Friday, July 11, 2008

Generational differences

I apologize for the relative lack of posts lately, but I've been running around the country with the whole family. Literally. And I think there's something so hilarious about the delightful ignorance of (some of) the elderly.

A little background: All four of my grandparents are still living, albeit the youngest is 85 years old and senile. Two are Danish natives, which means their speech is peppered with Danish phrases that I still don't fully understand. I can speak the important things, though: Thank you, toast! and sing a song about a little kitty cat. Useful, I know. Anyways, surprisingly enough, they're actually the somewhat more liberal set of grandparents. They don't balk as much at my tattoos or piercings, and while I haven't come out to them, they don't seem to be conspiracy theorists about "the evils of homosexuality." The other grandparents, on the other hand...

I actually get along with them much better. My sister and I are the only grandchildren, so of course we're spoiled rotten when we visit, and it is entirely thanks to this set of grandparents that I've had the opportunity to receive the outstanding education I'm about to complete. So, we spent a few days with them, I being the chauffeur as we drove around the city exploring little overpriced boutiques and restaurants my grandparents swore were the best in the city. Then, on our last day with them, while sitting around the breakfast table in the kitchen, my grandmother asked me if I cooked often. I told her that I know how to cook, and even have a few select dishes I'm well-known for and that are often requested at holidays and parties. But I also added that in general, the people I've dated have been better cooks and enjoyed cooking, so I let them. Again, as I'm not out to my grandparents, I only mentioned past boyfriends, and made a joke about how my boyfriend would be in the kitchen cooking while I would be outside tinkering with my car. (Which has, in fact, happened.) And then my grandmother made some offhand comment about how "Oh, you're so independent... Just don't be too independent or no boy is ever going to want to marry you!"

OK. Now I know she's from a very different generation, and mindset, and blahdeblahdeblah. But I literally had to hold my breath to keep from laughing out loud. But that wasn't even the best part. Later that day, as we were heading out to dinner, my grandmother beings up the "independent women" issue. "You know," she says, with a tinge of sadness in her voice, "I think that's why there are so many gay men today. They've just given up, because women don't need them anymore. So they turn gay."

I just looked at her and said "I don't think that has anything to do with it, Grandma." And she, in all sincerity, responds "Oh, no? You don't think so? Well, I don't know what it is then."

And I was trying not to laugh, while at the same time trying not to oh, you know, punch her in the face. I really just don't handle ignorance well. And I know that she's so old that it's not worth getting riled up about, but it was a little bit of a slap in the face to realize that she would never be OK with my sexuality. I actually am not even sure she could comprehend it. It's a little sad. But I suppose that's the reality.


Amalthea said...

My grandmother will also likely never know how I identify myself. She doesn't know about any of the women in my life. My mother does, but often seems to forget about it. I think she's just relieved I have not yet found a woman to be serious enough about to bring home.

Your grandmother's theory was one of the more interesting I have heard. I usually just tolerate the elderly rants in my family as well, but I think it explains why I need some time to myself to recover after a trip home. All of that repressing my own thoughts and words takes a toll. My recent trip home involved a heated debate with my mom's boyfriend - he didn't understand why homosexuals care if they can get married in a church or not. Wow, I don't know if he ever understood my point. So frustrating.

Good job dealing, and I hear you on the sad feeling. I get it every time I realize someone else I know or care about would not be ok with who I am.

Fat Controller said...

Ha!... Tak. Skål! Se den lille kattekilling/nej, hvor er den sød....

How fascinating that you have Danish roots.

H's grandmother, who lived to the ripe old age of 92 had a nephew who was gay. All the rest of the family tried very hard to keep this fact from her for fear of her disapproval. Sadly, he fell an early victim to HIV. When the old lady was told of his death her first comment was "I suppose it was AIDS, then?" in quite a matter-of-fact way.

Old folk aren't so old-fashioned as we sometimes think.