“Oh sweetie, you don’t have to call yourself that!” says the woman in the long grocery line as we converse casually. She tells me she’s a local, having grown up in Salinas.
My first job in TV news was in Salinas at the then NBC affiliate, KSBW, 50 years ago. She used to watch me on the news when she was a toddler. She managed to move to the Coast, and I spent decades in other parts of the country, working as a reporter, anchor and lawyer.
I bid adieu to sweltering Sacramento last summer when it hit 116 with a cold snap of 109, and moved back to my Central Coast roots. “I’m a full geezer now,” I say matter-of-factly. She reacts as if I’ve announced I am leprous.
Racism, sexism and ageism are the three “isms” that encapsulate much of current American culture from race relations to women’s bodily integrity to whether one should be barred from the presidency because they are deemed “too old”.
The least defined of these “isms” is ageism.
Everyone, it seems of every race, sex, creed or national origin, is similarly aghast at the vicissitudes of the so called “golden years”.
There’s the whack-a-mole realities of physical degradation; the sense of the impending, inevitable end; the invisibility of men and women in society once they hit a certain marker; and the cloying condescension of those who know full well that you don’t call others “honey” and ask if you have “big plans for the weekend”. Then, there is the elder parent’s nightmare. What parent hasn’t contemplated their kids being less than loving when the going gets tough, caring more about who gets the estate than your quality of life. Clearly, it’s an uneasy topic, and yet, unless you die young, you all get to deal with it.
So why not be pro-age and assert your pride as a geezer? Geezers have something no one else can have. They know stuff. They’ve pretty much seen it all by age 70, your basic baby geezer age.
If no one really sees you anymore, can you use that invisibility to your advantage? For example, Is it easier to avoid someone you don’t want to talk to if you say you are a little “hard of hearing”, which is sure to make them vamoose?
You can gracefully get out of going to events you have no interest in attending by claiming you just can’t sit that long. You don’t have to please a boss anymore, you aren’t looking to climb the ladder of success.
You can seek the genuine without regard to how it might affect your career or your earning power.