Over the holidays, I worked a soul-crushing seasonal job at a department store in a mall (the name of the store rhymes with “Lord’s Strum” BTW).
The fact that I’d once been a person on the radio and now I was slinging mid-priced jewelry and scarves for minimum wage plus commission was bad enough. That I was doing it at age 43 made it even worse, because everyone there looked like a fetus compared to me. Add being a single mom to the equation, which made me even less relatable, and it’s a wonder I didn’t end up punching anyone in the face for their lack of basic worldly knowledge.
There were two other seasonal hires in my department, and their ages put together equaled mine. Not only did they never get any of my cultural references, they constantly made jabs about how old I was, always followed by, “I’m just kidding!” and the fake smile they probably learned from Paris Hilton.
One of them had the absolute worst work ethic I’ve ever seen in a co-worker. She constantly complained about having to be there, having to work when she wanted to be home (where she still lived with her parents and therefore didn’t have to worry about the things I worry about, like mortgages and car payments and feeding growing children) playing with her puppy.
Of course, she was the one they hired on full-time when the season ended, because of course a lazy 21-year-old with a mediocre sales record is the one you keep, but whatever.
The girls who’d been there before and would stay after the season were also all in their early 20s. The only exception was Debra, who was one of those lifer saleswomen you occasionally see and you just KNOW she has been working there for like 12 years. Debra and I would stand together behind the counter and seethe at Very Young Ariel, flitting around air-headedly with a customer, and commiserate over her lack of awareness about most things in life.
Thing is, 20-somethings of the world, I was once where you are, only I didn’t have the Internet to turn my brain into an addled mush of short-attention-spanakopita. Not to sound like my own grandma, but you kids today don’t know a thing about being respectful to your elders, and you could learn a thing or three from us.
So here’s a little primer, should you find yourself suddenly sharing the same airspace as someone who remembers when MTV played videos and you had to go all the way home to receive personal phone calls.
1. Be aware of the generations that came before you.
I was relating yet another online dating horror to a co-worker, wherein a 26-year-old manchild had messaged me repeatedly. I’d replied, “Sorry, I’m not interested in being your Mrs. Robinson.” His response, “Who’s Mrs. Robinson?” Instead of getting a laugh from the co-worker, she asked, “Well, who was she, your teacher?” I patiently went on to explain “The Graduate” to her. She only knew Dustin Hoffman from “Meet the Parents.” I rest my case.
2. We know how old we are and don’t need to feel any older, thanks.
Co-worker: “So when’s your birthday?”
Me: “April 26th.”
Co-worker: “How old will you be?”
Me: “I’ll be 44.”
Co-worker: “Oh, so you’re only a month older than my mom!”
3. Just because we don’t know who Demi Lovato is, that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about music.
We know plenty. We were there at the dawn of alternative music. We didn’t need autotune. And all of the other things we didn’t have that were better than the shit that’s being computer-generated these days. Now get offa my lawn.
4. Compliments will get you far.
Hey, all food service servers and bartenders, when you check my ID (and you better check my ID, because I don’t look that old), you’re supposed to say, “But you don’t look that old!” Hey, do you want me to tip you or not?
5. Don’t use that old chestnut “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number” to encourage me to date younger men in order to "feel younger."
Here’s a newsflash for you: I don’t want to feel younger. I don’t want to be younger. I’m totally fine being the age I am. Besides, my last boyfriend was 12 ½ years younger than I am, we were together for six years, and he left me one year ago. I’m not interested in repeating the same mistakes (in fact, I’ve been too busy making new ones, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing to write about). Actually, I’m not even interesting in dating. I know that’s hard to imagine at your age, but right now, the idea of going on date makes me feel tired. Cause, you know, I’m all old and shit.
So the next time you’re engaged in a conversation with someone you know probably lived through the Cold War (look it up), be tactful. We already see your under-30, sexting-instead-of-dating, not-yet-fully-formed-adultness as a reminder of our impending demises, my lovelies. No need for you to make us feel any worse.
Now, pull up those pants, turn that crap you call "music" down, and go help your mother in the kitchen. She’s not as spry as she used to be, you know. She’s pushing 45.