So there I was, Sunday evening, at my favourite cinema, in a middle seat on my favourite row (E) with an excellent, uninterrupted view of the screen. Just before the film proper a group of four walk in, already eating popcorn and giggling. They continue to do just that for the next 2 hours – sitting at the back of the small theatre. I became so incensed that at one point I actually turned round and told them to ‘SHUT UP’. There were other patrons but no-one else seemed bothered – or not enough to say anything. I contemplated leaving and coming back another night – but I was there and this is what I had planned to do and so I stayed.
I don’t have good memories of the film and am not sure if it was the film or my mood – perhaps a bit of both but mainly my mood. I should have left. I know that now.
It ended and as I got up to leave one of the young people pointed at me and said in a loud voice ‘there’s the woman who said something’ so I waved and said ‘Hi’. At that point I knew that I was going to ambush them on the way out and let them know how I felt. I am not proud of my behaviour and realise that it probably added to my ‘oddness’ quota. But I was angry and aggrieved and wanted to vent. I did, very calmly. They were, as expected, young people who know the world is theirs, that the rest of us don’t matter and that being older than them is no fun. I didn’t expect a satisfactory outcome to the interaction and was therefore not disappointed. But I continued to be angry on the drive home and when I got into bed. In fact I was still upset by the whole thing the following morning.
The thing that really got me was when one of the young people asked ‘Were you never young?’ A question to which I should have retorted that I hatched from an egg this way. (Thought of that on the way home). But I knew what she meant. From my perspective I was letting them know that their behaviour spoilt my evening at the cinema. What they heard was an old woman telling them off for having some fun.
When did I become that woman? I don’t remember. Is there a line that gets crossed, a demarcation between indulgence and criticism of the young? I wish I didn’t react this way. I wish I could let it wash over me and not feel the need to point out when others are doing something wrong, inappropriate or simply not to my liking. It is arrogant and misguided and potentially dangerous. To be honest this behaviour is not new, but I realise it has got steadily worse with age.
As I get older there seem to be more people younger than me, living in a culture of which I am ignorant. A culture with its own customs and behaviours, with its own norms and rules of acceptability. I don’t understand how going to the cinema and laughing and talking through a film is considered ‘having fun’ but clearly it was by the group I encountered. When I was young having fun was going to the pub, or a party or hanging out with friends. They were not more innocent times – these things involved alcohol and drugs and sex – so that is not it. As a teenager and beyond I was rude and obnoxious, I offended whenever possible and I enjoyed challenging social norms and expectations. I think I remember what it was to be young and frustrated by the old codgers.
So why am I not more sympathetic to the current crop of young people? Perhaps I don’t have to be. Perhaps it is part of my job description, now that I am over 55, to be curmudgeonly and bitter? Part of me hopes it is because I quite enjoy being all that.
Young people should have something to resent and rebel against. As one of the ageing population I reckon I am doing them a favour, providing some of the much-needed grit, ensuring that society shifts and changes. I might not like the way it is going but I won’t be around forever.