Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Old Lesbian in a New Age.

Old Woman in Marble
I consider myself old. Not elderly, aged or older. Old. No euphemisms. In my retirement support group, the women, who are 55 years old and up, do not like to hear me say that word about myself. To them, a sixty-five year old is just a junior senior. Maybe it's because my mother died at 48 and my grandmother at around 67 (she wasn't sure of her birth year) so I didn't see many female family members grow really old.

What does it mean to be old? In this culture, it's pretty grim. I notice that I have become invisible to many folks. My lesbian identity, even relative butchness has been lost to generic old lady-ness which I don't want any part of. I've become a piece that no longer fits, even in the world of outcasts. I can't be a grandmother because I was never a mother. When younger people compare some trait of mine to an incidental fact about their mom or grandma, I know the what is happening. The word is prejudice. It means the categorical stereotyping of a singular, unique individual.

Having said that, generational differences do exist because of the circumstances and climate in which we were raised. I think of this as "frame of reference." The loss of commonality between folks of different eras is massive, just like it was between the baby boom generation and those who came of age during World War II. The issues and crises we experience shape who we are and the way we perceive the world. Before the internet, before answering machines, there were only three channels on television. We had phone trees to get in touch with others for political activism and you just keep calling I reached someone. Communication was a challenge.

So, it should be better now that it's easier, right? That sounds logical but something personal has fallen between the cracks. Staring at screens and talking to robots all day is quite alienating. Younger people have nothing with which to compare it. As far as what to watch or listen to or do there are so many choices that there is little common culture. A time of shared media is hard to fathom today. We were familiar with the same actors, singers, comedians, even the ones we hated. And yes, many folks were not represented at all. Queer, straight, black, female we all made due with one size fits all and it fit none of the folks I felt connected with.

Now, there is so much choice and variety as to what we read, watch, incorporate into our lives. Of course it's better but, for old codgers, it's overwhelming. I don't watch Saturday Night Live anymore, partially because I don't want to stay up that late, but also because I don't know most of the references to "famous" people. There are a couple generations of actors and singers I've never heard of. And frankly, since my Random Access Memory is pretty full and can't be upgraded, I don't really care.

When I was young, I thought the main issues with aging involved had to do with wrinkles and flab. I didn't seriously consider health the main area where loss happens. That view seems so short-sighted. Personally, four people I've known through various stages of my life have died in the last six months. Now with the internet and Facebook the upside is that I have contact with more people. The downside is that I now experience more sickness and death.

I feel very conscious of impermanence now. I am literally on deadline. Suddenly, I am confronted with a massive amount of work that still needs doing. At least, as a worse case scenario, I can rest assured I will not die young. I look forward to working with folks of all ages and hope that they are ready and willing to see beyond stereotypes and platitudes to work with me. So let's get going. Take my word for it, life is a lot shorter than you think.