What do you do when addressed by a patronizing millenial?

June 9, 2016

patronizedNot too long ago I had reason to be in communication with a Millenial who was in charge of project she wanted my help with.  Or so she said. The project had to do (loosely) with empowering midlife women. In the course of a 30-minute discussion, I grew increasingly uncomfortable–and horrified–as I realized that for the very first time, I was being patronized.

Me! An accomplished person in her own right.

Someone who doesn’t feel or think her 64 years, much less act it.

Someone who didn’t realize that, yes, in fact, 20-somethings do think she is old.  As old as that faded paint in the image above.

I could almost feel those little patronizing pats on the head and it pissed me off.

“Yes, welcome to the world of patronizing Millenials,” said my 86-year-old good friend, when I told her about it. She is a woman far sharper, more creative and more productive than any five Millenials we know. “That generation has absolutely no clue what older women are about.”

Of course she would know this: she’s had decades longer than I to be patronized by younger people. And frankly, I’ve seen it happen to her and wrote about it in a post called Older People are not Plump Babies. But that was five years ago, and now I’m the one being patronized.

Telling my husband about it, I was fairly sputtering with indignation.  “Imagine! SHE, has the nerve to tell ME…”  He interrupted me with a laugh by finishing the sentence:  “….anything but the time of day?”

Exactly. I mean. Seriously.

We are not sad or needy. 

But that wasn’t even the half of it. Her depiction of my generation of women (and even younger) was that of sad, un-empowered females who feel badly about themselves and can’t figure out how to be fulfilled by themselves. Her project would help them find their way.

So let’s break it down. I am absolutely in agreement that there are women like that. But, and I am pretty much right about this, THOSE women are not going to be accessing the project she represented. No. Not at all. Because the tremendous gap between what she says her project is about and the women who she says need it is so very clear.

Let’s face it: we live in a day and age when just about any kind of inspirational message or how-to is available online through blogs, websites, YouTubes, podcasts. You can learn anything from how to write a business plan to how to set up an Etsy shop and take advice about everything from the pitfalls of partnerships to the way to turn a creative passion into a revenue stream.  Find me a woman who hasn’t at least heard of Brene Brown or TED talks and I’ll bet she lives off the grid. There are so many ways that women can find information they need today. Do we need another one? One that offers nothing different?

And, to be honest, I just don’t see many of those sad, needy women around. Maybe the women I know in my age group are too bright and involved. That could be.

But that’s all beside the point because the truth is I am mostly pissed off at being patronized.

So, the seal of patronization as been broken. It’s happened to me.  What I want to know is has it happened to YOU and if so, how you felt and what you did about it?

41 comments on “What do you do when addressed by a patronizing millenial?
  1. Jennifer says:

    It hasn’t happened to me yet and I’ll be duly pissed off when it does! Don’t we get to call them “young upstarts”? Oblivious idiots works too. 🙂 Let’s squeeze a coffee in between your trips!

  2. Let’s see,sad? No, happier than I’ve ever been, especially compared to when I was in my 20s! Un-empowered? I would venture a guess that I am far more powerful than any millennial. Feel badly about myself? Loving myself completely for the first time ever! Can’t figure out how to be fulfilled? I’d love to show that young woman where we live! That would certainly shut her up!

    Thanks for sharing Carol! It made me feel GREAT about my life today at age 61!

  3. Diane says:

    I’ve been fortunate in my world, but my husband, the guy who wrote most of the policies that keep the wheels going in his office, has been sidelined and negated to the point where no one even hears him when he speaks. It’s a tragedy because he could ease so much of their pain. I guess they like pain.

  4. Hi Carol! I hope you put that young woman in her place? But then she might not have even realized what was happening!!!! I find so often with those of that age that they don’t even know what they don’t know! Were WE that clueless! Fortunately I haven’t been put in the position by other young women….but young men for sure. That’s why I am a supporter of Hillary….I am so tired of young men thinking they have the solution for the world and have come up with it all by their little selves!!!! Time for an older woman to show the world what she can do. ALL OF US! ~Kathy

  5. Shirley Wood says:

    Aging has taught me so many lessons including to turn a deaf ear to those ‘young ignorant individuals’ I hesitate to group an entire generation into one category but do agree that most young people do not properly respect their wiser elders. I am 57 and know exactly what you are talking about. They are an indignant, disrespectful and thus ignorant bunch.

  6. I am only in my 30’s, but I have dealt with this, too! I went back working with a company after helping launch it and the young girl (in her 20’s) that had taken over one of the positions I helped create did nothing but patronize me every chance she got. Got old real quick. I respect those that came before me and recognize they probably have a lot more insight than I do. Thank you for sharing this – and sorry you had to deal with that!

  7. Tammy says:

    Meh, comes with the territory. My first time I was quick to remind the young lady that her mother was undoubtedly extremely patient with her in teaching her to tie her shoes and use a spoon. Patience is truly a virtue not limited by age or youth. It’s all good, we all get out our dose of youthful exuberance (aka young naiveté). It all becomes clear to them in time….when it’s their turn. Payback is always a bitch. This is one bitch I’m learning to love!

  8. Carol Graham says:

    I can imagine how shocked you must have been. I am a few years older than you but as far as I know (LOL) this hasn’t happened to me yet. Maybe it did and I never noticed!

    In answer to what I would do — Mmmmm, probably make a joke of it and hopefully make the millennial feel stupid

  9. Alana says:

    Yes, I am starting to experience that, and I try to remember that I was young and brash once. And, although I would like that young body back, I will not give up an iota of my wisdom or confident power.

  10. Eris says:

    I think there is likely a gap in time perception in play here. The only time women are really mentioned in history books as a group is when we have banded together to gain the right to vote, or burned our bras. She is likely equating you with the generation BEFORE yours, the women who didn’t have much voice unless they were truly rowdy. Yes, she should stop and look and listen before talking but she is still too young to even get that. Give her five years and some life experience and check back.

  11. my recent experience with millennials, besides the fact I have nothing to contribute and don’t know anything, is that they don’t want to work and want everything given to them because our generation owes it to them because we screwed up their world.

    Don’t even get me started…..

  12. penpen says:

    I’m a decade older than you and haven’t run into the generational patronizing per se. Maybe I haven’t put myself far enough out of my comfort zone. But I have come across my share of condescension–sometimes it comes from people my age or older than me. People with an overblown sense of entitlement are everywhere. And when you’re in their firing line, it hurts no matter what direction it comes from. It doesn’t make them many friends either.

  13. Carolann says:

    I would love to hear about how she patronized you…like wtf did she say??? You have my curiosity peaked now. It’s funny, my daughter is millennial and my son is an X’er and neither of them ever even remotely came off as patronizing to any boomer I’ve ever seen them talk to or about. Iknow how those millennials are though and I can totally see how that conversation would have gone. Of course not all millennials but given their sense of entitlement…understandable!

  14. Mooshki says:

    Huh. I think female millenials are *less* empowered than my generation because they are objectified way more than we ever were. I was a kid in the ’70s, young-un. We rode the wave of liberation.

  15. Lizzi Lewis says:

    This made me laugh quite a lot, because I wrote the opposite the other day – about BEING a Millennial, and all that it means – but I hope I would never presume to patronise someone. I’ve been put in my place by people older AND younger than myself, and I’m learning the great lesson that it’s never a good idea to make assumptions.

    Shame about her rudeness though – it would have been far better if she had asked for your help and then LISTENED.

  16. Barbara says:

    I haven’t experienced it directly but see it all the time. We thought we knew everything, too. Let them learn the hard way that they really don’t know it all. I see it with my 14-year-old grandson but he doesn’t even realize what he’s doing. It’s the old, teenagers think they know everything syndrome. And, sadly, so do millennials.

  17. Shame on her for being rude! I am a millennial and try to respect those older (and younger) than me! Everyone deserves respect!

  18. It hasn’t happened to me yet. But I’ve seen it happen to my 79-year-old mother. It makes me so very angry. I try to run interference for my parents as much as possible.

  19. My children are millennials….I am used to being patronized! LOL

  20. Annette says:

    It’s even worse when the patronizing comes from within your own family – from arrogant 30 somethings who have much less education and much less life experience than myself. We are expected to take the back seat now and shut up? Don’t think so! I am mad, too, Carol.

  21. sue says:

    oh they certainly have a lot to learn don’t they Carol. There are so many of us who ARE EMPOWERED, FABULOUS AND EXCITING WOMEN. What a shame she has a different view. Maybe we need to shout out a little more!

  22. It happened to me at a party when someone mentioned I had a blog and managed social media accounts and a millennial woman sarcastically laughed and asked what my little blog was all about. She started spouting numbers and my 20-year-old granddaughter jumped in and told her my stats, that I was a best selling author and that I was the first female manager for Pepsi-Co. That 20-year-old then told that woman that she shouldn’t patronize anyone especially another women and she should never sit down to write about life before she stood up to live. Can I tell you how much I love that kid…
    I am so sorry that happened to you. Shake it off and keep moving forward. You exude confidence and it probably scared her,

  23. Ha ha! She had no idea who she was messing with! These millennials are in for a rude awakening every time they underestimate one of us old folk 🙂

  24. Sheryl Kraft says:

    I’ve experienced it but I tell myself the person is not worth my emotion or my breath. That’s not to say it doesn’t bother me…and maybe I’m in denial just a bit. But you know what? They’ll get their turn; that’s the best revenge.

  25. Elizabeth O. says:

    I’m curious though, what made them think we are sad and lonely? I think these Millenials think they know everything, but really, they have such a different view of the world. Sometimes, I wonder if it’s healthy. Don’t they know that the women before them fought for the rights and the freedom that they are enjoying so much now? How disappointing.

  26. Ann says:

    I think part of it is that she’s just trying to find her niche. And someone needs to tell her that trying to tell people older than her what they’re doing wrong is laughable.

    On a side note, I was recently at a conference when a friend of mine ran up to me and told me that she’s been talking to these 20/21 year old girls. I responded, what do they know everything about life? And the girls were standing right there. I’m in my late 30s, but I get annoyed with people (at any age) who assume they know everything. Anyway, I talked to these women and they were some of the funniest, most self aware women I’ve ever met. I was so embarrassed that I was quick to make an assumption based on age since I’d hate someone doing the same to me.

  27. Donna says:

    I am acrimonious!! And I am writing a blog right now to reflect my frustration over this.let me say I will try and write something if I can get the typewriter to work….
    How dare anyone treat you with even the least amount of disrespect.

  28. wendy says:

    I am in a phlebotomy class with a millennial who acts like she knows everything about everything and will let you know it. The funny thing is, she has never has a job and she can not handle people telling her what to do. This will be interesting to watch when clinicals come about. If she is like most of her generation we might be in trouble. However, with your situation, I do not care how old someone is, people should treat everyone with respect…period. Know that you were not raised in a barn and act like you have sense. Millennials should learn from the generations before not patronize them. Sad day.

  29. Nancy Hill says:

    That young woman is lucky she still has her head. I’d have bitten it off. I am patronized whenever I call in for tech service. Grrrr. Millennial men. Customer service purportedly techy customer service millennial men. Millennial women are usually afraid of me. It is the phone – it allows stereotypes to persist in peoples heads.

  30. Without meaning to patronize you LOL – let me just say that there are women in this world who have no inkling about many of the social media sites and other places on-line that have the tools, information and resources you mentioned and are living happy, actually more happy and fulfilling lives that your Millennia! I know exactly how you feel though and the one that sometimes try that @#$% with me is my own daughter! Talk about sleeping with the enemy! LOL. Yes, the world is different today that when we entered it but that does not mean we are total duds as many of them think because we wish to live according to OUR life experiences and not to the limited quantity that they have so far accumulated. I said to one not so long ago – talk to me when you have walked in my skin, along the dark alleys and “shoes-less” over the terrains of life that I have! And to make sure she got it, I rolled my eyes and added one of their favourite words to the end, starting with a “B”. LOL. Great post Carol.

  31. Heather says:

    I just don’t get it, of course when I was young I thought I knew everything but the difference is I looked up to and respected older people. It wasn’t “no problem” to do my job!

  32. Jennifer says:

    Oh wow. I think she needs to attend her women’s history classes so she can figure who created the road maps upon which she treads. Unempowered? There are unempowered women in each generation and it seems like she’d be better off figuring this out before she reaches out to insult people

  33. Nina Gaby says:

    You hit a nerve for this Vermont based Hillary supporter who is not so much being patronized as she is being yelled at. But here’s the other deal: I was patronized by a 50 year old woman who works for the hospital system where I struggle with a cumbersome electronic medical record system for my clinical documentation. When I offer concrete objections to the functioning of this system she gets defensive. Last meeting, in front of others, she suggested I just retire. There were a number of reasons I did not report her to Human Resources.

  34. Pat says:

    WTF Do not write us off millenials. We fought hard to have a voice. Hear us roar!

  35. The only one that has done it to me and let’s face my bubble is A LOT smaller than yours has been my daughter. It only started after she became a mother. She’s the expert now and everything I know is wrong and outdated.I just have to remind her how she got here.

  36. Judy says:

    Absolutely agree! I am now 75 and I’ve lived a very varied and interesting life with experience of volunteering, family, work,, living abroad and study. According to the 40 somethings I know nothing about anything! But … I have also moved a lot … and discovered that any experience I have acquired IN A DIFFERENT PLACE, however relevant, doesn’t count.

    Perhaps the problem is that, if you don’t bore people with your past life, they simply do not know how accomplished you are? And the young don’t listen!

  37. Good says:

    My dad who is 80 (I am 45) has a phrase for patronizing Millennials. He says “they’re all up their own ****”.

    In fact today, fed up with being told, “perfect, perfect” by every single Millennial robot going, I straight out told a Millennial solicitor to stop patronizing me. I told her I was older, prettier and had more gob than her, and she could go figure.

  38. MHSmith says:

    At doctors offices Millennials nearly always call me “Sweetie” or “Dear” or “Honey” or my favorite, “Sweet Pea”. I am 60, a retired Navy Commander, Nurse Midwife with prescriptive and hospital admission privileges, and a professor. They are rude, tearing the fabric of our society in their small ways. I have a name. Use it. Or call me Ma’am.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.