I am of that bridge generation. I remember when lives were private matters, when the only persons who knew the latest news and most of the town’s gossip were the Baptist preacher and the party-line operator.
But that was another life-time ago. A time before 24-7 news. A time before the yapping heads of talk shows. A time before technology. A time before Twitter, Instagram and MeBook. A time when it was considered the height of vulgarity to get all up in somebody’s business.
I was raised by a private woman. Mama did not live her life out loud. She lived a quiet life, kept to herself, never participated in gossip of any sort. I honestly never heard my mother talk bad about anybody, ever. She did not say bad things about relatives, or neighbors, or co-workers. Whatever battles she had – and she worked as a prison nurse, she must have had some – she kept them to herself. It wasn’t until she was on her dying bed that Mama talked at all about the patients she had served over the years.
Mama grew up during that World War II era, raised up by a police officer and his wife. The youngest and only girl of five brothers, Mama was more tomboy than twittering girl. She could spend hours in absolute solitude on a riverbank, thinking her private thoughts and occasionally cussing the lack of bites. If I heard her say it once I heard her say a thousand times: “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all.” Which leads me to wonder: Did Mama just never have anything nice to say about other people? Because, I’m telling you, she never talked about others.
No matter how mad a person made her, Mama would not say anything disrespectful about them. She never spoke ill of any of us children or our spouses. If she didn’t agree with something we were doing, she’d tell us. She’d even tell our spouses. But she wouldn’t talk about a person behind their backs. Or at least, if she did, I never heard her.
Mama was not the most affirmative of people. She wouldn’t go around falsely praising others. Even if one of us had done something worth praising, Mama would not brag on us to others. And she certainly wouldn’t tell us for fear we’d get what she called “the big head.”
Seems our culture is comprised of people with nothing but the “Big Head”. People are encouraged to go on Social Media and broadcast their entire lives. We become “friends” with “Big Head” people because it makes us feel like we are somebody. We “follow Big-Headed” people because, well, I don’t know why. Do you?
Because I am of that bridge generation, I remember when the person most respected in a community, most respected anywhere was the humble man and/or woman. The person who lived in a modest home and gave their monies – sometimes millions of dollars – to local libraries or schools or hospitals. The person who didn’t broadcast their business, or tolerate those who did.
I remember a time when it was considered crass to ask personal questions of one another, particularly in public forums. Nowadays people think nothing of asking others the most intimate details of their lives. Lordy, some people are famous just for posting their most intimate business online.
There was a time when it was considered uncouth to ask another person how much money they made, or where they lived, or when they planned to move and/or retire.
Seems with this “Big-Headed” culture in which we now find ourselves, people don’t think twice about being crass. Even the most professional people will ask the most inappropriate questions in public forums.
All this vulgarity makes me miss my mama. She always had a ready answer for people who dared ask her rude questions.
“Mind your own business,” Mama would reply, smiling sweetly as she said it, of course.