Mean people suck! (Or maybe they don’t?)

by Janelle Hanchett


Look, I get it. You’re fucking old. You have old people problems. [And judging from some of the creams I recall in my grandma’s medicine cabinet, I imagine some of those can get pretty intense.]

Clearly, you’re a little pissed. Maybe it sucks to be old. I only FEEL old on occasion, like when I go to class, or hear teenagers speaking, or wake up in the morning, but I know I’m not REALLY old, so I have very little perspective on this topic.

But seriously, old people, it kind of creeps me out when you’re mean to my toddler.


YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE NICE. Grandmotherly. Warm. A little maybe?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Maybe you’ve gathered that I have a slightly insane socialite toddler who insists on engaging with pretty much every passer-by in her line of sight. She’s like the Queen of England in her float or chariot or whatever the hell they use over there, smiling and waving at everybody, absolutely SURE they’re all there to see her.

I mean duh.


And 99% of the time, when she toddles up to some table o’ strangers, grins and says “HI!”, their faces brighten and seem to say “holy shit you’re a cute little bandit, aren’t ya?”, which is, of course, the response we’re all lookin’ for.

Occasionally she walks up to people in restaurants and they give her this polite “hello” but then look at me like “yeah, she’s cute, but so is my fettuccini. Somoveitalong.”

And we do.

At music festivals involving blankets and grass (the kind that grows on the ground, people! Get your heads outta the gutter!), she tends to have excellent luck, probably cause half the people are drunk and the other half are stoned, but all are hanging out at a damn hippie show (meaning they’d look really bad giving the shaft to a little toddler).

Or maybe it’s the way she plays it, sidling up and just sitting down beside them, like they’re old friends, staring at their vegan black beans as if she’s never eaten before (until they actually OFFER her some and you’re like “I swear we feed her” and they’re like “yes sure of course, that totally explains why she’s begging strangers for legumes.”).

And as you know, her socialite tendencies have resulted in some pretty remarkable situations.

But check it out. There’s always that one lady.

The mean one.

The one that looks at her like she’s some sort of varmint poking its head out of its grotto as she attempts to sip tea in her drawing room (what’s with the British theme? And what the hell is a “drawing room?”).

(By the way, I say “lady” because I can only recall women giving her the ol’ middle finger, which is even creepier, right, because of all those gender stereotypes demanding women to be all maternal and shit, and old people to be nice?)

But I digress. Again.

Though it just happened the other day, which of course is why I had to write about it. We were in Walmart (I still die a little inside writing that), and Georgia was sitting in the cart. A woman of about 75 walks up next to us and of course Georgia starts her usual “Hi!” or “Hi friend!” or “hello!” but she’s not responding. My mama bear instincts sniff mean old person syndrome, so I start trying to distract Queen Georgie from her routine, but there’s no stopping royalty.

She just gets louder and leans into it this time, with this gigantic smile on her face (which was like the cutest damn thing I’d ever seen), absolutely determined to get this woman’s attention, being so forward the woman can’t possibly ignore her, until she finally looks Georgia right in the face, scowls (and I mean SCOWLS with a death-dagger glare that would wither marigolds), and looks away, visibly hating her, and us.

So of course I’m like “Hey, lady. Are you fucking SENILE? Don’t you see that this adorable piece of humanity just said ‘hello’ to you? I know you’re old, but I’m not above kickin’ your ass right here in the goddamn toilet paper aisle.” (I’m sure weirder things have happened in Walmart anyway.)

But I keep all that inside, cause I realize that would be weird to say aloud, and I may get arrested.

So I look away, a little embarrassed for my baby (which is totally freaking weird, but let’s move on) and try to distract the toddler, who has of course no idea she’s getting the cold shoulder, and keeps trying to say hello. After we leave, the other kids process the whole thing, asking me like nineteen thousand times various formations of the same question: “Why was that lady so mean?”

And pretty soon we’re all ready to throw down.

Cause you don’t fuck with Georgia.

Yes, that would be the Georgia who has completely forgotten the whole thing, having moved on to saying “hello” to the new people in her path, a couple teenagers in the check-out line, who have fallen victim to the toddler and are defiling all coolness by playing a game of peek-a-boo.

But I always think about people like that for a little while after, wondering what it must take to transform a person into that condition. Maybe it was just a bad day, but I doubt it. A bad day doesn’t make you hard against a child.

I wonder what kind of life must have been endured, to turn a human heart cold against the irresistible warmth of a baby. To make it impossible to utter a “hello,” to find even one millisecond of joy in the antics of a little girl, throwing her innocence and smile and trust your way, a complete stranger, even for just a moment becoming your child, your friend, your own.

And it reminds me that if you’re gonna put yourself out, by god you’re gonna get the middle finger sometimes, you’re gonna get the shaft. And it’ll sting to the quick of all you’ve got, for a minute or two or years, and you’ll feel your pride sink into your toes, in that familiar anguish of realizing your love isn’t coming back, and you’ve thrown it all out there for nothing, looking like an asshole, a tool. You handed it all over, and they chuckled at the gesture, waved you on with a twitch of an uninterested hand, left you standing there with your open wound of vulnerability, and shame.

Your expectation a mirror to the pathetic naiveté that led you there in the first place.

The boy who says no.

The friend who walks away.

The lies.

The joke you told to become one of them, the faces that made it clear you’ll never be.

The family member who’s gone.

The thing you thought you had that you never had.


Old lady, come to think of it, you’ve got every right to turn away, to shield yourself from whatever it is that threatens you, that bothers you, that pulls something up from your gut that you just can’t fucking stand.

You’re alright, doing your thing, teaching us how it all goes, giving us a chance to watch a toddler handle you with the grace of some sort of Zen monk, giving it all to you in that moment, everything she’s got with total abandon – then letting you walk away, free, detached, having gained nothing and lost nothing, her fire still crackling, looking for the next person, to warm, to do it again.

Always, to do it again.

There’s enough to go around, I guess.

my kids, pretending to be “mean old people”

19 Comments | Posted in I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING HERE. | January 17, 2013
  • Rach @ Mrs-Adventure

    I almost spit my coffee at ‘you don’t fuck with Georgia’. We have (had) this old lady that lived behind us that was awful to be around. She’d catch me at the mail box and tell me how she couldn’t wait to die and how she drove from California in 1973 with a broken jaw all the way here. But the second I had our daughter and she met her, that same grouchy old lady SMILED her ASS OFF. And did so every time she would see us. So friend, I’m pretty sure you met Satan.

    Oh and Walmart? I do it too. Where else am I going to be able to buy diapers, spray paint, eggs and have my tires rotated?

    Damn. I just admitted to “car servicing” I’m in deeper than I thought.

    • renegademama

      For some reason I found that broken jaw thing absolutely hysterical. I mean, why would you tell somebody that at the damn mailbox? Awesome.

      And let me just say “Exactly” to the Walmart comment. I can stop in ONE PLACE and buy all the shit I need, plus a few handy items I don’t need.

      CAR SERVICING! buahahaha!

  • Angela

    Wow. That is a beautiful piece of writing. I love your last paragraph and it such a powerful message that I want to learn from Georgia. I am so tempted to want to retaliate against people who react like that old lady. Georgia teaches to move on, whether they smiled back or scowled. No difference to her. :)Thank you!

  • jackie

    Oh Janelle,this choked me up. I have a 2 yr old boy and I know exactly what you mean. They don’t care, but I become desparing and sad about the world. But we move on, and DON’T become bitter about it, lest we ourselves become an old bitter lady too. This reminds me that where I work in admin at the public library, there’s a woman who “hates kids”. And me being me, I tend to force my toddler on her whenever I can, which is rare, but I have to know that she has a heart. She must! MUST! Sigh.

    • renegademama

      I couldn’t possibly trust anybody who says they “hate kids.” Hating anybody openly is a giant red flag, but hating kids is just weird.

      I mean they’re people. How do you hate any group of people as a rule? Hmmmm. I should ask the bigots of the world. 🙂

  • Kathy G

    I think your kids are adorable. You think your kids are adorable. You’re their Mom so you are in love with them. Other people are not. Sometimes people are just not in the mood. This is hurting you, you feel the rejection but Georgia will move on the the next. I think when I was Georgia’s age I was running up to strange men yelling “Daddy!” at the top of my lungs and hugging their legs. My mother was not amused. Sometimes I get pissed about people who diss my dog who is so friendly and cute — but she really doesn’t care so long as there is another squirrel to spot and track. After having two old people act like I was trying to visit rabies upon their special snowflake grandkids, I avoid children with my happy, loving beautiful dog. It’s not that I don’t like kids, I just don’t want to be accused of trying to frighten them or assault them. They can scream “doggie!” all they want, no doing, I turn around and walk the opposite way.

    In 15 years you will not be enthused to play social games with someone else’s baby whilst busy with errands. Trust me. Personally I always prefer happy tots saying “hi” than tantrumy screeching tots. Toddlers are here in the now, engaging. They have no filter, ask any embarrassing question. Older people are kind of shut off, sorta like zombies–particularly in our culture — like a forcefield of personal space and privacy. And you know, Walmart. Oy.

    • renegademama

      I don’t really want to play social games with other people’s kids now, to be honest. But a “hello” and a smile? Ah, I believe I will always be up for that. And I’m confused about the 15-year thing…by the time I’m 48 I’ll be so old and worn out and bitter that I can’t say “hi” to a beaming toddler? That seems unlikely.

      If running errands EVER becomes more important than connecting for a moment with another human being, than I’ll know I’m in some serious trouble.

      If I ever reach that point, I’ll know I’m already dead.

  • Mom of 5

    yeah…..she’s just an asshole! I mean, I can be an asshole too, and I know most people can….but all she had to do was say Hi…and then move along. If more people just took all of 2 seconds to smile, WOW…can you imagine!! I am not a huge animal lover, but if a cute puppy is sitting there wagging it’s tail at me, you can’t help but smile. unless of course your an asshole! there it is…;)

    • renegademama

      Say it like it is, Mom of 5! I wish you wouldn’t hold back so much. 🙂


      • Mom of 5

        😉 I hope I didn’t go too far, I have tendencies of doing that sometimes…;);) but seriously, how does even the hardest of people not crack a smile at a sweet, innocent munchkin just trying to share her sweetness! It makes me wonder about humanity, or the lack there of!! We all know that when we grow up, we become grouchy and bitter and all that crap, so to see innocence still in it’s splendor and not be able to appreciate it for even a mere second of your life is sad. I have pity for her really…..and she’s an asshole…;)

      • Mom of 5

        Brotip #1735 – it doesn’t matter how old or gangster you are, if a toddler hands you a toy phone, you answer that shit!! 😉

  • Heidi

    I think if someone is that angry and bitter then they’ve probably always been that way. My friends who work at a senior living center basically see the same crap from high school. Age doesn’t make you bitter, its a state of mind that keep developing and worsening over time. What a seriously sad life.

  • Anna

    I try to look at people like that with compassion…what happened to them to make them that way? Did she lose a child, was she a recent widow? I am sorry that you were hurt by her attitude which was pretty lousy, but I wonder what happened to make her that bitter.

  • Donna

    You know, I think one of the reasons I love blogs is because when something strikes me as odd or funny or I want to comment, I can. No one thinks it strange or gives me that look and walks away. (or if they do, I don’t see it!) In the real world, I’m that annoying person in the grocery store or (gasp) Walmart, who sees your child’s shoe is untied and tells you so (it’s a safety thing!), who thinks your child is adorable and tells you so, who sees you looking at ___(insert product) and comments on how wonderful/awful/helpful it is. Yep, the one you look at – nod, pull your child closer, move away from quickly- cause who talks to strangers in the grocery store? Just us weirdos. Used to be called friendly! I hate what the world has come to – that we can’t ‘risk’ being friendly and neighborly without being looked at suspiciously! So I continue to do so. (Even though, in Giant Eagle the other day, I started a fight between a female couple. Made the mistake of making a comment about a product to one of them and her partner got mad because she was talking to me! Yep, this 54 year old grandma still has what it takes to make partners jealous! LMAO)
    Enjoy the day and ignore those who try to suck the fun out of life!

  • Erin

    OMG you’re fucking awesome! The damn daycare started training my daughter for me While i was 8 months pregnant and into my sons birth… problem is i have to f’in follow through at home! WTH! Yes can I squat down and help my kid pee while i’m peeing myself while her brother is dancing on my bladder… or how about after he’s born and attached to my boob and she’s all I have to go NOW! OMG shoot me in the eye

  • carlisle

    I’m so used to old people being mean to children around here, namely white old people and Navajo children, and old Navajo people being mean to white children. The racism here is so vicious, and I thank god that even though I grew up here all my life around every single racist bastard, and though I may have married one of those said bastards, my mother raised me right, and I know it’s wrong.

  • Bonnie

    Drawing room = WITHdrawing room

    Place you withdraw to after dinner. Because we British are civilised and shit.

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