I’m Defensive.

I hate, with a capital H, when you’re in a social situation, and it ends, and you think of all the things you could have said to a person who was negatively engaging you. I do that sometimes…focus for too long on a comment or conversation that bothered me and what I could have said.

This happened last night. I was at a bar with my boyfriend, early in the night, and there was an older guy by himself next to us. He started talking to us, making comments here and there and seeming innocent enough at first. But little things started creeping in and it started to feel like we were the subject of his internal experiment with “the younger generation.” As if he comes to that bar every night to question the values of “those damn millennials.”

Anyway, I’ve highlighted the end of the conversation to share and possibly relieve myself of turning it over in my head again. And to be clear, the things in italics are what I wish I had said, and the rest is what was actually said.

Him: “What was that shot?” (I tell him) “What’s in it?” (I tell him) “[Scoff] Youth…”

Okay, just because I’m not sipping a glass of scotch, wearing a monocle, contemplating notes of coriander, doesn’t mean you need to have a superior attitude. We got a free shot so I ordered something fun and easy to drink; if I wanted to be judged I would go talk to my stepdad.

Him: “Enjoy being young while it lasts…you get old fast.” (Sounds innocent enough, but he said it in a bitter, regretting-my-life kind of way.)

You don’t know me, Sasquatch. I’ve experienced the deaths of loved ones and close calls and I’m also highly neurotic. On a regular basis I think, what if this was the last time I spoke to this person? What if this person died in a car crash today and I never saw him or her again? I don’t need some melancholy person to tell me to appreciate life. If I really indulged in those thoughts constantly, I’d be even more of a nutcase and wouldn’t be able to live my life.

Him: “What do you do for work?” (My boyfriend and I answer.)

Me: “What do you do?”

Him:  “I manage money.” [Smug face; tells us how much money is in his clients’ accounts, like we should be impressed.]

Me: “Hm.” The one response I wouldn’t change – not really giving one.

Him: “I just like to come out and observe…talk to the younger people.”

No, you like to be surrounded by 20-somethings so you can look for things that make you feel better about the bad decisions you made in your life.

Me: “So I’m representing my entire generation right now? That’s a lot of pressure.”

Him: “Well how are you going to handle it?”

Me: “The pressure? From you or society?” I kind of laughed and didn’t get an answer, and realized he was being serious. “Well that’s a broad question…”

Him: “Ugh, you sound like my daughter.”

Me: “Well it’s a very broad and vague question and I don’t know specifically how to answer it.”

WELL IT’S A F%&!@# BROAD QUESTION and first of all, you raised her. You were the example of how to BE for your daughter, so whatever values she ended up with are your fault. Second of all, exactly what information are you looking for so that you can criticize me? Let’s be specific here. Do you want to know that I’m saving for retirement? That I’m not on welfare? That I pay my taxes? Clearly you’re just looking for information that confirms whatever negative assumptions you have about my generation, so get to the point.

This was when I tried to nonverbally end the conversation because I was starting to feel pretty defensive, and apparently he had had enough of my disappointing self, because he didn’t say anything else to me.

Obviously, I don’t like the judgments made about today’s 20-somethings. Yes, there are people who fit that mold. There are people who fit every stereotype out there. But how dare people sit up on their own pedestals and assume that I’m an entitled brat who survives on mommy and daddy’s money, or whatever, without knowing me. Granted, everyone makes little, instant judgments and assumptions about people at first glance. Let’s just take a second to question our assumptions though guys.

I tend to hear the word “millennial” and internally roll my eyes because it seems like it has a solely negative connotation now. I’m doing the best I can to make informed decisions in life, but I’m sure mistakes are still guaranteed. And clearly I care, because conversations like this one still bother me the next day. But from now on, when an older person has already categorized me a certain way and asks me a question about what I’m doing, my response will be, “Cleaning up your mess.”

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