Anyone out there remember the whole Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus thing? Maybe not. It's been a while.
According to John Gray's mega-bestseller from the 1990s, each gender is comfy with its own norms and customs but completely clueless about the other's. What does this lead to? Non-stop arguments, of course. A vast and all-but-unbridgeable canyon of mystery and confusion.
I hope Gray will forgive me for messing with his solar system, but to me the gender-gap thing pales in comparison to the radically different planets that generations have grown up on:
Baby Boomers, like me, are from Jupiter. Generation X lives on Saturn. Millennials float around on the Moon.
Talk about confusion. At the risk of being shot to death by my nieces and others, I've compiled a short list of Boomer "questions" for Millennials (otherwise known as Generation Y) -- plus a few cranky complaints and frustrated yelps.
*Was that you flying by in a new SUV or crossover with the "Be Green" "No Farms, No Food" stickers? Increasingly, we notice, it was. Do you think you can "be green" and guzzle resources at precisely the same time? Just askin'.
*Ever read for pleasure? A book. Just a book. Not a "graphic novel." Not a blog. Nothing on a device.
*Do you really think you're not dissing your date or best pal when you dip your eyes down to check your smartphone in the middle of dinner? We know what you're gonna say: "Everyone does it." Maybe on your planet. Not on ours.
*It's our fault, I guess, that manners aren't your thing. We're the ones who brought you up after all. But how come you gotta SHOUT and SCREAM on the sidewalk and in restaurants?
*You've got the volume up. But, just askin': What've you got to say?
*Speaking of sidewalks, please explain the street-crossing thing. Why so painfully, arthritically slow? Unless I'm mistaken, you guys are in your 20s, 30s maybe. Are you tired already?
*Don't you have someplace to go?
*Sorry -- you've heard this before -- but what's with all the "body art"? Expressing your individuality, we'll bet. But since literally every sap in your age-range sports some sort of permanent ink-injection by now, has it ever occurred to you that tattoos are about as cutting-edge as a twist-o-flex watchband?
*For that matter, since spineless Boomers are now in line with you at tattoo and piercing parlors, might it be almost time to shock your peer group and the world by going tattoo- and nose-ring free? Just askin'. Just sayin.'
*Do you guys actually like all the chicken wings you eat? Or are they just convenient for video-game binges and for yet more reality TV?
*Don't get us Boomers going on the vodka-drink thing. Okay, we're going there anyway. In a martini glass, combine clear liquor that tastes like rubbing alcohol with Lifesaver-quality fruit flavoring. Chill. Stir. Is that about it?
*Any particular reason you guys are so obsessed with pricey "purebred" dogs? Gosh that's prestigious. Ever visit a shelter?
*Any way we could induce you to glance at a newspaper? And while you're at it, visit a voting booth from time to time?
*You knew this one was coming. To the ladies: Is there such a thing as trying too hard to look "sexy"? Just askin.' Gentlemen: Is there such a thing as not trying at all?
*Forget I said the words "ladies" and "gentlemen." Just forget it. But would it kill you to open a door once in a while, or pull out a chair? Putting another person first shouldn't permanently warp you. It probably won't impair your success or deflate your self-esteem.
Come to think of it, we Boomers need a refresher on this stuff, too. We're feeling pretty pleased with ourselves these days. We're puffed up just as much as you. Maybe we could work together. Try to live on the same planet, instead of light years apart. Try to figure out why the heck it's so hard to get a handle on others' habits. Try to bridge that canyon.
Maybe we could enjoy a nice dinner together. One with some real cross-generational conversation.
One without arguments.
One without vodka or wings.
One without cellphones.
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If you're a Millennial, fire back. Are we Boomers perfect? Or are there Boomer habits you can't stand or have 'questions' about? Give it to us straight by posting a comment below.
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Peter Mandel is an author of picture books for kids, including his read-aloud bestseller: Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan/Roaring Brook), and his newest about zoo animals passing on a very noisy sneeze: Zoo Ah-Choooo (Holiday House).