A Letter to Those Older

I am not a confrontational person. I do, however, enjoy debate and sharing ideas, arguing about views of life, and dissecting what behavior is moral and what isn’t. People around my age generally agree with me on most things, particularly politics. Thus, I seek people older than I, who will challenge me in my thinking, resulting in a discourse more fruitful because we will disagree. Recently, though, I talked to someone a few decades beyond me about a political matter and heard a certain phrase fall from their lips. It wasn’t the first time it’s been said to me, nor will it be the last, but it’s a phrase of disrespect potent enough to deter me from talking to a person any longer; a phrase so damning, so revealing of their character to strip them of all ethos; a sequence of six words equal to spitting in my face; an insult simply begging me to turn and walk away.

They had the audacity to say: “you’ll understand when you are older.”

“Kill Bill” sirens went off.

First of all, how dare you?

The reason hearing this sucks so hard is this: it’s true. But we all know it is; it does not need to be said. Of course opinions will change with age. Experiences transform views. Knowledge reshapes thinking. But in this moment, I am attempting to communicate how I view things, how I think, at the age I currently am, based on things I’ve observed and things that have happened to me. I am communicating as if my words carry the truth, for I can only communicate my reality. To what end are you telling me “I’ll understand?” Excuse me, but allow me to have ten minutes to grow up 30 years in order for us to have a conversation.

Illustration by Janet Ali

Illustration by Janet Ali

Secondly, with those nasty six words you effectively invalidate anything I have to say, even outside of the current subject. You’re simultaneously saying your hypothetical religion is correct, and my hypothetical one isn’t, for I am young. The utterly dismissive nature of that phrase is equivalent to as follows: I think strawberry ice cream is bad, but when I’m 47 I may love it, and therefore my opinion on strawberry ice cream is wrong, invalid, and baseless. Why should I talk to you about anything since my youth, to you, makes my words carry no weight?

Thirdly, why won’t you, dear older person, since you have the blessing of age, the wonderous wisdom of years, share what happened to you? Based on what experiences do you now feel this way about a subject, instead of patronizing me? Why elect to murder a conversation over sharing the wealth of knowledge? Why escape dialogue with a rude sentence to sit in a hotsy-totsy ivory tower? Share mistakes you made, so I’m not doomed to repeat them. Educate me on the subject, so I won’t embarrass myself in the future.

When the appalling phrase is uttered to me, I will find other company: company that won’t hold me to a low standard due to my age. If that reaction, or this article, seem extreme or petty, disrespect demands disrespect for the echo is a phenomenon found in nature. If that reaction, or this article, seem irrational or unwarranted, perhaps you’d understand if you were young.

So allow me to express as eloquently as I can and in vernacular I feel is expected of me:

“Goo-goo Gaa-gaa.”