Do Not Read This If You Are Under Forty

If you are under 40 and starting to read this, I politely suggest that you turn the page. There isn’t anything here that will interest you. Just me rabbiting on about the old days. Bit of a yawn-fest, really … Have they gone? Is it just you and me now? Shhh … act natural and read this column without making a sound. Do not look up; do not make eye contact with anyone. Come close to the page. Closer!

I belong to a secret society and I am looking for new recruits. It’s a sect known as the Middle-Aged Moralisers. We in the MAM meet monthly in our members’ homes in the suburbs, where we discuss … hush … the youth of today. Why the need for secrecy? Well, if it ever got out that middle-aged people talk about young people, all hell would break loose.

We on the MAM membership committee have been watching you. We’ve seen the pursed lips, the tut-tutting, the head-shaking. We have seen the sighing, the face-palming, the eye-rolling. We think you are one of us. We know it, you know it. Come to our next meeting. You’ll find it liberating to know there are others just like you.

This week we’re discussing the evils of hipster cafes. Do you know why hipster cafes have milk crates for seating? To keep baby boomers at bay. They know they can’t officially ban us, so what do they do? They rig the seating so that tight baby-boomer hamstrings recoil at the prospect of positioning the buttocks below the latitude of the knees. Sitting is fine. Getting up is problematic. And doesn’t the sub-40 set know it. They don’t want we over-50s despoiling the authentic grooviness of their cafes. (Is groovy still a word?)

Do you know what else hipster cafes do? With malicious aforethought, hipster proprietors deliberately design their menus with the tiniest of writing and print these same menus using a light-coloured ink on light-coloured paper. That is pure evil writ large. And then these same hipster proprietors play thumping, pumping music that reverberates off polished concrete floors so as to eliminate all hope of audible conversation. The meandering middle-aged who have naively wandered into hipster cafes are thereby reduced to pathetically lip-reading conversations, hoping to catch the odd word so as to guess the meaning of entire sentences.

Don’t get me started on the befuddlement caused by toilets with obscure signage. Is that an M or is that a W? Is that a top hat or is that a ladies’ bonnet? This is a hipster cafe: they wouldn’t have a top hat on the door to the men’s loo. Unless, of course, they’re being ironic. Maybe it is the men’s. Why can’t we have some light back here? Why can’t we have a sign saying men and women?

But all of this is mere ephemera. It gets worse. I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.

There. I’ve said it. I have said what every secret middle-aged moraliser has thought but has never had the courage to verbalise. Should you disclose the contents of this conversation, I will disavow all knowledge of you and of the existence of this secret society. In fact, this conversation never took place. Goodbye.

Originally published in The Australian as Moralisers, we need you!

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