Recently, an 83-year-old friend of mine let me interview him about what it is like to be old.
This came about when I bumped into him at the supermarket one morning. We sidled up to each other. “Hey Grant, how are you?”
“Well!” he paused, eyes twinkling. “I am just astonished at being old! How amazing it is.”
I wanted to know more.
On my way to our meeting, I stopped off at the library and told the balding white-haired man behind the reception desk, “I’m on my way to interview Grant about being old.”
“Shh…we don’t talk about that,” he said dramatically.
“We most certainly do,” I said, my back rising like a cat’s. Being afraid to say the word “old” is age discrimination and ageism against yourself.
Grant and I had a beautiful conversation that was filled with caring, tenderness, spirituality, wonder, intellect, poetry, emotion and mystery. Tears and laughter. Afterwards, we agreed it is to be continued.
Then he had emergency heart surgery and afterwards, got married to his partner, Clifford, of 40 years. Congratulations!
While I am awaiting his return from the U.S., I want to bring up the issue of age discrimination. I asked Grant if he felt age discrimination. “Yes,” he said. My ears perked up. I was poised to write.
“As you know, I’m very social and I entertain a lot. I’ve noticed I’m not invited to parties like I used to be. Because…I’m… irrelevant. I’m not young and promising. I don’t have the contacts people think they need or want. They think I’m of no use to them. I’m viewed as stuffy and stuck with no possibilities, no future.”
I have just begun to consider age discrimination in my life. I first noticed it whilst flying. Most everyone is younger, and I’ve discovered they are not interested in talking to me. Number one, they’re afraid I’m going to be a chatty Cathy. No worry there. I zealously cherish my solitude on an airplane. I just think it is polite to chat a minute with someone you’re going to be smushed against for the next 8 hours. Lately, they are not interested in finding out who I am, what I’ve done, where I’m going, and why. Okay, I’m a writer. I love human nature and like to hear everyone’s stories.
They’re not interested in me because they see a cheerful grey haired woman. No romance or zhuzh there.
It makes me sad. We’re vital in different ways. We have gifts, stories, inspiration, gems for anyone who cares to engage.
I feel age discrimination when I walk into a restaurant alone for dinner. A young woman sitting at a table for one is intriguing, dangerous, possible. But an older woman? It doesn’t matter that I am sitting in the chicest bistro of art crazed Basel. It doesn’t matter that I am wearing Issey Miyake and carrying a Freitag bag. They don’t stop to consider that I might be someone worth knowing. All they see is an older woman dining alone. Perhaps my presence makes them fear this for themselves.
These are only two instances. I will report on more as they occur.
Do you have any stories of age discrimination to share with us? It’s really good to talk about.
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