My almost-teen daughter, Ruby, stepped in front of the TV while I was simultaneously pedaling frantically to nowhere on my exercise bike and trying to watch Ina Garten make something obscenely rich and fattening for the holidays.
(“My mom exercises while watching people make things that she can’t eat,” Georgia told her teacher, and she’s not wrong.)
“Hey, kiddo, can you move?” I asked her. “I’ve got about 15 more minutes to go here on the bike and then I’ll be ready to help with whatever you need.”
Silently, she cupped her hand a few inches below my face.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “And again, can you please move?”
She kept standing there, her hand out.
I put my hand in her hand. She laughed and shook it loose.
“What do you want from me?” I said.
“You don’t get it?” she asked, gesturing at me emphatically with her hand still cupped.
“Do you want money?” I asked. “Because I don’t have any.”
She laughed again. “No! You really don’t get it?”
“Am I … supposed to, like, spit in your hand? Put something in there?”
“Ugh!” she said, half-annoyed, half-laughing. “Mom! You’re so old! It’s a TikTok thing! You’re supposed to put your chin in my hand! Have you even heard of TikTok?”
“OK,” I said, defensively. “I am old, but I have heard of TikTok! It’s like Vine, right?”
She closed her eyes in pain. “Mom.” It wasn’t even an exclamation. Her tone was clearly, “I’m not mad, just disappointed.”
“What?” I said. “I know Vine is gone, but I thought TikTok was like Vine!”
“Not at all,” she said. “Not. At. All. But it’s OK. You can’t help being old.”
She cupped her hand again. I put my chin in it obediently. She patted me on the head like I was a puppy.
I have never felt older than I have these past few months. From my inability to distinguish among VSCO girls, E-girls, and soft girls to bands I’ve never heard of to my visceral hatred of Post Malone to my ignorance of anime – the signs are all very clear that I am officially older than dirt.
Sometimes my daughter is patient with me. She’ll explain the difference between being bisexual and being pansexual and let me ask “clueless” questions: “So if you like someone who presents as female but identifies as nonbinary, then you’re pan, right? Does their gender identity affect your sexual orientation?”
She’ll gently remind me to get my coffee without a plastic lid or straw. (“Save the turtles!”)
She’ll try to pick clothes out for me that are more stylish than my usual khakis/blouse/sandals combo or “constructively” criticize my makeup choices.
Other times she’s frustrated with my utter lameness.
“Don’t even talk about memes; it’s just cringey.”
“You’re so old.” (I’m not even 40, for the record!)
“How do you not know this? Everyone knows this!”
“Mom. Stop trying to be cool. You’re not.”
Luckily, I’m not too thin-skinned, and as I’ve said before, I’ve never been cool to begin with, so not knowing the dankest memes really doesn’t bother me.
And honestly – and I apologize in advance for the drastic shift in tone – I just marked what would have been my sister’s birthday this past Saturday, and if there’s one thing I’m grateful for right now … it’s the chance to be old, the chance to get old. Yes, I’m getting old, Ruby, and it’s absolutely a privilege. You’ll understand one day – when you’re old, too.
Now get out of my way, please. You’re still blocking the TV.