My grandmother says things that are a little racist. Off-hand remarks about Tiger Woods and the Williams Sisters; nothing sinister or vile, but enough that an eyebrow would be raised if Oprah was in the room.
Now, I know, there’s no excuse for racism, and even older people should be able to adapt with the times, but it’s exhausting keeping up with things. It’s true. But you, yes, you!, are going to be in that boat one day. You probably already are. You bigot, you, and that’s ok.
First, the only way this whole experiment works is if we accept that people can change; if someone else can’t grow, how can you? You can’t simultaneously write-off people as incapable of change while demanding that they change.
Growing up, calling someone “gay” or “fag” was common. No one lobbed racial slurs but, “Shut up, fag” was as every day as, “Eat shit, loser.” There was no thought given to deeper intent; it was normal speech, gleamed from an environment the same way a chameleon picks up a new shade of red.
These days, as a general rule, I don’t regularly call people gay or fag, but it slips in here and there, nostalgia providing positive feedback. “You faggot” still carries power. The hard double G has that edge, same as “mother fuCKer” or “retard.” There’s a euphonic quality to the words that I just can’t deny.
However, should I ever have grandchildren and slip, I’m sure they’ll look at me and silently shake their head at the dumb, clueless old man but I hope they won’t cancel me. Because while it isn’t an excuse to be a jerk, there is something to be said for understanding what’s driving a person. Hopefully, they’ll learn that everything changes, language changes and grows, and 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 because it’s important in the way a good foundation saves a house built on the side of a hill. 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! Life is tough, you should know this by now (if you don’t: wait). It doesn’t get easier as you get older.
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.