Monday, January 18, 2010

The loving "ism"

Racism; deplorable. Sexism; unacceptable.

Ageism; adorable.

I recently annoyed some friends in an email chat group by expressing my irritation at the proliferation of jokes about old people. They think I’m overreacting. It’s no big deal, people have always made fun of old folks, right?

People still tell race jokes, too, but at least we know that’s disrespectful and wrong.

Look at what I just found at a website called “Old People Are Funny.”

If an old man falling on an escalator is funny to you, go ahead and close this window and go to that site, instead. It’s a damned giggle fest.

Black birthday balloons! Hoo-hah, how funny is that?

Look, I know it’s mostly in good, innocent fun and we should always, at all ages, be able to laugh at ourselves. It’s not that. No, what gripes me is the fact that many people, maybe all of us eventually, buy into the notion that getting old means we’ll be doddering, slobbering, laughable old fools. So, we simply assume the role, sit down in the rocking chair and watch the world pass by without so much as waving to it.

The jokes take us by the hand and lead us there

And, it’s not even the jokes that bother me as much as the allusions to how “cute” old people are.

I just received an email that had a link to a video of an elderly man and his wife playing the piano together. They weren’t doing anything amazing. They weren’t playing Flight of the Bumblee in rounds and different, harmonic keys. They weren’t playing the notes with their noses, toes, elbows and tongues. They were just playing a little tune together. Isn’t that cute!?

Why? What’s cute about it? If these people were in their thirties or forties instead of their eighties it wouldn’t be adorable. Nobody would have turned a camera on them in the first place.

I simply think we should treat old people the same way they were treated when they were young adults and middle-aged. Give them the same respect we afford people we take more seriously. Judge them by the content of their character and the wisdom of their years rather than the number of them.

And, by God, when an old person is being a pain in the ass, unload on ‘em! Don’t give them a pass because of age.

It’s hard to text a sigh.

I know I’m being silly. Well, I don’t think it’s silly but I know a lot of people do. And certainly, part of my concern is personal and yes, I am offended at the idea I will soon be marginalized by stereotypes. Please don’t ever refer to me as a “senior citizen” or some other gentle euphemism. I will simply be old and wear my age as a badge of achievment, thank you.

I will laugh, I’ll converse as intelligently as I’m able and I’ll keep writing as long as I can. But I won’t be cute, okay?

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