Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic write, speak and blog together as The Word Mavens.
When we go to the newest restaurant, we feel young and trendy – until we have to turn on our iPhone flashlight to read the menu in the dark.
We feel adventurous – until the waiter offers us a fermented kombucha cocktail. No thank you. We’ll have a gin and tonic. When we look around the restaurant, we see that almost everyone else is young enough to be our kids.
We don’t feel old, but we’re not as young as we think we are. But there are people even older than us who don’t realize they’re old. They think they’re still spring chickens. In fact, just saying you’re a spring chicken is a sign that you are not. You’re old.
When we see that Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are contemplating an exhausting run for president, we think they’re too old. And not just because they don’t drink kombucha.
Like us, these politicians grew up with a globe that doesn’t exist anymore. Yugoslavia was one communist entity, not seven scenic countries you might want to visit. Like us, they grew up asking questions that young people don’t even ask anymore. We’ve asked our niece what guy she’s dating. Younger people wouldn’t assume that a girl is dating a guy. We recall the fuss back in elementary school, some forty years ago, when an unmarried teacher asked to be called “Ms.” Watson instead of “Miss.” Today, you can pick your pronoun – not just your honorific. We remember when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school instead of skirts. We bet Elizabeth Warren remembers it, too.
Back in the day, there were countries you wouldn’t travel too, country clubs you weren’t allowed to join, and people you couldn’t marry. Today, the rules are looser; it makes the news when someone is denied service because of their race or religion.
We still give a second glance when a TV commercial features an interracial couple. It feels like a bold advertising decision to us; but our adult children don’t give it a second glance. We wondered, if interracial is even the right word to use? They clued us in. Why do we need a modifier at all? Can’t we just call them a couple?
We admire our children and their peers. They know – and remember – so much! They are financially savvy, socially conscious and politically aware. They know why the stock market spikes and dips. They grasp which hole to put their used cup in when confronted with three-stream recycling. And they know that it’s unwise to tweet their feelings at 3 a.m.
When we read headlines like, “Move Along Baby Boomers; You’ve Done Enough,” we feel a little indignant, but in truth, we agree. When we hear about all the septuagenarians running for president we have to agree with Ariana Grande, who knows what to say when she’s tired of someone: “Thank you – Next!”
It’s hard to claim we’re young when we search through our college alumni magazines and have to find our graduation year way in the back with the old guard, not at the beginning with everyone who graduated in this century. Yes, it’s proof that we have decades of experience and resumes filled with accomplishments. We’ve learned important life lessons and seen it all. But wouldn’t it be better to view the world through eyes that are unclouded and minds that are wide open?
Our brains are not as pliable as they used to be. They’re cluttered up with old phone numbers, algebra formulas, and conjugations of French verbs. We do our best to keep up with what’s new, but it’s challenging. Sometimes we feel like we’re just treading water.
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden have also spent their considerable lifetimes, growing and contributing. But if we’re just treading water, how do they have the chutzpah to think they can swim the distance? It’s time to pass the torch.
We can’t help but imagine that when Joe Biden is at home in Delaware, playing on the computer, he might call into the bedroom to ask, “Jill, want to plan that trip to Czechoslovakia?