Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The present is a foreign country

'The past is a foreign country' is a) one of the best first lines of a book ever, b) a bit of a cliché.

But it feels to me much more nowadays that it is the present that is a foreign country.

Yes, they do things differently there. Much of the time, I feel like a stranger. I just don't understand the habits and conventions of daily life any more.

Partly, it's not having children. I often wondered why young people walk around on the phone all the time. My sisters explained to me that their kids phone them when they are walking from place to place because it saves time later and because they like to have the company. I kind of understand the first reason (mum gets squeezed into dead time, because they are so busy), but not really the second. I've always been quite happy with my own company, and I like the chance to get some thinking time.

I don't actually understand young people. (This feels odd, because I used to be one and, like most people, remember it vividly. But it all seems different now.) And on the whole, I find them pretty irritating (apart from the ones I'm related to, who are, of course, wonderful human beings). Is not liking young people a definition of being middle-aged? If so, I've finally made it.

And I don't get modern manners. I was brought up under a different rule book. People said please, thank you and sorry. People didn't have private conversations in public places. No-one threw litter. In shops, the customer was always right.

Presumably, people nowadays aren't deliberately being rude. So has a different set of conventions taken over? Is there another way of showing respect? And why didn't I get the memo?

Up to now, I've never considered myself old-fashioned. After all, I live on the internet. But, outside of social media, I don't get popular culture. I don't watch the X Factor. I've avoided the Christmas ads. I refuse to give in to the bread and circuses. And I'm genuinely scared that too much TV will rot my brain.

I'm really trying not to be a grumpy old woman. I'm just a bit lost. Please can someone show me a map of this new country – or maybe a guidebook? Or, at least, let me know that it's not just me.

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