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aging stereotypes and ageism

Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash.

The worst part of aging is the response from other people.

One day, a few years ago, I was happily dancing my way (somewhat ineptly) through a zumba class. The woman next to me said, at a break between songs, “You look like you’re having fun.”

It took me a while to recognize the underlying message and then I was angry, although she meant well. I’ve never been especially coordinated. This class had an instructor who didn’t believe in cueing so you just followed along. Lots of people got lost. I’m holding up. If you come a lot, presumably you learn the moves.

But the real message was, “For someone your age…”

In her. Book, Out of Time, Lynn Segal quotes from a novel by Julian Barnes, Staring at the Sun. His female heroine muses: “You grow old first not in your own eyes, but in other people’s eyes, then slowly you agreed with their opinion of you… with those around you…

Someone said I should accept it as a compliment. “Wow, you’re still fit!”

But I don’t want to be defined by my age. I want to be just another person in Zumba class, a little less coordinated than most, a little fitter than the average person on the street, a little too busy to go out shopping for shorts that make a fashion statement.

Let’s remember that until recently people were surprised when women and Black people could fly jet airplanes and perform brain surgery.