Our generation has a reputation for being the most progressive and open-minded yet, and I’ve definitely fulfilled that stereotype in my time so far at uni. Recently entering into a polyamorous relationship, being openly pansexual, and never refraining from being the forward thinking feminist I am, I’ve taken full advantage of how accepting the people around me are. However, have I been able to expect the same welcoming attitude from my parents? Not as much.
My mum moved over to Britain in the late nineties from the Czech Republic. Growing up during the sixties in a rural village, she often has differing opinions to the ones that I hold. For example when I came out to her our relationship and often limited what I can tell her for fear of being judged for my actions, knowing that she would probably react badly.
The generational gap could be the clue to this divide. When my mum grew up, she was expected to get a man; date him for a few years, then settle down, wed and have children. If I was to tell my mother about my boyfriend, she’d ask if I see a serious future and could see myself one day marrying him. Though this is a bit hypocritical, as it is not what she did. My mother rebelled against the previous generation herself, deciding to focus on her career and eventually finding my dad in her mid thirties. But she did get married to him only a year and half after they met which is far from my expectations. Rather than this, my approach to the dating world is to try and be happy at that moment. Currently my life is very busy. As a first year university student, trying to take on a lot in extracurricular and focusing on my degree, getting married is far from what I want, and definitely not something that would bring much joy to me at this exact point. Polyamory is amazing and much more suited to me; I get the benefit of love from someone I care very deeply about, but also the ability sleep with others, and explore my sexuality. Marriage could happen sometime down the line in this relationship, but is not our primary goal, which may surprise my mother. Other than it being a relationship I have only entered into recently, about a month old, I haven’t yet told my mum about it as I worry about her reaction. The thought of the man her daughter loves, having other lovers, is probably something that would concern her, as she believes in monogamy. However, I am happy with him, and hope that when I do eventually tell her, she will accept this.
Relationships aren’t the only area my mum and I disagree on. My wardrobe is a constant source of conflict; not only are my skirts too short, but what I wear is too dark as well. Three quarters of my wardrobe is black, which displeases my mother as I’m youthful, and she thinks I should display the joy of this through colour. To add to this, she also often criticises my alcohol consumption. My mother has never drunk much alcohol, having spent her teens in a rural village in the sixties where there were a lot less opportunities. I fully partake in the nightlife side of uni as well as the studying and want to completely enjoy what might be the best years of my life but, according to her I drink too much and she doesn’t understand how attitudes have changed.
Politics is another setting for an unexpected generational divide. I am much more interested in politics than her. It is often argued that older generations learned what the value of their vote is, which means that they are typically more politically engaged. This somehow skipped my mother. She grew up in a communist country, which she resented. Yet, she still now doesn’t try and vote into power a party she agrees with politically. It is me instead, part of the ‘apathetic’ generation of stereotypically self-interested teens that is interested in the political world, valuing everyone’s vote, and encouraging her to do what I see as her civic duty.
But, is this a generational thing?
While my mum may have conservative ideas about relationships, my dad may have other thoughts. I explicitly remember a conversation I had with him when I was about 16 years old. He said that although he loved my mum, and had never cheated on her, he did sometimes look at other women and wonder if he would go after them if he was single. This makes me wonder if he was in my shoes, would he put himself in a similar situation to mine and try polyamory? This would enable him to not limit himself to only one partner but, possibly because polyamory was not a well-known or accepted thing when he was my age, I think my dad just chose to go into short lived romances, moving on whenever he was attracted to someone new. When we had that conversation I was with my first boyfriend, but even then I knew that monogamy might not be for me, though at this point I was only in a slightly open relationship kissing other people when we got drunk at house parties. However, I did keep this secret from my dad. He probably would have been too shocked that his young precious princess was anything but innocent- something he still believes.
So, why this article? When people ask me why I decided to move so far from London to Glasgow to attend university I often jokingly answer that it was to get away from my parents. This may not actually be that much of a joke. Being so far away from the constant judgement of my mother has allowed me to expand. Back home I would be considered rebellious by my mum. Now I’m at university I don’t have to play into this stereotype, I can just be myself. Rather than hiding away, and sneakily doing things I have the right to do what I want. So, to answer the ABBA song and title of this article, no, my mother doesn’t know. She currently doesn’t know what’s happening in most of my life. But, that’s probably for the best for now as the generational gap has created such a divide between us and it might take her a while to accept the modern social norms I possess.
-Generations Issue, Culture and Opinion, Page 11, Summer 2018