There’s a funny thing about aging; finding the hidden benefits

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When a group of women more than twice my age gather in a coffee shop to chat, it’s hard not to listen. It becomes even more important to pay attention when they begin dishing out advice and sharing wisdom about the benefits of aging.

After a round of gossip at the table about who is getting divorced for the second time, the women began talking about updates in their lives while giving and seeking advice from the others about various topics.

“You need to be on the Facebook,” the one said while the others politely smiled. “That is where all of the fun is happening.”

The chattiest of the bunch leaned back in her chair as if feeling defeated and started sharing the struggle she’s having with her teenage daughter.

“The coffee shop down the street is hosting trivia night Friday night. They’re even playing songs from the Beetles and ask guests to request,” she said. “My daughter will be home from college and I’d like to take her, but I know she wouldn’t want anything to do with ‘old people’.”

The women laughed and moved into a discussion about the benefits that come as a result of accumulating years.

“There’s a point you get to when you realize age really doesn’t matter,” one woman said. “I’ve decided to stop counting at 69.”

The conversation continued, with a list of important aging benefits trailing close behind.

  1.  Discounts at grocery stores
  2. Cheap Frosty’s at Wendy’s
  3. Ability to say what you want; and
  4.  An unsaid societal license to use the word “dead” without sounding to harsh, when speaking about those who have passed on before you

The best of the advice, though, was that from the last woman to leave the table.

“These are the perks of getting older. We need to take advantage of them because we’ve earned it!”

The Child of Tomorrow

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While most days at coffee shops tend to be a bit noisy, this one was different. It was quiet, except for the occasional sound of typing on a keyboard. That was until a group of teenagers quickly ran into the place, breaking the silence. 

They didn’t order anything, but weren’t being disruptive or obnoxious either.

“Look, look” one of the girls said as she shoved her cell phone in front of her girlfriend’s face.

“Why does the light keep turning off?”

“Ugh. I hate this phone.”

Feeling impatient and obviously frustrated, the girl grabbed the phone back from her friend and tapped a few buttons before returning it.

There were a few moments of silence while the friend was reading what seemed to be a text from a boy. The two girls sat close, both nodding their heads as they read.

“And then I said this……and this…

“He’s so sweet,” her friend said.

They both giggled, while I sat there frozen.

That’s when it hit me. My daughter will soon be that age! And, by soon, I mean… well, 14 years from now. OK, so I admit to being a little overboard with my concerns. But, either way, I was intrigued (and shocked!) by the way technology has completely consumed these soon-to-be adults.

child

My "child of tomorrow"

The girls joined the others who had come with them, making a group of five – three girls and two boys. All of them were glued to the screens of their cell phones, waiting for the next text, Facebook post, tweet or annoying phone call from their parents.

“I haven’t told my Mom about tomorrow yet,” one of the boys said with a smirk.

The girl with the juicy conversation on her cell phone reached into her pocket and held it up for the boy to see.

“Hey, did you hear me and Jacob* made out?” she asked, brushing her hands through her hair.

I sat at a table a few feet away, cringing.

“Yeah, I heard. How did it go?” he said.

She handed him the phone, pointing to show him the text. He nodded his head and smiled before they all decided to leave; heads high and the now “experienced” kisser proud as could be.

While I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything I saw or heard, I was. I am relatively young, but it still amazes me how much teenage “love” has changed since I was in high school. There was no Facebook, Twitter or smartphones then. I had a cell phone and was able to text, but passed notes (yes, handwritten!) in class, read the newspaper and took notes using a yellow tablet.

A recent article published in The New York Times examines the new age of technology, proposing “the child of tomorrow” will crave less information and instead require more quiet time.  Companies like Intel have experimented with the idea of requiring four uninterrupted hours of work per week to clear the minds of their employees. New software is also being introduced to users, allowing buyers to disable Internet connections for those who can’t seem to stay away.

I’m not sure what this will mean for my daughter or the other “children of tomorrow”, but it seems to be moving in the right direction.

And, in all of this conversation about young “puppy love”, the tie between new technology and the increasing need for quiet, there is one tiny detail I forgot to include – my husband and I started dating when I was 15 years old and  we used AOL Instant Messenger to keep in touch.

*All names have been changed to protect privacy.