Saturday, April 05, 2008

Just how old are you?

I get asked this question quite a lot. It often arises out of online conversations where the other party can't see what I look like. Not right away, of course, because that would be rude -- but usually after we've gotten to know each other in that uniquely cyberspace online disjointed read-discuss-comment sort of way. If I'm in a playful mood, I might answer, "Old enough to be your mother (or grandmother)". Most often, I'll just state my age (which is 58 years at this writing).

I've never understood the need to be coy about my age. I didn't mind turning thirty, forty or fifty; I know I won't mind turning sixty. I've harped on this before, but we are the age we are - no amount of lying or denial will change it.

Pretending we're not aging or old, only plays into the ageism already rampant in our youth-obsessed culture.

On the one hand, I am quite perplexed, if not downright annoyed, by people who won't divulge their age, but on the other hand I can understand why they won't.

It comes down to our youth-centric culture and the barrage of images telling us that everyone beautiful and worthwhile is, or looks, under thirty and that the other alternative is to be old and seen as elderly, senile, stupid and dependent. There seems to be this huge chasm between the young and vital and the old and doddering.

Youth-obsessed media wants us to believe the population looks like this:

The Young
(hip, beautiful, trendy and vital)

-----> The Invisible <-----
(most people)

The Elderly
(dependent, needy and useless)

We need to remind ourselves and others that this is not reality. We need to be happy at whatever age we're at - including not being afraid to state what that age is - and stop being invisible.

Here's something from a favourite blogger (elder or otherwise):
Ronni Bennett who was interviewed on Brian Lehrer Live - April 2, 2008.


Julie Schuler said...

I am glad you mentioned this. I am never afraid to say how old I am- 34. I remember being relieved when I was closing in on 30 and realizing that TV advertisements were no longer directed at me. For once I just felt quiet and complacent and not harrassed and harangued to look a certain way or to change something about myself. But now that another few years have passed, I wonder why products that can be good for everyone feature twenty-something young women? Can't everybody enjoy cereal? Yogurt? Shoes? The only things middle-aged women are fit to use on TV are house-cleaning products! Funny, well, sort of.

Stella said...

I agree, it is silly to be vague about our age. I'm 52.