Just Call Me Old-Fashioned
Melissa Bean Sterzick
I don’t want to get old. Nobody does. Besides the unavoidable forgetfulness, there are a slew of age-related issues to worry about: broken hips, neglectful children, wills, pills and the collapse of Social Security. Of course, there are good things to look forward to such as grandchildren, retirement, pudding and comfortable shoes.
What I sometimes wonder is whether I will be a wise, interesting, active old person, or will I be boring, self-absorbed and glued to my easy chair? Will I have things to say that people of other generations want to hear, or will I be the old lady that people listen to just to be nice?
I’m planning on staying informed and physically fit, and my children are teaching me already how little they appreciate my advice, so I think I’ll be OK.
I have a 12-year-old, and I am starting to see a glimpse of what the teen years will bring. I am alternately the most important and the most useless person in her life. My status changes hourly. I am never less acceptable than when I am reiterating my negative position on her desperate need for a cellphone and permission to watch PG-13 movies.
I want her to know I can relate to what she’s going through, but no one can tell me how to bridge the gap between her experience and mine. If I say, “When I was a kid ...,” her eyes roll back into her head, so I know that’s not going to work. Being 12 is an experience I remember well, but the setting has changed so drastically since my childhood.
When I was a kid, we had only four TV channels. There was no remote control, but the youngest person in the room was often conscripted as a human remote, so he/she could be used to surf your four channels and adjust the volume if you were feeling too lazy to get up and do it yourself.
When I was a kid, there were no cellphones. If you wanted to talk to your friends, you called from a home phone that was plugged into a wall. You had to keep your friends’ phone numbers in your head. The phone did not play movies or keep track of your activities. It did not pay your bills or do math. It occasionally played music, but only bad music, and only when you were on hold.
When I was a kid, we didn’t wear seatbelts or helmets, and several hours of every day our parents had absolutely no idea where we were, or that we were playing with matches in a field of dust and dry weeds. They also didn’t know that we were being chased by stray dogs, destroying our shoes on purpose, and taking candy from any stranger nice enough to offer.
When I was a kid, there was no Internet. If you needed to know something your parents or teachers couldn’t tell you, you went to the library and read an encyclopedia. You didn’t mind the research very much, but creating a bibliography was torture, so if you were smart, you just made it all up. If you wanted to know private and personal details about other people’s lives, you thought about asking them, but then you didn’t, because that would be uncomfortable and rude.
When I was a kid, the thing I wanted most was to get my driver’s license, buy a car, move out of my parents’ house and make my own decisions. I wanted my own house where nothing needed to be folded and there were no bedtimes or brothers. I did not want to live with my parents after high school – not for any amount of time.
When I was a teenager, I got my learner’s permit the day after I turned 15 and my license the day after I turned 16. Once I had my license, several hours of every day my parents could not reach me and did not know I was speeding, letting my friends climb on top of the car while it was in motion, and doing Chinese Fire Drills on the main drag. (Also, back then, it was not offensive or politically incorrect to call it a Chinese Fire Drill. I apologize for using the term now.)
When I was young, you drove your own car, parked your own car and paid for parking with change, and sometimes, to your displeasure, with dollar bills.
It’s hard enough to figure out how to relate to my own kids, but my grandkids, if I’m lucky enough to have them, will be even harder. For starters, they won’t know how to talk – only text. They won’t understand what coins are. They won’t learn to drive or park their own cars. They will never play with matches. And when I try to tell them about these things, they will listen to me just to be nice.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.