by Emma Jennings
Spice Girls. 90s pop. The show where they gunge people for fun. Culture shapes a generation. I was taught Girl Power was cool and showing your midriff was okay, despite my nana poking my belly in disdain. I grew into my teens knowing that piercings and tattoos were acceptable and I, like my many friends, skipped up the sun-kissed path to Claire’s Accessories on the eve of my twelfth birthday. I chose blue dolphin earrings. And bought a pack of stick-on tatts to go.
I had swag.
Mum had Elvis, Dad had the Corrs and I had Steps. And they both had the cheek to say my choice was a tragedy! Apparently humour has carried over our ancestry. Which is good I suppose, since I was blessed with thick straw hair and a crooked smile.
Looking at old photos: my mother, a learner plate, a mullet and denim shorts. I wonder how easily that could have been me. I turn over a black and white picture of my nana and her dog laughing. She was 23. How strange it feels to think that the small things in us, in our surroundings make us . . . really . . . the same. Despite 60 years’ age difference, one midsummer night, I could still bond with my neighbour over the breeze rushing through the birch tree at the end of our houses.
Then, after the ebony clutch of winter, new neighbours enter. And I realise that I am talking over the garden fence to toddlers 20 years younger than me. A pretty incoherent conversation about dogs and ice creams. But just as enjoyable nonetheless.
We naturally segregate a different generation. We make sweeping generalisations. We assume different ages equate different tastes, reactions and cultural interests. Of course, we’ll find that jokes with pop references and political jabs will skim over the head of another family member.
But that’s what makes it beautiful. We are different, but with difference comes the opportunity to learn from each other. We become closer when we take the time to appreciate that we are all human, no matter what age, race or culture we are. It’s all just a matter of respecting each other and laughing at our differences.
My grandma held her 80th birthday in a traditional old manor house for ‘afternoon tea’. It was pleasant. That’s totes an ‘old person thing to do’ right? So when us youngsters waved goodbye in our respectable attire, not one of us expected Grandma’s 70-year-old, bad-ass buddy to stick her middle finger up as she drove off speeding.
So, my advice . . .
Never underestimate your elders, be patient with kids and help a 25-year-old Pokémon player across the street. Because, if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (of all ages and size).