Updated: Jan 17, 2021
Found myself sitting next to two young women at the local watering hole, probably no older than 18, talking like there were walls around them and no one else could hear. Is that this generation’s “please look at me” idiosyncrasy? Growing up on social media, which itself has no boundaries, likely lends itself to schooling young women (girls, really) about social boundaries in general. No diaries with locks anymore. No whispers. It’s all about the loss of the private self. They are a generation of voyeurs and exhibitionists. “Here I am, in all my naked reality. Look at me… please.”
True to form, instead of working on a writing project, I was instead invited into an ostensibly intimate conversation between two budding young lesbians who were all agog about their lesbian-ness. It’s all they could talk about. The vagaries of coming out, being outed by others, sleeping around, telling family, getting used to going public (“the first month is always the worst”), experimenting with multiple identities, dressing straight or gay, singing church songs, being raised Episcopalian, not breaking their sexual preference to Grandma.
Did I learn much? Not really. Except maybe this. There was a conspicuously self-conscious sense of deviant adventure about the whole conversation, about the way they were playing around with their identities as if they were commodities to mold and form as they saw fit. It was all about desire. Which, on the face of it, is no different than many teen-age conversations about sexuality down through the ages. Only this was different. There was a blasé, even haughty contempt for… for what? For boundaries, for discretion, for tradition. This is a generation that celebrates anything different, where novelty is the new normal.
I felt out of place in this new reality, not because it viscerally turned me off — it didn’t — but because there was such a contempt for holiness, for any kind of restraint. There were no manners, no discretion, and as a result, no mystery to the very thing that was sending them up and making them giddy with excitement. It was all so… sad. And so haughty. That was it, really. They weren’t afraid of anything, of the implications of their sexual adventures, of their speaking in casual conversation in a public coffee house about the most private of things. It was all so new for them, so exciting and “dangerous.” So Katy Perry “hear-me-roar!”
And so I did, while drinking my lavender and honey tea, and I found myself wondering about the ways of the world and how the divide between generations, between me and these two young women, was growing wider and wider with each passing day, and how they didn’t see it, or if they did, they didn’t care. I cared. I cared a lot. My daughter is half their age and yet I feel more in common with her than I did with these two young women twice her age. I guess what binds generations together isn’t age, after all, but a shared vision of things, a shared sense of awe for the magic that shimmers just beneath the surface of things, which requires silence and restraint to see. A respect for enchantment, for holiness, for discretion. For secrets, and the sense to know which ones to keep and which ones to tell.
Silence and restraint. Lavender & honey. That’s what these two girls didn’t have. And didn’t miss. And yet, there they were, treading on holy ground from thread to seam, beginning to end, dancing around the sacred, and they never saw it. Never saw it even once.