Maybe now I sound like my mom.
Her patronization of younger people enraged me, probably since she also patronized me in her incompetent way, so that all patronization by adults came to both enrage and unsettle me in more or less equal measure.
She'd say, "They're so cute..." Looking at the spooning young couple. Or at the five-year-olds eating ice cream. Same diff. They were younger than her, she thought they were adorable.
She didn't even have to speak. She'd assume her peculiar smirk that was at once delighted and supercilious and swoony. I knew what it meant.
Now decades later I find myself charmed by the young couples. The lesbian college students with their pink and green hair and their septum rings and their pens out marking up Emily Dickinson. The shy Hispanic high school teens on what could be their first date ever, bashfully entwining fingers as they wait to place their orders.
But it's not ageism, I'm charmed by the elderly married couple too, perhaps moving a little slowly yet tenderly solicitous toward each other.
It's not about patronizing them.
It's that they're happy, and I can feel it, and their happiness makes me happy too.
Maybe this is what my mother meant all along.