This month of LGBT Pride has me thinking of other life areas we should be cultivating Pride, such as Age Pride. If you’re a Daddy and you know it, clap your hands!
Recently I met this cute young thing, probably late 20s, and we were laughing and giggling, sharing stories. At one point I started telling him about a ridiculous episode of ‘Sally Jesse Rafael,’ which he never heard of. When I explained she was this mousy talk show host from the 80s, he quipped “Watch it, you’re aging yourself.”
Then recently I was watching the Ru Paul Drag Race season 10 opener when RuPaul says to the judges “Can you believe it’s been 10 years?” To which Ross Matthews replies “Ah yes, I was in kindergarten” to howls of laughter. Huh? What is so funny about that? Are we laughing because he’s delusional? Or he’s trying to assert how young he currently is? That would make him 15 years old now. Damn he looks dreadful for a 15 year old. I guess that’s the funny part?
I realize we hear stuff like this all the time. I admit I’ve spread it myself, it does pervade our culture after all. Maybe because I’m finally thinking about aging I’m really just fascinated by this blatant age-shaming. What is up with that?
Keep your ears open and you’ll hear people often shaming others for their age, or just shaming old age in general. Why should I stifle or change my stories to avoid revealing my age? Is that something I should be ashamed of? It’s who I am at this point in time. It’s one of the less interesting facts about me. I was born a certain date and therefore at any other date I will be a certain age. So is everyone. Yawn. Boring.
What is interesting is that we all come from different places, subcultures, families, religions, and different eras. So many things influence what we can bring to the conversation and the date of our birth is just one. Those different perspectives and experiences are interesting to share and learn from one another. Why are we supposed to stifle it to avoid revealing our age? Only maybe to avoid the slings and arrows coming from those ageist little whippersnappers!
I get it. With time comes wear and tear that shows on anything including our faces and our bodies. I can see how it’s flattering to hear that we look less worn, newer, younger than we are. This might also give us a comforting delusion that death is further away.
We already have way too much shame in this society. Shame about stupid stuff. Why add age to the pile? There are some great things about aging like life lessons, self-knowledge, confidence, wisdom, but yeah there are some sucky things like knees giving out, fading memories, being useless at technology.
Humor can help us make peace with the sucky parts of life, so in some ways it’s normal and healthy to joke about the aging process. But there is a difference between laughing at the foibles of aging and shaming people about their age. Especially when it leads to people hiding or denying their age. Or when folks try so desperately and unsuccessfully and unhappily to restore their youth. But then again, I can understand if people want to hide it just to keep safe from ageism.
A wonderful thing that aging has brought me is self-acceptance. After an adolescence being too skinny, too gay, not fitting in. And then came my 20s which was busy figuring out who I am. Followed by my 30s where I have come to love and accept myself as a skinny, quirky, gay man. That was a long road, and I’ve learned that I need to always nurture and protect my confidence from outside attempts to dismantle it. I have to invest in friends that lift me up and avoid people that try to infect me with their insecurities. I’ve finally reached this point, and I see that age-shame could just undermine my own self-acceptance. What, I get this one short window between two different eras of shame? Forget that!
Then again I do not want to shame others trying to restore their youth via plastic surgery or other meanss, that is not my place. I imagine many do this to nurture their self-confidence. To avoid the arrows of ageism in our culture. To feel sexy. I just hope, for their sake, they are able to do it from a place that also accepts where they are.
We can model the way. It’s not going to be easy to distinguish between age-shaming and a healthy sense of humor about the foibles of aging. And on many occasions we will disagree. But I am going to strive to gently illuminate it when I see it, and respond as a role model. Yeah I’m this old, and I’m getting older, who isn’t? So what? Keep your age shame to yourself, buddy.
What do you think? We are all eventually targets of age-shame, I invite you share this post with one loved one that you’d like to say “I am proud of you at any age!”