Ageism

"How old are you?"


That's the first thing they all wanna know, how old I am. So they can know how to treat me. So they know what category to throw me into. So they can find out whether I can be assumed to have the attitude or knowledge they expect before they begin talking to me.

That probably sounds very jaded. I assure you I don't really think like that about everyone who asks me how old I am. It's just that in my experience talking to folks ten or so years older than I am, it's amazing how rarely I get taken seriously. I've actually had a conversation in which the guy I talked to called me "stubborn" before he knew my age, but then later called me "an impudent child" when he found out I was thirteen years his junior.

Also, because I write in complete sentences and use words that are more than two syllables, people who can't see my face often assume I'm years older than I am. When I was nineteen, I had one guy change his tune when he found out my age. I was rebuking him for his poor behavior, and he said he only acts like a jerk online, but that "in real life" he is charming and suave. He said, "You'd let your daughter date me." I assumed at that point that he figured I was a mother or teacher type since I was annoyed at his childish behavior, and when I told him my age he immediately began asking, "do u have a pic?" I have the conversation from that point on over at my Cyber IMs page, if you want to read that specific one read it here. Anyway.

People base too much on age! Age says something about your development, sometimes, but you can't assume a whole lot, especially after a certain point. I met my friend Cara online when she was a pre-teen and I was in my mid-twenties--something like that anyway. We got along famously, and she had a level of maturity and wisdom that showed she shouldn't have been judged as inappropriate for someone my age to talk to. If I had said "Hell no I'm not talking to an eleven-year-old; what could she POSSIBLY have to say?" then I would have lost the opportunity to make a great friend. And then there was my friend Bob who was in his fifties when we met in a college class; I was twenty-one or so, and despite the fact that we remembered different things growing up and he was older than my parents, we really hit many of the same wavelengths and were just able to hang out together. Yet there are people who are right in my age bracket to whom I cannot relate whatsoever. Age can figure in, but it does not necessarily predict whether I'll get along with someone, so why should it matter so much at the beginning?

Also, during college and the years that followed, I watched many of my peers act like complete fools, spending most of their time, money, and energy on getting drunk, partying, and finding a mate. When I was a twenty-something being expected to emulate this behavior infuriated me and I hated being lumped in that category. Now I'm a thirty-something and am starting to be thought of as a failure because I didn't have a stage like that and now have no family/children that "should" have resulted from the "must find a mate" stage of life.

I'll determine what I should do at what stage of my life, thank you. I have CHOSEN what you see here. I have not failed just because I haven't done what you expect of me based on age. Most people my age haven't written more novels than they can count on their hands, right?

Here is the beginning of a conversation with a guy I met whom I will call Phor. . . .


Phor: age?

SwankiVY2: I don't like to begin conversations with an announcement of my age thanks. ;)

Phor: GUESS NOT THEN

Phor: and i like finding common ground before i get in a conversation

SwankiVY2: But age is not common ground. It's just how many years you've been on the planet. I prefer to start on a basis of interests.

Phor: seems like it wont work later just saved my self a lot of time see how it works

SwankiVY2: *shrug* You can be as close-minded as you like. HAve a nice day!

Phor: close minded never i just dont have time to waste have to go with my hunches cant afford any more trouble

SwankiVY2: And you decide who's worthy to talk to on basis of age? Why?

Phor: common ground thing dont want to waste time talking to someone who end up to be 12 and has no clue on life

SwankiVY2: I have talked to many a 12-year-old who's pretty damn cool . . . and older folks who are clueless and sex-crazed.

SwankiVY2: I honestly think that age has much less to do with life experience than is commonly believed.

Phor: i believe age has to do with how u comprehend life experiences

SwankiVY2: *shrug* I really don't. Unless you're only looking to talk to people in your age bracket for some unfathomable reason, I'd say age should not be the first thing you ask for.


ANYWAY, I'd appreciate it if people really didn't categorize each other so much, 'specially on basis of age, but since our society is wired like that it ain't gonna happen any time soon. D'oh!


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Comments from others:

Mikey: I was looking so forward to commenting on this after I read the first paragraph since when does age have anything to do with wisdom and knowledge, it doesn't and that's that. And in general some people have the ability to think of things besides what is the common for their age group people should learn not to judge on age that can be a unfortunate mistake.


Kirson: Eh, still finding it interesting that the only people who don't believe age has anything to do with life experience are generally young. Simply as a matter of physical possibility; younger people such as ourselves haven't had the opportunity to experience, see, or do as much as some older people. The existence of intelligent youth and dim adults aren't concrete measures, they're exceptions, not rules. Thinking of or being able to handle mature subjects doesn't make one mature; the definition of the word itself says as much, unless at this point in time you've already grown (mentally) as much as you are possibly able to which would be a rather stunted(pun/harha)development. -17 yrs


An Exception?: Some of us grow progressively less intelligent as the aging process concludes.


D.: It's nice to see someone who thinks like I do on this subject! (I do apologize for clogging your inbox with all these responses).

It's unfortunate that youth is pinned with the "immature" rating when it's been my experience that many adults are more immature than children! Even with proof in hand that children are more intelligent as time goes on, we still fine forumers especially blaming immature trolling on teenagers, when I've noticed that much of the problem (on at least two of the forums I used to frequent) came from people over the age of 30!

It's also one of the reasons I prefer to change the subject when the "a child is not mature enough to make this decision" statement comes up. I have very odd opinions about that, and thusly deal with much controversy and drama because of it, and don't bring it up often anymore.


Stephen: While it's absurd to say that age and experience aren't directly and positively correlated, you can't automatically assume that just because someone's younger they're inexperienced. It's perfectly conceivable and plausible for someone in their twenties to have had waaaaaaay more life experiences than a fifty-year-old. Maybe the twenty-something is a free-thinker who's travelled extensively and is very well-read or lived a hard life on the streets or has been through a lot or has lived in ten different states or et cetera. And maybe the fifty-something has graduated from high school and college and got a boring desk job and is saving for retirement. In that case, the younder has much more valuable life lessons under his/her belt.

However, it's a rare thing to find someone as young as you, Ivy, who thinks in a remotely sophisticated manner, so don't blame people just because they aren't familiar with anyone like you. For instance, I read an article in John Scalzi's blogsite about how teenage writers suck. It's like, "10 Things Teen Writers Should Know." Number One is... "You Suck at Writing." He's a Hugo Award-nominated writer, but he's still ignorant in that way.


Thomas: Age is just a number. Age is not a way of keeping score. I knew a 17-year-old girl who had been a mother longer than her mother had, by many years. Also known some 52-year-olds who were repeating age 19 for the 34th time.

I enjoy spending time with my 2-year-old granddaughter, who is experiencing everything for the very first time. I spend very little time with people within five years of my age, which incremented recently, because we have nothing in common in our world views.

One reason I enjoy your writing is that it would be very difficult to guess your age from attitude, word choice, ability to put yourself in your characters' body, and similar. Not knowing your age, I would have guessed younger, by the freshness of view.

Sometimes I am lonely because our society stupidly puts children of the same age in large groups with little adult supervision. This warps their young minds to be unable to relate to people of different ages. Since I do not much believe in unintended consequences, I get angry at the many ways we let others isolate us, categorize us, fold, spindle and mutilate us, and bore us to tears. I pass this thread to whatever fate awaits it.


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