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WTF is Media Doing To The Image Of GRANDparents?

Editor’s Note:  I was eager to read this Wall Street Journal article: Grandfather’s Dilemma: Am I a PopPop or a Skipper?  I publish a magazine for grandparents. This is my world.

Then I saw the images with the article and almost got whiplash. Sudden time travel does that to me; there I was in 1955, staring at cartoon replicas of a geezer and a female buffoon with….you guessed it!…granny glasses and a bun!  

The Grandpa didn’t fare much better…both represented a vision that is as relevant to today’s boomer grandparents as a ’55 Edsel is to a Tesla. The writer is probably not to blame, and actually, the piece is excellent. Even the artist may have been working with direction or was picturing her own grandparents and is simply unaware of what today’s grandparents really look like, but the editor…why would he/she throw all of us grandparents under the “little old lady with her hair in a bun” bus?  Do YOU know anyone who wears their hair in a bun?  Ok, besides that guy behind the counter at the health food store…  grandparent

PaulMcCartney_coverHave you seen Harrison Ford, Donny Osmond, Goldie Hawn,Tony Danza, Tina Turner, Colin Powell or the other 70+ plus cover stories in GRAND?  None resemble these demeaning caricatures any more than do the 70+ million boomer grandparents in America alone.   

It’s not just about looks and vanity. Pictures are powerful…they are remembered long after the words are forgotten. Grandparents are the majority of the largest, most economically powerful demographic in our history…how in the world can they be marginalized like this in the media? Wake up!  Look around….the image of the beautiful Cantrell family (see the WSJ article) does represent today’s grandparents.  If the editor had cared enough, he/she would not have thrown that artistic insult our way. 

grandparentsAuthor, Debby Carroll, just wrote a fun blog for this website on how miserable a job children’s books are doing in their visual representation of grandparents. She couldn’t find any books to read to her grandson about grandparents that she could relate to. It bothered her so much she did the research and wrote a book on the topic –  Real Grands: From A to Z, Everything A Grandparent Can Be – it’s great and I think the beginning of a social awakening.

OK, rant over, and I’m back in the present.  The article is excellent and the writer is to be commended. 

So as not to throw the GRANDbaby out with the bathwater, below is a brief intro and link to read the full article.  

Grandfather’s Dilemma: Am I a PopPop or a Skipper?


Congratulations! You’re a Tootsie, or Mimsy. Or a LaLa, Popeye or Buster.

You have a new identity and a grandchild, too.

Steve Miller’s grandparent name is Bapa. “It’s a playful name,” says Mr. Miller. “It gives you permission to be fun and avoid expectations of always having to do the right thing,” says Mr. Miller, who has a snow globe containing an image of him holding his grandson and a recording of baby Matthew saying Bapa. Mr. Miller says he deliberately acts a “little wild on purpose” to engage his four grandkids. He takes them in the backyard, digs a big hole and fills it with water so they can throw rocks in it and get wet and muddy. Mr. Miller didn’t do that as Dad.

About 1.7 million people become grandparents each year, and as part of the preparation, they decide what they do and don’t want to be called. The name deliberation has escalated in recent years, with more websites and books devoted to Grandma alternatives.

Names have always been significant to Lin Wellford. She remembers seeing the name Skye Aubrey in a celebrity tabloid when she was 10 and deciding that if she had a girl she would name her Skye. When her daughter Skye Pifer was pregnant, the two reviewed grandparent names. “I loved the idea of having a grandchild but didn’t love the idea of being called grandmother,” says Ms. Wellford, who was 48 when her grandson was born.

She called her own grandmothers Mamaw and Gramma, but those didn’t fit either. Her Mamaw, she says, was heavyset and wore black lace-up shoes. Gramma was stylish but went gray at a young age. “I guess there’s a little vanity there, but I didn’t want to be in that class,” says Ms. Wellford.

Continue reading in the WSJ

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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