1. NOT SO HOSPITABLE. My youngest daughter recently took a train to New York city, and she described her process of deciding whom to sit next to if there were no row of seats she could have to herself. First, she looks for another teenaged girl, whom she assumes won’t mind having a kindred spirit by her side. Next, she looks for older women whose maternal instincts might prevent them from objecting to having a companion at their elbow for the journey. Finally, as a last resort, she’ll plop down next to a teenaged boy, as long as he looks like someone who won’t try to hit on her for the whole ride. I was shocked to learn that an older man in her father’s demographic wasn’t even in her consideration set. When I asked why, she explained, “Businessmen give you that annoyed look when you walk by their seat, like you’d better not dare to bother them while they work on their computers and phones.” I felt appalled that any man would glare so rejectingly at my daughter, until I remembered when I ride the train I probably use the same look to ward off other fathers’ teenagers.
2. A SORTA-OPTIMIZED SEARCH ENGINE. There’s no better feeling for someone over 50 than when you can’t think of the name of some famous person, so you break out your smartphone to Google it, and just before you finish typing the words you hope will retrieve that moniker — something like “funny, little man in Casablanca” — the search engine between your ears magically delivers the name to you before the Interweb can! (Peter Lorre, you’ll never know how happy you made me at that moment!)
3. NEVER TAKEN SERIOUSLY? My youngest has reached that age at which she is tired of being perceived as a kid, and she wants to be granted the same level of respect that adults are. Of course, I am probably the worst offender when it comes to stil treating her like a child. But now when we’re in restaurants, I try not to answer for her if a waitress asks a question. After all, she can tell a wait person just as well as I can that she doesn’t like ice in her water. While I am fully supportive of her desire to demonstrate she is worthy of a level of respect not always granted to teens, I have not had the heart to tell her at the age 54 I still haven’t discovered the age at which you earn the universal regard she’s hoping for. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I often felt relegated at work to the group of “youngsters” who had to do the bidding of bosses in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. My crossing into that “truly adult” age group coincided with the Internet and social media boom, and I work in communications. So now I constantly hear how my cohort doesn’t get new media “like the kids today do.” As I reach subsequent decades, I’m sure I’ll be fighting against the perception some may have that people 65 and older are over the hill. Actually, if memory serves, there might have been a few months during my 39th year when I wasn’t ever accused of being either too green or too gray, but I decided against telling my daughter she could look forward to earning universal regard for a few weeks 24 years from now!
4. PEARLS REJECTED. One of the “joys” of having teenagers is that not one parental utterance — even pearls of wisdom — can go uncontested. Recently, I advised my daughters, “Remember, patience is a virtue,” and I heard, “Yeah right, Dad, like you should be lecturing anyone about being patient. Who’s more impatient than you?” Is it any surprise that after such exchanges, I go searching for our scrapbooks so I can find pictures of the young girls whose final words to me before they went to bed each evening were, “Love you, Daddy.” At such times, my wife reminds me of the value of extreme patience, as she assures me, “Don’t worry, the mouthy teenager phase only lasts about 10 years or so!”
5. BEAT SKIPPED. I was sitting at a restaurant with one of my daughters last week when a TV that was behind her and only I could see flashed a clip of that heart-rending scene from the Academy Awards ceremony when poor Michael Keaton had to slip his acceptance speech back into his jacket pocket while Eddie Redmayne was announced as the winner of the Best Actor Award. A few seconds later, I shook my head and told my daughter, “I should post that comment on Facebook.” She looked at me quizzically and asked, “What comment?” I was just as confused. Hadn’t I shared my thought that I hoped some talk show would allow Michael Keaton to deliver the speech he’d prepared? Apparently, that thought had crossed my brain but not my lips. Boy, if I start getting confused about what I say in my head vs. out loud, we’re in for a lot of trouble. Hopefully, these sort of brain/mouth disconnects won’t start occurring with any great frequency — both for my own sake and for the sake of those poor souls who bear the burden of engaging in conversations with me!
Happy Pi Day everyone!