Ageism is a tough subject. Mainly because it pains us all to discuss it. If only it didn't exist in our society, we'd be much better off! After my varied encounters, here's why I hate ageism (the type that is placed upon younger individuals by their older counterparts):
Growing up, I had a best friend from preschool up through about 2nd or 3rd grade. Her mom always seemed to get extra irritated whenever children screamed and had unrealistic adult expectations of their behavior... I didn't understand it. We were 8, of course we screamed!
I never thought very fondly of her. She had some serious R.B.F. and never seemed to be a very warm individual. Being the 8 year old that I was, one day on the playground at school, I snapped and exclaimed in a very childish voice: "Your mom is the worst mom ever!" Well, this mom thought it was necessary to follow us into school the next week and "have a conversation" with me... an 8 year old... about how "inappropriate that was".
At the end of our "talk", she proceeded to ask me for a hug as I began sobbing from the trauma. Are you... insane? I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that a moody 8 year old could hurt a 40-something-year-old's feelings all that harshly and warrant a conversation, without their parents' previous knowledge or approval. This is when my many experiences all started.
After dealing with this mother for years and years, you think I'd be prepared for what would come next. I wasn't. In 6th grade, I met a girl who quickly became my best friend, but her mom was also coo-coo bananas! She flat-out called me a "spoiled brat" during a school function (when we were alone) and made it clear that she didn't enjoy me being friends with her daughter. Where that statement came from, I have no clue. I was nothing but nice and cordial with her. Later, I discovered how crazy other people thought she was long before.
To give you some background: I suffered from severe anxiety disorders throughout childhood and my early teen years, living in much seclusion and fear. This made me "abnormal" and "weird" in comparison to the other kids I socialized with. Perhaps this is what offset these two mothers, but I'll never know! I got along just peachy with other moms and dads.
No, it doesn't end there. It gets worse. My mom had an old colleague who I always enjoyed spending time with and thought was a good friend of mine, little did I know she would royally backstab me years later. There had been some insensitive conversations when I was alone with her at the age of 11/12 when I was in the peak of my anxiety disorder and just about to seek professional help, but nothing insane until the dinner party.
Years later, we hosted this friend, along with some other friends of ours for a dinner party at my folks' place. The conversation we were having about TV shows escalated when I talked about "Private Practice" and my favorite character, Charlotte, who just so happens to be a bit of a slut! It's part of what makes her character relatable and full of depth. In the flip of a switch, she took personal offense to me pointing out the obvious, due to her pride in herself being a promiscuous woman. Then, out of nowhere, she asked, "Well, have you had sex yet?" Even though I had, there was no way I was going to admit it to an older woman absolutely violating her relationship with a younger female. After that day, we never spoke again.
Then along comes my ex boyfriend's mother. The mother that wouldn't allow her 20 year old son to stay out past 11, think and speak for himself, or make his own life decisions in general! Of course, I always want to nurture close relationships with any partner's mother, so we went out for lunch. The first question she asked was: "So, have you two had sex yet?" I know, gross. The rest of our relationship, she talked down to me (and us), telling me what I should be doing, feeling or acting. Why I stayed for as long as I did? I have no idea.
It was a true shit show growing up with incredibly abrasive older female figures in my life. So, I suppose there are two sides of the coin in my situation(s): not only have I had issues with older individuals, but older females specifically. I can see it - a motivated, smart "spring chicken" comes along and enters your territory, and naturally that causes some cognitive dissonance about your past life choices. Or, perhaps they seem spoiled like they "have it all together" due to their parents' support and loving foundation built for them, and you never had that / your kid perhaps doesn't have that, so naturally you are put off by it.
Hey, there's females who have societally deemed "hot bodies" (I've never had one), beautifully symmetrical faces, crazy talents that I could never dream of, and sure I get intimidated, but I never confronted them, sabotaged them or teased them. EVER.
Now that I'm older and wiser, I recognize how pitiful and sad these women were. How much pain they must have been in to harm someone so much younger and bursting to the brim with kindness. To this day, older women think it's charming to chuckle at me, tell me how I should speak and give me advice as to how I should run my business/improve myself.
Girl, please! Maybe it's just me, but I would never dream of critiquing someone's life and behavior when they didn't ask for the advice; it's just not in my nature. There's a fine line between offering helpful commentary with good intentions and doing it just because you can and it will make you feel better about yourself. A sick, twisted fine line.
Ageism is the tone of voice you use when you talk to people younger than yourself. It is a state of mind or judgement you make about the comprehension and competency of those younger than yourself. It is the passive aggressive statements you say and the laughter you think is endearing, yet incredibly offensive to the one you're using as your subject. If we all consciously worked to reduce the ageism in our world, this world would be a better place.
A better place filled with females who build each other up instead of tear each other down across generations. A place where perhaps I wouldn't have been taught by society to feel like I was automatically in competition with every female I met. We need to trust and support a little more and tease and taunt a little less. It has since become my mission to never condescendingly make jokes about the honest mistakes or behaviors/traits of younger people (especially girls). It is my life's mission to encourage, protect and adore them.
I never quite understood the purpose behind individuals treating others as if they didn't have feelings - as if they themselves are so flawless and so much more wonderful than their younger "others". Gals, we're no different, and we all have unique wisdom. We must all listen!
How do you connect with ageism? How do you ensure it doesn't come from you?
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BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating from The Evergreen State College (Washington) in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to all of life's problems + that all women should strive to embrace a #girlboss mantra.