we were young once too, Millennials

If there’s one thing I will thank (some, not all) Millennials for, it is for inspiring me to write almost every day. The vitriol I would like to spew on most of them in the form of sarin gas becomes words and find their way on Facebook, where they entertain a hundred or so titas and titos my age.

But rage burns a lot of energy, and sometimes, even when I want to teach instead of rail, or walk the offending millennial through a grocery list of “who-the-fuck-do-you-think-you-are,” I take the high road and stay quiet because I am tired.

I am tired because I am old. And although many—most of you my age or older—will protest, that is the truth. At forty-three, I am no spring chicken. That’s four decades; three kids (one set of twins); countless sleepless nights worrying about almost-empty bank accounts, and watching my babies, down with fever, sleep to make sure they were still breathing. That’s enough time to have gone through the ‘90s version of hokage and breezy thing, hippie-new age thing, goth and punk thing, corporate thing, and networking thing.

I do like some Millennials, though, like the young friends I have at Fred’s. They’re smart and sharp and honest and funny. They don’t take themselves too seriously. I think they are actually Gen Xers born a generation late. But just as there are creepy Gen Xers and annoying Baby Boomers, there’s no escaping your stereotypical Millennials: self-absorbed, entitled, looking for attention through little dramas that I will endure for a total of three minutes.

And sometimes, we get those types who flaunt their youth in our faces—“our” being a group of older Gen Xers, including a group of men who dub themselves “One Erection”. (“Okay, pare,” says one. “Ngayon gabi ako. Bukas ikaw naman.” Then they laugh like big babies.) We like to hole ourselves up in one of the air-conditioned shops in Cubao Expo, quietly drinking our scotch and listening to Fleetwood Mac—and we cannot help but stare and wonder: are these kids so into themselves that they forget there were generations who came before them, that did the same things they do (or think are doing), and much, much better? Art, poetry, photography, journalism, music. Drugs. Sex. Susmaryosep. We shake our heads and return to our self-deprecation and reminisce about Filipino Woodstock and mobile discos and authentic penny loafers.

Full disclosure: some paragraphs of this piece are lifted from a journal entry I made before my 43rd birthday (so I’m actually plagiarizing myself). That day, I came across a post by a friend I used to work with in Mega magazine (yes I was a Mega girl, much to the surprise of the young baklitas and girlalus who now work there). She used to be a gymnast; her little girls are in it now, too. “Still got some moves in these rusty bones,” she writes, alongside a photo of her doing a headstand.

Indeed she does. Indeed we all do. And I don’t think her bones are rusty at all. I doubt if her muscles ever forgot to move the way they’re supposed to. I think of all the years I’ve lived, my partner has lived, my cousin—same age as I am, who also owns a bar, but all the way in San Francisco—has lived. Of what has seeped in our bones to allow us to do and create things even after years of seeming neglect or isolation. Just because it’s not on social media doesn’t mean it never happened.

My partner is a semi-retired photojournalist. He’s got tales to tell to shut these young photographers up. He has a shock of white hair, a beer belly, and is either clothed in Army fatigues or Hawaiian shirts, but when I see him wield a camera, one of his old, beat-up Leicas, I get weak in the knees. It’s the certainty with which his hands cradle the machine. Click-click. No drama. No talk of pixels and the nervous clatter of a thousand unused shots whirring by.

When I see my cousin, who used to be in a girl band, play the drums for certain acts in her bar, I feel like I’m soaring. When she was younger, everything about her was sleek—her hair, her eyebrows, her hips in her jeans…Now, she’s let her hair grow into its natural wild curls. The once-slender, white arms are now golden and a tad fuller, not by drumming but by the love and toil she pours into her business. But when she’s asked to play, it’s like I’m transported to over twenty years ago, to a roomful of long-haired mestizos and grunge-y chicks from the south cheering her on and slamming back Red Horse with all the lust and ferocity only the young can muster.

I am in awe the same way when I see other people do what’s been built in their bones, in their wiring. Doing what they love, doing the things that first gripped them with fear, and now have mastered. But not by mere self-proclamations and press releases, no! Through years and decades of repetition, through days and nights of kids crying or recovering from a cheating spouse or going hungry for reasons foolish and valid. No magic to it; but sometimes the mundane can become magical when it’s gained enough heart. Enough life.

And that is the reward of aging. Of letting the years settle in your face and in your muscles, in your Coeur. Of letting all that experience take root in your core and expanding for others to learn from. Of finally knowing yourself, not with resignation or defiance, but with full acceptance. Okay, maybe three-fourths acceptance.

We’re all going to be old, people. If there’s one thing Millennials should do with us titas and titos, it’s ask and listen and learn. They should do it while their brain cells are still all intact. Maybe if they did, they’d have the kind of stories they’d want to tell their kids when it’s their turn to grow old and fat and baduy.

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