hasn’t become a lost art. Sometimes a text or a tweet or a Facebook message just doesn’t do it.

    What to add? When did we abandon the understanding that we needed to be kind to each other? It’s really all about helping each other and remembering the importance of honoring your word . . . .

  2. The first thing I'd say to both of you is that I love this post! And clearly Ms. Smithie has learned something about witty concise writing from her mama.

    As an old fart, I completely agree about maps, checks, and cursive. And I remember being young and INCENSED about people referring to women over twenty as "girls." I admit to scratching my head a little when I checked in at a Quaker conference last summer and was asked what gender I'd like to identify as. "Huh?" I'm afraid I asked, thinking it was obvious, but I got over it.

    I agree with Joan - let's all remember to be kind and respectful.

  3. Another brilliant blog! Huzzah huzzah Julia & Smithie!!

    And I have a question for the Smithie - is it ok for old broads to call young broads "sweetheart," "honey," or "sugar" because I do it all the time... I have a soft spot for young women who are in my daughters' generation. Special dispensation?

    Sipping my wine...

  4. From another old fart: life can seem like a pinball machine sometimes--you've laid all your life plans aiming for one direction and you end up zinging away in an entirely new direction. It will all work out okay. Roll with it and sip another glass of wine or your beverage of choice!

  5. It's spring, time to get out and demonstrate for what you believe is right, just, and true. Do it while you have the time.

  6. Agree about maps. GPS is wonderful for the last few miles, but for the big picture of a trip, maps are a must. GPS guids you from point A to point B, but says nothing about what's in between. Young people might benefit from looking up from their devices once in a while to observe the wordl around them.

  7. When we moved to So Cal, my husband and I were always messing up east and west, even though we had always had good senses of direction. Finally figured out that even though we had grown up in Indiana, "the ocean" for us was the Atlantic. Thanks for confirming this is a thing.

  8. To Julia: Comment #4 Yes to cursive! Saying "I'm sorry" or "I love you" in cursive feels so much more intimate and sincere than when expressed through a digital device, at least to this old broad.

    To the Smithie (who definitely inherited her mother's writing talent): #5 Please do not ever call me "Ma'am." I already know I am an old broad. I don't need to be reminded, especially when you're telling me how much I have to pay for those groceries you just rung up, the price of which terrifies me.

    #2 With all due respect and admiration for your generation's embracing and understanding for the rights of gay and transgender people, please try to appreciate change didn't happen overnight and acknowledge the enormous battle fought by our generation to effectuate that change. We can all share some tenderness in our hearts for those whose lives weren't so easy while the change was taken place. They are the ones who definitely get it.

    Having said that, I must say I am thrilled to see the Smithie's generation's passion and activism in what's happening in the world today. The Smithies have ignited my sense of hope which has made me feel younger. I'll toast my St. Patrick's Day
    Guinness (sorry, no fancy beer for this old granny) to you today!

  9. I love each of you. The was the best stand-up routine I've ever sat down and read!

    The good news about the college living expenses is that closer your parents are to bankruptcy, the more scholarship money you'll get. Because of the financial aid system, under the rule of the FAFSA Czar, all colleges cost the same. Smith, therefore was a wise choice. That's where I sent my nephew. We've had long discussions about the necessity of an endless gender continuum. It makes survival and all good things possible.

  10. I got a darling note from my grandson the other day, when they were staying at our house, and though it was adorable, I was so concerned. I took it to my husband and said sweetheart, he is 12, but though this is clever and funny, it looks like it's written by a two-year-old. Well, five year old . Do you think there's something wrong? And Jonathan said no… He can't write because he only types. So he only prints.

    That was a real eye-opener. I am so baffled by this cursive thing… How can a person live without knowing how to write? Or making a signature? What is supposed to happen?

  11. And map reading, the disappearance of that is also astonishing. There will not be a GPS everywhere, everyplace you go! How can a person not know how to read a map?
    And also, I take Uber a lot, and the drivers have no idea where they're going, they just blindly follow the Uber directions.
    Once my driver had not arrived, and I called him to say: where are you? And he said I'm at your house. I said no you're not, I'm at my house, and you're not here. He said-well, Uber says I am at your house. I mean, what is the answer to that? He was serious!

  12. One last thing is the disappearance of instruction books. OK, fine, I never read them anyway. But now you are just supposed to figure things out on your own. I think the younger generation… Cough cough… Has that down pat. They are fearless about just trying things. I am always afraid I will break something, or erase something, or delete something.

  13. I agree with both of you on every point and especially with the "wine and roll" mantra.

    I second Hallie's question about old broads calling younger woman "sweetie" and "honey." It is not uncommon for those words to slide through my lips about younger woman for whom I feel affection. Most of them are relatives, but some are the children of my friends. Okay or not okay?

    Smithie and my dear Michele Dorsey (because it is definitely okay for all of us old broads to call each other dear), thank you for your points about LBGTQ visibility/acceptance. Winning not just rights but hearts and minds has been a long, determined battle. Yes, we have made enormous progress and yes, there's still lots of work to do on that front.

  14. Following directions. That seems to be how low the bar is set these days. Before I became a writer, I taught both high school and college students. Loved it, and felt like we had good rapport. However, I often explained to them that simply following directions makes a huge difference in how smoothly their future lives will run. Recently, collaborating with both formatters and editors, I was amused when they said I was one of the few people who actually read and followed their directions. It made our collaboration so much easier.

  15. Guilty on the sweetie and honey thing, almost always with young women I've known since they were in kindergarten. My HUSBAND, of all people, has always criticized this. But he doesn't even call ME honey, because he thinks it's diminishing. How can I complain?

    To young people: you didn't invent homosexuality, you know. It's been around since the dawn of time, and some of us have had gay and bisexual friends for decades. Please don't assume we don't "get" it. However, I am personally thrilled to see dear gay friends who have had to slink around for most of their lives, now happily married to longtime loves. How do you think gay marriage got voted into law? It was not just the youth vote.

    To young women who insist on cheapening themselves with nude selfies: Shame on you, for undoing all the hard, hard work women of my generation had to do in order for you to get to the point where you aren't immediately fired from a job/expelled from school/or ostracized by your family for showing your breasts online. But know this: it WILL come back to bite you, one way or another. Someday you might want to run for public office, or to have children you'd like to admire and respect you.

    And to young men (this applies to every color, by the way): For God's sake, you don't have to be "comfortable" every minute of the day. Make an effort, and put on pants with zippers and shirts with buttons and collars. Your date/wife/partner did, and you look ridiculous next to her. Also, learn to dance. It's the best foreplay, ever. You're welcome.

    And finally, to my generation: daylight savings time is not about "stealing an hour", and it only happens two days a year. I'm sorry, but the outrage would be better spent on the idea that an insane person may end up in the White House. Thank you.

  16. One more: the world headquarters of Procter & Gamble are here in Cincinnati. They recently had to make a HR policy, actually written into their official company hiring policy: No parents may accompany a job seeker to the interview.

    Think about the reasons a major international company might have to institute such a rule. Yeah.

  17. I feel like I'm in between "old broad" and "young broad." Not as old as Julia, twenty years older than the Smithie.

    GPS: Sorry all you map lovers, but I'm all about the GPS. I can look at a map and read it. I cannot fold it. Maps are great for at home when you are looking for big picture. But directions in the car? Give me Google Maps (which I consider GPS on my phone).

    Hipster beer: Bah. I don't drink beer. Have yet to find one I like (and believe me, my friends keep trying - same goes for coffee).

    I agree about cursive writing and compromise. My girl (15) has lovely penmanship (and so does her brother, actually). She writes thank you notes. Actually, there are times I've had to chastise her because she's spent so much time looking for the "perfect" stationary, six months have gone by since the event and she still hasn't sent a "thank you." We try to compromise (there's that word) on "send a text or email now, then send the written note later."

    However...checks. Hate them. HATE THEM. Hate writing them, hate buying them. I still have to make checks out for my weekly church donation (because while they have implemented an online giving system, the payment options available don't work for me - I'm not giving money I do not yet have simply because the only option is for me to give for the entire month on the first business day of that month). More people have those Square readers than you think, and I'd be shocked if all those places you mention don't accept mobile payments in the next ten or so years.

    "The Facebook" - LOL Add to that it's not "The Google."

    My daughter seethes inside when some older man she's not related to calls her "honey." But as the Smithie said, she can't say anything because she'd look disrespectful, so she plasters on a fake smile and rants to me in private. It works - I guess. But if some old coot called me "honey," I don't think I'd like it either.

    And yes, clearly the Smithie inherited some wit and writing skill!

  18. Couldn't have said it better myself so I'm just going to steal it with modifications:

    This one is specifically directed towards all people younger than me, but specifically those young enough I could have birthed them: "do not call older women "sweetheart," "honey," sugar," or any other pet name unless you are a member of their immediate family, or have been given explicit permission to use those terms. It's disrespectful. None of us like it." I swear the next time that...young lady at the Sonic drive-thru calls me sweetie I'm going to dot her eyes! ARG!

    The schools around here don't teach cursive. At all. Period. Who decided that was a good idea?

  19. "Hey you kids!" (shakes fist) "Get off my lawn!"

    You can say "The Facebook" or "The Google" if you say it ironically. I'm often saying I'm going to look up something on "The Interwebs." OK, well *I* find it amusing, at least.

    Julia, I think it's more your generation that waxes poetically about beer. I remember an aging hippie home brewer telling me that the beer I was drinking had aromas of pineapple and coconut. I was like, "Tastes like beer to me!"

  20. Nancy, you struck a nerve with me. Young people calling me dear and talking to me in a voice reserved for the mentally impaired because in your eyes I am old. I 'd like to say I still hike, go to the gym, write award winning novels and if this is the teller at the bank am probably depositing a check larger than you will see in your life! Rant over

  21. Nancy, you struck a nerve with me. Young people calling me dear and talking to me in a voice reserved for the mentally impaired because in your eyes I am old. I 'd like to say I still hike, go to the gym, write award winning novels and if this is the teller at the bank am probably depositing a check larger than you will see in your life! Rant over

  22. Ooh, yes, I hate being called "sweetie" or "honey", or God forbid, "dear," by complete strangers. So condescending.

    Yes on cursive, yes on maps. People have actually driven off cliffs blindly following their GPS. Mine has only tried to drive me into cornfields. They are great for detailed directions, but make sure YOU know where you're going first.

    I'm a touch typist. I can text pretty fast (although maybe not as fast as my daughter...) But I can't imagine being handicapped by not being able to write. And not just for the polite reasons. My friend recently mentored a young man at our Dallas art magnet school. He was having a terrible time keeping up with his in-class notes because he could only print. She steered him towards online cursive training. Also I think cursive writing wires your brain differently.

    Does anyone other than old fogies even know what shorthand is, by the way?

    Going to go wine and roll and practice my cursive.

  23. Debs, shorthand was dying fast when I was in high school - I suspect only print journalists learn it now. Even in the early 80s before everyone started typing on their own computers, I suspect most dictation was done via dictaphones or other recording devices.

    And thank you everyone - I think the Smithie is a marvelously talented writer as well!

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  25. How about--to me--hello, young lady. I mean--seriously. That is pitiful. What does he think I think he's really thinking?

    And yes, I say "The Google." I think it;s hilarious. We actually call it Magic Google. As in: I'll look it up on the Magic Google.

    And agreed, GPS is fabulous. Fabulous! But one should still know how to read a map.

  26. I'm glad to see such cross-generational conversation learning on this post!!

    Some of you have asked whether it's okay for older women to call younger women things like "honey" and "sweetheart." I personally feel that this is okay -- older women call me "sweetheart" all the time and when they do it, it tends to feel motherly/grandmotherly/auntly, whereas when men do it, it just sort of makes my skin itch. However, this is just my opinion, I can't speak for all twentysomething women, so if a woman asks you to not use pet names for her, don't cite me as a source for continuing to do it; she probably won't know who I am and it will just get uncomfortable for everyone.

  27. Hank, we say "Mr. Google," thanks to my brother who started that. As in, "Why don't you ask Mr. Google?"

    Probably only us old fogies think this is funny...

  28. Dear Smithie,

    My entire college loan debt amounted to around $5,600. You have my sympathy! I can't imagine how overwhelming it must be to graduate with the kind of debt that people in your generation have. And to think I was overwhelmed by my own debt way, way back on the olden days!

    Dear Julia,
    Please ask the Smithie to stop by more often!

    Maps: I have always lived in one town or another on the CT coast. To me, South is always Long Island Sound. From there, I can figure out where to go. When I visit siblings who live in land-locked towns, I ask them how they can tell where South is, so they can tell where they need to go and how to get there. The answer is often "we're still learning!"

    Cursive: I prefer it but have found that it is easier on my arthritic hands for me to print. I feel guilty whenever I must choose printing over cursive.

  29. Let me add that I will probably start referring to The Google after today because it appeals to my sense of the ridiculous!

    Deb Romano

  30. One thing I wish all generations would understand is that we have more than just either/or choices. It's not maps OR GPS. I happily use both, depending on my situation. It's not handwriting OR texting. There are always more than two ways to go at a problem. When I feel trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea, I like to remind myself, there's always a third way, if I just look for it. Be creative, y'all. I will agree totally that Smithie's generation didn't discover homosexuality, or even tolerance of people different from you. I was sending toasters to gay friends who coupled up before Smithie was even born. I prefer to celebrate diversity in all things: people, wine, beer, and even dogs that aren't border collies (my preferred breed) because, c'mon, life's just more fun when you choose to celebrate it!

  31. Here's my littler rant: I'd tell the youngsters that just because we oldsters look kind of old, we're still just as youthful and silly in our thoughts as we always were. I mean, there's wisdom and maturity there too, but getting older doesn't mean we lose the rest of it. So, when we're next to you in a line somewhere, chatting, don't look past us like we're not really humans you could connect with -- because we're "old" therefore not really so human and fun anymore. Believe it or not, many (most?) of us had sexual and partying and travel adventures and got up to all kind of shenanigans -- and we remember that. We get you more than you get us.

  32. Rather than being specific about a particular blog, Facebook, Yahoo news, whatever, I'll say I read it on the computer. And leave it at that. I love maps. I want the big picture. I don't have GPS in my vehicle. It would be handy for finding addresses at night, but that is what my husband is good for. With his GPS.
    As for the dear, hon, sweetie, issue, it depends. If it is some young snot at a restaurant, NO. If it is a department store sales clerk of around my age, fine. It is a southern thing. After exchanging small talk it is likely to end with Have a blessed day!
    As far as the college loans, Smithie, we had them in my day too! Not as big, but the starting salaries were pretty dinky too. Fortunately I didn't have to go that route, but know of others who did. Anyway, you have my sympathy. My grown son has lived with us off and on since he got out of the army. He's working on a college degree now and housesitting his grandparents' house while it is on the market. So, I expect he'll be back before long. But I don't mind.

  33. I take (took!) shorthand! Problem is I can't transcribe it. Can't read my own cursive, either.

    My husband graduated GRADUATE school with about $6K debt - unfortunately his first job his salary was about $11K/year. Mine was 6K. Took awhile to pay it off.

  34. To the Smithie's point: don't call my daughter "dear." Just...don't. She takes it from family. Strangers? No, thanks. Just use her name or nothing at all. To me, the nothing at all feels even more insulting, but not to her.

    And Gigi - yes! It's not print books OR ebooks. It's rarely the case.

    Just for fun, I asked my husband (ten years older than I and a retired Army captain): maps or GPS? He said, "GPS...but I found a whole bunch of maps in my glove compartment, realized I hadn't used them in years, and put them back. You never know when you'll need them." I find wisdom in that.

  35. Yes, Gigi, here's to choices!!!

    And you know that we know how to wine and roll:-)

  36. Thank you notes - we would be happy for a phone call or email from the recipient not his/her parent. We have been tempted to stop sending the grandchildren presents because they are not acknowledged.
    College loan debt - when our daughter got engaged the first thing we asked was how much college loan debt he had - and were told his parents asked the same thing!

  37. What a great post! Agree with much of what both talented writers said. Funny GPS story....road trip to San Diego.....with our daughter in law's parents in the car with us......the two men (have to love their spirit of competition) both had GPS going (can we just say annoying!)one on his iPhone, the other, his Android. We came to an intersection.....and one GPS belts out......turn left and the other......turn right! We all proceeded to break out in laughter....and made a choice to follow the Android...turning left. This of course then morphed into the "which technology is superior" conversation. Next morning in the light of became obvious that the intersection is actually a complete loop and both directions were correct! What ever happened to "keep it simple (stupid)? Helen

  38. Talking 'bout my generation...I'm not telling which one! Had to laugh, Julia, at your left coast impairedness. I'm laughing in solidarity. I've done that too. Rolling with wine sounds wonderful. And please, sweetie, honey, sugar, cutie, or any derivation of that...steam will result.

  39. How to get a free coffee.

    Male server with my coffe to go (a whole lot younger and taller than I): "Sugar?"

    Me: "No thank you. Unless you are addressing me."

    Him: total befuddled look then a great smile, refusing my money with a head shake , "Coffee is on me. You just stunned me."

    Wonder if it will work again tomorrow morning?

    Thanks to all for these interesting words. Especially thanks to Julie and The Smithie for inspiring us.

  40. My GPS is Athena when it helps my directionally-challenged self and Iktomi the Trickster when it tells me to "turn left" into a lake. Fortunately, I still possess free will. Thanks for a fun dialogue, on a day already wonderful because I saw an eagle perched just beyond my little Walden Pond. Sweet dreams.

  41. So so late today, after midnight. Out of town to my daughter's. Just had to say how much I enjoyed the post, Julia and Smithie! I am guilty of saying sweetie and darling and dear and honey and baby. I grew up with this Southern habit, and, darling, I doubt I could change it now if I wanted to.

  42. Julia, I don't have a smartphone either...just an old flip phone to make and take calls. I do have a GPS but I don't really trust it so usually look up directions on line and print them out. We could be best friends! So looking forward to your next it coming soon?

  43. Loved this blog by Julia and daughter. Thank you. Laughed out loud (yes, I know that's LOL). Inter-generational writing should happen more often.