Old Fogey Traps To Avoid, From One Who Knows

Photo of Michael Musto by Andrew Werner.


BY MICHAEL MUSTO | As someone of a certain age who’s fallen into old fogey traps myself, I am here to advise other not-exactly-young people on how to avoid embarrassing yourself. It’s great to exude the wisdom, knowledge, and class of maturity, but when you slip into “Get off my lawn” mode, it really gets old! Here is my seasoned advice on how to retire all possible old fogeyisms and at least try to embrace the present:

DON’T COMPARE THE WORST OF TODAY WITH THE BEST OF THE PAST. | Saying stuff like “Halloween Kills is a piece of crap. In my day, we had the Godfather trilogy!” is dishonest because in your day, they had a lot of crap too. And today, there happens to be good stuff out there, you just have to look for it. Fogies tend to remember the good and block out the bad, and that ain’t good. Trust me: Rose-tinted glasses will only make you myopic. In your day, there not only were bad movies, there also were criminals, dirty politics, assassinations, bigotries, and lots of unrest. It wasn’t all genius. In fact—though there’s still plenty of horrifying stuff to whine about today—things have advanced a lot in terms of technology, accessibility, and diversity. Acknowledge that before you go on whining.

DON’T OVERINFLATE YOUR PAST IMPORTANCE | In the same way that you make your heyday seem better than it was, you also rewrite history to make yourself more of a player in that heyday. In your eyes, you were a groundbreaking icon that everyone adored—but if you can’t find a lot of corroboration on that, it’s possible that there’s more going on here than everyone conspiring to make you invisible.

Pro Tip for a Fogey: Leave your extensive knowledge of Jean Arthur’s filmography out of your conversations with, and about, “today’s young people.”

DON’T SAY STUFF LIKE, “I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST MET A YOUNG PERSON WHO NEVER HEARD OF JEAN ARTHUR.” | First of all, saying things like “young person” automatically makes you sound like an old fogey. Secondly, they might not have heard of every old movie star, but if they’re intellectually curious, they eventually will do so. And thirdly, when you were young, you no doubt hadn’t heard of a lot of people from 90 years earlier. So you should gladly offer to educate the unwashed masses, but don’t be condescending about it.

DON’T THINK ALL “YOUNG PEOPLE” ARE DUMB. | They actually are way savvier than my generation, who had to learn (or mis-learn) life’s realities on the street and the stoop. The current crop has Internet and cell phones and all the other mechanisms that were originally thought to be annoying, but in fact connect humans to information and to each other. They might not know Jean Arthur, but chances are they know more than we did.

DON’T SAY “MILLENNIALS” WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO REFERENCE THE YOUNGEST GENERATION. | Millennials can be as old as 40. They’re practically old fogeys themselves. Assuming that “millennials” means young kids screams out your obsolescence. Instead, please say “Gen Z.” Or just stop referring to anyone younger in a sweepingly dismissive way.

DON’T ONLY USE OLD REFERENCES. | Like Jean Arthur. And if you have to talk about a bad President, don’t automatically bring up Richard Nixon. That announces how old-fogeyish you are, since there are plenty of awful recent examples you could have drummed up instead. But don’t bend over backwards to show how “hip” you are, either. There’s nothing more disconcerting than a 75-year-old discussing the ins and outs of “WAP.”

DON’T THINK OF CURRENT PROTESTS AS AN ANNOYANCE. | You are truly showing your old-fogeyness if you complain about women’s marches, Black Lives Matter rallies, LGBTQ marches, and other such actions. Don’t act as if these events were better in your day or that they now simply get in the way of you going to Target. They happen to be topical, well-organized, and potent. And instead of claiming that there is no worthwhile culture or celebration anymore, you should have been going to Washington Square Park all last year and you might also want to check out the latest burst of nightlife—including in Brooklyn. Got it? Great. See you at Shady Pines, but until then, don’t act your age.


Michael Musto is a columnist, pop cultural and political pundit, NYC nightlife chronicler, author, and the go-to gossip responsible for the long-running (1984-2013) Village Voice column, “La Dolce Musto.” His work regularly appears on this website as well as Queerty.com and thedailybeast.com, and he is writing for the new Village Voice, which made its debut in April. Follow Musto on Instagram, via musto184.


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