I’m on the upper edge of the Millennial age bracket. I don’t identify with the group at all, and I don’t spend a lot of time around the age set. My clients, colleagues and friends tend to be either older or also don’t fit the stereotype, but I don’t have any animosity toward those who do. It’s just not where my life has led.
However, there is a limit to my patience for uncivil and entitled behavior no matter what age exhibits it, and it didn’t help that it was literally in front of my face in a meeting last night.
I attended a policy meeting regarding land use development code last night, hosted by a non-partisan organization that has monthly gatherings on various policy topics. They have really knowledgeable professionals speak who are also really good communicators, and I learn a lot by attending. The events are relatively small (40-50 people) and relaxed, and they serve wine and snacks for the group members and members of the public who wish to attend. The person speaking last night was a fantastic communicator, and I was so glad I went. He spoke well, clearly, effectively, and used language that was both accessible and inclusive. It takes a lot of hard-won maturity and compassion to speak as he did, and for the most part the group showed him respect accordingly.
For the most part.
Then there was the woman next to me.
I’ve realized that I’ve had a tendency to call young women “girls”, not from a lack of anything other than my own recognition of my age, since I still often unthinkingly include myself in that label and females younger than I are therefore also “girls”. I don’t want to be disrespectful or belittling, however, so I’ve started to make an effort to say “young women”.
This young woman was fashionably dressed and was speaking to the friends who had seated themselves around her (and therefore me) in a manner that quickly hit all of the “this is a Millennial” stereotypes I have. They apparently don’t understand why the city cannot make it so that they can live in the middle of downtown, frequently protest many injustices and love less expensive wine. If I sound dismissive, I’m saying this with humor. I don’t often get to overhear conversations like this, and I just have a different perspective, although I think anyone who protests injustice must be very passionate, and I admire that.
This particular young woman was clearly passionate, and willing to use her voice, because she was prone to interrupting the presentation with strongly-asked questions, loud snaps of her fingers and much whispering with her neighbors.
If we’d had a speaker who presented himself differently or who had not done such an outstanding job from the start acknowledging the historic harms of land use development, and the decades of harm caused by discriminatory policies in cities, and the challenges so many communities face today because of their inability to build wealth, I might have taken a different view of her behavior. And she wasn’t the only person who was disruptive, she was just the most disruptive.
Maybe she needs to be disruptive. Maybe her passion leads her to demand to be heard. Or maybe she lacks the maturity to hear what was being said, to reflect on it and to appreciate the opportunity to hear an effective communicator and his helpful and correct suggestions for how to be more effective at organizing for change. Maybe she’s compassionately fighting for other. Or maybe she’s not aware of her own entitlement. The rest of us probably were. I certainly was.
When the meeting ended and the room started to clear, I had to wait a minute to have a path clear to the door for me, and I noticed that her empty plate and few glasses of wine had been left on the floor next to her chair and next to me. I didn’t eat or drink, so didn’t have trash of my own, but I picked up her trash and got it to the waste basket for her, without comment or discussion. I guess some people need to make noise and some people think it’s good to pick up the mess you make before you demand others do the same.