Friday, April 01, 2016

Old Age 3

Ursula LeGuin has said that as she aged, she has felt herself disappearing. People no longer see her, because old ladies are invisible. This is an amazing statement. For heaven's sake, if LeGuin isn't visible, then who is?

I don't feel I have vanished. But I have always talked a lot, and people find it hard to ignore me. At most, I feel I am treated with a slightly patronizing kindness. "Isn't she a sweet old lady?" People are more likely to pat me. This could bother me, but it doesn't. I take kindness where I can find it.

Still, I don't feel that elders are taken seriously in this society. When we look at the media, we see young people. Women especially are young. (I know this is sexism, but it is also prejudice against the aging.)

14% of the US population is over 65. That's one in seven people. When we watch a movie or a TV show, do we see this?

The old we do see are frequently old-of-date and comic. "Get off my lawn!"

I had a conversation with a friend at Minicon this year. She has been trying to talk about aging on social media. The people she was conversing with were perfectly happy to talk about race issues, GLBT issues, disability issues -- but they dismissed the problems of the aging. Most of the people in the conversation were straight, white, and cis. They did not have the problems they were so willing to address.

But we all get old. Facing the problems of the old means facing problems that everyone will have, unless they die young. My friend argued that it is a lot easier to feel good about supporting minorities in their struggles. Facing one's own mortality is hard.

This is an interesting argument. I'm not sure it's right, but I am going to think about it.

I had an experience on facebook which sort of confirms my friend. I was trying to talk about getting old. I wrote that the elderly are often, in this society, told that they are unproductive and should die and get out of the way. I said that this happened to the old more often than to other groups.

"No," another person said. "It also happens to the disabled."

"Well," I said. "The old are often dealing with disabilities, so the difference between the old and the disabled is not great."

The person I was conversing with then said, "And GLBT people are also told to die and get out of the way."

I thought to myself, this is not a contest, and ended the conversation.

I don't know what the person I talking with thought she was saying. I heard her as saying my problems were not important. I should be worrying about all those other people. And I should shut up.

This is what LeGuin means (I think) when she says the old are vanished.


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