Atta Ikede

July 27, 2008

California Grannies

Filed under: San Francisco — attaikede @ 11:16 am

There are 4 types of grannies I want to talk about in this post: Californian, Chinese loved, Chinese possibly not loved and Indian.

Let’s get started.

1. California Grannies

Ok, all the grannies I’m talking about are california grannies in the sense they live here and I saw them here, but these grannies are uniquely californian – they embrace that typical esthetic of blonde, trendy and makeup-friendly. .. Which is fine, except they’re like 90 years old!

It’s really bizarre! How is it even possible to have glossy hair when you’re so old!? Are there stores where old ladies can buy wigs? Do they buy the wigs off ebay? So many questions … and the hair is just the beginning!

Makeup? Bright red or pink lipstick, rainbow shades of eye shadow and penciled in eyebrows are all the rage. Again, it’s a little bizarre, but at the same time, i find it refreshing that they don’t let their wrinkly faces and droopy features put a damper on their cosmetic urges.

When it comes to style, these ladies are fashion forward. Polka dots, jaunty sweater sets, cute shoes. It’s a sight to behold. One regular, who I see sometimes at the same corner store I go to, even has a crisp jacket she wears over her shoulders! She doesn’t walk. She struts.

2. Beloved Chinese grannies

I have to catch my bus to work before 9 am in order to assure a seat; otherwise by the time it gets to my stop it’s already full of Chinese grandmas and grandpas on their way from the west end of the city, where the bus route starts, to Chinatown, which is downtown.

Some of these grannies are the usual beloved Chinese grannies. They all have curly hair, wear cute slightly Asian themed outfits, and sensible black walking shoes. They hang out at the front of the bus with the Chinese grandpas. They laugh, they chat, they have a good time. I’m not sure they speak english, but the probably understand some words because I’ve had several encounters with these grannies, most of which involved them helping me out. I’m still an awkward and uncoordinated bus rider whereas these grannies are pros. I’m usually ok on weekdays when it’s just me and one small bag, but when I take that route on weekends to buy groceries or something (chinatown has the cheapest produce. Gotta use it within a few days tho), my ride back can become a bit stressful. In these cases, sometimes the grandmas on board decide I need help/advice so they gently point and poke at me and my bags until I’ve arranged them to their satisfaction. One time, a grandma even took my wrist and moved my hand away from where I’d been resting it, on a trial smart card device, to the actual pole, where I should have been resting it.

I love it when I have interactions with those grandmas. It just goes to show that language isn’t always much of a barrier. I mean, I don’t look chinese, I don’t speak chinese, and they don’t speak english, but they’re able to help me, and i’m able to accept their help and thank them for it which results in this lovely interaction that leaves all of us smiling.

3. Tragic Chinese Grandmas

I don’t know what the deal is with these grandmas. They don’t have curly hair and they don’t have cute outfits. They usually have short haircuts and ill-fitting western clothes.

They still take the same bus route as me in the morning, but whereas the beloved grannies sit at the front, these grannies sit at the back with the regular working people. They don’t have other grannies around to chat with and they don’t even have proper snacks to eat! What kind of person would let their grandma carry around a tub of cashew bits and eat that for breakfast !? Come on! If you’re going to give her nuts, at least give her WHOLE nuts! Terrible.

Just from looking at these tragic grannies I get the impression they probably have to do all the cooking and cleaning at home and that’s why they can’t waste their time on cute outfits and hairdos like the other grannies can.

4. Indian grannies

Ok, that last bit about the tragic grannies was a bit depressing so I hope this last category will cheer you up.

There are lots of Indian grannies around here! That probably makes sense given the fairly large Indian population. It’s not uncommon to walk around town and see Indian grannies out and about with their families.

All Indian grannies look the same. They are usually a little bit chubby, have their hair up in a bun, and wear pastel or muted cotton saris. What I like about these grannies is that if we end up in eye contact, and I smile, they’ll smile back. I don’t think they’d initiate the smile (I don’t think smiling at strangers is advisable in indian culture. There are too many weird people on the streets and if you just walk around smiling then something bad might happen), but they do reciprocate. That is a huge improvement over what happens with Indian people who aren’t grandmas. Middle aged or even younger people don’t smile back.


Interestingly, I haven’t seen many hispanic grandmas around. Not even in the mission district, which is a heavily hispanic neighbourhood.



  1. Your granny observations remind me of my mom. She has no grandkids, but if she did she would be in her own category. Part tragic in her outfits but all personality. I myself would naturally aim for the chic granny god willing.

    But that’s many years away.

    Comment by julie — August 7, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  2. Julie you’re going to be the hottest granny ever! i can see you now .. trapeze dresses, crazy bead necklaces and funky shoes. YES!

    Comment by attaikede — August 10, 2008 @ 9:57 am

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