My First Taste of Ageism

by | Nov 12, 2016 | 0 comments

I was just delivered my first taste of “ageism”, when I read the “About” section of a site and it indicated the site was specifically for Millennials. Born just outside the generally accepted Millennial timeline, I am a late Gen Xer, so to speak. Depending on where those Millennials fall on their own timeline, I could be their mother, or at least their big sister or mentor.

My first reaction, as predictable to human nature, was to take offense. After all, I was actually on the “About” section to see if they accepted contributors. In just the first few lines, I felt like it was saying, “If you’re not a Millennial, you’re not wanted.”

I could have stopped there—which is where many stop, when they take offense to something—but I didn’t. To be honest, it wasn’t even a site I’ve visited often. It’s just a habit for me to scope out freelancing opportunities. Instead, I reflected on why it offended me. Was it meant to offend me? Were they really saying, because I am of a different generation, I’m not wanted?

I put it in perspective of my world. The things that affect me. The different generations that surround me. Things I have said to people older than me, when asking for change, that could have been construed by them the same way. What was my intent in that situation? Was it to make them feel unwanted? Was it to make them feel as if they no longer mattered?

And the answer is a resounding NO. Not once, in those moments, was my intent to tell a generation of people—the people who raised me, who taught me, who changed the face of the world for their generation, who fought battles at home and wars abroad—they were no longer relevant. What I was saying to them though was, “You raised me. You taught me. You changed the face of the world for your generation. You fought battles and even wars. Now let me do the same for mine, in my way, in the way that fits my generation, without having to also battle you.”

People who personally know me know that I have a tendency to run toward change, as opposed to away from it. I like change. I enjoy the rush of something new and the possibilities it holds. Nevertheless, I have found, the older I get, the harder it is for me to just pull the rip cord and jump. I now have responsibilities. I have people who depend on me. I have bills to pay and food to buy. I have people I don’t want to disappoint. And, I have preconceived notions of what my world should be. And that last line is exactly where the rift between generations occurs.

Over the years, as Millennials have worked their way into adulthood, I have seen articles and memes ridiculing them, saying they were going to ruin the world. Honestly, I’ve probably even shared a few. But guess what—it was said about our generation, too. And the generation before that. There just wasn’t social media to help spread it to the masses.

Can I get behind “safe space”? Not generally, no. Do I think this constant state of being offended we seem to be in is ridiculous? Yes, I do.

But, some good things came out of these changes, too. Many of those changes were kick-started by my parents’ generation, as well as mine.

Children and adults with disabilities are no longer cast to the side. Rights that were previously denied to entire groups of people were fought for and claimed. I don’t have to fight to have a career and be a mother, anymore. I’m not expected to wear a dress every day. (That one I’m particularly thankful for.) Shoot, for the most part, I could wear jeans, and no one, except the generation before me, would notice. (Yoga pants, I’m still not sold on.)

And, while I identify more as an equalitist, than a feminist, it is nice to see the use of masculine words to denote power and strength, and feminine words to denote weakness, being called on the carpet. There are too many good things, both small and great, that I could name. You already know them.

And every time those battles were fought, the previous generation often ridiculed it and stood in the way. When the dust settled and the world didn’t end, they went on about their business, even enjoying the fruits of those battles.

This generation may not get everything right, but then again, neither did yours. Neither did mine. They will either fix those things themselves, or the next generation will fix it for them.

The fact is, the generation below you sat on your knee and heard your stories. They heard how you fought for things that were important to you. They heard how you fought to change the way things had been done, to make it the world you want to live in, because it was YOUR world then.

And now it’s theirs, or at least almost theirs. So, let them fight amongst themselves, to shape the world that best fits them.

I would prefer be a mentor, not a wall, and let those “whippersnappers” do their thing. I’m sure there are plenty of places out there for me.

If not, maybe I’ll just create one. You never know.