I used to think it was really funny that old people just let their farts rip while they walk. Gross, but funny. But as I get older I realize that it’s rude. Funny, but rude. And it dawned on me, many of these people were responsible for moulding the manners of other people children and these children were taught to suppress their farts or at least to say “excuse me”. So does old age give you the right to give up all pretense of socially acceptable behaviour? (Yes, I am analysing social behaviour based on a theory about farting. What?)
We’ve all got images and personal experiences of mean old people. I lived next door to a lady who would get out the hose every time we would ride our bikes past her house. We lived in a city, our houses were attached, short of popping E.T. in the basket and flying over there was no other way to get to my house from school. Though she probably had a high-power nozzle attachment that could shoot a booger out of a pilot’s nose you know, just for flying over her house. I don’t imagine she used to sit up at night waiting to shoot the tooth fairy with a hose for trespassing on her pillow property, so when did she decide that it was ok to hose down anyone who passed on the sidewalk in front of her house? Where did she learn this?
I can’t even begin to tell you how many of my friends have stories about their parents chewing with their mouths open or talking with their mouths full on a regular basis. Sometimes when I’m sitting in the metro or waiting on line in the supermarket or in a restaurant, I am amazed at how many people yawn or worse, cough, without covering their mouths. Old people! You know, the people whose mouths shouldn’t be open in the first place â€˜cuz they’re probably going to just be mean anyway. At what point in their lives did they say to themselves, You know what? Etiquette and social propriety be damned, I still have teeth in my mouth and dammit I’m gonna show â€˜em! And, if I have a cold or consumption or something, I’m gonna share that too because I’m getting on in my years and someone has to make sure this viral strain lives on!
And I suppose, you know, since their mouths are already open, they may as well say out loud everything that they are thinking. I have one friend who bought a pastry at a bakery on her way to school and eating it on her way out, an older “gentleman” said, “Why, you’re a big girl. Looks like you enjoy your pastries.” Another friend, who has tattoos all over his body, was buying a case of champagne (real champagne) and was asked by an older “lady” how he could afford it. Aren’t these the same people who told us it is not polite to call fat people fat? And that it’s rude to point at a disabled person??? So how exactly is this acceptable behaviour?
I wonder whether this behaviour is the product of learning or unlearning. I wonder if I am becoming more sensitive to these behaviours as I get closer to an age where I will be responsible for moulding the manners of a child. Or maybe I am becoming anxious waiting for the time when I can say, Social propriety be damned, I’m going to just stop using silverware all together, go to restaurants and bury my face in my food (and, since my near and dear usually pick off each other’s plates, I’m going to plant my face in their plates too). When I get old, I’m going to get in the metro and instead of standing there waiting for some young person to give me their seat, I’m just going to sit down on them (and fart).
But mostly, I’m going to try to remember all the things I was taught to do and say that made me my mom proud and impressed employers and dazzled schmoozers and charmed douchebags and I’m going to do the opposite. Because I’ll be old (and most likely farting while I walk). And that’s all the reason I need.