Yesterday I went to the retinologist for my yearly check-up (I am stable and my retinas look slightly better even, though nothing to write home about.) which meant sitting in two waiting rooms with elderly people.
It was alarming. First, they were sitting around talking about how wonderful Trump is and how he’s not a career politician and disparaging politicians who were. Then an old guy told another old guy how he’d missed out on Vietnam due to a terrible car accident caused by his own recklessness. A woman kept interrupting the conversation because she was convinced the accident having old guy was talking to her and she would get pissed and embarrassed when he said he wasn’t. Then more talk about how glorious Trump is.
Then the old ‘I missed Vietnam due to an accident’ guy got called back and as soon as he was out of earshot, they switched to complaining about how anyone could possibly have the time to go to the Trump rally tomorrow and, if they weren’t so busy, they’d be down there handing out job applications to people. And at first I thought they meant the protesters, but no! No, the removal of the biggest Trump supporter allowed them to change their conversation from “fuck the people who don’t like Trump” to “fuck the people who like Trump enough to go see him.” But the exact same snide tone.
And then they launched into complaining about kids today which lead to a conversation about how kids are ruined by third grade. THIRD GRADE! I mean, I’m sure there are some dick third graders out there. I’m not discounting that. But they meant the whole lot. And I can’t help but guess that third grade must be about the time that kids start to get wary of this meanness in these old people.
My dad and I had a conversation recently about Fox News because my dad is really disturbed by how much his friends are affected by it. He said it’s not even that they watch it that bugs him. Like, if they were devoted fans of some show on there the way that he’s a fan of Jeopardy and tries to make time to watch it every day, that wouldn’t concern him. It’s that they leave it on all day, so even when they’re not actively watching it, it’s the noise in the background.
I thought of that yesterday because that’s what struck me listening to these old folks–not the content of what they were saying, though that was weird and alarming (I mean what kind of weird cognitive space do you have to be in to flow right from Hurray Trump! to Fuck those Trump Supporters?), but how, even if you didn’t listen specifically to what they were saying, there was that sharp, snide tone. The same one you would pick up on if you had Fox News on in the background all day.
We spend a lot of time alarmed at how much TV time kids have, but I think my dad is right. Old folks could benefit from turning off the TV and going outside or reading a book or listening to music or, hell, even turning the TV back on but watching something they enjoy instead of something that feeds their worst impulses.
Yes! That snide tone. That contempt and anger. My mom’s gotten this way more and more over the years. It’s scary and baffling. She doesn’t leave Fox on all day, no, she leaves talk radio on all day, and reads Drudge, and then, when opportunity arises, recites a litany of things which are terrible, or worse than they were, or This Group Here, or whatever. I asked her once if it wasn’t exhausting to be mad all the time. She got mad. But seriously, where the hell does that come from? My grandma wasn’t mad all the time. Is this a generational thing?
I think it’s just not that hard to make older people mad; my grandma never watched Fox News and she was a bitter old coot. But part of that for her was a lifetime of untreated depression, so by the time she got old “miserable” was just her normal. I wonder how many of these angry old Trump lovers are lonely, depressed but refuse to go get any help. Fox then tells them the reason they are feeling bad is Those People. Hating Those People is much easier than going to someone to deal with your traumas. So they do. In the same way that alcoholics drink instead of getting help.
K. I was thinking that same thing. I remember one grandfather being grouchy, but my other three grandparents were pleasant to be around (even if sometimes strange). On the other hand, the people who are old now were raised by people who had been through the trauma of WWII and who were, in broad terms, known for having a hard time connecting to their kids.
So, I do wonder if we’re not seeing a lot of untreated anxiety and depression.
But man, that they have adopted this shared tone. That gives me the heebie jeebies.
I’m pretty old, and I’m grouchy, but I’ve been grouchy all my life. And I don’t think I use quite that tone.
Although I would welcome with open arms a law requiring me to smoke pot.
A while back I was trying to understand the phenomenon of irrationally angry old people, and basically one explanation that really rang true for the nastiest old person in my life is that it’s about a loss of power over others.
For a lot of people, old age is the time when they no longer have power over others that they used to have. It can be power over others through work, or power over one’s offspring, or whatever. Old age usually has those things go away.
At the same time, one is increasingly powerless over one’s health and therefore one’s fate.
And anger and rage, if you can work yourself into those feelings, *feel* like power, or very close to it. So you get all these people perpetually working themselves up because at least for a little while, they feel more like they used to. But they keep needing more and bigger hits of the anger drug, so off they go into a spiral of hate.
I personally don’t have much sympathy for someone who’s in a tizzy because they don’t have anyone to boss around anymore. I have a lot of patience for the ones where it’s more snark because of their powerlessness over themselves.