Back in ‘Nam

A pair of rockers on a decaying porch. And a cow pitcher on the table in between.

It’s known that I’m thinking that maybe we ain’t that young any more. I’m reminded of it every day.

I look in the mirror and see that skin is hanging a little looser around my eyes. There are fine, and less than fine, lines cropping up around my mouth and striping my forehead. There’s really no hiding them. And the silver tinsel that is my hair is kept at bay by a colorist I see so often she’s now a friend.

I am having a tough time reconciling these outward signals with my mental self image. I say that I think that I’m still in my 20s. But really I don’t.

I’m a much wiser and much calmer and much more confident and much more accepting version of my twenty-something self. I was going to say more patient, but I’m still working on that.

My neurologist said that I have the brain health of an 18-year-old. That means that my physical brain still fills my skull. It isn’t shrinking. It still has lots of twists and turns, where my thinking is done. I wonder if it was even bigger before, and it actually has shrunk. But that wouldn’t explain the youthful folds and crevices of gray matter. It was the nicest thing anyone said to me. At least one of them.

You see, I’ve had many opportunities for nice–and sometimes not so nice–things to be said to me. It’s just a factor of potential volume of opportunities. Opportunities born of time.

There’s an extensive internship program at my current gig–with the youngins between the ages of just barely able to buy a beer to still covered on their parents’ health plan. [Thanks Obama!]

They have full heads of hair, barely grown in beards, skin that doesn’t sag at their upper arms and their first work wardrobes. They think that I came up with John McCain via their Tropic Thunder view of Coppola’s view of Viet Nam (“Wait,” they said, “That was a remix?”) They are… Millennials.

Now, I know I’m not supposed to like them. Especially in the workforce. They are lazy, entitled narcissists. They are disrespectful of their ancestors. They think things are easy, and don’t get why you don’t fix them, duh?! They get their feelings hurt too quick.

And then, Baby Bear told me that he hates Millennials. “I know, and I’m one of them.”

And I was all like, “Bear, you are wrong!”

See. I was impatient too. I knew much more than my bosses credited me. And they were doing things a dumb way. And, Jaysus!, I could do their job. Seriously. I had the smarts. It’s not that hard.

Every generation starts the same. It’s the trajectory we follow over a life’s course. Over a decade or two, I learned that if it were easy, it’d be done. That the battles are much less important than the war. That we have different preferences and styles, like I like the forest and you like the trees. I found out as Broadway Aaron Burr said to young Broadway Alexander Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.” And, maybe most importantly, life is not fair. The best ideas, the clearest tones, the rightest right, the most honest truths do not win out. Not all the time. Sometimes the bad guys win. I really hate that. But it’s true.

The Bear and I went around and around and when we were done we landed on one big difference between when old people were young and his cohort. It’s the butthurt feelings.

Oh, Millennials! I recommend that you work to gather as big a perspective as you can. And use that vista to inform your view. Make it bigger than you.

My other millennial spawn, The Big Guy, took me to school and flipped my script. Turns out, I’m not the center of the universe. What? Who knew?

When people make decisions that aren’t about me, they are not thinking about me. Seriously. They are making a call for themselves. I might end up as collateral damage–and that may need to be addressed–but their focus wasn’t on causing me butthurt.

Someone else says it best.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness.* –Hanlon’s Razor

People are not required to take your feelings or perspective into account. It’s nice and all, but not a requirement. Anyway, it’s a gift to have your perspective challenged. It makes a person think. Thinking is good. That’s something that my young brain/old self can wrap around.

Thanks, Youths, for reminding me that we’re alike, just at different times. Hope you’re not disappointed when you get to my place. Let me know. I’m not as old as you think. If you do the math, I’ll still be alive.


*Other people prefer “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity,” but I find it’s more likely omission vs. stupidity.

High Tailed

The cover of Depraved and Insulting English.

She was so bored but only needed to hide her acute detachment for another minute. Two minutes max.

She hated the performance art required to do staff reviews for the useless staff. He was very earnest in offering her a wider swath of his skills. She wasn’t using all he had. He could do so much more.

She had no interest in his offer. She fidgeted in her head. She had to hear his languid if not meandering narration. She imagined his words to be the babble of a brook. Great, now she had to pee.

She provided the required thanks and hearty if not heartfelt praise as she lowered the screen to her keyboard. She knew as she stood up he would too, and it’d be over. He stood. He articulated his hope for his place in the organization. Sure, she thought, if this place was a museum of old puppets or old muppets. Hah! That was worth an internal giggle. She led him out of the conference room, showering him with her waxy Madame Tussauds smile–you couldn’t hardly tell it was fake–and almost collided with a woman.

Why did she nod to me? Why is she stupidly standing at the door? The bored woman brushed past. She needed to get to the toilet before her next meeting.

The stupid woman called her name. Wait, the bored woman knew her.

The stupid woman called her name again. She reluctantly turned. More time wasted. She was on her way to see her boss. Her meetings were back to back. The woman, upon recognition, was no less stupid.

She motioned to the conferences room. “We have a meeting scheduled,” she mostly asked.

The bored woman shook her head. She styled her layered hair this morning and her mid length flip bounced its objection, too. She usually wore a ponytail. She appreciated today’s emphatic ‘do. She marked this power up feeling. She needed to use the big round brush more often.

She flicked open her laptop. She balanced the device on the heel of her left hand as she started reading the stupid woman her schedule that definitely did not include another stupid meeting with another useless staffer.

That stupid woman was so stupid she didn’t even care. She whipped out her phone and shook it in front of her face, pointing at the appointment that was marked as being initiated by the bored woman and sat plainly at the current time slot on the phone’s calendar.

The bored woman made an obligatory apology and closed her notebook. She really had to go. The stupid woman looked at her stupidly–no surprise there–and offered a taste of small talk. Maybe she was trying to get the bored woman’s attention long enough so she would acknowledge her and reschedule, but that wasn’t going to happen. The stupid woman didn’t want to reschedule anyway. She simply was inoculating against being blamed for a meeting not happening.

She looked at the bored woman’s torso and congratulated her.

The bored woman looked up at her, on the cusp of being interested. “Oh, yes! The new project launch?”

“No,” said the stupid woman. “On the baby.” She seemed genuinely happy for the bored woman who was quite pregnant.

The bored woman wanted to avoid a personal conversation with the stupid woman–and, quite frankly, with anyone at this moment. She had someplace to be and someplace to be before that place.

“Oh, this?” She matched the stupid woman’s eyes and followed them to her swollen belly. “That’s old news. The project launch? THAT’S my baby!”  She was okay connecting on work, just not on her private life.

Did that stupid woman just flinch? Or was it a cringe? No matter. Enough time was sucked out of her morning. She missed her chance to pee. Thanks stupid woman, she thought. You rank up there with that other useless staff member who’s inchoate wordstream caused this need to pee to begin with. She turned.

The stupid woman watched her walk away. Her bouncy high hair reminded her of one the kids’ favorite words from the Depraved and Insulting English dictionary. Feague is a verb that describes putting something (peeled raw ginger or a live eel) up a horse’s arse to increase the lift or the liveliness of of it’s tail.

The stupid woman grinned as the bored show horse trotted away, off to the races.