Millennials are notorious for lingering in limbo between adulthood and a prolonged childhood. We catch a lot of flack for it, but I was surprised by what action of mine drew judgement from Baby Boomers this week.
With my younger brother deployed and my mother caring for my critically ill grandfather, I spent a lot of time alone this Christmas. So last night, I went to a local coffee shop to soak in the ambiance and color in an adult coloring book I got for Christmas. Sometimes I like to be alone in a crowd; to have quiet time without feeling isolated.
So I got my coconut latte, put in my ear buds and was coloring away when I suddenly felt a presence hovering over me. No, it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was an elderly woman looking with delight at my colorful pens.
“Are those gel pens?!” She clapped her hands together gleefully.
I took out my ear buds, paused my music and looked up at her. “Yes.”
“Oh my! I have two daughters in their twenties and, my goodness, those were all the rage when they were younger! I remember one year, my younger daughter got a big set for her sister and, oh, if it wasn’t the sweetest thing!”
I smiled politely. “Well I’m probably about your daughters’ ages.”
“So you remember that gel pen fad?”
“Yes,” I said simply.
To my horror, another woman walked up with a huge grin. “Are you coloring? How nice. That’s a far better use of time than that Facebook thing all the kids are doing these days.”
Before I could respond (perhaps letting her know that I’d just checked Facebook on my phone), the second woman continued, “And what are you listening to? A lecture or a podcast?”
Her face fell visibly. “Oh.”
The first woman spoke up again, patting her friend on the shoulder. “And here I was telling her it was probably a TED Talk or something.”
I smiled politely again, hoping I didn’t look too pained. “Nope. Just music.” I spared them the detail that it was of the melodic bass genre. They wouldn’t have been able to handle the shock and dismay of such a lovely young lady listening to what they’d perceive to be Satan’s music.
“Well, that’s okay.” Patting one another’s shoulders, they meandered away from my table, where I sighed deeply, put my ear buds back in, and resumed my coloring to devil music.
I was astonished that it was not only permissible but delightful to these two elderly women that a 28-year-old would be coloring in a coloring book, but what bothered them was the fact that I was listening to music instead of a TED Talk. What if it had been classical music? Or opera? Would they have deemed that okay?
Or what if I had been listening to a podcast, but it was vulgar or explicit? Are podcasts inherently more valuable and desirable than having “young people” listen to music? Or what if I had been surfing Facebook while listening to an educational lecture? Would that have been better or worse, in the minds of these two women, than coloring while listening to electronica music?
See? This is why I should never leave the safety of my apartment. I know better than to venture out into the public wearing anything other than a Grumpy Cat shirt. Otherwise, people inevitably try to talk to me. I just wanted to be alone without being alone. Is that too much to ask?