It was the early hours of Sunday and we were going strong. We had things to celebrate. My sister had landed herself a new dream job and that required booze and boogie. We’d been having a great time. We’d gone to a nice restaurant, then managed to forget all about that experience by doing shots in a bar somewhere. From there, we’d decided to go clubbing. Amsterdam is a great place for that kind of thing.
As the song wound down we made our way to the bar, ordered another drink and with giggle and laughter gave another drunken recount of how her new boss had hired her.
At that moment a young flit of thing stopped beside us and, without introduction or apology asked my sister ‘How old are you?’ stressing the ‘are’ in a way that said far more than the words themselves.
My sister gave her one look, smiled and said, ‘Old enough to be your mother’. ‘Wow,’ said the girl who had no doubt been carded on the way into the club to make sure she was of legal age ‘I really respect that you’re going out at your age’.
We laughed uproaresly at that. Nonetheless it did take the wind out of my sister’s sails. I noticed. We didn’t stay out that long after that. It’s a lot harder to enjoy yourself when people mark you as an outsider.
What is it with young people?
I don’t go out that often anymore. For one thing, I don’t really like losing a day. There are so many things you can do during the daylight hours and I’ve slept through enough of them. But that’s hardly the only reason. It’s also because of the looks I get now.
Why do the young feel they are the only ones who are allowed to tear up the dance floors or buy overpriced drinks? What is it with them thinking that the moment we’ve got a wrinkle or two we should be relegated to wheel chairs and jazz concerts?
And the way they make it clear too. ‘I think it’s really brave that you’re here.’ With the clear undertone in their words ‘you know you’re being judged right? Because though I’m magnanimous enough to let you stay, others aren’t as open minded as I am.’ Thanks darling, as if I wasn’t feeling self-conscious enough.
That’s the problem with ageism
Often it is the young who are the most ageist. Funny that they’re also the least experienced in putting themselves in the shoes of others and considering what their words would mean to them. If you’ve been on this planet a few decades, you can’t help but get insights into how other people think. You just have to deal with it so often. You don’t even have to be an essay writer or a mind-reading psychologist to get that understanding. It just happens.
But the young don’t have that understanding yet. Their world is often still simpler and divided into bigger boxes. Me and you. Ingroup and outgroup. Good an evil. Happy or unhappy. The nuance of the space between us, the blurry borders of who belongs, of gray areas and being content, don’t exist for them yet. And so often their blind to the undertones we read in their words. Heck, often they’re even blind to their own undertones. That was certainly true of that girl who addressed my sister.
She didn’t realize that what she was saying was the equivalent of saying ‘I have black friends’. Why do you define us by the number of times we’ve been around the sun? Why does that decide if we can have fun in a nightclub or not? If we drink, we get drunk just like you. If we dance, that doesn’t mean we’re going to dislocate a hip.
Don’t treat me as wiser. Just treat me the same.
I don’t feel different. I can still easily recall those all-nighters I used to pull. I can still remember the bars and the clubs. Yes, those were there when we were young too. Clubbing isn’t a new invention, you know. Drinking isn’t either.
It isn’t that we were the same as you. It’s that we still are. Sure, the chemicals in our bodies have changed a bit and so have our priorities, but that doesn’t make us different people. It just means we’ve got a slightly different focus, that’s all.
What makes us different people is that all these barriers have been put up. We’re treated as strangers, as zoo animals when we try to mingle. And so we don’t. And so we’re forced to find new hobbies. Because few are the people who are brave enough to go to those places where they’re made to feel like they don’t fit in.
Luisa Brenton is a writer in a variety of venues – academic, business, and online marketing content. She also is a loving wife, mom, traveler and frequent contributor to www.topwritersreview.com.
Image courtesy of Burst.