Years ago, my father bought me a t-shirt that said “Help! I’m Becoming My Mother.” He thought it was hilarious. I, on the other hand, produced a half-hearted laugh and then shoved it to the bottom of my drawer.
However, hiding the shirt in the nether regions did not change the inevitable truth of the matter. While I still don’t think the shirt is 100% true (that is for another time), I have recognized that I tend to think and act in a more, dare I say, mature (AARP, anyone?) way.
It turns out that I’m not alone. Recently, our editorial staff discussed the moments that have made us each feel officially old. Not surprisingly, many of our epiphanies are the result of interactions with our teenagers.
I Feel Old!
During a benign drive time conversation, I mentioned an encyclopedia. Our teen asked, “A what?” My husband unsuccessfully covered his chortle. Seizing the educational opportunity, I filled him in. We covered door-to-door encyclopedia sales staff and how having a recent full set was a status symbol.
After I’d exhausted the encyclopedia history lesson, I regaled him with my glee when as a young adult, I got my hands on a Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM. “A what?” he asked. Really?! Hardcover books I could understand but Encarta, the digital multimedia encyclopedia which changed my life? The days of waiting for new editions and updates are long gone and teens these days have lived their entire lives having immediate access to unlimited information.
My teenage daughter and I grabbed armfuls of jeans and t-shirts for her to try on. She’d grown three inches since the last time we really went shopping, so this was way overdue. All was going well until I looked up and saw the image in the fitting room mirror.
The smooth skin, the shiny, thick hair, the cute clothes—and some middle-aged woman sitting in the background. Me. I’m the middle-aged woman! It was worse than the time I had to explain that Netflix used to mail you DVDs instead of just magically appearing on your TV.
It must have been a weekend because my dad was home. I was heading out to meet up with friends, and I passed through our garage where my dad was hard at work cleaning. As if it were yesterday, I remember thinking, “Why would anyone clean a garage? Clean the house – of course. The yard? Sure. But a garage?” I also remember thinking, “Wow, he must have nothing else to do. What a waste of time.”
Fast forward several years. I’m married, have three kids, and own a home with a garage. And what do I find myself and my husband doing one Saturday morning? Cleaning out the garage! Not because I was bored or had nothing better to do but because it was a mess and needed to be cleaned. (And let me tell you, when we were finished—it looked amazing and I was quite pleased with myself.) That was the moment I realized I have become my parents.
When I was a teen, there was a local movie theater that changed movies every week. Often, I would go with a friend to see the latest. Sometimes, I asked my parents if they were going to see the movie. The answer was always no. They were tired and just wanted to stay home.
Hmmm. How boring could they be? Why would they willingly choose not to go out, not to be up on the most recent movie? I’ll never be that way, I thought smugly.
Ha! The joke’s on me. Even now, when I can watch the latest from the comfort of my own home, I have no interest. And truth to be told, I also don’t know how to use our TV so I have to be prepared for the eye rolls and muttering that follow when I ask my kids for help—again. Even without TV, when I have the choice to go out, I’ve become that person who nine times out of 10 would rather stay home, waving goodbye to my kids as they look at me the same way I looked at my parents on their way out the door.
I was driving with one of my teen daughters, out doing routine errands, when the car in front of me inexplicably slowed down, then made a left turn, without using their turn signal. “Grrr, that really gets my goat!” I exclaimed.
My daughter looked at me, greatly puzzled, and she started laughing. “Every once in a while, you use some old timey expression and I have just no idea what it means,” she told me.
I couldn’t understand what she couldn’t understand. “It means, it makes you mad! How is it possible you’ve never heard this before?” She just shook her head. And I felt so old. Like I’d told her I was going to moving pictures later or something.
In case you’re wondering, here are a few more expressions teens just don’t get:
- To drop the dime on someone (meaning, to rat someone out by making a ten-cent phone call)
- Blow this pop stand (when you leave someplace)
- Like a broken record (they understand it in theory, but have no actual practice with this).