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How problematic is the Atlantic cover story about old age? Let me count the ways.

The cover story of the October 2014 Atlantic magazine, “The New Science of Old Age,” features a white-bearded skateboarder careening between two articles that encapsulate American ambivalence about longevity: here’s why our kids could significantly outlive us and how awful that would be. Below, my Letter to the Editor calling out the unacknowledged ageism that saturates both articles, followed by more examples.

To the Editor: Would the Atlantic publish a cover story about changing gender roles without mentioning sexism? Or analyze race relations without foregrounding racism? (“Racist” appeared in the subtitle of “The Case for Reparations.”) Yet in nineteen pages devoted to how longevity could transform society, ageism goes unmentioned—not to mention unexamined. Both lead articles are riddled with examples.

In Greg Easterbrook’s “What Living to 100 Will Mean”:

  • The idea that Supreme Court justices should have term limits because they live too long. Age and ideology are unrelated.
  • Framing corrupt campaign-finance laws as a “problem of aging leadership.” And who isn’t aging?
  • The stereotype that people prefer one form of entertainment to another based on how old they are. Plenty of older people like “loud and aggressive” sports like football!

       In Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75”:

  • The statement that “our older years are not of high quality.” Study after study shows people to be happiest at the beginnings and the ends of their lives.
  • The presumption that circumscribed lives are not worth living. The story of Emanuel’s own father belies it.
  • The zero-sum reasoning that “stretching out old age” comes at the expense of “saving more young people.” This “canes vs. cradles” argument has been debunked by countless gerontologists.
  • The premise that age turns people into useless burdens. Far more resources, material and otherwise, have always flowed from older generations to younger ones.

The meaning of living to 100 will turn less on science than on society.  It’s not being women that makes life harder for woman, it’s sexism. It’s racism, not having dark skin, that oppresses people of color. It’s not the passage of time that makes aging in America so much harder than it has to be—it’s ageism. It is high time to stop giving this form of discrimination a pass.

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There’s more to take issue with in this Atlantic cover story, much more:

In Contributing Editor Greg Easterbook’s “What Living to 100 Will Mean”:

The assumption that ballooning health-care costs for olders would mean shorting other social programs. (What “live too long” really means is “cost too much.”) Resources are not inherently scarce; this imagined shortfall is the result of policy decisions in a society that disregards its oldest and youngest members. The assumption is not just biased, it’s inaccurate. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the share of US healthcare spending going towards nursing and retirement homes has declined since 2000 and been flat since 2006. The ten-year MacArthur Foundation Study of Aging in America concluded that once people reach 65, their added years don’t have a major impact on Medicare costs. The old old actually cost less to care for at the end of life than people in their 60s and 70s.

 Flawed demography. The “Rise of the Centenarians” chart on p. 65 omits the fact that most of the growth in life expectancy in the 20th century was a function of lower child mortality, thanks largely to clean water and antibiotics. We’ve outsourced death from the young to the old, and we’ve eliminated most of the causes that are easy to remedy. As life expectancy rises, it becomes more and more difficult to increase lifespan further. Furthermore, the effect of the baby boom bulge will peak by midcentury.

 The standard alarmism about federal programs: Social Security bankrupted! Medicare exhausted! A large population over the age of 65 will severely strain federal programs, and the government’s future financial obligations, currently unfunded, are indeed staggering. Relatively small fixes can fix Social Security though, such as raising the cut-off point for taxation of earnings, which is based on average earnings. (Because high-end earnings have grown faster than average, today only about 83.5 percent of earning are taxed, as compared to 90 percent in 1983.) Nor is the longevity boom to blame for the mess American healthcare is in. The failure lies in the way the system is organized. Designed as an acute care program, Medicare needs to be overhauled to deliver care management to people with disabilities and chronic illness—an aging America, in other words.

 The faint-hearted suggestion that in a longer-lived world Shakespeare’s seven ages, the late ones being “entirely negative,” “may demand revision.”  May? Easterbrook is crystal-clear about all the scary stuff that could happen. Average male lifespan in Elizabethan England was 47. Generously, this gives 61-year-old Easterbrook a choice between clownish “poltroon” or “second childishness.” Is this how he sees himself and his peers?

In bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel’s “Why I Hope to Die at 75”:

I’m not going to bother with Emanuel’s absurd presumption that he knows how he’ll feel decades from now; the bull looks different, and I assume he was reaching for a sensational headline. Emanuel has clearly reflected on death and dying, as befits a bioethicist, and his questions about unnecessary medical tests and interventions down the line make sense. Narcissism and internalized ageism render the rest of the article offensive enough to border on grotesque.

Living “too long,” writes Emanuel, “renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” What hubris to imagine that we can control the ways in which we’ll be remembered! And what foolishness to conceive of age as a one-dimensional continuum, with younger people, coming off, well, just better.

This makes a certain sense if you measure productivity they way Emanuel does: by writing symphonies or winning Nobel prizes or running cities, like his brother, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emamuel, or running Hollywood talent agencies like his brother Ari. These standards leave behind not just their father, a physician who no longer teaches or makes hospital rounds—yet, mystifyingly to his son, “said he was happy”—but almost everyone on the planet. It is regrettably American to value doing over being, an ethos that Ezekiel Emanuel epitomizers and that serves us poorly in late life. No wonder he views the prospect with such dread and contempt.

 Emanuel’s case for dying at 75 rests on his view that disability renders life not worth living. An awful lot of people living with disabilities would vehemently disagree, and they ought to know.  Quality of life is of course subjective, as the bioethicist acknowledges, saying he would support the choice of people who want to live as long as possible. Phew; hold the eugenics! Emanuel may indeed keep the ability to scale Kilimanjaro as his benchmark. My guess is that like the vast majority of older Americans, he’ll find plenty of pleasures in life writ smaller—unless he’s still measuring his kingdom by the standards of his overachieving siblings.

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Enough with the boomer lament!

Since I titled another post “Oh Grow Up,” I’m establishing a category: the Boomer Lament. The latest entry, “When Did We Get So Old?” appeared on the New York Times’ Most Emailed list, so it’s clearly striking a chord. Make that chord the twang of a tragic country song:  How could this happen to me-ee-ee-ee

 

What trauma might that be? Looking around and “suddenly” finding yourself the oldest person in the room. The horror, the horror! “Every generation gets old, but for those who were told we’d be forever young, it just seems more painful,” writes journalist Michele Willens. Told by whom, rock & roll lyricists? Cosmetics companies? Fairies? Oh grow up! Of course it’s unnerving to realize you’re now older than cops and presidents, but it’s no tragedy. It’s the way of the world and it’s the task of every generation and every individual to come to terms with it, preferably without the whining. 

 

“Misery loves company,” writes Willen, referring to the fact that an American turns 50 every seven seconds, at which point we become “sufferers.” Sufferers, really? Because we’re not immortal? Because bellies thicken and senses dull?  Time magazine’s David Von Drehle paints those natural transitions as “slow dawning treachery.” Treachery, really? For those lucky enough to experience them, these signs of long life are the way of the world.

 

Laments like Willen’s are all too common, no surprise in a culture that depicts aging-past-youth as decline. They’re not all the work of boomers either.  At 44, writer Judith Warner bid forever to “excitement, discovery, intensity.”  At 78, novelist and lawyer Louis Begley chronicled “Age and Its Awful Discontents.” Deconstructed, they tell a different story, as Willens begins to as well. Having returned to college, she finds herself learning from her much younger classmates, as of course they do from her. Such is the way of the world . . . to be savored, not lamented.

 

 

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Guest Post: The Seeds of Ageism

 

Lindsey McDivitt promotes intergenerational understanding and is currently writing fiction and non-fiction for children that challenge age stereotypes. She is co-editor of Climbing the Mountain: Stories of Hope, Healing and Humor after Stroke and Brain Injury. Lindsey blogs and reviews “Positive Aging” picture books at A is for Aging, B is for Books.

 

Sadly, my mother’s doom and gloom warnings about growing older began somewhere in my teens. “Look, look at how the skin on my hand no longer bounces back,” she said, demonstrating with a tiny pinch. On my own hand I often wear a lovely silver ring from Denmark that she gave me after wearing it for many years. Mom passed it on to me with a comment that could tarnish it if I let it. “Wear it now, before your hands get old.”

By the time I hit 45, Mom was 70, and several times I’d caught her muttering at herself in the mirror. “Ugly old woman”—she’d say disgustedly. I’m not making this up. This was in imitation of her own mother she later confessed. 

Writing this I still feel the shock of realizing just how much ageism in our culture had warped my mom’s view of herself. In reality, in her late 70’s she was a strong, handsome woman who drew people in with her curiosity and vivaciousness. She had a loving family, many friends, and volunteer work of great responsibility and interest to her. 

And the woman who would never set foot in a nursing home out of fear and loathing? She learned late in life, after moving into assisted living, and even in illness, that she not only enjoyed her days, but captured the love of adoring new friends—of all ages.

Where did my mom learn to loathe her own aging body and to fear the future? Was it her mom’s fault? Or could it be the Western culture they both grew up in? Fortunately, somewhere between Mom’s dire warnings and my own aging past mid-life, I learned to see the beauty of older bodies, and also into the steel within. 

In addition, I’ve learned that negative stereotypes of age bombard us from our earliest years, setting the stage for how we will feel about ourselves as we age. We take them in from many sources, we apply them to others, and eventually we must apply them to ourselves. Talk about divine retribution!

In an article in the Edmonton Sun, psychologist Sheree Kwong See of the University of Alberta has observed that kids pick up negative age stereotypes in movies, cartoons, their interactions with people, and even their own storybooks. Unfortunately, skewed images of physical and cognitive decline then dominate their views of growing older. “They use their beliefs and stereotypes to try to make sense of the situation…Not only do they report these beliefs about older people on questionnaires, but they use them to guide their behavior.”  And as activist Ashton Applewhite has written—it is ageism that creates the pictures of ugliness and hopelessness around normal aging, and blinds us to what we gain as we grow older.

 

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My own anti-ageism efforts promote more diverse and positive images of age in children’s picture books. The forgetful grandpa, the beloved grandma who dies, the grumpy old man in need of childish cheering, the sad and lonely old woman down the block—they tug at our heartstrings. Picture books can lean toward the sentimental, but they do not truly represent the diversity of people over the age of 65.

Researcher Sheree Kwong See observes the seeds of ageism being planted in children as young as toddlers, and recommends that advocacy start early. “Right from the very beginning we need to show realistic images of older people. If we want people to rely less on stereotypes, we need to show them the exceptions;”

I say, let’s nip ageism in the bud. Children need to see the more accurate heterogeneity of older adults. A diversity of culture certainly, but also a diversity of abilities, talents, and interests. Empathy for those less fortunate is a terrific thing to teach, but instilling a happy anticipation of their own future is essential.   

 

 

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life as “walking to meet ourselves”

I’m on vacation—travelled through the Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga andTalinn, now in Helsinki, and on to St. Petersburg—and came across a flyer for a performance piece called Memories for Life about “the past and the present, the old and the young.” It quotes Imants Ziedonis (1933-2013) , a Latvian poet who rose to fame during the Soviet occupation of Latvia, who wrote, “We do not walk towards death. We do not walk towards getting old. We walk to meet ourselves. We walk to meet our Other Me. Life is like two persons walking towards each other. My old age meets my youth.” (unofficial translation)

That old/young binary makes me a little uneasy, as so much ageism is based in the illusion that Old = Other and distinct from Me. I don’t think that’s what Ziedonis is saying, though, and I think his conception of life as “walk[ing] to meet ourselves” is wonderful.

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Fear and loathing in the Lufthansa lounge

Posts have been few because I’ve been finishing my book, and the manuscript went out to an agent last Friday—w00t!  Off for vacation. And what should greet me on the magazine rack at the airport but this week’s cover story of Time magazine: “Manopause?! Aging, Insecurity and the $2 Billion Testosterone Industry.”

 

Feeling flabby?  Slower?  A little less frisky? Millions of men with are turning to hormone replacement therapy to turn things around—even though a gradual decline in testosterone production is normal as men age. One reason is a 2800% increase in marketing dollars since 2009, but the biggie is “the fathomless fear and loathing among men staring time in the face,” writes Time editor-at-large David Von Drehle. Bellies balloon, aches come to stay, senses dull, and, he continues, “Most distressing for many men, one’s manhood itself changes personality. Once as eager as a Labrador puppy to jump up and play, more and more it resembles an old dog that would rather nap than fetch.”

 

Who wants to go to bed with a Labrador puppy?  That’s less off-putting, though, than the picture Von Drehle paints of aging as betrayal. Eventually a fellow “comes to the grim conclusion that his body—this marvelous apparatus that he thought he knew so well–is actually out to get him . . . by killing itself.” If this is betrayal, where’s the treachery? The only loss is the illusion that time can be somehow be bought off, and that illusion is antithetical to aging well.  Aging means living and living means aging, but immortality-chasing scenarios equate it with death. Ironically, in turning to untested testosterone shots, gels, skin patches, implants, and nasal sprays, men are running a massive and risky science experiment on themselves.

 

Data links use of the hormone to heart attacks, strokes, and other serious cardiovascular conditions, as well as to the possibility of increased cancer risk. All this is happening without FDA oversight, which approves testosterone drugs only for men with associated medical conditions and does not regulate the array of T-boosting supplements available from retailers like GNC and the Vitamin Shoppe. “Given the unknowns of testosterone therapy, should aging men by the millions be juicing themselves with substances powerful enough to keep Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall of Fame?” Von Drehle wonders. Good question. Remember when millions of menopausal women jumped on the hormone-replacement bandwagon when it was thought to ward off heart disease, osteoporosis, and possibly dementia, not to mention hot flashes? Then a large clinical trial in 2002 found the risks outweighed the benefits. Have we learned nothing?

 

There are healthy ways to remedy beer bellies and keep bodies strong. The way to address the “fathomless fear and loathing” is to become conscious of what aging actually involves. It’s easier to take a pill, just like it’s easier to go along with ageist stereotypes. Either way, the reckoning is inevitable. How much better for body and soul to enter into it sooner rather than later, and with as much grace as we can muster.

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nice blurb from Lifetime Arts

Lifetime Arts is a nonprofit that “promotes creative aging through professionally conducted arts education for older adults.” The organization understands that raising awareness of ageism is central to their mission, and I’ve given my talk at several of their training institutes. Last week I took the train up to Chappaqua to speak to librarians from seven states, who are participating in a national Creative Aging in America’s Libraries project, and co-founders Maura O’Malley and Ed Friedman had nice things to say.Ashton Applewhite presents a cogent, funny, inspiring look at how we perceive getting older. Anecdotal, informational, humorous, and thought-provoking; we’ve engaged her a number of timesand continue to look forward to her ‘take’ on aging in America.” Thanks—and I look forward to more return engagements.

 

 

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Guest Post: No Lotions, Potions, Diets or Pills: Here’s One Tip on Aging You Won’t Wanna Miss!

 

This guest post is by Talia Cooper, the Program Director at May’yan, an organization that provides feminist, social justice, and leadership to young girls, and also trains teachers and educators. The post first appeared on the Ma’yan website. Talia’s take on ageism from the perspective of a younger person is sharp, original, and sorely needed. She leads anti-ageism workshops for people of all ages, and we’re planning to collaborate on one. You can reach her at talia@mayan.org

 

 

Part I: 28 and ¾ Years-Old

My dad likes to wax nostalgic about a story I wrote when I was little featuring a “24 and a ½ year old” protagonist. Why is it that as kids we are proud of every month of our lives? At what point does that stop?

Well now I am 28 and ¾ years old. In other words, I’m in my late 20s. In other words, I’m approaching 30.  That’s around the age that people start to think about aging more negatively. After all, turning ten equaled new adventures in double-digit land and 20 was a step closer to 21. But 30? That’s some real stuff. My friends have already started to point out gray hairs, new wrinkles, sagging skin and deep-colored-veins.

As a young girl I would spend time looking in the mirror, pinching the skin next to my eyes in hopes of developing crow’s feet like the ones I saw decorating the faces of my mother and her friends. To me, these lines were like magical rivulets, or like flowers bursting from a trumpet vine. I tried to explain this to adults but their laughter taught me that wrinkles were not okay and were not to be wished for.

So now, like many my age, I’ve started to feel a little nervous. How much longer do I have in my youth? If I obsessively go to the gym or drink lots of water or eat chia seeds or use oxygen cream on my face, can I extend my youthfulness?

And then it hit me. There is only one, soundproof, fail-safe, air-tight way of combatting this aging process. But we’ll get to that later.

 

Part II: I Won’t Grow Up!!

Why are we all so obsessed with not getting older? It is documented that older men and women have increasing difficulty finding jobs. A friend of mine, who’s in her 60s, told me she would gladly leave her hair its natural white color, but she gets significantly more professional clients when she dyes it brown. The media loves to demonize pop stars for the “work” they get done. But when an increase in age leads to a decrease in job opportunities—can we blame them? Ageism is real and pervasive. And when you mix ageism with racism,sexismclassismableismhomophobia and/or other such goodies, you get quite a stew. No wonder this aging thing gets a little scary. Then again, being too young is no good either.

As an educator and youth organizer I’ve spent years learning and teaching about adultism: the way society treats young people like they are less than full humans. I remember being in high school wondering what life would be like when I finally got to “the real world.” I’m only now understanding that things were just as real back then. We may worship youthfulness, but we sure don’t worship our youth; we deny them the right to vote, we prescribe them pills and curricula without their consent, and we treat them either like scary monsters or shallow beings obsessed only with gossip and social media.

There’s this funny thing about age: if there is in fact a sweet spot (not too old but not too young), it doesn’t seem to last very long. Either you’re young and not real yet, or old and irrelevant. What does this mean that we praise youthfulness but devalue the young? We say age is power, but only to a certain point. We have young people trying to look old and old people trying to look young. Where does this leave us?

 

Part III: A New Premise

What if we start over, all of us, with a new premise: every person deserves to live and be treated as a full human being. To us at Ma’yan, this is what it means to be a feminist. What could that new premise look like in terms of age?

What if young people were asked what excites them and how that can be incorporated into their broader learning? What if people of all ages were encouraged to experiment with new activities, ideas and creative endeavors?

What if older people were asked for advice and valued for their experience? What if people of all ages made decisions for their future (and the future of the planet) based on the assumption that they have a full, rich life ahead of them?

What if all cities and institutions were up to date with the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring equal access? What if respectful and loving care was widely available to the elderly at affordable rates, and the domestic workers who provide it were also treated with dignity? What if people did not automatically assume that older people or people with disabilities required help? What if no one was ashamed to ask for help when they needed it?

What if we always complimented people for their whole beauty as they are now (not how beautiful they will become or how we imagine they once were)?

What if employers appreciated the different contributions of people of all ages? What if older people were not forced into early retirement? What if we worked to end the system based in capitalist notions that humans are valued only according to their productivity?

What if doctors always assumed they can speak directly to their patient, no matter how old or young? What if voting laws became more inclusive? What if young people formed committees to serve as advisors to government?

What if there were more intergenerational friendships and collaborations?

 

What if we were all proud of having made it exactly where we are?

 

Part IV: Anti-Ageism Heroes!

 

I’m aware as I write that readers might pay more attention to a piece on ageism from someone like me, who is approximately still in the ‘sweet spot’ (old enough not to be young, young enough not to be old). Marjorie Dove-Kent, executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, encourages us all to be “unlikely allies,” active in causes that might surprise others and make them notice (Gasp! She cares about older people!). But I would be remiss if I didn’t share that there are amazing people out there doing incredible anti-ageism activism, and they want you to know they are old and proud!

Like Ashton Applewhite who blogs about ageism at This Chair Rocks and says:  “I know I’m not young—do not call me ‘young lady’—but I don’t think of myself as old either. I certainly qualify, if oldness is measured by time from birth or defined by my laptop’s dictionary: ‘having lived a long time.’ I prefer ‘older,’ which emphasizes that age is a spectrum. I reject the old/young binary: that imaginary line in the sand after which it’s all supposed to be downhill. The problem lies in equating ‘old’ with diminishment alone. The reality, as experience proves, is far more nuanced and positive.”

Maggie Kuhn, founder of the intergenerational education and advocacy organization called the Gray Panthers, said: “Old age is not a disease–it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses.” (She also said “Sex and learning until rigor mortis.”) In her work for justice, Kuhn hoped to have older and younger people connect over the shared experience of ageism.

 

Part V: The Big Reveal: My One and Only Trick on Aging

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the media frenzy and want to minimize my own aging process. But when I take a moment to breathe, read the thinking of people like Applewhite and Kuhn, I don’t see anything wrong with getting older. After all, each decade of my life has been better than the last, and they’ve all been pretty good. I fully expect this upward trend to continue as I grow and learn.

So I’ve realized that if I, myself don’t want to experience the harsh ageism I see lobbed at older folks daily, I have only one real course of action.  It’s not a special diet or cream. It’s not a surgery. It’s not any product I can buy. You ready? Here is my one and only trick on aging: fight to end ageism.

As Ellen Snortland says:  “At any age, to partake in ageism is to lay the foundation for your own irrelevancy.” I have no intention of doing that.

 

Part VI: Taking Action

 

(Pictured above: Talia Cooper and her grandmother Dorothy Gartner)

 

A few actions we can take to fight ageism:

  • Interrupt ageist and adultist comments when you hear them (such as “I’m having a senior moment” or “all kids bully each other on social media.”)
  • Start treating people of all ages as the full humans they are (this includes yourself).
  • Get support to work on your own feelings/fears about death and disability.
  • Create alternative advertisements and birthday cards that exhibit a joy in the aging process
  • Practice both living in the moment (assuming you are extremely important just as you are RIGHT NOW), and assuming you have a long life ahead of you.
  • Get involved in campaigns to protect the planet for the long haul (such as the work of 350.org).
  • Take action against employers with ageist hiring and firing practices, and support organizations and unions doing this work, like JPAC and NYSARA.
  • Lobby congress to institute stricter policies against ageism in work and housing.
  • Work intergenerationally. Don’t assume anyone is too old or young for responsibility. Don’t put all your hopes and un-accomplished dreams on the next generation.
  • Find safe spaces to vent feelings of hopelessness—do not ask the next generation to hold this.
  • Make art that exhibits pride in your own age.
  • Encourage school systems to listen to students’ voices.
  • If you want to know a kid’s age, start by telling them how old you are (“I’m 52 years old, how about you?”).
  • Stop complimenting people on their youthfulness.
  • Insist that Hollywood hire people to play their own age.
  • Get involved and support organizations who work for the rights of older people to age with dignity and care, such as Caring Across Generations and Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund.
  • Check out the youth-made movie Ma’yan’s recent Research Training Interns created resisting oppressive media messages!
  • Ask people of all ages their thoughts and advice on aging.
  • [Insert your creative ideas here.]

When I asked my Grandma Dorothy Gartner (who’s almost 90) her advice on aging she said, “Love the preciousness of yourself, keep that alive.” When I asked my friend Anya Tucker (who’s almost 13) she said, “Take the passing years not as a sign of being closer to death but as a sign of your growing wisdom.” I would like to imagine aging like a tree: sinking my roots in deeper and stretching my branches further than I ever thought they could grow.

Ageism is harsh and pervasive—even more so when mixed with other -isms.  It is difficult to combat the societal messaging. But when I think about it, doesn’t getting older actually mean I have the enormous privilege of living another day?

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If you’re not too old to love heavy metal, you’re not too old to go hear it.

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.