And my question, quite seriously: Who do they think those people WERE in the 60s and 70s, having sex in disco bathrooms, engaging in group marriages and Bob-and-Carol-and-Ted-and-Alice type encounters? All of those people are my age and older now. It’s like they have some idea that all old people just retire and instantly become Baptists, or something. I dunno.
Another old woman and I had a long discussion the other day, about how conservative the young seem to be–and does liberalism mark us as “old”? Odd that ‘stylistic’ liberalism (willingness to try new fashions, music, clubs, vacation spots, foods) is popular with the American young, but NOT idealistic or intellectual liberalism.
My mom belongs to that generation, the hippie dippie liberal all-we-need-is-love generation. She was mostly chilling out during that time, more a thinker than a marcher, and her hippie dippie-ness resided in her associations and conversations rather than anything else.
She had me when she was 31 and so we have 31 years between us. My mom is also the closest person to me (even though I don’t always tell her everything) because she believes in me and I believe in her in ways that no one has done consistently and continuously for either.
I say all this to contextualize the following: I often dismiss my mom’s opinions about politics and such, because I read her liberalism, her “idealistic and intellectual liberalism” as Daisy puts it as naive now. Or uninformed. She doesn’t know about the value of religious thought as liberation strategy: she thinks it’s kinda bonkers. She doesn’t know about moving away from the linear spectrum of left-right politics: she thinks that left, the old, idealistic, real left, is where it’s at, that other options are just fruity and pie-in-the-sky. She doesn’t know about third- and fourth-party options in America being not only viable but absolutely necessary: she thinks I’m mad that I wanted to vote for Nader.
The problem is, though, she does know. Obviously she knows. I argued with her all through my teenage years about bloody everything, particularly religion and stuff, and she was in fact the only one who conceded that some of my ideas about religion made some sense. We just don’t agree. And I actually can’t stand that. I can’t stand that my mom and I (or my father and I) don’t agree because that means either that she’s old and uninformed and naive and obsolete, or that I took away the wrong lessons from her and I’m completely misguided, a disappointment she never voices as such because she loves me too much to tell me what an ideological fuck-up I am.
If my mom were to actually read this, she’d laugh and be appalled at the same time. Knowing her, she will read it, although since I came back into the country, maybe she reads this blog less because we talk more. In any case, the foolishness of the above is just … wow. And it was because Daisy made particularly this distinction between stylistic and intellectual/idealistic liberalism that it occurred to me how I think about my mom.
I do it particularly in conflict moments. When my mom and I agree, it is both because I am a brilliant child and my mom is just so hip and cool. And not at all because she’s always been thoughtful and now I am thoughtful and we are both being thoughtful in the same space. Generational definition requires that one allies oneself with a particular generation in direct opposition to a different, parental in this case, generation, without any acknowledgement of the fact that both generations are constructed. Sticking with your own generation, which is a group of people very very roughly your own age, holds benefits for those who subscribe and conform to them and distinct disadvantages to those who stray. Thus, when we say that so-and-so was born fifty, or someone is still a teenager at heart, it is at best a term of patronizing endearment and at worst a dismissal and put-down.
My mom, then, is merely an archival source of information on yesteryear, a place I’m glad I never went but I will, of course, acknowledge as totally having made me, man, really; and I will still go to her for every emotional and intellectual boo-boo because she’s my mom and that’s her job. But her personhood is nothing self-evident, merely a deviation I grant her when I’m in the mood.
Our reality is not this way, me and my mom. Because my mom doesn’t really take too much shit for me when it comes to anything other than things having directly to do with my life (or when I’m complaining about how she totally messed me up, man, with that divorce thing). We actually spend a lot of time talking about everything, whenever we do get the chance to sit down and talk. But, like I said, it’s in that moment of conflict – when I vote for Nader or suggest that I understand why someone would deliberately keep kosher and cover themselves head to foot – that her opinions are, as a defensive tactic on my part, relegated to the “gosh, it’s just that she’s old, isn’t that sweet” department.
Because I don’t know how to argue against the arguments of “that generation.” I don’t know how to argue my points against idealogical/idealistic/intellectual liberalism, being a liberal with a conservative streak and actually, really, tired of linear spectrums like left-right and religious-secular.
(This post was written about an hour ago but the internet crapped out twice so it’s been reproduced twice and the entropy of writing makes it much suckier than it was when it started.)Stumble it!