pushing back against ageism—which affects everyone


Yo, Is This Ageist?

Anonymous asked: Last weekend I went to an outdoor dance party with a bunch of friends celebrating a 40-somethingth birthday. A few of us were in our 60s, well above the median age, but the crowd was really friendly — except for the guy who called my friend "Grandma." She didn't tell me about it till later and was too startled to respond. What should she have said to this jerk?

The snappy answer — Didn’t your mommy teach you any manners? Are you cranky because you missed your nap? — is tempting, but it doesn’t make for much of a teachable moment. Better to ask, “Why did you call me that?” and follow up with “How do you think it made me feel?” At a minimum, the guy would have had to stop and think about it. And perhaps she could have gone on to point out that it’s no more acceptable to call an older person “grandma” than to call a heavy person “fatso,” or a developmentally delayed person “retard,” or, or, or… 

So far, so good.

So far, so good.

millennials embracing "granny" lifestyle?

Identifying oneself as a “grandma” is a growing phenomenon, particularly among twentysomethings who refuse to leave their apartments over the weekend.”

Hipsters have been embracing granny chic for a while now—”I’ma take your grandpa’s style” says Macklemore in Thrift Shop—but it’s ageist to assume there’s any such thing as a granny lifestyle, let alone that it involves nothing but knitting and vegging.

Dwight Garner on Marja Mills on Harper Lee

YO!  I would file this under “ask” but I have too many characters to unload.

Literary critic Dwight Garner wrote a light takedown of the ‘The Mockingbird Next Door’ by Marja Mills (the “unauthorized” biography of Harper Lee) this week, and the review goes off track from the content of the biography to inadvertently reveal Garner’s own distaste for Old People Stuff.  Full disclosure: I can’t speak to the content of the review since I haven’t read it yet.

He critiques the voice of the subject Ms. Lee as banal, but the quotes (eg. “Oh, bless his heart.” “Thank you, hon. You are a good egg.” “I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a meal more.” “Oomph. I’m bushed.”) sound a lot like any conversation I have had with my own Grandmother over the past few years.  As my Grandmother got into her late 80s, her mobility took a sharp decline and her social experience contracted. Once her memory began to go, we started talkin a whole lotta nothin, trading pleasantries and retelling the same tales on the regular.  I do miss my Grandmother asserting her advice and opinions, but this lighter banter is in her comfort zone, and so here we are. If my Grandmother had written a modern classic earlier in her life would I have to be disappointed with her communication style now?

The standout paragraph follows:

“The Mockingbird Next Door” conjured mostly sad images in my mind. Ms. Lee has a regular booth at McDonald’s, where she goes for coffee. She eats takeout salads from Burger King on movie night. When she fishes, she uses wieners for bait. She feeds the town ducks daily, with seed corn from a plastic Cool Whip Free container, calling “Woo-hoo-HOO! Woo-hoo-HOO!” Somehow learning all this is worse than it would be to learn that she steals money from a local orphanage.

Does Garner get the feels from the “sad” activities or the “sad” brands? Having traveled a bit, I know fast food joints can be thriving social space outside of metro areas due to long open hours and free wi-fi, esp in areas where few or limited social amenities exist, and esp for retired folks.  To me this reads like a pretty fun list activities for an older person or hell even me. Fishin, ducks, movie night and coffee talk?  Sign me up, hon.

Again, there might be some prevailing tone in the source material that shades this content with sadness, but what I read from this reviewer is that being an older human is hard for the rest of us youngsters to see and both Ms. Lee and her unauthorized biographer should keep their voices down about it.

Which brings me to my question…yo, is this ageist?

I’d say yes: Garner is projecting his own negative and condescending assumptions about late life onto Harper Lee’s. It reveals more about him than it does about the author. 

http://Sarandon finds it "very liberating not to worry about what you look like."

From Lynne: Yo, is this ageist? 

Lots of women sing the pleasures of reaching a point where they can wear what they want and feel liberated from social expectations. That’s not the same as not caring about what they look like.  I like the fact that Sarandon’s playing a gray-haired grandmother whom she acknowledges is close to her own age, but it’s ageist of her to say that this means she doesn’t have to pay attention to her appearance. Not as obnoxiously ageist, however, as the journalist pointing out that  ”playing a gray-haired grandmother doesn’t mean an actress is looking for ‘old lady’ parts.” God forbid!

Helen Hunt's Bikini Body Will Make You Do a Double Take

From: Elle: Every once in a while you will see a story like this about an actress over 40 that is bowling people over because she has a nice body.  First, I’m not sure why this is news: anyone who has the time and resources to stay fit will. Second, it presumes that anyone who is of a certain age just automatically looks like sh** which seems pretty clueless and ageist to me anyway.  What do you think?

Ageist, check. Sexist, check (although similar features also pop up for older male celebrities). And looksist, obv. Who wouldn’t benefit from a broader standard of beauty at any age?

Ageism Exists!! Miss Delaware Amanda Longacre’s Crown Ripped Away From Her Because She’s ‘Too Old’ At… Wait, 24??

This is actually more about a bureaucratic snafu. There are thousands of scholarships, training programs, competitions, etc. that are limited to specific age groups. In an ideal world everyone would be individually assessed, but bureaucracies require categories. What’s ageist is the notion that a beauty pageant contestant couldn’t be over 25 years old. Why couldn’t an octogenarian compete?

Life Level 5.0 Plus

After 49 years of “Happy Birthday”, candles on cakes, etc., why not graduate at 50 to the black balloon of power. At level 5.0 and above, we count decades. Yeah, if you want specifics, like a software upgrade, append a decimal—so my 60 years becomes life level 6.0. Not much different to me than a 6.6, or a 5.2 for that matter. Maybe you need to know something in general about physical robustness, so the decimal helps. I’m okay with the shorthand reference that would likely emerge: ‘the decimals’. Ads for ‘Decimal Living at Lakeside’, or whatever. We decimals are operating in a higher gear. Let’s recognize the shift that occurs at the half-century mark. Give us some cultural mystique back, an information-age honorific that is meaningful to us without sounding like an attempt to trump youth. Everyone knows there is less torque in high gear. Why not emphasize the glide?

There is nothing wrong or ‘ageist’ about acknowledging how many Earth orbits one has completed around the Sun.  My point is that ageism comes into play when, at 50 years, approximately, a shift in perception occurs.  We ‘reach’ 50 years old.  We become the ‘youth of old age’ rather than ‘the old age of youth’, someone in their 40’s.  I think it is too idealistic and impractical to ignore age, especially after age 49.  So I’m saying why not acknowledge that shift in perception in a positive way that younger people can both celebrate and not feel threatened by.  If age is both an indication of decline and an honorific, why not emphasize the wisdom part, the honorific.  Why not emphasize the positive side of the trade-off: no longer a youth, but now a source of wisdom.  Age is a subtext you will never get rid of, no matter how much you try.  So let’s give it its most positive aspect, let’s value those who are no longer perceiving years in the same way.  I’m saying that at 50, we perceive years differently.  We perceive decades as having the kind of meaning that years used to have, because let’s face it—we are on a plateau, we are mostly finished with the high-torque living (heavy learning, heavy rearing, heavy lifting).  We can look forward to being a source of wisdom, not an activist competitor of high-torque youth.  And of course we can always transcend these cultural roles that we try to come up with to smooth things, if they do not work in a particular instance.  We still have a finite count of orbits, after all.

Accepting the number of times we’ve circled the Sun is indeed profoundly anti-ageist, and I like your “decimals” coinage and the way you write about “the glide.” We olders do need to claim this cultural and biological territory with pride. AARP already divides Americans into under- and over-50s, though, a transition so universally viewed as negative that everyone throws away the first six mailers. The change you propose won’t occur without a mass shift in consciousness about the way aging is framed in this society (which is why I started this blog). You’re on your way. 

Anonymous asked: Ashton, have you been watching Orange Is the New Black? The new second season has a storyline about the older female prisoners at the facility, and episode 9 hits it out of the ballpark with the line: "It's so disappointing being underestimated as you age."

I’m a fan of Orange Is the New Black but not up on the second season yet—please blame my brand new grandson. Thanks for the heads-up, and great to hear.