Home > Rayne > On Ageism, and Keeping the Elderly “Old”

On Ageism, and Keeping the Elderly “Old”

June 4th, 2014

imageEvery year, M’s company has two parties.

One is called “Summer Fest,” and it’s for employees of all the CEO’s companies to get together with their families and have a good time. It’s usually outside, and scheduled around lunch time. For a while, it was at Great Escape in Lake George, but then they started opting for doing different things, like a cider farm with a petting zoo, and watching the local farm team play baseball.

The other is called “Winter Fest,” and it’s generally a business meeting with drinks and free food. They usually try to hold this party at restaurants in the city where they’re located as a way of giving back, and there’s always a raffle for the Schenectady City Mission. One year, they had a dinner theater. They made M be a Village Person and sing YMCA. It. Was. Awesome.

The events are usually scheduled out. Mingling over drinks for a short time so everyone has time to get there. Then dinner, which is sometimes buffet-style, and sometimes delivered to us by the plate, depending on where we go. Over dessert, the CEO and some of the bosses address the crowd and talk about how good or bad the company’s doing, anything new they’re working on, new business they’re getting. After dessert, there’s more mingling over drinks. Then they hold the raffle, and people collect their prizes, and before too long, we’re all bee-lining for the door after polite goodbyes and promises of cookouts that will never happen.

I think I’ve mentioned these parties every year. If not, now you know. Like you care. But there’s a point! Isn’t there always?

A few years ago, when we still lived on the slightly-less-dangerous hill, they decided to have Winter Fest at this restaurant which was walking distance from our house. We were super happy about this because if we got drunk we could just walk home and pick up our car in the morning.

The wait staff was mostly female, and they all wore black. Black pants, black collared shirts, black shoes, black aprons. They all did different things with their makeup and hair, as is usually the case, and wore interesting accessories to spice up their wardrobe.

There was a woman who was at least in her sixties, rocking a spiky, dirty blonde ‘do, with side-swept, fire engine red bangs. I was in love. “Check this chick out!” I thought. “She doesn’t give a fuck what other people think. She’s gonna be her till the day she dies.”

And why shouldn’t she? Because society says that after a certain age, you have to start dressing and acting a certain way?

I was raised to respect my elders. They’ve earned the right, simply by surviving this fucked up planet as long as they have, to be whoever the fuck they want to be. Fuck yeah, old people! Rock on! They’re not always right, and some of them are adorably infuriating in their ignorance, but they’re a dying era, and they have just as much right to be who they are as we do. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t call them out when they’re being assholes, but try to be respectful about it. (This is me explaining my upbringing, here, not telling you how to be. That’s on you, just like how I am is on me.)

I’m completely baffled by society’s attempts to keep the elderly “old”. You have to stop wearing jeans and t-shirts when you’re old. You have to stop enjoying life when you’re old. You have to stop having sex and being sexy when you’re old. You have to stop being wild when you’re old.

Fuck that, I’m gonna be wild till the day I die. I’m gonna be that old lady everyone loves to have around because she “says the damnedest things,” talking about sex, and showing off my piercings and tattoos. My stories will be equally horrifying and hilarious, and people will beg me to “tell that one about the pull off at the Saratoga Battlefield again!” over and over.

This lady waiting on my table felt like a kindred spirit. I wanted to have a beer with her after the dinner (but was too shy to speak up) and see if we had anything in common.

So you can imagine my ire when I caught a couple of the women at the party discussing how she was “setting a bad example” and should “act her age.” I lingered beside them listening to the conversation, and when one turned to me and asked what I thought, I asked if she really wanted to know.

“Uh oh. What does that mean?” she asked, flashing the other woman a wry grin.

I have a reputation at M’s company for being a free spirit who speaks her mind. I made the mistake of telling one person where I worked, and within a week, the whole company knew; including the CEO. From that point on, I figured it was pointless to censor myself, because they were going to decide what type of person I was based on what I did for a living, anyway, so I might as well just be me.

I smiled, and watched the women squirm for a moment, gathering my thoughts. If I was going to do this, I had damn well better be eloquent about it, because these chicks wouldn’t hesitate to try to get M in trouble for something I said to them. That’s just how they were.

When I thought I could contain my irritation so well that they’d think I had absolutely no stake in the conversation, I asked them why we, as a society, hold people who’ve lived much longer lives, and had much more life experience to standards much higher than the standards to which we hold ourselves.

“Well, because they should know better!”

“So what’s she doing wrong? What should she ‘know better’ than to do? Is there something wrong with dying your bangs red and spiking your hair?”

The women looked at each other, then back at me. They looked confused. It was obvious they were trying to figure out who I thought I was. And I was being nice!

“I guess not, but at her age?” one woman asked.

“Why not at her age? When’s a better time to do whatever the hell you want than when your kids are grown, and you’re just happily living your life?”

That was pretty much the end of the conversation. They were stuttering over themselves, talking about how women her age usually dye their hair pastel blue, or pink, and trying to change the subject, obviously embarrassed. I walked away, shaking my head.

A couple days later (and this is a total coincidence), one of my coworkers at that store (y’all remember CarrieAnn! You probably had more interactions with her than you did me.) told us she was dying her hair from the brilliant pink ev-er-y-body loved to her natural brown. And when we asked her why, she said she was getting too old for it.

I scoffed, and told her she was nuts (or something similar), and she schooled me on how she feels about how I felt about it, it being her hair, and all. And I felt like a jackass, but I still felt…I guess bad for her because I don’t think she’d feel like she’s too old for pink bangs if it weren’t for society’s fucked up ideals. She told me not to worry about it because she’s okay with it. So okay. I don’t worry. You do you, darlin.

So then, I started to worry about my hair. I wanted purple hair. Or at least purple streaks or tips or bangs. And I used CarrieAnn regularly to show M that unnatural hair colors didn’t have to be wild and crazy. They could be cute and almost elegant when done right.

I wasn’t worried that her changing her hair would mean I wouldn’t get to change mine. I was worried that I was getting too old to start dying my hair crazy colors.

Then M told me to get online and find some crazy colors. You don’t look that gift horse in the mouth (or at least I don’t), so I jumped online and found all the crazy colors I could, and started showing him pictures. And now I have red and purple hair.

The red came first. It’s Henna-based and it takes FOREVER to bleach out. The purple came second. It’s vegetable-based, and I only do the ends so I can just cut them off if I fry it. I should probably just try not to fry it.

Once my hair was done, and I saw how it looked, my age didn’t matter anymore. I look around me and see women twice my age dressing like teenagers, and I’m like, “Fuck yeah, middle-aged women! Way to do you!” That’s so gonna be me.

But I’m still waiting for someone to tell me I’m too old for this hair color. I might just tell them where to stick it.

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  1. little monkey
    June 4th, 2014 at 17:48 | #1

    I dye my gray a very unnaturally red red. I’m 53. I have a 12 year old and I work in an office. Granted it’s a small office, not a corporate one, but still…

    I got my first tattoo at 20 and my second at 40. Because I am tired of the hassle of constantly coloring my hair, I’ve decided for my 60th, instead of a tattoo I’m going to shave my little round pate bald and flaunt my big ass earrings. I love your red and purple hair.

  2. June 5th, 2014 at 16:31 | #2

    @ little monkey Ha! You’re awesome. Thank you!

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