Monday, January 24, 2005

Ageism at home and abroad

Although this is supposed to be a blog about "middle-age" (there's got to be a better phrase), sometimes weeks go by and the issue doesn't really come up. Then, it seems to come up again incessantly.
Yesterday, I was talking with a fun, pretty, talented friend/relative of mine, and she talked about being in church yesterday, and they announced there would be a Valentine's Day dance. She thought that sounded like a lot of fun and that she and her husband might go, until the rest of the announcement explained that this was for people in their 20's and 30's. She stated that this was the first time she ever felt "old." I think many of us have this moment, and often, it is foisted upon us by outside forces.
Her husband is 39, and I asked her about using this "technicality." Sounding dejected, she said that it felt pretty clear that they meant 35ish as an upper limit.
Later, I recalled having a similar situation several years ago when I was in my 30's. Again, this is an event I wanted to attend, but my husband was in his 40's. Where did we fit in?
I thought at that time about challenging the situation and forcing the issue of people who didn't fit neatly into a category, but didn't have the gumption, energy, or whatever. I just remember feeling annoyed.
Another issue was that earlier this week, the issue of age (as an outgrowth of vocabulary about food, health, nutrition) came up in my class. A Korean student reported being very surprised to see older people working at Wal-Mart and other places. An elderly person just wouldn't be allowed to work in his country, regardless of his/her preference. Reteirement is mandatory. That one made me feel good about being an American, because, regardless of one's feelings about Wal-Mart and other such places, it's nice to know that if you want (or need) to be in the workplace in some way, you can.
Finally, the AARP magazine has been reporting on a class action suit, that, although initially dismissed, has been readmitted into the courts. A group of writers has brought a class-action suit against several studios for blatant age discrimination. Many of them were either fired or not hired to work on television programs, despite lists of successes and awards for their work. The prevailing idea is that studios wanted TV shows for young demographics, such as Friends, written by young writers. The writers claimed it is ludicrous that older (and in Hollywood, "older" starts pretty young) couldn't write for young audiences. One writer stated that Shakespeare wasn't 15 years old when he wrote Romeo and Juliet. That's a bit of a stretch of a comparison, but makes the point. Also, older people have been young, but younger people have not been older. Perhaps that accounts for some of the stereotypical, offensive crap regarding age which I have noticed on some sitcoms lately.
To that end, I am going to start taking out my frustrations out on this blog when I see offensive images/comments/stereotypes in various media. Although I like to avoid that kind of negativity because I feel when you always go looking for trouble you will inevitably find it, I think it's important. I will also try to notice positive images and activity as well.

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