(Intern 2 has definitely been guilty of subjecting fellow travellers/restaraunt patrons to unwarranted excerpts of her life story, i.e she’s talked too loudly in public. She apologizes for the annoyance, and hopes the experience of listening might have proved, to someone, somewhere, educational.)
If you’ve spent enough time in a city to use its public transportation more than once, you’ve probably noticed that your fellow passengers will sometimes break up your commute with some free entertainment. Last night, the group of three or four twenty-or-so-year-olds seated behind us on the train were performing a little scene whose dialogue was audible to the whole car.
It seemed that the first of their circle of friends getting was married soon, and this had sparked their speculation on their own prospective weddings. This included a discussion of their girlfriends and boyfriends, their relatives and the relatives of their girlfriends and boyfriends, and all the dramas that had unfolded or were likely to once the differences in everyone’s beliefs and choices came to clash.
One girl, who’s boyfriend’s family came from a completely different faith than hers, had (roughly) this to say;
“No! Are you kidding me? I mean, all his family would be coming in. I’m not making them sit in a Catholic church. There’s like this stuff in a Catholic wedding where you have to promise to like, raise your kids Catholic and s—. And I’m like, not going to tell my grandma this, but I’m not really Catholic. Don’t tell her. [So we wouldn’t get married there, then my grandma and his grandma, who’ll be just as upset that we’re not getting married in a venue of her family’s faith], can just go be upset together.”
The girl and her friends were speaking in a tone that’s not uncommon today, and has likely never been uncommon at all (see “nothing new under the sun,” used below).
It’s the tone that says, “We are in touch with how the world works now and it’s adorable how those older folks just don’t get it.”
It’s the tone that says, “We already know and understand everything we need to know and understand about everything, and we bet those older folks would be just scandalized to hear what we’ve figured out.”
It’s the tone that represents the mindset that assumes, “My poor, adorable grandma totally believes I’m a practicing Catholic like her, and I’m totally clever enough to let her go right on believing that if she wants to. There’s no way she’ll ever see right through me, or hasn’t already.”
It’s an arrogant mindset, it’s a mindset that’s (hopefully) endemic to the very young, and it’s a mindset that we who have any hope of becoming reasonable adults must shed.
We’ve got to grow up.
I think that there are few educators more effective than good old life experience. Admittedly I’m not far removed from the age of twenty myself, but I can already look back at my past self and feel superior about where I’ve gotten to today. In another four or five years, I will probably cringe at what an idiot I was today and at what a terrible mess I made of this blog.
We learn things from experience.
Your grandma has, let’s say for the sake of argument, half a century’s worth of experience on you.
Half a century ago, when Grandma was twenty or some, people were still sinners.
Or, to use language our new “not really Catholic” friend might appreciate more, fifty years ago, people were still people.
People still faced the same problems we face.
People still made the same decisions we make.
People still caused problems by making stupid or wrong decisions.
People still questioned the faith they were raised in.
People still screwed up, learned from the consequences, and moved on to do better next time.
The general context and culture was different, but as fundamentals go, there’s really nothing new under the sun.
In fact, people have been people since, like, there were people.
No matter what you’ve done or what you’re doing, and no matter how scandalous you feel what you’re doing is, it could still very well be that in the past fifty years Grandma, has encountered someone who was doing something just as scandalous or more. If you get up the courage to ask, you may even find that Grandma once did something just as scandalous herself.
Grandma did not spring out of the ground as an out-of-touch old lady.
Grandma may not shock so easily as you think.
Grandma’s been there before.
Most importantly, Grandma’s learned a thing or two from having been there. She might have learned a thing or two the hard way.
Grandma can probably give you a compelling explanation for why she keeps pretty strictly on the straight and narrow these days.
To not even acknowledge where Grandma could be coming from is at incredibly dangerous at worst. At best, someone who overhears your expressing your active non-acknowledgment on the train will feel urged to comment on your words online.
In brief: not only Grandma’s disappointment is not born of her being less smart and sophisticated than you are, but you are not smarter and more sophisticated than she is.
Once again: you are not smarter than Grandma.
Remember that one day, we’ll see our much younger selves in our grandchildren. We might be shaking our heads at how they’re behaving, and maybe laughing a little at how they’re trying to hide it. Every day, we’ll sincerely hope that they can do better than we did.
With this in mind, we can do better now ourselves.
Life will teach us if we pay attention.
Just ask Grandma.