Condescension. According to Mirriam Webster, it is a "patronizing attitude or behavior." Most of the time, we experience it when people act superior to us and treat us like we don't know anything.
Recently, I was listening to a podcast and the hostess started talking with the guest about condescension toward young women. Really? I thought. How about condescension toward the elderly? What ever happened to respecting your elders and learning from their experiences?
I realize my own statement is a bit condescending in itself, but seriously, older people usually do know more stuff than we do. They have a lot more life experiences than us. I'm currently somewhere past the middle, but I still believe I can learn a lot from people who are older than me.
When I was young, I loved spending time with my grandmother. She taught me how to take care of long hair. She taught me to eat old fashioned lemon drop candy (talk about tart). I was so young; I really don't remember that much of the actual things she taught me but spending time with her and listening to what she had to say was special. She died less than three months after my 7th birthday, but I still have memories of curling up with her in her bed after she got sick. We would sit in her bed together with her combing my hair.
Less than a year after her death, we moved into her house in Shellman, Georgia. It was a big ole antebellum sort of house with high ceilings, a big front porch, and a large yard on farm that grew pine trees for paper and lumber. The old smokehouse out back was overrun with weeds, but it we had fun living there. We even got to run across the highway (yes, highway) to the gas station to buy candy from Crit. I loved visiting with Crit and his family.
Being that it was my mom's hometown, there were loads of relatives around - in that town and many other towns nearby. Most of those relatives were much older than me with plenty being my grandmother's contemporaries, but I loved listening to them talk.
For my 8th birthday party, my mom said I could invite anyone I wanted. Yes, I had made friends my own age - many of whom were distant cousins, but the people I wanted at my birthday party the most? Those were the little old ladies and older gentlemen that we knew. I don't remember how many people I invited to my birthday party, but my grandmother's house was pretty well packed. I had only invited like 5 or 6 people close to my age to the party and not all of them could make it, but the older folks came, and I still have fond memories nearly 50 years later.
As a teen, I realized that most of the living relatives on my mom's side of the family were women, so I asked Mom about it and the fact was that there weren't that many boys born into the family. So, we went on a road trip one year so I could meet and talk to some of those men. I remember talking with an older cousin and his wife somewhere in Florida - they had built a house out of a converted Quonset hut. I think we visited with Walter Gurr and his wife in Carrabelle on that trip along with my mom's college roommate and her husband - Alice and Jack. I loved that trip - talking to all the older folks and listening to their stories.
On another trip as a teen, my mom and I visited with someone she had dated in the 1940s who later became president of a college in North Georgia. He and his wife were gracious hosts and we talked for hours. I never tired of listening to those conversations because I could glean wisdom and knowledge from them.
Even now, I still gravitate toward people who are older (aka more experienced) than me, although I think some are beginning to see me the way I saw all those older people of my youth. Unfortunately, I too often hear younger people say things like, "You just don't know what it's like. Things are different now." Talk about condescending. Nobody knows everything, but there is sure a whole lot that we can learn from those who are older and most often, wiser than us. They certainly have a load more experience than we do.
What do you think? Do you think older people are condescending or do you enjoy talking to people older than you? Do you appreciate hearing their experiences and learning from their wisdom?
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