Not Woke But Trying by
(237 Stories)

Prompted By Mind the Gap

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Not quire establishment but getting there

I remember well how 30 was a special dividing line between being young, hip, and rebellious and being part of the establishment. In fact, I believed I should have all of my children before I turned 30 (per my mother’s advice), and I would have achieved that goal if I had not had a miscarriage between child #2 and child #3. So yes, by the time I was 30, I had a house with a mortgage, car payments, and kids, thus becoming very much part of the establishment I was so contemptuous of from age 18 until then. Now, I could no longer trust myself.

While I am far from woke, I really want to learn.

From the time I went to college until the birth of my first child (featured image), I was in outright rebellion against the values with which I had been raised. Every generation experiences a break from the one before, but for my parents, part of the Greatest Generation, everything that became important to me was not valid. It wasn’t just “sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” although those were major changes they never understood. It was my feelings about the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, and feminism that they found incomprehensible. As children of the Depression and young adults during World War II, they were happy to settle into a suburban lifestyle and continue to play big band music on their stereo. Whatever I valued was unimportant, as I had grown up in a stable, middle class home and should have been grateful and content to continue their values and way of life.

At the time of my rebellion against the lifestyle in which I had been raised, not only did my opinions and tastes differ from theirs, but I also felt unheard and misunderstood, particularly by my father. He was so sure his opinions were correct that he was not interested in my opposition to the war or my feelings about how my role as a woman might be different from my mother’s. I never told my parents when I took a bus from college to Washington, D.C. to participate in an anti-Vietnam protest. The civil rights movement was not something they thought about, although in principle they were against discrimination. Music was another bone of contention, as my father insisted groups like The Beatles would soon be forgotten.

My grandmother would never have done this

Now that I am the matriarch in my extended family, I represent the older, established generation to my children and grandchildren. Much as I wish it were otherwise, I must confess a generation gap exists. I did appreciate my kids’ musical tastes, and for a while, I tried to keep up with my grandkids’ favorite songs. But as some of my grandchildren have become teens, I must confess I don’t get it. What is the deal with TikTok? Why do I need to use Twitter or Instagram? They have definitely left me in the dust with technology and social media.

Three generations enjoy a crazy boat ride

Still, I would never say what they enjoy is junk, as my father did with me. My friends and I struggle to understand issues about gender and sexuality that are so easily accepted by my children and grandchildren. I am an ally (proud I understand what that is) for the LBGTQ+ community, and several of my friends have with grandchildren who have transitioned or are binary or identify in ways that were not imaginable for my generation. As a cisgender woman of a certain age, try to understand all of this, yet I know there is a generation gap at work here.

Trying to connect

But here’s the thing. I want to think I am still trying to understand and evolve. I certainly don’t ridicule and condemn social and political change as my parents’ generation did with me. There is a gap in understanding, but I want to accept what may still be difficult for me to comprehend. In that sense, I think I am closer to where my children’s and grandchildren’s generations are than my parents’ generation was to me. While I am far from woke, I really want to learn.

Here’s where I draw the line

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Thanx Laurie, you sound pretty woke to me Laurie, and I bet your kids and grandkids agree!

  2. NB – I draw the line at TikTok too!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    I agree, Laurie. I think we are closer and trying harder to connect with the younger generation than our parents did with most of us (though my father really did try). We have seen enormous social and technical changes over the past 50 years, so it does become easier and more difficult to keep up (I haven’t a clue what TikTok is about either), but at least we try to keep an open mind, right? Perhaps that is because we did go through all the social and political change that you’ve described.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I think you are right. Even though there has been a tremendous change in technology and social media in our lifetimes, it is important to keep learning and growing. Much better to embrace change than to deny it is happening.

  4. Marian says:

    I admire how much you are trying to learn and stay connected, Laurie, while appreciating how difficult that is. I was stuck by how your parents felt that your interests and opinions were “unimportant,” because that’s how mine felt as well. Technology will get us every time, I’m afraid, and with a couple of my friends’ young adult children transitioning, it sometimes is a brain stretch, but I am making progress.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks for understanding, Marian. Coming from a father who felt his tastes, opinions, and interests were correct and mine were trivial, I have tried hard not to do the same to younger generations.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    As Dana, Betsy and others have noted, Laurie, you sound awfully woke to me. Or, as we would put it, “open-minded.” But, of course, what value is the opinion of such un-woke old fogies as us?

    That said, I really enjoyed your (self)analysis.

  6. Dave Ventre says:

    As John notes, “woke” can be defined as “open minded.” I ignore right-wingers who sneer the term at me. I think I am pretty woke, but as the Mythbusters sort of said, “screwups are always an option.” As long as we can learn, there is hope.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Amen, Dave. Even if we can’t quite get there, making the effort to learn and understand our changing world (rather than looking backward for some mythical time of American greatness) is the key.

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    Laurie, it looks like we both had the same experience of going to the WashingtonDC anti-war March and not telling our parents. Which was especially hard because they lived in the suburbs there. You have the advantage of having worked with little ones for years, and I’m sure your kids and grandkids appreciate having an adult who continues to learn. My father changed over the years, as did I, and I think we both were the better for it.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      All I remember about the experience was the very long bus ride and wandering around in a daze. It took a while, but eventually my parents saw what a sham that war was. Perhaps it was my middle brother moving to Canada for a year, athough he did come back because his number wasn’t called.

      • Khati Hendry says:

        I mostly remember the same—a bus, crashing with friends, milling about….My parents weren’t for the war, but didn’t endorse the marches and actions either—they also came around in the end. Though I wasn’t at risk for the draft myself, I had friends and relatives who moved to Canada for some time, and I imagined I might follow depending on the situation. That happened in 2004, a bit to my surprise.

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