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Don't call me 'grandma' at the club

By Amy Chillag, CNN
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
43-year-old writer Amy Chillag writes that she doesn't feel
43-year-old writer Amy Chillag writes that she doesn't feel "old" when she goes to music clubs.
  • Author writes about being angry after a guy called her "grandma" at a club
  • At 43, she says she is becoming aware of how she is perceived at music venues
  • Author: Why should I let one grandma comment spoil my life?

Editor's note: Amy Chillag is a CNN Writer/Producer.

(CNN) -- I hadn't been to a club in months.

The last time, a guy brushed by me and felt the need to yell, "How's it going grandma!?" I couldn't figure out if this was a pickup line, a display of respect, or just an in-your-face way of saying you're too old to be here.

Now technically, at 43, I could have been a grandmother. But I wasn't even a mother, and it was still a shock.

Author Amy Chillag
Author Amy Chillag

I tried to grab the guy's T-shirt as he was walking past me, but the fabric pulled out of my hands. I stepped outside to take a breath and forget what happened, but couldn't shake the anger.

I went back in and obsessively surveyed the club until I locked in on my target. He was talking to two pretty blondes. I boldly walked up and said "Hey! It's grandmaaaa!!"

I was trying to disarm them with humor before my verbal assault.

"Why did you call me grandma?"

"Sorry. I'm drunk and acting like an asshole, I guess." I continued to pepper him with questions, anything to provoke a real answer.

I guess I wanted to hear "because you look old." Finally he asked me, somewhat menacingly, "Are we done here?"

That's when I snapped out of my diatribe, realizing he was well-built and over 6 feet tall. He'd also mentioned he was an Iraq war Veteran. It's possible that this may not have ended well.

Despite feeling like a kid most of my life, I began to see how the guy at the club saw me: as middle-aged.

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The funny thing is, I don't feel "old" when I go to dance clubs. I have always enjoyed live music: the feeling of the bass drum through my body, seeing the guitarists' faces distort as they play and the singers inspiring the crowd to feel their lyrics.

Plus, being at one with a crowd feels incredible: you just can't get that on an MP3 player.

Most generation X'ers and baby boomer couples are apparently choosing to spend their money attending concerts at large, impersonal arenas. Bon Jovi was the top grossing concert last year, and Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones were in the top 10. I imagine many of my peers attended these concerts.

I suppose there's safety in numbers, but I can't stand watching live music with my binoculars, just to see tiny, flea-like figures jumping on stage.

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I rarely see other 40-somethings rocking out at small clubs.

Does that mean I should throw in the towel and find a more "age-appropriate" place to listen to music? Perhaps those sophisticated jazz dining establishments or a blues club?

I don't like the blues so much.

For months after the grandma insult, I refused to go out. I withdrew to my couch, draped in the comforting warmth of my Boston terriers. My rock 'n' roll-loving companion was kind enough to stay by my side weekend after weekend.

Then, one night, I finally had the nerve to venture out again.

My boyfriend and I rolled up to an Atlanta rock club. Outside, hipsters were barbecuing: a kind of Southern soul fest for white people.

A large, young bodybuilder type with a tree-trunk-sized chest greeted us at the cash register. He delicately placed the "21 and up" band around my wrist.

I walked into the dark underground cavern, my irises adjusting to the low light.

Twenty-year-olds were dressed like it was 1985, and long-haired rockers were wearing ripped jeans and T-shirts with '80s band names.

Was I beamed back to my high school years? Was this retro night for 40-year-olds?

No. These were millennials enjoying the hard-driving Led Zeppelin-inspired band just like me. I was just an OH -- an original hipster, who had enjoyed it the first time it was cool.

One young man stood next to me throwing his fabulous head of hair back and forth to the beat as we stood against the stage. He didn't treat me with any particular respect or say "excuse me ma'am" when his Pert-smelling mane lightly lashed my forehead throughout the night.

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I observed young guys with ZZ Top beards and lumberjack shirts. Standing nearby were nerdy girls with glasses wearing flower-patterned dresses.

I dropped my self-consciousness and enjoyed the scene. I felt invigorated hanging out with this interesting mix of retro and modern youths.

Why should I let one grandma comment spoil my life?

The thing is, we 40-something gen Xers aren't the first to go through what it feels like to see another generation take over the dance floor, or the office space.

And we've all got to lose our self-consciousness, and just try to enjoy the ride.

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