Sunday, November 09, 2008

It's Official. I've Become a Grumpy Old Woman.

Or, at least I sound like a grumpy old woman. But hear me out.

I have been feeling all week as though the Kool-Aid has literally been consumed by a little over half the American population, and I’m just sitting and watching it happen. I've come to terms with it, and will be nice and polite to the looming socialist party. I just don’t know what the people in this country are thinking. I didn’t, that is, until I heard a few comments last week that have shaken my sense of democratic, patriotic stability a bit. The kids in this country – those pesky 18 to 25-year olds – have pretty much called the shots on this one, folks. And, I’m going out on a slight limb here when I say that they’re all a bunch of spoiled, over privileged little brats. Visionaries? I think not. The visionaries I've always looked up to weren't living off their parent's dollars.

I taught class last Thursday night and heard one of my students blabbing about how excited he is that we finally will have socialized medicine and "rich people will finally have to ante up.” This kid said, and I quote, that “people who make more than 150,000 dollars a year have the responsibility to pay for people who don’t make as much money as they do.”

Huh. OK. (My lip was bleeding at this point. I'm a professional...I'm a professional...)

Now let’s preamble, as I always do. I did the calculations one time, a few years ago, about how much money I actually make teaching at the university. It’s job number two for me, mainly because I couldn’t afford to eat if I made it my sole source of income. When I did the calculations, it came out to around 5 bucks an hour – less than minimum wage – when you take into account the hours of lesson planning, grading, driving there and back, etc. It’s more than obvious that I’m nowhere near making 150K a year. I wish I could say that I was, and I wish I could say that I made a dollar to every MAN’S dollar, too, but I can’t. But do I go through life wishing that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth? Do I feel as though rich people have the responsibility to take care of me? Do I feel as though a rich person OWES me money that he or she made?

Um, no. I do not.

I don’t particularly like most rich people. I mean, I was married to one for eight years, and for the most part, those people were not smarter than me in any way. They didn’t have more class. They weren’t wittier or superior. They were just luckier, really. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that some people are smarter than others, some are luckier than others, and God didn’t put us all on this planet to be exactly the same. That’s the joy of it. As much as I love having money in my pocket, it never made me happier when I had it. For the most part, I thought about 75% of the rich people I lived among were pretty much pricks BECAUSE of the money they seemed to hide behind. But, never did I EVER feel as though they were responsible for me. Or my lot in life, for that matter.

The kid went on to say that his “parents taught (him) to give to those who needed it – (He) was raised to take care of others and be charitable.”

My lip bleeding profusely from biting it at this point, I answered with, “Well, that’s interesting, because my parents raised me to take responsibility for myself, my actions, to be independent and self-sufficient, and never expect anyone else to take care of me.”

To top off that lovely sentiment, I mentor young writers at work. One of them, in her first year out of school, actually made the statement this week – “I didn’t sit in class for four years to NOT be respected.”

Thank God I heard about this second-hand from one of my colleagues. I may have been fired for a potential response had I actually been there.

What is it with this generation? I know I sound like an 80-year old woman, but have we raised a bunch of kids who feel they’re entitled to everything? I myself have never birthed my own offspring, but I'm surrounded by them. And the vast majority of the ones I see in my life day-to-day have this air about them like the world owes them something. They’re the “time-out” generation – the kids who were put in a corner in their room when they were bad, forced to have quiet time (quite possibly with their flat-screen TVS and their 150-gig IPods). They’re the generation who all got trophies when they made 7th place in the track meet. What the hell is THAT? If you’re 7th, you LOSE. You’re a big, fat loser. Suck it up, kid. In real life, there is no trophy for 7th place.

As much as I love my stepkids and their friends, I see glimpses of that entitlement in them, too. The color-coded Christmas lists, the “I want, I want, I want” statements. The expectation that parents are responsible for certain things, 40-hour workweeks are only for people in their 30s, and every kid should have a car with a bow on it for their 16th birthday - not to mention a wardrobe that would be worthy of Imelda Marcos. They’re loving and kind and compassionate kids, for the most part, so I hold that as saving grace for them. But I’m also the wicked stepmother who reminds them that color-coded Christmas lists and the notion of entitlement are ridiculous bullshit. I’m a giver like that.

I told Husband-man that if we ever had a kid (and that may not be possible with the powdered eggs that linger in my uterus), I would try to raise the little person like my parents raised me. If I could just figure out how they did it, though. The genius way they made me love them so much, but fear them at the same time. I keep trying to figure out how they managed to do that, but neither my Mom nor Dad can answer me succinctly when I ask, “how did you make me believe that disappointing you in any way, shape, or form was the absolute WORST thing I could do in the world?”

So, back to that kid in my class. Upon his statement proclaiming that it was everyone else’s responsibility to take care of HIM, I answered, “Mr. Obama promised me that he’d have the national debt balanced in 4 years. In fact, his Vice President – that wonderful Mr. Biden - said it directly to me on TV one night during the campaign, so it must be true. I’ll be very happy to see that they’ve accomplished exactly what they’ve promised at the end of their term. I’m hopeful they will come through with all those many, many promises.”

And then I handed the self-absorbed little socialist bastard his C+ paper.