“Well you sure don’t look like a grandma!”
This was a recent exchange between a neighbour of mine, and me. I played the grandma. Because I am the grandma.
But wait. Why did I say thanks to him? I guess we associate being a grandparent with being a certain age. Over 60? Over 50? Certainly over 40. I’m 58 and I certainly look over 40…ok I look over 50. So I said thanks because he thinks I look younger than I am, and we live in a culture that celebrates youth. Hmmm. Okay this getting deep but stay with me.
On the one hand I’m thanking someone for telling me I don’t “look like” a grandma, and on the other, I’m sort of a little bit offended when I actively tell someone I’m a grandma of two and they say “That’s wonderful!” instead of “That’s not possible.”
Can’t they see I don’t look old enough to be a grandmother? But I do? And I don’t mind that I do? Do I? Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy.
When someone uses “Okay Grandma/Grandad” as an insult, I understand why it’s insulting. I think. If you’re into insulting someone for, um, being alive and not dying yet I guess it works. If you’re saying their ideas or actions are outdated I guess it doesn’t, Skippy.
I’ve never thought that simply aging is an accomplishment (Sweet 16? No thanks.) but staying alive is.
Being a grandparent is linked to ageing. Unless you are a step-grandparent, by definition, you’ve had a kid…who has had a kid. But I think when we receive the occasional “You don’t look like a grandma” remark, it’s probably more to do with our outlook and lifestyle than it is to do with our age.
I could be deceiving myself, but allow me to postulate for a minute longer.
Grandparents as portrayed in mainstream media all share a common look – grey hair, glasses, a little round in shape, baking, knitting, gardening, whittling – and not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that…except it represents just a portion of the grandparents who are out in the world.
Goldie Hawn? Jane Fonda? Both in their 70’s and both super fit, working, stylish. I aspire to be like these women. Both grandmas.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Smart as a whip and working right up to her death at 87. Oh, and yes, she worked out regularly as well. Also, a grandma.
The media often lumps the “Mommy” crowd as a demographic together, and it’s never fair. The stereotypes around Stay At Home Moms, Working Moms, Single Moms, Young Moms, Old Moms…rarely are they accurate. These groups are as likely to be homogenous as a grandparent group is. The same goes for Dads, or Grandads.
So if you’re a Mom, or a Dad, or even a Millennial, or a Gen Z, and you’ve been offended by the stereotypes associated with you, just think about that the next time you want to insult someone by calling them a grandma. I’m choosing to take it as a compliment.