Old and Young; a Conversation

Two guys, a 20-something and a 70-something, e-mail about the differences, and the alikes.

Dave Newton, Editor, 3rdActs.com

One of my Web agents found me a blog post by Michael Musto in the Village Voice that can start our conversation as well as anything we could think of.

“Why do we hate old people?”

Reading it, then going back and reading it after I had misinterpreted it, I realized that even I, who think I’m so enlightened, stlll live in denial of the truth about age. Musto:

“…mainly the distaste about older people is a result of the fact that they remind everyone of their own mortality. No one wants to be around someone who’s a walking billboard for the fact that we all eventually wither and die–it takes all the fun out of the party!”

Musto’s right, of course. You don’t see old people, drinks in hands, flitting and flirting, group-to-group, at your parties. I don’t even know what you do at your parties. I think I just wrote something musty and dated. Not that I want to attend your parites. But I definitely don’t want to go to old-people parties.

At work, the old-hatred is never far from the surface, and often soars above it. There was the young IT jerk, giving me the wrap-it-up hand signal when I wasn’t talking fast enough for him. Of course I snapped at him, and confirmed another stereotype. In that moment, I hated him and his whole puerile tribe.

The problem in America is, we old people tend to hate ourselves as much as you hate us. Musto’s closing line is snarky, but consistent with his theme:

“So don’t get old, people. Get surgery!”

Surgery doesn’t work. We all know it when we see it. I don’t want to be young again. But I don’t want to be hated, or hate myself.

Matt. Do you hate old people? Don’t hold back.


Matt Keeley, Editor, kittysneezes.com

I think the answer is obvious: Of COURSE I hate old people! But then, I hate young people too, so it works out.

Of course, I’m kidding. I do have my occasional lapses of ageism, but then, we all do; it’s the idea of “The Other,” coupled with the unsettling realization that we will either be one of THEM one day (in my case), or the memories of all the stupid things you did when you were one of us (in yours).

The real issue is just that there are individuals who are jerks — like your IT guy wanting to you “wrap it up” — and sometimes we decide to grab on to a characteristic of the person and apply it to a wider trend, rather than the real truth: that guy was a jackass.

And I’m guilty of it too, of course. It’s not the particular guy in front of me who drives twenty miles an hour below the speed limit — it’s Old People, all of them… Even though my grandparents never did that. It’s Old People, who leave small tips based on 1950 prices — it’s surely not that the man’s just a lousy tipper.

But there’re lots of things I do that older folks mentally shake their fist at. I like to listen to music relatively loudly (even with headphones); I’m of a generation that’s more comfortable with email and text than face-to-face communication; I tend to be fast-and-loose with expletives (though I’m working on that one, honest!); and a whole host of things I don’t even REALIZE.

Perhaps the odd thing with me is I often end up connecting better with people older than I am. When I was growing up, there weren’t a whole lot of kids around, so, when I was three and four, I was talking to the neighbors, all adults. There are a lot of people I feel really close to, who are closer to your age than mine. Some of it has to do with my love of music; my friend Wally, in his sixties, can go back and forth with me on lots of artists, sometimes stumping each other. I think the first time I gained his respect on musical issues was when I mentioned 1950s one-hit wonders Patience & Prudence.

I’m also a geek, which means that in school I was an outcast, and I’ve often found that outcasts share a bond with other outcasts not necessarily in the same circle. In our culture, older people have become outcasts — like Musto says, American society at large has said “OK, you’ve fulfilled your purpose, go away now.” So, there’s that kind of camaraderie, too.

As for the parties, as a geek — you probably DON’T want to go to mine; they’re pretty much a handful of folks sitting down and playing European board games or Diplomacy. We let our geek flag fly… so much that most people MY age don’t even want in on our parties.

Stay tuned for more intergenerational enlightenment, on both our Websites.


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