Opinion: Age doesn’t assign respect

Graphic by Nyla Smith

Graphic by Nyla Smith

Adults on a power trip can be spotted anywhere. From control freaks to bearers of bad news, it’s truly astonishing how a person can justify malicious actions or words behind the phrase “because I’m an adult.” 

I don’t like overbearing adults and they don’t like me. I’ve always questioned the actions of others, both young and old, and dug into the deeper meaning of their words. This, of course, has gotten me into trouble at times with adults. Once in a while, I’ll be told that I should “stay in a child’s place,” though I’ve never stepped over the line these adults around me draw in the sand.

Despite this, I always try to remain respectful. When random adults belittle me in public because I merely was going down the aisle a little too fast with my cart, I just plaster on a sympathetic smile and profusely apologize, because, what else am I supposed to do?

The same scenario applies inside the classroom. I was reprimanded because I gave one of my teachers a heads up about a future absence due to a doctor’s appointment because I was unable to schedule an appointment outside of school hours. What’s worse is that said teacher proceeded to belittle me in front of the entire class by projecting their voice to talk about my parents’ “dumb” decision to schedule a doctor’s appointment during school hours. 

My point in bringing this experience up is that some adults feel the need to shove their power down younger generations’ throats. When one tries to tell them that they are out of turn, these adults demand that they get the respect they believe they deserve simply for being older. 

When one believes that they should be treated like someone of higher value, as if they should be allowed to say what they want without fear of consequence due to their age, that’s when a disconnect grows. Respect is earned. If a person were to be a CEO of a tech company, then they would have an extra boost of respect in the office because they worked hard to get the position that they have. However, if that same CEO were to go to a donut factory and start to order everyone around as if they have the authority, then it would be an issue. 

The same goes for individuals who deem that they own the place just because they’re the oldest in the building. Now, they should get basic human respect because they are a person, but that doesn’t mean one needs to go out of their way to bend over backward to meet their every wish simply because of the age difference. The saying “respect your elders” is honorable, but one shouldn’t turn a blind eye to verbal or physical abuse just because granny’s back hurts. 

I understand that “with age comes wisdom,” but I advise that you don’t assume every old person is wise. I’ll respect that you’ve lived through hard times, but I won’t pretend like you haven’t had to learn what common sense and basic human decency is. 

We have to look at each other as equal. That doesn’t mean we have to look at each other as if we are all friends, but rather as if we are on similar playing fields. You can’t expect someone to give you respect if you continuously disrespect them. This reason is why the younger generation is deemed as “too sensitive” because, unlike most of the older generation, we don’t ignore the rude words that come out of adults’ mouths just because they’re adults. Respect isn’t automatically given simply because of age, and one shouldn’t expect it after not extending the same courtesy to those who are younger.