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The class of 2021 has now matriculated into our midst, those lean exuberant people with lead weights of debt around their ankles, and they’ve set aside the commencement speaker’s advice to take this imperfect world and make it better and instead are trying to make car payments and avoid parental curiosity and enjoy some wild Saturday nights dancing in an amphitheater to a cover band and drinking buckets of beer.

But while they do, their elders are working assiduously to screw up the imperfect world further, such as the Texas legislature, which is passing a bill to allow anyone to sue anybody without having to show that harm was suffered. Their target is abortion clinics, but this revolutionary principle will mean people can sue you for looking at them cross-eyed and we will simply lock our doors and lead our lives on Instagram.

I have given up trying to make a better world and instead I’m working on my sock drawer and maintaining a small circle of friendships, starting with my wife. It’s a large project.

The torch was passed to my generation about fifty years ago and we dropped it in the bushes and now instead of a torch we have the GPS lady showing us the way to Dairy Queen for a Butterfinger Blizzard. Life gets smaller. I briefly got a large view on Friday, flying into New York through a storm front, bouncing in the clouds, which then opened and there was Manhattan in all its magnificence, the forest of towers, and a minute later we were rolling into LGA and then I was in a taxi and back to her, in the doorway, arms open.

There is profound ugliness among us, white nationalists upholding the worst of the 19th century, fearmongers peddling conspiracies, politicians pledging fealty to dishonesty.

The elegant young generation is fascinated by gender labels, LGBSTQN and whatever new ones may come along, such as demisexual, which I hadn’t heard about until last week and had to look up. It means “a person who feels sexual attraction toward one with whom they have developed a strong emotional bond.”

Okay. Good luck with that. But what is more interesting than your gender label is the person in the doorway with open arms, the beloved himself, herself, itself, themself, the voice of the beloved, the jokes of the beloved, the beloved’s brand of toothpaste, the books on the beloved’s side of the bed. (There is another label that dares not speak its name, the Contented Single, but you needn’t fight for the right, you just say No.)

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You can fight for the right to be LGBQTSD and people in my generation have fought for the right to marry and enjoy the benefits, the estate tax deduction, the IRA rollover, and so forth.

It came about because millions of Americans who would rather die than see same-sex marriages went ahead and died and others were surprised by children who wanted to form historically unusual relationships and the elders decided to accept this rather than disown their own.

But no matter what label you put on a relationship, love is at the heart of it, or else it is only a theory and of no great comfort.

This love is like a red red rose, it’s like having sunshine on a cloudy day and when it’s cold outside you’ve got the month of May, and it’s what my generation sincerely wants for the young. A man craves leadership and my love provides it. She tries to keep me out of restaurants where the only vegetables are pickles, potato, and fried onions. I stopped drinking twenty years ago in order to spare her anxiety and whenever I mention I might resume on my 80th birthday, she gives me a look. I read stuff I’ve written to her and if she doesn’t laugh, it goes into a manila folder for a while and ferments. She tells me if there’s a rip in my pants or a leaf of spinach in my teeth. She tells me to lighten up. “Smile,” she says, and I do.

There is profound ugliness among us, white nationalists upholding the worst of the 19th century, fearmongers peddling conspiracies, politicians pledging fealty to dishonesty. In the face of this, a person needs to open the door and walk into open arms.


Give it what label you like, bifurcation or perpendicularity or Polident, what matters is what’s between you, which nobody else needs to know about because they wouldn’t understand it anyway. Get offline, walk humbly, be watchful, wait for your other to appear, be grateful, introduce yourself, hang on.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions