Used to be there wasn’t as much difference between generations but we’re living in accelerated times. Everything’s happening in a hurry. I guess we’re into Gen Z now, which means there are 68 million new sheriffs in town, and there are new rules. We can take offense (as often as possible), but we must never give offense. That’s laudable, but confusing for us elders, because we never intend to and don’t know exactly when or how we’re doing it.

That’s where the new rules come in. Once you memorize the rules you won’t even have to think. You just consult the lexicon. This is a rather different protocol than we grew up with.

That accelerated-generation thing was underway early. A person graduating from high school in 1960 was so different from one that graduated in 1970 that they might as well have been fifty years apart. I have a friend only about ten years older than me who still says “Oriental” instead of “Asian.” He hasn’t kept up. Every time I hear him say it, I wince. Lately I got to wondering how “Oriental” became offensive. It just means Eastern; it’s really not much different from Asian. I guess it just carries the stain of the condescending attitude of those who used it, or rather our assumption of that condescension. (It didn’t help that my friend usually used it in the construction “A little Oriental gal.”)

It’s probably a hallmark of every new generation that they can see clearly the ills of society and what needs to change, and change can’t come soon enough. Which is fine, if you can accomplish it, but these things might take a little time. Young people are impatient; they don’t have enough years stacked up to see the changes.

So check this out, my young darlings. There used to be a riddle that utterly confounded people in the ‘60s. It went like this: Father and son are found in car wreck, father is dead, injured son is taken to hospital. Doctor takes one look at the boy and says “I can’t do the surgery, he’s my son!” Confounded, I tell you. His father was dead! What could this possibly MEAN?

There is no one under sixty today who would even know how this could be a riddle. It shouldn’t be. But that’s how much things have changed.

Now, for us old people, who, I might remind the young, have experience with the ephemeral nature of trends and the pendulum of time and a long perspective and seriously-calcified brains that we are nevertheless still fond of, we are required to keep up with the demands of a new earnest generation and their revisions and commandments, which seem constant and perplexing and too mercurial to grasp. We are expected to adopt new language and concepts, and we are expected to learn a person’s preferred pronouns and current preferred name, which is subject to change, when we were already having trouble keeping track of what we shouldn’t serve them for dinner.

It’s a lot to ask of a generation that spends a lot of time standing and staring and wondering what they came in a room for. That brain thing is no joke. There’s all these little holes. Stuff crusts over in there and sometimes little chunks rattle around and fall out. Every now and then the crust breaks through and an idea or a memory or the end of our sentences come shooting out, but then it slips out one of the little holes again. We have perspective and knowledge and wisdom, a greater grasp of time—we’re sure of it—we just can’t remember the words for it. We sound dumb as hell. We might well be, but we think it’s something else.

So, back to the 68 million new sheriffs. I have a younger friend in whom empathy is a well-trained muscle. She is patient, thoughtful, wise, and loving. She is my guiding light for remaining open to the new; I rely on her to counter my crankiness. And she sees all this up close with her own children. They are compassionate by decree, and studiously sensitive to everyone but—oh—her. Her take? Well, they feel aggrieved. Victimized, often. They’ve learned to see injustice everywhere and they’re determined to correct it. She pauses to absorb the feeling, the better to appreciate it. And so they feel entitled to tell you what you are, and are not, allowed to say and what you are, and are not, allowed to think.

Can you break that down for me?

They’re little assholes.

All righty then. I’m careful before signing on to any new doctrine; I‘ve seen how quickly they change. But basically, good on ‘em. A lot of things in the world are still wrong but all I know is if you can suck six figures out of a jury by enduring a non-consensual butt pat, I’m due for some serious reparations.