Saturday, February 03, 2007

Fighting the Age War

I don't understand people who are prejudiced against age. What does age have to do with maturity or intelligence or wisdom?

My first encounter with this age-related bias was working in a retirement facility. The job was not glamorous, and it was difficult at times, but I never once treated a facility resident poorly or rudely because they happened to be older than me. I did get frustrated by individuals, but that was always a reflection of the individual and not their age. My friends asked how I could stand to work with old people. I never understood that question. Were they asking how I could work with people who grew up before me? Were they asking how I could work with people who are stereotypically cantankerous? Now I'm not saying it was all a bed of roses and that "old people" stereotypes are completely wrong... but working with elderly folks has been a complete pleasure!

My second encounter with blatant age-ism occurred late last year when I dated a guy twelve years older than me. I'm 23, and I'm wise enough to make the decision about whether or not a twelve-year gap makes a difference to me. I never had a problem with the gap. My friends told me I was in denial, and one of them still swears that I am. The guy had kids. He was never disrespectful or hurtful, and he wasn't into me for sex. While the relationship didn't work out, the failure was not a function of my age or his age or the difference thereof. I really liked it when people told me they supported my decision to date the guy while we were dating, but then told me that he was too old for me after we broke up. If people thought that, why not say it? Oh, right, because it's my decision.

I've had experiences trying to find jobs or trying to get Mom to allow me to do something when I was younger: "we don't think you're old enough." What does being old enough have to do with anything? I get the whole "not having enough experience" part, but give me a shot. Mom wouldn't let me wear make-up until I was sixteen. Ignoring the fact that I still don't wear much make-up (a whole other blog topic), is fifteen too young? Sure, grade school is too young, but what "age" is make-up suddenly appropriate? Or shaving my legs? That had to wait until 8th grade. The part that made me angry wasn't that I had to wait for a certain age, but that my little sister could do anything as soon as I could do it. I swear, if it weren't for state law, she'd have been driving a month later than me even though she's three years younger.

Birthdays are a celebration of life on earth. Why do people dread birthdays? I hear the groans, "Oh man, I'm 35 this year..." or the dreaded 4-0 or 5-0... I think it's cool. I treat age as a celebration of life experiences. People who are older have had more life experiences. I can ask questions, learn from them, and swap stories (even though I don't have many yet).

Age Things I've Learned:
1. Age doesn't make you smarter, wiser, funnier, nicer, meaner, or anything but older.
2. Being old isn't bad or good or anything but not being as young as you were a second ago.
3. People who embrace age don't have bad birthday parties.
4. Young people fear aging.
5. Wise people come from all ages.
6. People who are prejudiced against age are not generally cool people.

I don't care what your age is. I don't care how old you were when you got married or had kids or graduated from whatever or got your first job. I will like you based on how you treat me and the people I care about. Can you do that for me, too?


The Guy Who Writes This said...

It's not getting old that bothers me, but rather the effects of getting old that bother me.

Great post.

Jaggy said...

I hear ya, Mr. Guy. I'm definitely not looking forward to being in constant pain or having to see a doctor every week or being on meds to stay alive. But, while that is a trend with aging, isn't that a reflection of an individual's heredity and lifestyle more than their age?

And out of curiosity, what were you doing posting before 6am on a Sunday morning?

The Guy Who Writes This said...

I usually wake up at 5, put finishing touches on the blog article for the day, post it, read the ones I read every day, yours included. Then I have to feed the horses...Life is busy on the farm.

BTW enjoy every second of your next 30 years. It starts getting nasty in your 50s.

Jaggy said...

Oh, farm people get up early. I understand. Thanks for reading, and as always, much thanks for the comments!