Many Pensacolians apparently grew up in log cabins, doing their homework by the light of a smoky fireplace and milking the cows before walking uphill through the snow three miles to school while fighting off wild Bengal tigers.
At least, that’s the impression I get from listening to some not-so-old old-timers mythologizing their pasts, as they harrumph about young people these days and exaggerate the vicissitudes of their own youth.
Ask a few questions and you find that they usually came from a home with two involved parents, a steady if not large income, and the expectation that they could and would get an affordable education or specialized training that would lead to their own version of the American dream. I’m guessing the floors in their “log cabins” were linoleum, not dirt.
Many people don’t have such advantages now, something the grumps overlook.
I don’t mean to bash my fellow seniors; they’re hardly the only negative Nellies. Some of society’s biggest whiners are young people who seem to thrive on unnecessary melodrama: “I’m fabulous because I’m young,” “Mary won’t tell me the secret handshake for being a Pensacola Young Professional.”
And while sociologists tell us that today’s younger generation is the least sexist and most color-blind ever, they still have the young’s ability to stereotype older people and ignore them.
But that’s the way it has been ever since Adam and Eve were complaining about Cain and Abel. Generation gaps are inevitable, a part of one group coming into power and their elders moving to the sidelines.
But we don’t have to be constant critics, saying, “You should have done this” and “I told you not to do that.” We had our turn; let them have theirs.
We also need to remember that we did stupid things, too.
That’s why I keep on my desk a photo of myself at age 29, with my brown-and-plaid sports coat, a textured brown tie and a pile of hair artfully placed into an early but ill-fated combover. It was a fashion faux pas even then, although I thought I was da man, a groovin’ dude indeed!
The photo reminds me that I too have committed lapses in taste, judgment and common sense.
It also reminds me to keep my comments to myself except when asked. I made a conscious vow a few years ago to offer advice only when asked, and the experience has been humbling. No one asks!
Oh, occasionally a daughter may ask my thoughts on car tires or auto insurance, but I think she’s humoring me.
There are major advantages to not being asked for advice. When people talk, they assume you must be in agreement with them because you don’t say stuff like, “Whoa, you idiot, that’s not what you should do!”
So, since you’re quiet and smiling, they like you more. Just don’t let them read your mind.
If you make a suggestion and it goes badly, they will blame you. If it goes well, they will forget you suggested it and take credit for themselves.
What’s the advantage in that?
It’s curiously liberating to not give unsolicited guidance. Now you’re just two people talking, and there’s no burden or expectation.
Instead of grumbling about the old life, use this chance to get yourself a new life.
Splash! magazine, September 2014