When I Was Your Age
Well, nobody ever drove me to school when it was ninety degrees below,This is a Stock Phrase speech by any character denigrating modern kids, modern conveniences, and/or modern behavior against the standards of the speaker's past. It doesn't matter how many conveniences or benefits are available now; the speaker of the When I Was Your Age rant will not waver in his view that They Changed It, Now It Sucks. The most common version of this trope is for the speaker to criticize young people as having things easy compared to the hardships of the past; the When I Was Your Age rant almost always concludes that these advantages have made the young people of today soft, lazy, spoiled, or worse; the hardships gave people moral fiber. This is a perennial favorite of the Grumpy Old Man or Racist Grandma, and is often played for comedy — expect to hear some variation of "I had to walk fifteen miles (because it's always fifteen miles, don't question it) to school barefoot in the snow! Uphill both ways!" When the point of the speech is how much better it used to be, you have a Nostalgia Filter in place. Might be part of a Rambling Old Man Monologue. This is not completely made up, though. Compare Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!, While You Were in Diapers, Misery Poker.
We had to walk butt naked through forty miles of snow.
Worked in the coal mine twenty two hours a day for just half a cent,
Had to sell my internal organs just to pay the rent!"
We had to walk butt naked through forty miles of snow.
Worked in the coal mine twenty two hours a day for just half a cent,
Had to sell my internal organs just to pay the rent!"
— "When I Was Your Age", "Weird Al" Yankovic
open/close all folders
- Spoofed in a series of AT&T U-verse commercials in which preteens lecture kids only a couple of years younger than them on how back in their day, they didn't have wireless TV and had to wait a full SIXTY SECONDS to download a song from the Internet.
- Benjamin J. Grimm of the Fantastic Four indulges in this from time to time, especially when comparing the undisciplined kids of today to the high-spirited teenagers of his youth. Ironically, due to Comic-Book Time, the generation at the young, disliked end of that comparison is now the generation at the old and reminiscing end.
- In Monica's Gang, Jimmy Five's father once told Jimmy that, with Jimmy's allowances, he once bought stuff for home. Jimmy then asked how his parents did to live off ice cream and sweets.
- The Three Caballeros: While complaining about how low his nephew's grades were, José Carioca told said nephew his grades were different back in his day. When said nephew asked how they used to be, José told the boy not to change the subject.
- Father Brainstorm of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series says this a lot.
"When I was your age, we didn't have all this fancy shiny techno-gear! Our servant rays were made out of straw and leather!"
- Calvin's dad also says this in the same episode.
Films — Animated
- On Chicken Run, Fowler would carp about his days at the Royal Air Force whenever he felt the chickens went out of line. Then when they build an airplane to escape, they expect Fowler to pilot, but then he reveals that he was only a mascot at the RAF, and never actually flew a plane. Ginger gives him an inspiring speech about how "today is your day" to get him into the cockpit.
- In The Lego Movie, Lord Business's rant to Emmet is pretty much a copy and paste of editorials complaining about Millennials. "Well guess what. No one ever told me I was special! I never got a trophy just for showing up! I'm not some special little snowflake!"
- In A Goofy Movie, Max tries to tell his dad that he can't go on a fishing trip since he's going to a party with his crush, only for Goofy to interrupt him with this:
Goofy: Oh, you'll have plenty of time for parties when you're older, Maxie. Why, when I was your age, I'd never even been invited to a party. Look at me now!
Films — Live-Action
- Done in My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
Maria Portokalos: "Nicko! Don't play with the food! When I was your age, we didn't have food!"
- Back to the Future
- In Back to the Future, Lorraine (Marty's mother) chastised Linda (Marty's sister) for thinking that it's okay for girls to call boys, saying "when I was your age I never chased a boy or called a boy or sat in a parked car with a boy." Then Marty goes back in time and discovers that this a great big lie.
- 47-year-old Marty pulls this on his son in a deleted scene of Back to the Future Part II, saying that when he was his age, when he wanted to watch two shows at once he had to put two televisions next to each other.
- In The Princess Bride, the grandfather tells the kid at the beginning, "When I was your age, television was called books," before reading him the story.
- Interstellar has an interesting variation where the main character's father talks about how back in his day, inventions were being made every day and laments the sterility of the times he lives in and how his son was born in the wrong era. The twist? The old man is from our age (possibly the The New Tens) and it is justified in that the world in the future is undergoing an agricultural apocalypse, and it has gotten so bad that the Moon Landings being faked is taught at schools to direct more people to working crops.
- A man told his son he didn't have TV back in his day. The son then asked him what his Dad forbade him from doing as discipline.
- Another joke has a grandparent make a Bait and Switch comment that begins like a comment about inflation:
When I was your age, my mom sent me to the store with a quarter and I came back with a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk, and a newspaper. But you can't do that anymore because there's too many surveillance cameras.
- In Cloak Of Shadows Storm tried to inspire young Harpers complaining about having to rise early, then Elminster finished them off with a handful of tall tales:
Storm: What sort of Knights and Harpers is Faerun breeding these days? Why, when I was your age...Sharantyr: I know, I know. [...] Then you had to run two miles to the river to bathe and draw enough water for all the horses to drink, run back with it, and get the axe to go out and chop firewood for the kitchen fires, before y—Elminster: When I was your age, axes hadn't been invented yet. Nor horses. We walked everywhere to gather our firewood.
- Played with hilariously by Shel Silverstein in his poem "When I Was Your Age".
My uncle said, "How old are you?"
I said, "Nine and a half," and then
My uncle puffed out his chest and said,
"When I was your age, I was ten."
- In the Warrior Cats series, an elder does this at a Gathering in Forest of Secrets, claiming that young cats nowadays don't know what hardship is.
- Played for Laughs in Reaper Man, where the complaining is done by an elderly mayfly, complaining to the young'uns how much more light you got back when he was a lad (i.e., several hours ago). We had a proper sun, right up in the sky, none of this red nonsense. As a contrast, there's also a forest of extremely long-lived pine trees with a particularly old one saying that they had proper glaciers back in the day.
- Granny Weatherwax often does it when dealing with younger witches. In Equal Rites, when confronted with a crystal ball, she mutters "Never could get the hang of this damn silicon stuff. A bowl of water with a drop of ink was good enough when I was a girl." And in Wyrd Sisters her reaction to Magrat's New Age fripperies is "When I was a gel we had a lump of wax and a couple of pins and we had to be content. We had to make our own enchantment in them days." And in Witches Abroad, when she learns of a shortage of young girls who want to be witches, she blames it on "all this making your own entertainment. We never made our own entertainment when I was a girl. We never had time."
- In The Last Continent this is one of many ways the older wizards drive Ponder Stibbons mad. When unfocused time magic turns him into an old man, he's horrified to realise he wants to say "You should've seen the temporal disturbances we will have been used to be going to get in my day."
- Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segments in the late 1980s would regularly feature Dana Carvey's "Grumpy Old Man" delivering one of these as a commentary. He'd always glamorize the past even as he described it in the most horrific terms.
"Everything today is improved and I don't like it. I hate it! In my day we didn't have hair dryers. If you wanted to blow dry your hair you stood outside during a hurricane. Your hair was dry but you had a sharp piece of wood driven clear through your skull and that's the way it was and you liked it! You loved it. Whoopee, I'm a human head-kabob! We didn't have Manoxidol and Hair Wings, in my day if your hair started falling out when you were 16, by 19 you were a bald freak. There was nothing you could do about it. Children would spit at you and nobody would mate with you so you couldn't pass on your disgusting baldness genes. You were a public menace, a chromedome by age 20 and that's the way it was and we liked it! We loved it! Hallelujiah look at me, I'm a bald freak, O happy day!"
- And about a decade later, Garth Brooks played another such character on the fake game show Who's More Grizzled? ("When I was your age, we didn't call our elders by their Christian names.")
- Bobby Moynihan's Drunk Uncle character sometimes gets into this, or at least you figure that's where it would be headed if he could form a coherent sentence.
- The "Four Yorkshiremen" skit, originally from At Last The 1948 Show and later famous in the Monty Python's Flying Circus rendition. Starts out plausible, but quickly turns into a one-upping contest, until...
"You were lucky to have a lake! There were 150 of us living in t' shoebox in t' middle o' road.""And when we got home, our dad would kill us, and dance about on our graves, singing "Halleluja"!""Paradise!""...right!"
- Mr. Noseworthy of Radio Active: "I remember when I was your age..." is pretty much his Catch Phrase.
- From Dinosaurs:
Earl: "When I was your age we didn't have lawn mowers, we didn't have scissors, we had to get down on all fours and graze like a cow."
- Happens briefly in this The Daily Show segment. Stephen Colbert tries to outdo an interviewee's impoverished upbringing with "Did you have floors?"
- In the Horror Of Party Beach episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike and the Bots sing a 50s-style song to educate "the young people" about sodium (It Makes Sense in Context). After it's over, Crow goes into a non-angry version of this ("...with your pierced I-don't-know what...")
- The Sarah Jane Adventures gives us an unusually awesome example: The Brigadier gives one such lecture to a cheeky major who has the balls to suggest that they had it easier back in the old days.
- Mrs. Brown's Boys gives us this subversion:
Mrs. Brown: When I was a kid, my mum would send me to the shop with 50p. I could get meat, eggs, milk, a comic and a pair of jeans. Can't do that nowadays. Feckin' CCTV!
- In one of the"Bridget and Eamonn" sketches on The Republic of Telly, Typical Irishman Eamonn has this to say about Christmas
- In Are You Being Served?, Mrs. Slocombe will complain about a junior salesperson's behavior or attitude by stating, "When I was a junior ... ."
- In Blue Bloods, Nicky manages to convince her mother Erin to let her stay out until 11 PM. Erin's grandfather points out that he was "out on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific at her age!"
- This is the subject of "Weird Al" Yankovic's song, "When I Was Your Age".
Every night for dinner, we had a big old chunk of dirt / If we were really good, we didn't get dessert!
Nobody ever drove me to school when it was 90 degrees below / Had to walk butt naked, through 40 miles of snow!
- George Hrab's When I Was Your Age is a mild version, culminating in a Not So Different view.
- From Dilbert:
Programmer: When I started programming we didn't have any of these sissy "icons" and "windows". All we had were zeros and ones — and sometimes we didn't even have ones. I wrote an entire database program using only zeros.Dilbert: You had zeros? We had to use the letter "O".
- Inverted in a Mafalda strip where she comments with Miguelito how it dawned on her that the twenty-something year olds of today who complain about the older generations nagging them, will be the ones to nag on her generation tomorrow. Hilarity ensues.
- Spoofed in a Calvin and Hobbes strip in which Calvin imagines himself as Spaceman Spiff being hauled off to a torture chamber by disgusting aliens. Spiff is surprised to find himself in an exact replica of his parents' living room, and one of the aliens announces that Spiff will be subjected to "a calm discussion of wholesome principles." The next panel shows a Big "NO!" from Calvin in the "real world" as his father spouts various Standard '50s Father cliches. ("Yes, life is tough and suffering builds character! Nothing worth having ever comes easy! Virtue is its own reward" - and then the Trope Namer.)
- A prehistoric installment of The Far Side has a Grumpy Old Caveman grumbling: "Back in my day, we used every goldang part of a mammoth!"
- Garfield: When he had Jon's age, Jon's Dad was already married and had a kid. Jon's reply ("Yeh, me") prompted him to state it was a good argument but he still thought Jon should get married.
- In Lum And Abner, any time Lum prepares to give a speech he invariably talks about being a "barefoot kid of a boy" having to walk several miles to school in the snow.
Cedric: I like to hear Mr. Lum's speeches, so's I can hear how many miles and how many feet of snow it is this time.
- Bill Cosby has a stand-up routine about grandparents where he talked about how grandfathers always talk about how much tougher they had it in their day, especially about how they had to walk to school in the snow. He mentions a friend whose grandfather spent his entire life in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and still claimed that he had to walk to school in the snow.
- From Bill Cosby - Himself:
Bill Cosby: My father walked to school. Four o'clock every morning. With no shoes on. Uphill. Both ways. In five feet of snow. And he was thankful! (pause) I asked my father to give me a dollar for the school picnic, and he told me how he killed a grizzly bear with his loose-leaf notebook.
- From Bill Cosby - Himself:
- One of ventriloquist Jeff Dunham's puppets, Walter, similar to Bill Cosby's father, uses this as part of an Escalating Punchline:
Walter: When I was young I had to walk five miles to get a condom! Uphill. In the snow. With a boner.
- The Unhinged Parody set of Magic: The Gathering has Old Fogey and its accompanying flavor text.
- Dwarf Longbeards from Warhammer are this trope incarnate. So much so that the in-universe litmus test for when something is really fucking bad is when even THEY can't just acerbically dismiss it as inferior to the perils of their own time. Hilariously, this has only occurred a grand total of once, with the dawn of the goddamned End Times
- West Side Story:
Doc: Why, when I was your age—
Action: When you was my age; when my old man was my age; when my brother was my age! You was never my age, none of you! The sooner you creeps get hip to that, the sooner you'll dig us.
- Look on EVERY Video game forum. Especially the official boards of any online game to find tons of this trope. Expect complaints of Nostalgia Filter and It's Popular, Now It Sucks to overlap with it.
- It's Easy, so It Sucks heavily overlaps with the trope. Anyone that complains that today's games are too easy or how games back in their day had actual difficulty is likely someone who grew up on Nintendo Hard games and will probably complain that "kids today" have everything handed to them instead of working for their rewards in a game.
- Done by Cranky Kong in the Donkey Kong Country series rather frequently.
Cranky: Look at all these buttons! Back in MY day, kids were ecstatic if we gave them two of 'em to press! And these colors! We only had four shades of grey, and we were happy!Cranky: Oh, look who's come crawling back for advice, even though things are easier than ever! Why don't you ask your newfangled super guide for help? Back in my day, we had to play through the levels ourselves! And this controller-shaking thing? We didn't need fancy doodad-filled remotes... four buttons, that's all we had! Also, what's the big deal about playing simultaneously nowadays? When I was younger, we had to be tagged in to play...!Beat as Cranky tags in an ape just offscreenElderly Diddy Kong: ...And by gum, Junior, we liked it!
- EverQuest added into the game an NPC "Old Man McKenzie". The official description of him is:
"Old Man McKenzie, a frequent patron of the taverns in the Plane of Knowledge, thinks you adventurers have it too easy these days! Back in his day they didn't have all this fancy armor and magical weaponry, they relied on their wits and not a little luck to survive! Think you've got what it takes to survive in McKenzie's Gold era?"
- In one level in Halo 2, Sergeant Johnson gives this speech:
When I was in the corps, we didn't have any fancy-schmancy tanks. We had STICKS! Two sticks, and a rock for the whole platoon! And we had to share the rock! So buck up, 'cause you're one lucky Marine.
- In the finale of the Guild Wars Beyond: War In Kryta storyline, you can see a group of old men complaining about how the victory was hardly heroic by their standards, mocking actions taken by the developers in reducing difficulty and adding controllable "hero" characters.
Antwyn: Hah? These young'ns call this a final battle? Back in my day, we didn't have these newfangled Asuran magics to protect us from Spectral Agony. We just had to tough it out. Kids these days don't know how good they've got it!Jorith: I remember the day you had to walk fifteen miles uphill in the Shiverpeaks, then kill a spectral abomination just to get one piece of armor infused! And we liked it that way!Carden: That's nothing! You wouldn't be sitting here if me and my two buddies hadn't killed the Lich Lord twice while he was on the bloodstone. And we did it without help from any fancy pants heroes.
- In Katawa Shoujo, Jigoro Hakamichi, Shizune's father, does this repeatedly, even when his complaints are false (claiming that Yamaku students don't have cleaning duty) or exceptionally petty (bringing up the ratio of desks to student council members, and claiming his student council met in less luxurious conditions).
- StarCraft II: The Protoss Immortal has this to say when clicked on enough: "Back in my day, I had to teleport to and from school in the snow, uphill, both dimensions!"
- In Final Fantasy V, Faris needles Galuf about his reluctance to cross the Desert of Shifting Sands. He responds "When I was your age, we crossed burning sand every day—and we liked it!"
- Dragon Quest VII has Grandma Pendragon complain bitterly about how the Lefans are becoming overreliant on the BlissRock, which keeps ideal levels of wind constantly circulating through Gorges. She insists that it's more important to mantain the Fane, and is proven right when the wind stops entirely, stranding all the Lefans on their backs.
- Played for Laughs in The Lost Vikings. If the player fails a level 16 times, the voice of Thor comes out and admonishes the titular trio of Vikings for their repeated failures. It degenerates when the heroes start poking holes in Thor's story.
- Each of the three Hag Sisters in Super Paper Mario has their own rambling rant to go on if you refuse to do a favor for them, of the "we respected our elders" variety. Hagnes's subverts this, however.
Hagnes: Eh?! You know, I heard that young'uns these days do not respect their elders... Hmph! Why, back in my day... Back in my day... Come to think of it, I gave my elders nothing but grief in my day! I guess we really do reap what we sow... Well, life kind of makes sense now.
- Girl Genius - Zeetha complained about "novices today!".
- Subnormality parodies the "Uphill Both Ways" line in this comic. Turns out it is possible to walk to school and back uphill both ways, if you have a ridiculously tall house.
- In Sinfest, Uncle Sam to Slick — who asks him about the uphill both ways.
- In Schlock Mercenary, General Karl Tagon talks about the days before the teraport, which Kathryn immediately calls out as a cliche.
Kathryn: Did you just play the "I walked uphill both ways to school" card?General Tagon: Bliss Hive's gravity generators were flaky, so they cycled 'em mid-shift. It actually was uphill both ways.Kathryn: Unless you walked in the snow, I don't care.
- Karate Bears used to have to have to walk to school through all types of weather and 10 miles and there were even scorpions!
- Merlin does it in the bonus panel to this Arthur, King of Time and Space strip.
Guenevere: Uphill! Both ways!
- The dirt farmer's husband (who apparently used to be an adventurer) gives it a RPG Mechanics Verse twist in this The Order of the Stick strip.
Of course, you kids today with your crazy internally-consistent skills system. Back in my day we just had Nonweapon Proficiencies and we liked 'em! And we would walk uphill in the snow to OUR dungeons, both ways!
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Grandpa Mutou is an expert at giving these, culminating in The Movie with the following rant:
"This never would've happened when I was a boy! You kids these days and your Millennium Items and your Card Games and your loud music and your hula hoops and your hopscotch and your dungarees and your lollipops and your Sony Playstations and your voice-activated light switches and your leather pants and your artificial insemination..."
"...your Blu-Ray Discs and your pierced scrotums and your bull frogs and your telekinesis and your Marvel Comics and your YouTube.com and your nuclear physics and your ingrowing toenails and your Gears of War and your Quentin Tarantino and your power steering and your elevators and your illegitimate offspring and your... Hey, why did it Fade to Black? Am I dead?"
- It was even picked up again after the credits:
- This SMBC Theater sketch.
- "If Quake was done today" video by Kai Moosmann (mocking hints for hopeless morons):
When I was your age, we rocket jumped all the way to school uphill, both ways... IN BOILING LAVA
- Referenced by John Cheese in a Cracked article when he says that, when parents talk about not having video games or Internet and playing outside when they were young, he notes that they only played outside because they had nothing better to do (video games were too expensive and there was nothing good on TV).
- The entire point of this article: http://www.cracked.com/article_19109_6-things-our-kids-just-plain-wont-get.html where he outlines all of the things that modern kids and teenagers won't understand about technology and culture from only a few years ago. Unlike most examples, he actually seems happy that his kids won't grow up with all the frustrations he had to endure.
- Played for Laughs in ProtonJon's 4-player Battletoads race, where PCULL44444 gives us this gem, succumbing to Yet Another Stupid Death shortly afterwards:
Pcull: Back in my day, we didn't have infinite lives I FELL OFF!
- Josh Hadley will often go on this kind of rant on Radiodrome.
- Beautifully subverted by The Onion (naturally), which mocked baseball's tendency to glorify the past with In My Day, Players Were For Shit. The elderly columnist waxes rhapsodic about such legendary players as "Walter 'Shitty Batter' Dugan. They called him that because he was a real shitty batter."
- Similar to the gaming forums example, expect lots of young adults on social media sites to talk at length about cartoons from the 1990's, specifically how they were superior to contemporary cartoons, and that they had better/fulfilling childhoods because they can recognize such cartoons on sight.
- The Simpsons: Grandpa Simpson is fond of these.
"Homer, When I was your age, that would be the future, because you're older than me."
- Another episode played with this, where Homer's friend Carl has a chat with him.
"When I was your age, I wanted an electric football game more than anything in the world. And my parents bought it for me, and it was the happiest day of my life."
- Homer puts a twist on it in "Marge Be Not Proud", when Bart is begging him and Marge to get him a new video game and they don't feel like spending the money:
- Rugrats had Grandpa Lou and his stories.
"In my day, we had plenty of fun just throwing rocks at each other."
"Well, I have a tale for you, Mr. Fifteen Years: 52 Pickup!" *Flicks a deck of cards at him*
- Which was then brilliantly countered and lampshaded by Grandpa Boris, of all people:
Lou: In my day dinosaurs didn't skate around with a bunch of ninnys in tights!Stu: In his day the dinosaurs were REAL.
- Another lampshade by Stu in Reptar on Ice
- This was parodied in an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, it went something like this:
"Son, when I was your age, I was twelve."
- On Franklin, when Franklin first went to school, he was told that his father, instead of taking a bus, had to walk two and half miles to school and back, even in the rain and the snow. His parents didn't go so far as "uphill both ways," though.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Lucius noting, that when he was Beezy's age, he was more productive...at spreading misery.
- Timmy's paternal grandfather in The Fairly Oddparents is quite fond of the trope. His first non-flashback line was a rant about how he doesn't like things as how they're today when compared to what they used to be.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures used this with Ted's father.
- The Joker used this trope in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
- Wheel Squad: Jessica's mother berated her for her grades by claiming to have gotten better ones. Jessica then got her mother's old report cards to verify the claim.
- In an episode of Jimmy Neutron, Jimmy, Carl and Sheen accidentally turn themselves old and fall into this.
Sheen: When I was a kid the sky was bluer, and a quarter would get you groceries for a week.
- The X's: "You know, when I was your age, I was younger."
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: During the "Stimpy's Breakfast Tips" bumper, Ren rants to Stimpy for opening a new cereal box before finishing the last one.
Ren: You know how lucky you are we even have cereal?! Why, when I was your age, we ate wood and rocks!
- A variation shows up in Batman Beyond, after Bruce shuts down the cave's high-tech systems to keep out a hostile AI:
Bruce: I had to shut down the computer when Vance's program tried to get in. If you want out of the cave, you're going to have to do it the old-fashioned way.
(he points to a big steel door with a manual winch)
Terry: You're kidding.
Bruce: None of the Robins ever complained.
- Gravity Falls:
- In "The Love God", after Grunkle Stan's crappy home-made hot air balloon crashes into the Woodstick festival and causes chaos, Stan remarks "What's everyone crying about? In my day, zeppelins fell from the sky like raindrops!"
- There are clay tablets from Sumeria, ca. 2500 BC with similar sentiments about youth not respecting their elders.
- Believe it or not, old people have been complaining about young people for almost three millenia. If even half of them were right, civilization should have completely decayed by now.
- Of course they were taught to be polite, wait their turn and be respectful of their elders. Like every generation before and since, they didn't pay attention then, just as today's young don't pay attention now.
- Variant heard at VMI from cadets who had previously been enlisted servicemembers: "when I was in Kuwait, we had to walk three times as far to get to the bathroom."
- When you find yourself saying this, (or "Kids today!") it is a sure sign that you yourself are officially middle-aged.
Bah, you young'uns have it so easy now. Back in my day, we had to figure out when the examples list ended, without your silly stingers! And we LIKED it that way!