That offending phrase, and offend it did, appeared in a group email, the group being a bunch of college classmates who pass around photos of get-togethers and nostalgia-based music recommendations. The context was a boating foray in which food, fun, and alcohol were dispensed, the latter “not like gin and juice at DKE but as fun as we 60+ers could manage.” (I feel compelled to add that we were longhairs, not fraternity/sorority-joiners, but we did attend our share of fraternity bashes.)
People often ask me a terrific question: “What can I do to help stop ageism?” Simply being aware of it is the critical first step. The next is harder: pointing out ageist behavior or attitudes in others. There are ways to do it without being a jerk. For example, if someone asks how old you are, tell them. Then ask why they want to know. Or if someone says you look great for your age, say brightly, “You too!” Social change is unsettling, and it’s easier to go with the flow. Not long ago I was looking for a shirt to go dancing in. “With sleeves, of course?” queried the saleswoman. “No, I plan to work up a sweat,” I blurted—instead of asking, “Why the assumption?” So when my college friend’s email landed in my in-box, I knew I had to walk the walk. Here’s our exchange:
Thanks for the photos. I had a great visit with those guys at the end of August.
Re 60+ers comment, keep in mind that you’d never make a gratuitous dig on the base of someone’s race or sex, and that age should be no exception. now descending from soapbox–
Have to quibble with your soapbox moment: Re: the 60+ers comment, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t note a difference and decline in physical and/or mental capabilities at our age. So adding humor to the inevitable encounter with decay and death, as a sort of commiseration to those in the same boat, keeps the inevitability in sight but lessens the sting of recognizing the truth. That’s one of the great uses of humor in all aspects of life. So 60+er comments/jokes/ etc. such as mine are not at all in the same league as racist or sexist positions.
It could be seen as such when in the hands of people who are younger and using it to deny employment or even validity to anyone older. I suppose I would liken it to African Americans using the N word with each other but bristling at its use applied to them from a pink-skinned person.
Far be it from Blanche [my pseudonym as the author of the Truly Tasteless Jokes books] to reject the use of humor. Physical capacity does indeed decline, though so far my brain appears to be hanging in there. But your comment is rooted in internalized ageism: the assumption that 60 year olds are actually less capable of fun than college kids, and even more problematic stereotyping: the notion that all 60-year-olds are alike in this or any other regard. In fact, the older we get the more different from each other we become. “Senior moment” jokes aren’t OK either. If I’m too lazy to get the remote, I don’t call it a Latino moment. It’s racist to assume that all Latinos are lazy and it’s ageist to assume that all 60 year olds can’t remember anything. These comments are no better or worse depending on the age of the speaker; everyone wakes up a day older and ageism casts a long shadow across the whole life course.
So no Blanche Knott’s Totally Tasteless Senior Joke book?
You never know. A couple of the books do have Old Age sections. No stone left unthrown 🙂
It’s a BIG market, if anybody can remember where to find the book…
One thought on ““. . . as fun as we 60+ers could manage?””
I sent my friend the link to the post with the header “hope/trust this is OK.” We had to work through some stuff in order to make it so. Here’s the exchange:
I care a lot about what you think, and wanted to put my sanctimony in context. I can take your name out, if you prefer, and you do get the last word.
Please pull my name. If you give me your word that further private correspondence will not be posted, I have a few other things to add.
Name pulled. I’m happy to keep the conversation going, but would far prefer to have it occur in public on the blog.
The blog is the essence of the problem. I have never been a supporter of the userocracy that much our culture has become. I feel that private conversation between individuals is valuable in and of itself and not as it creates a promotional moment for a commercial interest. So I am disappointed you decided to post what I thought was a private communication. Not worried about the content, just the act of broken trust.
Thanks for clarifying. As a blogger working to catalyze a public conversation around ageism, I’m coming from a very different place, and my interests are social, not commercial. But I certainly see your point, and the thought of violating anyone’s trust, let alone yours, makes me very uncomfortable. I hoped that running it past you and making you anonymous would resolve that possibility.
The story is emblematic, and I’d like to leave it up. My preference would be to post your comments, also anonymously, so that your point of view is represented. The process is iterative, conversations like these are difficult and important, and putting them in the comment field makes the process transparent. But I respect the fact that it’s not your medium, and I won’t post them, or anything else you write, without permission.
Your response is much appreciated. It renews my faith. I was not worried about the exposure just the difference in meaning between what I thought I was participating in and what I ended up being part of. Feel free to post the remainder of this thread.