My grandmother says things that are a little racist. When you were born in the 1920s and live in South Dakota for most of your life, being around people of color isn’t exactly normal. She’s not an out and out KKK card carrying member or anything. Heck, she was as involved in the Democratic Party as anyone for most of her life. She once made so many stuffed donkeys as handouts that she was called “The Donkey Lady.” (Not to be confused with my father, who was simply a jackass.)
But she has those little things she says that you just shake your head and politely smile. She’s not stupid and yada yada yada, I know, there’s no excuse for racism, and even older people should be able to adapt and change and such. It’s true. But you, yes, you!, are going to be in that boat one day. You probably already are. You bigot, you.
When I was growing up, calling someone “gay” or “fag” was as common as anything. No one lobbed racial slurs but, “Shut up, fag” was normal. None of us gave two thoughts to it being homophobic or anything, it was just regular speech. Were we homophobes? Probably. Again, growing up, most 15 year old boys were.
In general, I don’t regularly call people gay or fag anymore, but it slips here and there. I confess: it’s a good one. “You faggot” just has a power to it. The hard double G has that edge. It’s the same as “mother fuCKer” or “retard.” There’s a euphonic quality to the words that I just can’t ignore. Alas, proper behavior in public demands I suppress my language.
Should the world be so cruel as to give me grandkids (or, well, kids), I’m sure they’ll look at me and silently shake their head at the dumb, clueless old man. They’ll be right, of course. But they’ll learn. We all will. Things change. Language changes. We don’t appreciate what we’re saying as we age and as the world grows. These things happen.
Remember the world someone grew up in. You get to a certain age and you stop moving forward. You have two kids, a job, house, cars, all that. You can barely catch up on sleep. You see summer blockbusters when they air on TBS randomly one night. Keeping up with the appropriate language is down the list. You’re just trying to not need pills that help you take a shit when you’re on oxycodone!
No, you won’t be the cool grandparent. You should hope you aren’t. The guy desperate to keep up with today’s trends and fashions and whatever is someone who never learned to appreciate the good he had throughout life. Why listen to the newest music when you already have The Stones? Why bother with whatever the New Yorker’s latest long-form essay is when you have centuries of unread work still to attack? You get old and you should be able to happily say, “In my day…” People might roll their eyes but there’s a truth to what that old codger is saying. It isn’t that things were always better back then, but there sure was a lot of good.
And so, if you’re lucky, one day you’ll grow up to the be grandparent that everyone nods politely at – it means you’re loved by them all and have lived a full life.