How will my grandchildren shock me?

This is me in 50 years, being all YOU CRAZY KIDS AND YOUR TRANSPARENT SKULLS! BUT I LOVE YOU ANYWAY! Photo by Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko used by permission.
This is me in 50 years, being all YOU CRAZY KIDS AND YOUR TRANSPARENT SKULLS! BUT I LOVE YOU ANYWAY! Photo by Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko used by permission.

Years before I became a parent, I wondered to myself how the next generations would view my cohort of Gens X & Y. I think about the stuff that SO outraged my now-deceased paternal grandmother (body piercings! touring with Phish! "Colored people"!) and am baffled at about how old fashioned she seemed. She was a southern belle who moved to small-town Alaska in the mid-'50s with her second husband and posed for pictures with her shotgun, and I'm sure she thought she was quite progressive, moving to the Alaskan frontier with her family and all. If tongue piercing freaked her out, I have to wonder what will make me freak out in, say, fifty years.

"Fuck off, Gran," Tavi's daughter will tease me (because fuck then will be like darn is now). "Why are you always staring at my head?"

And I'll be all, "Because Eros.Ion Bio(Hypercore), you have a plexiglass skull implant that means I can see your brain pulsing, and it's freaking me out!"

Eros will roll her bionically corrected eyes (the Lasik surgery I had performed five years ago would have blown my grandmother's mind) and reply, "Gran, you act like you've never seen a plexisKull. It's no big deal." Where will body modification and vanity go? My grandmother didn't live to see my insane rainbow plastic extension dreadlocks, but if she had, I imagine the Southern Belle, mumbling into her sweet tea, "You've got a plastic wig sections tied to your head so you can have hair like the Black Ladies have? But rainbow colored? I just don't understand…"

Anyway, evolutions in body modification and vanity is just one the easy and entertaining possibility to consider. I also try to imagine the relationship modalities that will blow my mind. Gay marriage to my grandmother? Bless her soul, but for her generation, homosexuality was a mental illness. Why would you make special marriages for those poor sick people? Listening to Robyn's "Fembot" ("Once you go tech/you ain't never goin' back") I had an overthinkingit.com moment of asking myself what I would do if Tavi came home from college engaged to his an android girlfriend. IT COULD HAPPEN, PEOPLE.

"God mom," he'd huff at me over an awkward Thanksgiving meal. "Why can't you just accept our love?"

I'll be all, "Son, you fell in love with a glorified Hitachi back massager! You can't GET MARRIED to your vibrator!"

No, wait. I swear I won't ever say that to him. I'll be completely accepting of his relationships, regardless of whatever seemingly bizarre kink or biomatter they may involve. Robots! Aliens! Dinosaurs cloned from generipped DNA! Anime Pillowcases! Stuffed animals! I imagine wearing my PFlag shirt and marching in the FURRY RIGHTS PARADE 2045: WE ARE NOT ANIMALS.

What about my opinions about personal privacy? Will they seem positive quaint to my son and his children? Think of presidents and drug use. Clinton hedged by saying, "I didn't inhale." Obama was like, "I inhaled. That was the point." By the time our kids' peers are national politicians, they'll could dodge privacy concerns with a shrug.

"Of course you have crappy 2D pictures of my ass that I posted on facebook in high school. It's pixelated and was the wilds of youth, and really: who DOESN'T have their imagery in the Library of Congress Digital Archives?"

The privacy issues that I clucked at young family on Facebook ("Dude, don't talk about taking your stuff over the border. I don't care, but dude: that's a quick way to get in trouble with the people who do!") may become irrelevant when our grandchildren can say, "Yeah, I was talking about taking what's now the equivalent of a case of beer across a now non-existant national border in Empire Of Commerce."

Who knows! I'm already feeling the ways in which my language is being left behind. As y'all know, language on the Empire isn't always as politically correct as some might like — sometimes I'm the bumbling Gen Y dinosaur making accidental slurs against any number of minority groups. Language shifts fast, and it takes significant effort to keep up.

Then I consider what would happen if cultural mores shifted in ways I don't even like to fathom. What if actions most of us can agree are morally wrong (obvious things: bestiality! child abuse! pick your most obvious horror!) became acceptable? What if society shifts in ways that make my skin crawl?

"GOD, Gran," my half-android college-aged grandson might dismiss, with a wave of his geared hand. "What's the big deal about about my 12-year-old boyfriend? Your old fashioned perspectives about statutory rape are so quaint!"

Even from my relatively progressive, live-and-let-live perspective there would definitely be issues that would make me go rant on the porch on the 125th floor of the Home For Aging Hippies Convalescent Center/Dispensary. I'd wave my air-cane at and shout, "No, seriously, you guys: college boys dating 12-year-olds is fucked up. Some shit went REALLY pear-shaped back in the inverted-renaissance '30s."

But the plexisKulls? The android fiance? The dreadlocks made out of writhing clone fingers, writhing like a Medusa, digitally grafted onto my grandkid's scalps? The language that makes my current level of cursing seem quaint?

"Honey, I love you." I'll say. "If it makes you happy and involved informed consent without causing harm to others — I love you, even when I don't understand you."

Clearly, mulling over this situation makes my brain go sci-fi and a little dystopian. (Likely a reflection of reading too much fantasy/sci-fi young adult fiction.) Where does it take you? Where do you think YOUR kids will laugh (or sigh) over your old fashioned was? Where do you hope they'll look back and laugh ("I can't believe you guys were still quibbling over gay marriage, when we have interspecies relationships with the aliens now!")? Where do you think we'll get left behind? What will make you the old cranky grandmother?

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  1. My fear is things shifting BACK. We're going towards a time when homosexuality, gender and racial equality, and self defined identity are becoming normative. But there have been cultural ages before us where any or all of these things were accepted – and then we still got the Victorian Age and the Fifties. What if people manage to convince our grandkids that modern society's problem really IS that people don't know their place anymore? What if our children commit us for being bisexual or refuse to let their children stay with us because we're poly? Or, or, or …

    Bah! Damn you Ariel! Between your post's prompt and my crazy pregnancy fretting hormones I am now having to force myself away from a total "what if" meltdown. I think it's time for tea.

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    • Anie, I get the same meltdowns on occasion. As a cultural anthropology NERD* (*major) about to graduate, I've been working on a thesis project on lesbian weddings in Ohio for the last year and a half and the assumption is always, "Oh, well, of course in a few years marriage will be legal everywhere for same-sex couples, no worries, just ride out the storm." But sometimes I think, "What if we're going BACKwards??" Thanks, 24-hour-news websites.

      I think the burden of change for the better lies on us and our kids, and I don't mean that in a "you-should-teach-your-kids-this-and-that-and-if-you-don't-the-future-is-desolate-aaaagghh" kind of way, but if we teach the next generation the stuff we know now or wish we knew when we were kids, hopefully things will end up somewhere near Ariel's estimation of the future. Minus the twelve-year-old boyfriends.

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    • Yes! My greatest fear is that I will end up with a little Alex P. Keaton on my hands! The horror! The shame!

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    • I actually agree with this concern a lot. History is doomed to repeat itself. For example, the fear/mistreatment of the Muslim community in America is eerily reminiscent of the Red Hunt of the 50's. We may not regress to the exact same criteria of closed mindedness, but there will always be an "us" and a "them" mentality within the structure of humanity, no matter what year it is. 🙁

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  2. My biggest fear is that my son or his children will be conservative anti choice fear mongers.

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    • So as long as your grandchildren view the world your way (I am guessing everything is acceptable as long as it doesn't hurt other people) you will be happy with them… but if they don't you won't?

      That sounded all sarcastic, but I am semi-conservative (depending on who you ask, some people think I am crazy liberal, and some people think I am crazy conservative), but I have always found it strange how people will be all, "I accept anyone, unless they believe ___________________(fill in the blank) because that makes them bigots!" Where do we draw the line of agreeing to disagree compared to thinking someone is a bigot?

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    • Not all conseravative pro life indviduals are fear mongers. I'm not. WeVe got our crazies like any group, but don't make assumptions about the whole based on the actions of a few.
      And no I can't spell, thank you for noticing. I'm typing on a phone.

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      • I think that's wandalu's point, though. She's not afraid of her kids being conservative… she's afraid of her kids being THE WORST KIND OF CONSERVATIVE.

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  3. I've honestly come to the conclusion that I can't even begin to guess what our future grandkids will take for normal. I mean, the tiny computer I now carry in my purse at all times (the one labeled "HTC Incredible") was still the stuff of science fiction when I was in HIGH SCHOOL, let alone when I was just a mote in my mother's eye. Things are going someplace I can't even begin to guess.

    Either that or it'll be Mad Max all up in here. I dibs being Tina Turner.

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    • It's mind blowing how far technology has advanced and how adapt humanity is it at picking it up, especially younger generations. Even ten years ago, the advancements we have would have seemed improbable, if not impossible.

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      • It's not just computers, either. When my grandma was a kid, hardly anyone had cars, electricity and phones were only for rich homes, cameras were huge and required a lot of specialized knowledge to operate, women had to wear dresses and life expectancies were short. Now she drives a Prius, carries a cell phone and a digital camera, wears pants, and can expect to live and active and healthy life for another decade, if not longer.

        no matter what we guess will happen in the next 50-80 years, the reality of it will be much stranger.

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        • Seriously. I was talking to a 14-year old girl recently, about technology, and how when I was little we didn't have an answering machine. She said "Oh, yeah, we don't have one either. We just have a service we call for our messages." I had to tell her that they hadn't been invented yet, cause that was unfathomable.

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          • I'm surprised she even knew what an answering machine was! My thirteen year old nephew couldn't figure out how to rewind an old VHS tape of mine. The concept that you have to physically rewind something instead of just going to the Menu and choosing Scene Selection was jut way over his head.

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  4.  *THIS* Love it. I want a plexisKull.

    More seriously, my aunt's husband is black and it was a HUGE shock to her grandparents (my g-grandparents), and in the last election cycle my own grandma said something like "Black is the new episcopal" and voted for Obama. The times, they do change. Although, I think of it more as a spiral. Sometimes times resemble other times, but there's not really any forwards or backwards because there's no defined endpoint. New ages will bring new differences to be prejudiced against, so the goal is always retreating before us.

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      • ooh! thank you for quoting Yeats, you just made my day 🙂

        I don't think history is cyclical, per se, but I think the idea Yeats outlines of a "widening gyre" sounds about right– human behavior repeats itself, but history is still progressing in a direction.

  5. Once when visiting my grandmother, my father insisted I show his mother the tattoo I'd gotten on my back. Her reaction was to call it beautiful and call my father a stick in the mud for disapproving. She also used to explain my career choice to people as "making science fiction real".

    Her love and tolerance of whatever I did, even when she didn't understand, taught me that it isn't important what changes in the world when it comes to your grandchildren. As long as the basic values of humanity you taught to your children are also taught to your grandchildren (loyalty, courage, integrity etc) the only thing you have to worry about is whether they'll keep the promise they made at seven to never ever give anyone outside the family the shortbread recipe! I only hope when the time comes, that I can be as progressive and tolerant as my own grandmother. (and I still haven't given that recipe away)

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    • Grandchildren get a little extra love! The whole 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks' is so not true. It took my grandparents quite a while to deal with having their Mexican grandchildren start marrying (and having children) with other races (white, filipino..) Luckily by the time I was a teenager, they didn't bat an eye at my blue hair, and now they think my white husband is a great guy, and my mixed daughter is absolutely beautiful to them! : )

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      • I wish my grandparents had gone that way. My grandmother used to be quite progressive for being a Catholic woman in the 60s, but these days she worships at the altar of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly. :/ My queerness has not helped our relationship much.

  6. A few years ago there was a story on JJJ's (Australian Public Broadcaster radio station for "youth") Hack Program asking the "youth" to call in and tell stories about how their parents had embarrassed them. There were quite a few tales of liberal parents embarrassing the crap out of their highly conservative offspring… from drug taking raver Dad with christian offspring to politically active Mum frontlining a protest outside of daughter's nasty corporate workplace. Has the backward slide already started or has there, and will there always be a move both ways in each generation leaving us with a an ongoing mix of liberal and conservative types? If so, we can only hope the majority shifts in favour of the libs and that our own children are in that group.

    My hubby already thinks I'm a fuddy-duddy when it comes to youth culture but I'd rather be shocked by Ariel's view of future generations than a generation of Alex P Keatons!

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    • It's felt that political leanings are a part of a person's personality. Kind of does a person go and pet the snake to see what would happen, or remember that some snakes poison. A more liberal person is more open to thoughts that are considered more novel, while a conservative would be more prudent.

      I personally hope that my child will be a mixture of both.

  7. Aghh I worry/wonder about things like this all the time. Sometimes in good ways. My grandparents both worked for the military, nana as a secretary and poppi as a computer expert back when his machine took up a whole warehouse. Their children work as engineers and teachers. All of these professions, although wonderful, were "safe" fields to pursue. But as the generations moved on, both in the societal culture and in our family's culture as our time away from the old country passed, things changed. My cousins, brother and I are pursuing a huge range of professions, from teaching abroad to sustainable horticulture to event planning and graphic design. I was able to attend a totally nontradtional high school and drop out of college, both of which were unthinkable and a little heart breaking to my grandparents.

    Luckily, I've had a great role model in that my own offbeat mom was always supportive even when she didn't understand. We have an amazing relationship, mostly due in part to her complete honesty and nonjudgement with me during a fairly difficult childhood. As a 15 years old I was sent home from an overseas trip for bad behavior, most of it incredibly embarassing. But with that, as with all of my misadventures, she responded almost exactly as you hope to, and it made me a lot more likely to appreciate any suggestions she did make.

  8. I think (or rather, hope) that the way our society wastes things will boggle the minds of our children. By the time our little kids are grown and have their own babies I hope and pray that people will be more attentive to garbage, reuse, the enviroment, etc etc because they will HAVE to be, we can't keep going like we are. I imagine the conversation, "OMG mom I can't believe you guys bought your meat, at a store, and packaged in PLASTIC! That's so wasteful! And you didn't have city compost?? What a waste you dudes were". However it could just be worse than it is now and all us grandmothers and grandfathers will be swimming in the planet's refuse… man. It's too scary to think of! Here's to the future of treehuggers!!

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  9. This reminded me of a song i once stumbled across trying to make some point or another to my mother when i was a young toad of a teenager. (I freely admit i was HORRID) 'Younger Generation' and dont quote me but i think it was John Sebastian

  10. Ariel, will you please please please write a futuristic short story about Grandma Ariel, the square? You know you want to!

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  11. I've thought about this before, and I know that I will always refuse to travel into space. If my grandchildren live on Mars, they are going to have to suck it up and come visit me here on Earth even though they will think it is lame. I'll shake my fist and shout things like "If I was meant to travel in outer space, I'd have space gills!"

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    • Oh goodness, yes. My man, the cosmologist, is frustrated that no one's been to Mars yet because we have the technology so why aren't we doing it? I swear if there is ever a space colony he will want to move there, and we will argue about it. I'm not going if I can't have a garden in the dirt.

  12. Based on my experience with people of older generations, I think the thing which will shock you about your grandchildren isn't so much that they will be more or less liberal than you, but that the way that they think about the world just won't fit into your categories of liberal/conservative. I remember one conversation with someone who saw himself as progressive and was about 50 years my senior. He couldn't comprehend why a well educated liberal feminist would wear a headscarf. I thought that the idea that I should only practice my religion behind closed doors sounded a lot like people claiming that it's OK to be gay as long as you don't kiss in public.

    So, expect to see your conservative Evangelical grand daughter protesting with signs saying "God hates energy inefficiency". Get ready to hear your radical feminist grand daughter refuse amniocentesis because she believes in the social model of disability. Your Republican grandson might decide that marriage, with its pooling of resources, sounds a bit too like Communism, and instead rely upon the good old free market to purchase sex, an egg donor, a surrogate, a nanny, a cleaner, a cook and companionship. Try not to be shocked when your son makes a pledge not to have sex until the day he marries the man or men he intends to spend the rest of his life with.

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    • YES.

      … though I might already be the first two. Only not conservative Evangelical.

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    • This exactly. I'm physically disabled and very involved in the disability community- my wonderful hippy mother is horrified that I don't support abortion for disability*.To me, it's like aborting because you only want a son. To her, of COURSE you'd want to only have perfect babies.

      * I think it should be legal to abort for any reason. I just dislike some of the reasons.

  13. I think we've been reading the same books, Ariel. I absolutely love fantasy/sci-fi young adult, and I'm almost surprised at how thought provoking they can be.

    One thing I really hate is that many languages (among them my own: Norwegian) will probably disappear. Maybe my grandchildren won't even know it, or want to learn it! It's especially saddening for me, since I'm studying to become a translator, and I might not be able to work with what I love until I'm old enough to retire.

    Maybe I'll become this really cranky old woman who won't even talk with my own grandchildren unless they speak to me in Norwegian xD

      • Ha! We totally have! (And, YES, The Maze Runner is awful.)
        If you haven't already, you might want to check out Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. Beautiful language, great stories and strong female protagonists. Love!

    • This is a common problem already around the world. In Canada, our Métis language Michif has about 500 people left speaking it. Another language, Cree, has many more speakers, but it has skipped a generation. Many children were told not to speak it at residential schools, and forgot it. Luckily, the grandparents and our Catholic and Public schools are bringing in Cree bilingual programs in order to ensure children learn the language of their heritage.

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    • There's some article by Isaac Asimov about how science fiction is really a form of attempting to predict the future, and not just technology but the way people react to the changes. What new stereotypes/biases will form? How will our perception of current things be changed? It was such a good article, something like "Asimov on Science Fiction", but for the life of me a I can't seem to find the actual article anywhere. I guess I will have to dig out my Philosophy and Science Fiction folder from college (best course evar) and find that photocopy….

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  14. This is a bit off-topic, but yay for the overthinkingit.com reference! I love them so.

  15. "FURRY RIGHTS PARADE 2045: WE ARE NOT ANIMALS. "

    XDDD OGOD. YOU KILL ME.

    But seriously, please God no. Not Furry rights. NOOOOO.

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  16. I recently thought about this as I saw some teenage girls looking like Julia Roberts in Pretty woman if her clothes had shrunk in the dryer. And I wondered if I'd have to force my 7 year old to put on a skirt before going to school because wearing nothing but a g string with "Pull-me" pasties on her nipples would be sending a wrong message and she's too young for that.

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