Writer and movie reviewer D.M Anderson is also a middle-aged heavy-metal fan – the latter uneasily, as he describes in An Essay on Ageism (nominally a review of Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi vehicle, Edge of Tomorrow).“As much as I’d still love seeing my favorite bands live, more often than not, I choose not to attend,” Anderson writes. “One of my current favorite bands is Tool, but I’d feel self-conscious and stupid going to one of their shows, certain I was at least a decade older than anyone else.” After all, at a Rush concert in 1980, he and his friends had laughed at a guy older than his dad in a Foghat tee-shirt, “simply because he had no business hanging out with us younger kids.” Anderson skewers his own close-mindedness: “Not once did it occur to me he was actually a Rush fan. He was too old.” Now, as Anderson points out, he’s that guy, and now he’s wondering why he’s expected to have outgrown his love of Metallica.
I have a dog in this fight because I love electronic dance music. I didn’t discover it until my 40s, well before it was hyper-trendy and called EDM, and I took to it like a duck to water. I love dancing to it, which means being surrounded by 20-somethings and looking at least as conspicuous as that Foghat fan. I sure wish I had more company my own age, but I don’t want to stay home just because I’ll stick out. Mainly because it’s too much fun, but also because age silos are stultifying. It’s not about doing something just because it’s trendy, it’s about not staying away if it sounds like a good time, regardless of age cohort. No doubt a few of those club kids are snickering, but the vast majority are oblivious, and a few are delighted by the evidence that they won’t necessarily have to quit a scene they love. I know, because they tell me so. I think of it as affirmative action, and it’s up to us set it in motion. People with the most at stake—olders, in this case—step up and step out. They stop conforming. The open-minded welcome them, and incremental social change takes place.
Anderson’s essay ends with a charming confession of irritation on his own part at three “old ladies” gabbing in the back row of the movie theater during the Edge of Tomorrow trailers. They shut up when the movie started, and he suddenly felt like a hypocrite. “While continually vexed at the obvious ageism of most Hollywood blockbusters which aim exclusively at the teen crowd, I still passed judgment on these three old women who looked out-of-place attending a sci-fi movie together . . . Unlike me, who’s skipped seeing some terrific metal bands because of my hang-up about my age, these ladies didn’t give a damn what others thought. Good for them.” Good for Anderson to own up, and I hope he starts stepping out more himself.