The loving “ism”

Racism; deplorable. Sexism; unacceptable.

Ageism; adorable.

I recently annoyed some friends in an email chat group by expressing my irritation at the proliferation of jokes about old people. They think I’m overreacting. It’s no big deal, people have always made fun of old folks, right?

People still tell race jokes, too, but at least we know that’s disrespectful and wrong.

Look at what I just found at a website called “Old People Are Funny.”

If an old man falling on an escalator is funny to you, go ahead and close this window and go to that site, instead. It’s a damned giggle fest.

Black birthday balloons! Hoo-hah, how funny is that?

Look, I know it’s mostly in good, innocent fun and we should always, at all ages, be able to laugh at ourselves. It’s not that. No, what gripes me is the fact that many people, maybe all of us eventually, buy into the notion that getting old means we’ll be doddering, slobbering, laughable old fools. So, we simply assume the role, sit down in the rocking chair and watch the world pass by without so much as waving to it.

The jokes take us by the hand and lead us there

And, it’s not even the jokes that bother me as much as the allusions to how “cute” old people are.

I just received an email that had a link to a video of an elderly man and his wife playing the piano together. They weren’t doing anything amazing. They weren’t playing Flight of the Bumblee in rounds and different, harmonic keys. They weren’t playing the notes with their noses, toes, elbows and tongues. They were just playing a little tune together. Isn’t that cute!?

Why? What’s cute about it? If these people were in their thirties or forties instead of their eighties it wouldn’t be adorable. Nobody would have turned a camera on them in the first place.

I simply think we should treat old people the same way they were treated when they were young adults and middle-aged. Give them the same respect we afford people we take more seriously. Judge them by the content of their character and the wisdom of their years rather than the number of them.

And, by God, when an old person is being a pain in the ass, unload on ’em! Don’t give them a pass because of age.

It’s hard to text a sigh.

I know I’m being silly. Well, I don’t think it’s silly but I know a lot of people do. And certainly, part of my concern is personal and yes, I am offended at the idea I will soon be marginalized by stereotypes. Please don’t ever refer to me as a “senior citizen” or some other gentle euphemism. I will simply be old and wear my age as a badge of achievment, thank you.

I will laugh, I’ll converse as intelligently as I’m able and I’ll keep writing as long as I can. But I won’t be cute, okay?

© Copyright 2010, Dave Williams. All rights reserved.

Author: Dave

Dave Williams is a radio news/talk personality originally from Sacramento, now living in Dallas, Texas, with his wife, Carolann. They have two sons and grandsons living in L.A.

6 thoughts on “The loving “ism””

  1. I take pleasure in the knowledge that the people making the jokes will inevitably get old themselves. (If they’re lucky.) I wonder if any of them will think back to the joking years and realize now it’s their turn to be the butt of jokes – and the jokes still aren’t funny.

  2. I think people inadvertently assign a sense of “cuteness” to older people because they interpret (or misinterpret) some of their behavior or comments as “childlike.” People typically regard the activities, statements and misstatements of kids as cute, and correspondingly characterize older folks who, in their retirement years, are once again able to appreciate the simple things in life. Participants at senior centers commonly partake in crafts classes, simple dance and exercise activities, communal meals and singalongs — much as preschoolers and kindergarteners do — contributing to the perception, I think, of cuteness.

  3. Jeff, I’m sure you’re right. I’ve never blamed people for ageism as it is still socially acceptable. I just wish our first instinct was respect rather than condescension.

    And that goes for respecting children, too.

  4. Dave I feel you irritation and frustration at the world that thinks just because you are over 29 you might as well dig your grave and be done with it. I have recently been hit in the face by a rather cruel and tragic incident in my life that has left me feeling like just because I am 41 years old that I’m too old to have fun. I’m too old to learn anything new. I’m too old to find someone to share life with because I already have a life. I don’t find it humorous or even enjoyable to watch people ridicule and harass our older generation. Let’s face it..without them we wouldn’t be here. They are our parents and grandparents. We should be proud of them and praise them for the courage they have shown to keep our homes and lives safe and secure. Give them the respect and tongue lashings you would give anyone else. After all…they are human too.

  5. I don’t like getting old, but I don’t mind the senior discounts. Don’t exactly know WHY seniors get discounts, though. We rode up in a chair lift at Northstar with two hardy gentlemen who were over 70…and they loved their senior discount. I would just love it if I could ski as well as they did…they did the moguls under the chairlift! Senior indeed.

  6. My dear hubby has never liked jokes referring to elderly, Since the day I met him so his coming of “age” has nothing to do with outlook on “Seniors”. In my line of work I happen to encounter mostly older women. Some are as sweet as candy and others, well let’s say are a bit of sour grapes. I find that “old” has nothing to do with age but of the mind. Some of the ladies not much older than myself say they can’t learn a program on the computer or do Ebay, and some that are over 80 are still learning and going strong. I set one lady straight just the other day when she said she couldn’t use Ebay. I told her you are a well educated woman, much more than myself. The instructions are easy to read and easy to follow, just admit it you don’t WANT to learn it. She smiled and said I was right. She wasn’t even 60 yet. My Aunt who is over 70 uses Ebay for a second income. Age is in the heart and mind. I love my dear hubby, he is forever teaching me the true meaning of compassion.

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