Blog: Is it Ageism or Admiration for Grandmothers? 

Recently, I was sitting with my toddler grandson to watch a little of his favorite kids’ show. To his delight, it is filled with catchy songs that reinforce what the TV families do like the rest of us: laundry, playing with the dog, cleaning, choosing healthy foods, etc. All good, clean entertainment carefully chosen by his parents. 

When it got to the part about a cartoon Gramma teaching cartoon kids how to cook pasta, and later bake cookies, it occurred to me: why are Grannies usually depicted in children’s books as being either happy and plump, or weak or witchy? Whichever version, illustrations almost always feature them as white-haired and, well – old. 

Fact. The average age of a first time grandmother is younger than you might think: 50.5 years old. Definitely younger than Cartoon Mama from the kids’ show. 

Whether or not we consider ourselves to be old, we unwillingly get used to the stereotypes, even though they contradict what we know–that age is a state of mind, not a disability. 

Most media seems to treat grandmothers with respect. Other versions make me cringe when grandmothers are assumed to be fragile, forgetful and vulnerable. We need to be protected from “bad guys” out there just waiting to scam us and prey on our (perceived) trusting nature. 

Grandmothers can be fodder for jokes that mock loss of hearing, memory and mobility. The general public’s perception seems to be swayed with stereotypes insinuating that seniors are frugal and naive about anything involving technology.  

We know differently, however. We are not our grandmothers’ granddaughters anymore. We have influential voices and deeper pockets. Charities beckon us to help because that’s what we do. 

If a grandmother does something heroic, she is a viral sweetheart in social media. If she does something appalling, however, she will also cause a sensation and outcry in headlines about a Grandmother’s misbehavior.  

I have to wonder. Have you recently (or ever) heard the same amount of commotion about a grandfather?

I did a quick internet search on the topic and discovered that several television stations and newspapers actually have sections devoted to all things Grandmother. I couldn’t find even one exclusive Grandfather section.  (Now stereotypes about dads abound too… the dimwited Homer next to the cautious, caring and stable presence of Marge. Then there are the grandfathers always falling asleep in an Lazy Boy recliner.)

But Grandmothers just seem to make good headline material. 

There’s the Texas Grandma who made international news for killing a giant alligator with a shotgun as revenge for killing her beloved miniature horse. There are uplifting stories of grandmothers who find love again after a deep loss. There many who break age group records in all sorts of endurance sports. And then, like a black eye we also have errant grandmothers posting unflattering selfies with captions like, “Granma single and ready to mingle.” Yikes. 

Unfortunately, airwaves and the internet are also filled with vilified grandmother stories. A recent example is the grandmother who caused a viral uproar after a video showed her sitting at a table with a happy toddler on her lap. He suddenly reached for a full, expensive-looking wine glass that fascinated him.  

Grandmother instinctively reached for the glass to save it from spilling on the child or smashing on the floor. Instead, the little boy landed on the floor, but the glass and its contents were saved. The baby was unhurt but appeared jarred. Both of them became instant celebrities without their permission. 

With lightning speed, more than 100,000 viewers took the time to post public comments. The  armchair debates on this video took on more than two animated verdicts. The consensus was thus. 

One: she was acting negligent. Two: she was saving the toddler from potential harm with sharp glass and injury. Three: she shouldn’t have a glass of wine next to her at all while she happily cuddles  – so she must, you know, have a “problem.”  

After reading the trivial vitriol, my thoughts went in another direction. What kind of insensitive family member posts such an accidental moment on social media for the world to see and ostracize? Was there any thought about the emotional damage to the grandmother, sure to last her lifetime? 

Fortunately, there’s a positive shift evolving in this outdated image of grandmother stereotyping, so have faith, Memaws and Titas and Grams. 

It’s called the Coastal Grandmother Aesthetic; I kid you not. Thanks to one astute young Tik Tok influencer, her 2002 moniker has invaded blog speak and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, NPR, fashion magazines and major retail outfits. Macy’s, Wayfair and Amazon even have dedicated “Coastal Grandmother Options,” creating an entirely new department.  

Did you know grandmothers are actually one of the hottest trend setters on social media for apparel and home furnishings and garden accessories?    

Additionally, due to the popular Rom-Com movies by Nancy Meyers, superstars Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton wow the female audience with their easy breezy attire of oversized button downs, cropped khakis and flats or sensible sandals. With gauzy, modern drapes to complement the look in your family photos. 

Think of it as a grown-up, updated preppie look, but with more fluid and comfortable fabrics. 

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin have also perpetuated the Coastal Grandmother vibe in endless beachy scenes from their hit Netflix series, “Grace and Frankie.” Their beachfront home sports chic beach décor: lots of white interior walls, peppered with tasteful blues and neutral shades of beige. 

Cartoon Granny would definitely feel out of place in a Coastal Grandmother home.  

The best part? It’s so fashionable to be a coastal grandmother, granddaughters are now trying to mimic our style. There are countless blogs and fashion magazines teaching them how to achieve that elegant, not too casual aura. They WANT to wear today’s grandmother clothes! 

Many of us are already coastal grandmothers by living in Southern Delaware. We have our own, unchoreographed walks on the beach.  

We can be happy and plump and gray-haired like the cartoon Granny caricature that started me on this topic. And we are probably good cooks like she is portrayed to be without the apron and housedress.  

Whatever a grandmother chooses to be, wear or create, it’s nice to know that grandparents are finally being taken more seriously by younger generations. Above all, we are grateful to be near the beach wearing comfortable clothing of our own choice.  

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