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Ageism

Posted Jul 26 2008 10:18am

Well, I tried to post an ABBA video from YouTube this morning, but for whatever reason it’s not working. So you’ll have to wait for your morning dose until it shows up or I give up and re-post it.

I have been thinking about age this morning. I’m making friends with a delightful young man I’ll call Charles. I met him out with his friends this week for the first time, and we had a lovely time. He was teaching me how to three-step (or something?) at a local, completely empty gay bar. Lots of fun, and I quite liked his friends. At one point in the evening Charles mentioned he was from a certain small Texas town where one of my good friends is also from. I asked his age, wondering if they might know each other. And Charles got weird on me - blushed, shifted his eyes around, and stammered out his age. I noted his reaction, and went on with the conversation.

So yesterday I asked him (via e-mail) why he had reacted oddly when I asked his age. His response: “I guess I was worried you would suddenly think to yourself, “Why am I out with this kid…??”" Which is ridiculous, of course, he’s only three years younger than me.  But that stark insecurity came from somewhere, and it got me thinking.

In the last week, I have had two people literally not believe my answer when they asked how old I was - one was sure I was older because of my professional accomplishments and one was sure I was younger based on my appearance. I showed one my driver’s licence (the one who thought I had to be older) and one my business card (the one who thought I was a 21-year-old undergraduate). It’s exhausting, this constant concern about age!

I’m too young to be a professional. I’m too old for my looks. Charles is too young to be friends with me. I’m too young to have a substantial and relevant moral and ethical position. (That last one is a whole other story I won’t even get into here.)

I am so freaking tired of people making judgments based on age! My age, your age, my children’s age, none of this is information you can use to make a personal judgment

Recently I’ve watched several of the old episodes ofDoogie Howser, M.D. on hulu.com, which has also brought up some of thinking about age. Setting aside the rather laughable theoretical basis for the show, it’s interesting seeing an image of a teenager functioning in an adult world and dealing with professional slights and injustices based on his age. I remember experiencing the same intellectual slights and personal injustices as a teenager. I occasionally feel them now, albeit not nearly as often.

And ageism can certainly plague the young and the old - just last night a friend cringed in passing at the thought of an elderly couple having sex (and I regret I did not stand up and argue the point as I know that the authorJoan Pricewould have done).

So what are your experiences with ageism? And how do you work to keep your interactions clean of ageism?

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