Seriously, does anyone have more “Get off the lawn” energy?
Its a widely-observed phenomenon that people tend to get grumpier as they get older. Aside from a tiny minority that somehow seem to become nearly saintly, the vast majority move into what we shall call the “Get off my lawn!” phase of life, where random outbursts of anger at…well, whatever is irritating them, seem to come more and more frequently. The classic case being the grumpy old widower yelling at kids playing on his lawn.
I’ve given this a lot of thought as I have, inevitably, aged towards that category myself. Especially given the common wisdom that straight white cis middle-class men—a category to which I belong—are supposed to get more conservative, or even reactionary, as they age. Which concerned me as a progressive, because honestly, I really a lot didn’t want to become a reactionary. Or even conservative. “A man who has not been a socialist before 25 has no heart; if he remains one after 25 he has no head,” the old saying goes. “Hooey,” decided I when I was somewhere in my late 20s.
But I definitely have noticed something happening as I’ve aged. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with socialism, or political convictions, or even kids. It’s honestly a lot simpler.
I’m less patient is all.
Now, on a simple temporal basis, this is easy to understand; I’ve got less time. My grandmother on the side of the family I take after the most—my Mom’s mom—passed away at 90. So let’s say I’ll live to 90. Or even 100. Fine. (I don’t think I will, or that I even want to. I suffer from chronic pain controlled by morphine and regular medical procedures. I am a cancer survivor. I have a degenerative neurological condition that makes my hands shake. I mean, do I really want another 40 years of all that? But I digress!) Let’s say 90. Just do the math here.
When you’re 30 and you’re going to live to 90, you’ve got 60 more years. Two times what you’ve already lived! It’s bloody forever! You can afford to be patient! Yeah, you may need to learn patience, it may be hard, but you have the time.
When you’re 60, you’ve got 30 more years; have of what you’ve already lived. The clock is ticking, baby. Believe me, I’m not there yet and I can hear the damn noise already. And I guarantee you even for the folks who aren’t feeling the pressure consciously, their bodies are telling them. It’s a lot harder to keep that waistline in check, butts and boobs are sagging, grey is in their hair (what they have left), wrinkles abound. It’s easy to get impatient with things because your own body is betraying you on a daily basis. You get impatient with it. And that makes you impatient in general.
Not to mention you’ve seen a bunch more stuff in the world than you did 30 years ago. I saw my first impeachment when I was 11. Now I’ve seen four. And not one of those guys ended up in jail. I’ve actually lost track of how many times the Republicans have threatened (or actually have) closed down government over a budget battle where they eventually caved. Five times? Six? I don’t remember! Three different GOP administrations have crashed the economy into the ground and left the Democrats to pick up the pieces. Three!
And it’s not just politics. The tornadoes in Kentucky are a horrible disaster. And how many disasters have I lived through in my life? I couldn’t possibly remember. The first was Hurricane Agnes when I was 9. Even just counting “hurricanes that cost billions” it’s got to be over a dozen by now. Add in earthquakes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, plane crashes, wars, etc., the brain kind of overloads. I’m not saying all these things aren’t terrible; I’m just noting there’s only so many of them you can take in before some part of you says, “Right; I’m done.” It’s not that you want to tap out; it’s that you want it over. You lose patience. You’re tired of the bullshit.
Which gets me around to my main point.
I don’t hate having kids on my lawn and actually invite them. I love having kids on my lawn. Seeing kids having fun brings me joy. Jeez, grumpy old widowers, I totally understand that you want to tap out, but don’t blame the kids, they’re just playing! Blame the politicians, oil executives, callous capitalist jerks, and so on! Let the kids climb trees and jump in the leaves!
What makes me grumpy, what I’m impatient with, is what a lot of people call “being diplomatic”. Here are a couple of examples that have direct bearing on my life, one very small, the other large.
Right now my company has implemented a vaccine mandate policy where you either have to get vaccinated by a certain date and show proof thereof, or file for an exception (usually religious). Without either of these, you have to resign. It being a high tech company, the vast majority have just gotten vaccinated, though a small minority have filed for exceptions. And here’s where I get grumpy and am tired of being diplomatic.
A very, very small minority of these anti-mandate folks are either anti-vaxxers, or anti-mandates. And there’s no question in my mind they don’t want to abide by the policy just because they feel they’re entitled not to. No other reason; just because. I’ve deduced this from the (mostly pathetic) arguments they’ve put up on the internal company channels, and the bigoted “manifesto” they sent to the company executives protesting the policy.
Now, because of corporate policy, I have to be diplomatic and say things like, “That statement comes from a web site of dubious quality”, or “that argument has been proven false”, or whatnot. But because of the aforementioned lack of patience and associated grumpiness, I want to say, “OH SHUT UP YOU ENTITLED, SELFISH, IGNORANT JERKS! Get vaccinated and stop whining!” (And that’s not even getting into the fact that straight white cis Christian men are using a religious exemption created for historically marginalized minority religions not because of “deeply-held regious beliefs,” but simply because they don’t wanna. It disgusts me.)
This is my old, progressive version of “get off my lawn.”
A broader example would be Taiwan. My son is Taiwanese. He’s not Chinese. The world’s policy about Taiwan is, in a word, nuts. And it makes me nutty having to listen to it, or deal with people who try to convince me it makes sense.
[Brief aside: If you’re unfamiliar, the U.S. treats Taiwan as a separate country, but pretends it’s actually part of China and never, ever says the word “country” when referring to Taiwan. China behaves as if Taiwan is part of China, even though they have zero authority over it. Taiwan pretty much ignores this to the extent they can, except for the fact that they sit right next door to a nuclear-armed autocracy that would like to occupy them like Hong Kong and would except for the U.S. Navy and world opinion.]
No grump-old-man Doug says: Screw all this “pretending Taiwan isn’t a country just because it makes China get their knickers in a knot” BS. They need to get over it. At my age, I have zero patience with coddling to the tender consciences of politicians in general, and politicians in other countries in particular. The heck with ’em! Get off my lawn, you snowflakes!
A lot of this stems from my basic life stance, which is that I have no itch to power, and don’t understand people who do. So I don’t understand politicians in general, people like Mitch McConnell in particular, and autocrats like Trump, Putin, and whoever-the-fuck is in charge in China right now (frankly I don’t keep track because it seems to change every few years and I have enough trouble keeping up with our clown show). I do not and never will understand why China seems to get so bent about people calling Taiwan a country, and intent on grabbing more territory. Why can’t they leave Tibet alone? Why are they constantly pushing into India? Why do they need to grab even more tiny islands in the South China Sea? They have the biggest and most populous country on Earth; isn’t that enough? WTF, Chinese leaders!
Those are just examples. My point here is that men in particular and humans in general are not destined to get more conservative as they get older, but I do think they tend to get more impatient, and thus more grumpy. And this grumpiness is going to manifest in different ways. In my case, it’s a profound impatience with “diplomatic niceties”; just say WTF you mean, people! With some of those insensitive old widowers, they’re yelling at poor kids. With power-hungry straight white cis Christian men, they get more conservative because they see that as a way to get more power and money (I guess?).
But take heart, you aging GenXers; you don’t have to become more conservative! You can be like me and get more radical, and PO and whole different set of people!
And meanwhile, invite those kids on your lawn! They need a place to play!