December 23, 2004

How old is old anyway?

If you saw my age on a piece of paper, would you think differently of me? If I told you I was 102 would you think differently than if I told you I was 99? Or 49? 29?

Ageism is such a crippling concept. It is everywhere in our culture. The most pronounced in my life is the acceptance of the Faculty Union at school voting to accept mandatory retirement (a trade-off for a slight wage increase—until forced retirement!)

We are visual artists, working with our eyes and minds, not ballet dancers where the body tells stories. The stories I tell are from experience. My experience has been one of slow maturing into the process of making art. And even more, a slow process of learning how to teach, to impart the knowledge I have garnered from years of experience. I’ve been around the block and learned a few things on the way. You would think these qualities would be valued more.

They had a series about aging on CBC radio a while ago. What seemed to come up often was the realization that 80 is now what 60 used to be. With all the changes, innovations in medicine, people are living longer in more flexible bodies. A retirement age of 65 was originally set because most people died at that age and therefore wouldn’t be a drain on the Pension Plans anyway. And then, our youth oriented culture has permeated how “older” people see their lives. And computers have opened up a whole new way for people to reach beyond their immediate boundaries of space and age. Even grandmas and grandpas are often computer savvy.

Like most of the single people I know (of any age), I’ve tried a bit of internet dating occasionally and have come across a surprising phenomenon: even men lie about their age! A couple of men told me they were relieved to be honest about how old they were, this in situations where they were closer to my age. Most men state openly that they are looking for a woman who is at least five to fifteen years younger than themselves. I think it is the biological necessity of procreation that makes men think they “need” a younger woman where in fact, women, in general, outlive men, giving women, by this standard, too many years alone.

One interesting (brief) correspondence I had was when a man contacted me and said: “You don’t look your age; but then neither do I.” (In this case I had tried stating my age as five years younger, mostly because my friends had been urging me to do it considering that I do indeed look many years younger than my age, and actually responses to my profile were then tenfold greater.) I responded to him by saying: “Like you I don’t look my age, don’t feel it, nor seem it, so maybe I’m not!” I never heard from him again!

But really, I don’t want to be judged by my age. I'm mature, I've done my homework, and I can go out and play now.

Posted by leya at December 23, 2004 12:59 PM