Grumpy Old Man
It must be something that happens in one's mid-to-late fifties, this increased sensitivity to, and awareness of, ageism and ageist attitudes among one's extended social network. Dave Winer writes about it often, but it started becoming an issue for him about five years ago.
Anyway, this morning I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and I happened across this tweet from Jules Evans, a philosopher from England I happen to follow:
"Aw, such a cute old couple at the table next to me in this restaurant. Oldies in Love. [Heart emoji]"
I'd embed the tweet, but it seems he's since deleted it.
Well, it provoked the "grumpy old man" response ("He noted, ironically."), and so I replied:
@julesevans77 Stick around. You’ll be old too. And sooner than you think. Maybe someone will notice your age, and how it makes you “cute.”— Dave Rogers (@daverpvb) November 6, 2015
And then went on my merry way.
Later I noticed he replied,
@daverpvb fair enough Dave! Apologies if that was a dumb remark.— Jules Evans (@julesevans77) November 6, 2015
And there's the usual "Apologies if!"
It's a conditional apology! Again, cue the grumpy old man response! ("He noted, again, ironically.")
@julesevans77 “If?” You’re a philosopher? Do older people showing affection merit some special observation because they’re “oldies?” “If?”— Dave Rogers (@daverpvb) November 6, 2015
(I'm kinda diggin' this embed tweets thing.)
To which, Jules, the philosopher, replied,
@daverpvb not in your case— Jules Evans (@julesevans77) November 6, 2015
I confess, I'm afraid I'm far too unsophisticated, or perhaps it's that "two nations separated by a common language" thing, to know if this is a subtle put-down, but I tend to think it is.
Well, so what? Why is this worth going on about?
Because we live in an ironic universe!
As it happens, last night my "special lady friend," Mitzi and I were attending a charity event called Burgers & Brews, a fund-raiser for a local children's hospital. We were all being entertained by a very talented trio of musicians and singers. One guest happened by our table and remarked to Mitzi about how good the band was, at one point saying, "He even sounds white!" (Obviously, the singer was not white, and clearly African-American.)
Mitzi, who is Jewish and (or so I thought last night), more sensitive to prejudice and insensitivity than I am, asked her, "What do you mean by that?!"
I saw the look flash across the woman's face and I knew she realized what she'd just said, regretted it, and didn't have a ready way out. So I offered, "She means that he's a talented singer who is capable of performing in many genres of music." Writing this now, I realize that this was, er, no better and quite probably even worse. Sigh. Anyway, we all kind of knew that this wasn't going to get any less awkward, so I quickly changed the subject by asking her about her Apple Watch! (Thank you, Tim Cook.)
As we were leaving the event, Mitzi and I had a vigorous discussion of the utility of confronting people in social settings about their prejudices. In my view, there's little we can do to change people's minds in a brief encounter like that; and an uncomfortable confrontation is likely to make them feel defensive and perhaps even harden their views. Mitzi feels that it's important to confront it wherever one encounters it, because she's been on the receiving end of prejudice and insensitivity in her own life. Me, I'm just your average privileged white male heterosexual, so, not so much.
Or so I thought.
Cue this morning's little kerfuffle. What makes an older couple "cute?" Is it "Oldies in Love?" Why is that cute? Is it cute in the way that, perhaps, babies are cute when they try to do things their little bodies aren't ready for them to do yet? Is being older and exhibiting affection "cute" because older people can no longer reproduce? Is "love" something older people should no longer believe is meaningful for them?
"They're just going to die soon! It's so cute, watching them carry on like that! As if they weren't, you know, already well past their 'sell-by date'."
So, yeah, young Mr. Jules Evans, philosopher, stoic, keen observer of life's little ironies, tweeted about "oldies in love" and it pissed me off. And then he sent a non-apology apology, which just pissed me off all over again. Young people these days!!
I'm just looking forward to telling Mitzi we have even more in common than we thought!
In a further bit of irony, at last night's event I met a friend of Mitzi's, Dr. Judi Herring. Some time ago, Mitzi had referred me to a talk Dr. Herring had given at a TEDx event in Jacksonville last January. It's a fascinating talk, and it has helped inform my thinking on gender identity, another area of significant ignorance and therefore prejudice.
It's been a rich twenty four hours.