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Varying degrees of condescension March 3, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, career, issues, rants, teen angst.
Tags: , , , ,

This is steadily rocketing up to the top of my Statements That Annoy Me the Most list, simply because I hear it almost every single fucking day now from various co-workers:

You’ll understand when you’re older.

Like when I told Gina, 34, that I was planning on being one of those never-gonna-get-married types, like Oprah or Susan Sarandon. “You’re still young, you’ll understand the importance of settling down and getting married when you’re older.” Or when I told Stella, 45, that I loved this job too much to quit and go back to college like everyone else (her included) tells me to. “You’re still young, you’ll understand the importance of education when you’re older.” (I get it just fine, retard, I just want to get used to my job first and then go back to college when I feel ready.) And I’m the only one in the office who gets this crap thrown at me, because I’m apparently the wunderkind there. Whenever I’m introduced by co-workers to new people, it’s never just “This is my officemate, TA.” It always, always has to be, “This is my officemate, TA. She’s only 18!”

I wouldn’t even be entirely surprised if I profess to being an atheist and somebody replies, in that preachy, sanctimonious way that I hate so very much, “You’re still young, you’ll realize the existence of God when you’re older.”

It’s like 18-year-olds are completely incapable of making their own huge-ass decisions. These moments just make me want to stand on my desk and scream, “I’m eighteen, not fucking five!”

This is why I felt a little sad about having to cross Carl off my list of friends; even though he was kind of annoying anyway, he was one of the few people who treated me like an equal, not some little kid who needed wiser, older people to show her the ways of the world.

It all goes back to what I said before: Patronize us, and we’ll be equally patronizing right back at you. Make us feel smart, and we’ll take everything you say to heart.

Then again, maybe it’s just my hyper-bloated ego? I mean, I feel like I’m ten times smarter than these assholes, anyway (dude, Annie’s 27 and acts like she’s 12, and even she gives me that “when you’re older” horse shit), and they just feel the need to be all preachy with me because they want to make themselves feel superior to someone. Hell, I even think I’m smarter than my parents, so there you go.

I mean, do my co-workers also expect me to address them as “Ma’am” and “Sir” just because they’ve got ten years on me? (Our company has a “First name basis” policy, which also applies when talking to to superiors.) As long as Dipshit McFuckface and I are working in the same position, doing the same things for the same amount of money, he has no right to expect special treatment from me. It’s ageist. (Not that I’m not ageist myself, but anyway.)

Mind you, this little problem is not driving me to the brink, though. Yet. I’m perfectly willing to suffer the crap, if only for the equal amount of “Wow, you must be really smart then!” comments I get from people. Because like I said, I have a ginormous ego.


1. Dianna Narciso - March 3, 2008

Well, I’m 46, but I have to agree with you. On the one hand, they’re probably just trying to admit that they were totally clueless when they were your age. But then, on the other hand, there’s this whole list of “accepted” views that people just spout without thinking and they can drive you nuts.

When I was young, everyone kept telling me I’d appreciate my parents when I grew up and that I’d see that they were right about everything. Well, I’m still waiting for that to happen. I thought my parents were wrong then, and I still think they’re wrong.

So, next time somebody says something like that to you, smirk and say, some of mature earlier, I guess. Snork!

2. fungrim - March 4, 2008

If someone tells you that you cannot understand because of age, religion, race etc., they are usually only, if implicitly, admitting that they are themselves unable to explain it. And normally, that’s because thay don’t have any valid arguments, because otherwise chances are they’d use those arguments instead. The “you’d understand if you X” is only valid as long as X is reasonable.

When that argument comes up, in 99% of the cases, they’re only admitting defeat 🙂

3. bostongraf - March 4, 2008

Hello, TA – I just started reading your blog today, and find it very interesting, fun. As an atheist, I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying. As a thirty-something male, I find your stories informative and fun, but outside of my world. As a college drop-out working in an office environment, I find your current situation very interesting. I just finished reading your entry on “How To Talk To A Teenager”. Completely agree with your sentiments and you should know that it never goes away. People always think they know more than you about everything, until you prove otherwise…then they hate you for knowing more than them.
Anyway, as I’m working right now, I can’t engage in too long of a comment, but I did want to point out one thing I am a bit concerned with on your blog. You seem to be using real names for your co-workers. Really, that’s not a great idea. I have seen too many instances where somebody figures it out, and gets fired for it, regardless of how lame the reasoning is. I would even recommend you go back to your old posts and edit them with pseudonyms all of your co-workers.
I hope to have a chance to read more of you. Have a great day, and thanks for keeping up a good blog.

4. bostongraf - March 4, 2008

Just read this in the comments section on another post:

“Don’t worry, every single name I use on this blog is not the person’s real name”

Well done, and I’m very glad I can get rid of that little cringe I’ve been experiencing while reading any of the very-real-sounding names you are using for these people.

5. atheistgirl - March 4, 2008

Ugh. I hate that too. My mom’s convinced that my atheism is a phase and that I’ll be crawling back to church by summer. And anytime i talk about how I know I’m not getting married, someone goes,”Oh, that’s what you say now. But just wait ’til you’re older. Then you’ll understand.” I swear if I hear something like that one more time, it will take every ounce of self-restraint not to bite their face off.

Keshawn - January 8, 2015

Me and this article, sitting in a tree, L-G—R-N-I-NAE!

6. atheistgirl - March 4, 2008

Forgot to mention this. Even the kid’s at my new school are convinced I’m just going through a phase. I mean, come on! Cut me some slack for once.

7. Teen Atheist - March 4, 2008

Sorry for the unnecessary cringing I might have caused, Bostongraf. 😛 I used to put asterisks after the names, but I got a little lazy along the way.

8. peak9 - March 5, 2008

You shouldn’t take things so personally. Persons older than you have experienced more life than you. They are just relaying some of that experience. It’s not always condescension. Youth begets feelings of superiority. I am only 30 years old, but when I was 18 I thought I knew everything. I didn’t. Ageism works both ways.

9. GDad - March 5, 2008


People in general are pretty sucky at communicating what they are really trying to say. I hope that the “You’ll understand when you’re older” crowd is really saying, “People’s tastes change as they get older, and you may find yourself changing when you get older, but I don’t know for sure, so I’ll couch this in a trite aphorism to make myself sound wise.”

Don’t let it get to you. Truth be told, your tastes will evolve, although your principles may just become stronger.

10. Teen Atheist - March 5, 2008

peak9, I like myself way too much to “take things so personally.” Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you heard the same shit every day, no matter what it was? “Trim your beard,” “Wear something nicer,” et cetera. If I honestly believed I knew everything and couldn’t stand dealing with the ageism, I wouldn’t call myself the Teenage Atheist. I did choose that moniker for this blog, however, because I am admitting that I don’t know everything, and I welcome advice from my readers on how to deal with problems and go about things.

So, don’t generalize. Just because you were a know-it-all dipshit when you were my age doesn’t mean we all were. That’s ageism in and of itself.

11. peak9 - March 6, 2008

Awesome. There’s no more beard either.

12. Jennifer F. - March 6, 2008

It’s so funny that I just came across this post – this morning I was thinking about how I’ve been waiting for about 10 years for that big “oh, I had it all so terribly wrong as a teenager” moment to come about…and it never happened. I’m 31 now, and when I was a teenager I heard that sort of line all the time – especially that I was an atheist in a rural, conservative town, friends’ parents would sort of pat me on that hand with a “that’s nice, dear” kind of comment as if I held my views because I read them in Tiger Beat or something. It made me want to scream.

I guess in the back of my mind I started to think they were right, that eventually I’d look back and think I was a fool as a teenager. Hasn’t happened. I have changed my views about some things, even some big things, but it was not because I was clueless as a teenager.

One thing I was thinking along these lines is that I feel like hardly any of the adults around me ever asked me (or other teens) any questions, and if they did it was more of a grilling to see if we screwed anything up. Am I misremembering that? I feel like it can’t be true, but I just don’t recall having many conversations with adults where they were sincerely interested in my point of view. Have you experienced that?

13. Teen Atheist - March 6, 2008

Jennifer: Exactly, thank you. I hate the assumption that we’re all cocky brats who think we know better than we really do. Age has nothing to do with how clueless or wise a person is.

Most adults I respect enough to carry full conversations with do care about my point of view on things, but I have come across some who just initiate conversations so they could tell me how wrong and teenager-y I am.

14. Teen Atheist - March 6, 2008

That’s a great way of looking at it, fungrim! Thanks! 😀

15. About My Beard « Without Politicians - March 7, 2008

[…] is what the Teen Athiest had to say: peak9, I like myself way too much to “take things so personally.” Wouldn’t you be […]

16. bostongraf - March 10, 2008

I was convinced of a lot of things in my teens, including wanting to be a software engineer, never wanting to have kids, there is no god/afterlife, wanting to go to Paris for my honeymoon, and American muscle cars are cool.

Now I’m 35, been a software engineer for over ten years, fiance and I plan to NOT have kids, still do not believe in god/afterlife, just booked tickets to Paris for honeymoon, but I do hate American muscle cars, now.

I guess some things can change. 😉

Stay strong.

17. Teen Atheist - March 11, 2008

Awesome, bostongraf! Thanks for sharing your story, it’s good to know that it’s not always “just a phase.” Have fun on your honeymoon! 😀

18. Oldguy - March 18, 2008

Many people regret decisions that they made when they were younger and imagine that they would now be happier if they had stayed on at school, got married, stayed single etc. It’s also true that there usually at least two sides to any argument and many reasons for or against any life decision. However, there is no excuse for just saying “You’ll understand when you are older” as it doesn’t actually address any of the issues. Maybe you should ignore the comment, rise above it, and try to get them to really explore the pros and cons of marriage, education or whatever. They might learn something.

19. Jersey - March 18, 2008

Here is the thing about education I like to tell people, and I am only a few years older than you, mind you. Education is important, but at what cost? If you put everything else on hold because of education, you’ll suffer — and I am a bona fide example. You lose out on learning important social skills and life lessons. (I.e. do you wanna know how many times I get myself to sticky social situations because of my lack of those two? Or get scolded at?)

In many European countries, and growing as a trend in the States, is something known as the “gap year”. This is usually a 6 month or year long break between HS graduation and university freshman year that allows the student to get a job or perhaps travel, and learn some life and work lessons along the way. This also often gives the kid a chance to freshen himself to see what he really wants to study and eventually want for a career.

I already made some mistakes that I cringe somewhat about, but am glad happened. I was on track with a full scholarship with the chance to go to any of the finest public schools in my state. Two problems: the campuses were near neighborhoods I did not dare want to be near, and none of the campuses had the exact field I want to study. I wanted to do electronics design, not print-based media. Most of that was taught in western universities, and I moved to attend one near where some family members lived. Then, we had our fall-out.

Then, it turns out I was actually not interested in computers for myself, but to impress someone else. So, I dropped out.

Here I am, two years later, without even an associates degree and incomplete college education. Turns out I would rather work several odd jobs and have careers as a massage therapist and barista — neither need a formal education, just some class training, certification, and on-the-job training. I was happiest as a barista back in the day, and I am good with the whole touch-therapy thing.

I was one of the smartest kids in high school with a “promising future”…but I hate public education, and I hate the classroom.Life and experience are my best education so far.

20. thinkingteen - March 22, 2008

I totally have that same problem. I’m tired of the condescension. I’m 16 and to me, marriage and having children are not definites. But of course, my mom says “You’ll understand them when you’re older” wtf?

The thing that bothers me is that I’m not one of those retards that thinks they know everything. I don’t know everything, and I don’t pretend I do.

Of course, I have faced that whole “You’ll understand God when you’re older” thing. “You’re only 16, you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s only a phase, you’ll grow out of it soon enough.”



21. Varying degrees of condescension « Diary of a Teenage Atheist–My response « ThinkingTeen’s Weblog - March 23, 2008

[…] March 23, 2008 at 10:15 am (Uncategorized) Varying degrees of condescension « Diary of a Teenage Atheist […]

22. coffeestainednews - April 18, 2008

I’m 49 and I still hear it – okay whatever man? I hear you still got some living some do. WTF? I’m almost a half of a century – duh.

23. Teen Atheist - April 21, 2008

Still annoying to hear, whether you’re 18 or 49.

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