If How I Met Your Mother’s Murtaugh List were a real thing, there would be plenty of things I am “too old” to do. There would also be plenty of things I’m “too young” to participate in. I happen to fall in the middle of the two. I’m old enough to not be treated like a child, old enough to have responsibilities and still young enough to get away with wearing crazy outfits and struggle to receive respect from others. The worst part is that because we live in a society that believes in beauty before age and correlates age with worth, we also have groups of seniors who have somehow made the assumption that all younger persons are disrespectful.
As someone who absolutely adores senior citizens and thinks of them as fountains of knowledge that should constantly be tapped, it is unnerving when I see older generations treating me and those in my age group with such disdain.
Case in point – Recently I found myself surrounded by seniors for a story I was covering. I had looked forward for weeks to doing this story because I like spending some of my time picking the brains of seniors. I love hearing their stories about The Great Depression or World War II. I show genuine interest when they talk about their families and life experiences. I listen to every word that comes out of their mouth and pay attention when they give advice. But, my last experience left a bad taste in my mouth.
As I was anxiously waiting for the event to begin, I watched each senior walk through the door. I smiled to myself as they got themselves situated. When I noticed them having a good time, I smiled more with the hopes that one day I would be as happy as they were and enjoy my life as much as they enjoy theirs.
I talked to a couple of people. The man I spoke to was very nice. He didn’t make me feel unwelcome with his questions about my reason for being there. He was warm and welcoming. I could have talked to him all night, but there wasn’t enough time. Two ladies spoke to me next – one after the other. Both rudely asked my reason for being there. Neither seemed all that relaxed when I explained to them I was a reporter covering the event. They were defensive, and their reaction toward my being there, made me uncomfortable. Another woman questioned me about my reasons for being at a senior event and she, too, seemed unsatisfied with my answer. She even had the audacity to ask if I was pregnant. While, yes, I probably could stand to lose a few pounds, I in no way, look like I could be with child. As a woman herself, she would know how crushing it is to hear that question being asked when you’re not actually pregnant.
At that point, I was ready to go home. I felt unwelcome, uninvited and unwanted at this event I was so excited to attend. I tried to push through and attempt to enjoy the remainder of the evening. I knew I had to take photos for my story and pulled out my camera. I began snapping pictures. Because it was night and the room was dark, I was forced to use a flash. It would have been impossible to not use flash. Believe me, I tried. No camera on the market would have been able to get a usable image in that room’s lighting. I didn’t want to use it, but I had to. Within five minutes a couple came up to me and instead of kindly asking me about my camera and respectfully asking if it was possible for me to shoot without a flash, they angrily told me to turn my flash off because it was distracting. I have to think that perhaps if I was older, possibly in what they consider the right age group, I would have been treated differently.
I was done. I had worked so hard to get over the painful comment from the first woman, but to be spoken to the way they spoke to me was completely uncalled for. I went home upset and defeated; unable to comprehend why I was treated the way I was by a group of people I respect.
My experience made me wonder if others had gotten similar reactions from seniors. I asked and was somewhat shocked by the answers I received. Most of the people in my age bracket have been a victim of a reverse ageism from senior citizens. It’s unfortunate that those who are aging are treating younger generations as if they are worthless and giving them the exact same treatment they have historically complained about.
All I can do is encourage everyone, young and old, to treat others as they wish to be treated regardless of race, gender, and especially age. We would all be so much better off if we learned from our seniors and our seniors learned from us. The generation gap could easily be closed once we all take a moment to think and realize that the problems you had growing up are very similar to the problems younger generations encounter. We all want the same thing – to be heard and stand up for something we believe in. So please, treat your elders with respect and seniors, treat youths as you would treat your peers.