I was a kid myself when someone first tried to sell me on “It was a different time then.” And whether or not it was a different time then, the phrase doesn’t fly. It’s an idiotic excuse. Even worse, it’s a negligent standard.

It says the past isn’t worthy of interpretation, only rationalization, and that makes it this year’s winner.  

Whether they’re questioning adult talk at the dinner table, inquiring about stories in the news, or simply seeking insight, “It was a different time then” shuts down the conversation. It chases young people away at exactly that point known as a “teachable moment.”

Let’s take sexual harassment. Aren’t unwelcome advances, spreading rumors, crude gestures, and name-calling the same challenges children and teens face in real life every day? Duh! 

Witnessing late 2017’s overdue redistribution of discomfort and empowerment, I’ve winced at the many defensive references to how people behaved toward each other in the 1960s and 1970s. As if that makes everything okay, then or now.

Yes, a lot of men felt free to slap women on their butts like car fenders. And yes, a lot of women and girls were cornered, “felt up,” pinched, or slobbered over until they responded affirmatively on one level or another. But no matter the era, when it comes to how frequently Americans place privilege and entitlement over principles, a lot of people doing something (or being subjected to something) is hardly a winning argument.

Ever notice how often certain products are hyped with some version of “over 41 million sold”? It’s bait, not believability.

Ever asked your waiter or waitress “Is the eucalyptus-infused Chicken Guessadilla good?” only to be told, “Yes! A lot of people order it”? Who cares? Maybe a lot of people got suckered into the nonsensical menu description and found themselves gravely disappointed – or puking their molars out 28 minutes later.

Besides, even back when it was “a different time,” not all men behaved the same way, and not all pre-teen or teenage boys mimicked those who did. Likewise, not all parents took the easy way out with stock answers and umbrella explanations. Plus, the guys who got contemptuous or aggressive when girls turned them down usually displayed other traits that made ’em no fun to be around or rendered them otherwise uninteresting. Deficiencies in character are always accompanied by equal or lesser coping skills.

Parents who take the time to examine peer issues with their kids rather than playing the wimpy “too soon” card or avoiding certain subjects altogether provide needed angles from which to scrutinize life. Adults who refrain from putting their own knowledge or emotional IQs above those of young people remain relatable and young at heart by default. So from smoking, to the evils of corn syrup, to how animals should be treated, the world is best explained right then and there.

“It was a different time then” is negligent because it waves away both conversation and learning opportunities. It’s idiotic because it’s oppressive and suggests that “once upon a time” rape culture had its place.

Again, it says the past isn’t worthy of interpretation, only rationalization. 

“It was a different time then” nails the Golden Excuse award this year because the stakes are so high. Women and girls are gettin’ busy unfucking the world, and we need to help. 



2015 Excuse of the Year




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