It’s easy to dismiss the elderly. I do it to my mother all the time, and she is actually only middle aged. It’s not fair, I know, but I do it all the time. And it isn’t even so much that we dismiss the elderly, as just assume that they have no idea what WE are going through, what WE are experiencing and how times are for US. There is no denying it – it’s true, that they will never understand what the youth of today (says the woman in her late twenties) is experiencing. I mean, how can they? We can download stuff, we can access information 24/7 online, we can connect with people all over the world easily and instantly. ‘These days’ are nothing like ‘back in [their] day’.
I recently struck up a friendship with an elderly gentlemen through my work. We had many similar interests and thought along the same lines about various political, social and economic ideas and so he would call for a catch up now and a then. Unlike my other friends, he is three times my age – like I said, I’m in my late twenties, so you can guess his age. He is rad – super interesting, super in the know about everything going on in the world, and best of all he has a tonne of opinions and questions which he will tell and ask all the time, which is something I love about many of my friends.
Despite all this, it felt odd when I would bring him up to people like “oh I was talking to so-and-so the other day and…” “Who is so-and-so?”… Sigh. That question sucked. Because why would any twenty-something’s be friends with an eighty-something? But then I realised, for a tonne of very obvious and awesome reasons – but mainly because he is Just Like Me.
We need to cut the older generations slack. They HAVE seen it all, really they have, just a little different. They have been oppressed and misunderstood by their government, by their parents, by their peers. It’s nothing new to them when you talk about hating the Tories or about how Ed Miliband eats his sandwich weird (FYI he does it normally – eating a sandwich with your mouth is normal). It shouldn’t be weird that we get along and have a tonne to speak about, it should be so obvious and normal, because our experiences are both the same. He witnessed the formation of punk, he was around when the Beatles were bigger than Jesus (and all generations love The Beatles), he has been all over the world, he has worked a tonne of jobs – and he has worked hard to be the age he is with all the experience and knowledge he has gained. I’d gladly call him a friend, and also *ahem* and inspiration. We have even argued – that’s true friendship isn’t it?
But the best part of all? Our friendship was struck up because he told me he didn’t think he knew enough about feminism and he wanted to learn purely because you should “never stop learning”. Wise words. Words to live by aren’t they? It was like the best olive branch bridging the generation gap in the universe ever, right? “Can we be friends, because I just really need to learn about feminism?” Um, most certainly, definitely, let’s be BFF’s already.
We discuss a lot of things, and most of the time, he can end my sentence or my whining because he knows what I’m thinking or about to say – and he, of course, ‘gets it’. His only stumbling block is my feminist beliefs. I invited him to a lecture about Yeats, and handed over that little book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ‘Why Everyone Should Be A Feminist’ and he was delighted. Because that’s what we all should be doing – bridging the gap. Encouraging understanding between everyone – all ages and generations.
Discrimination isn’t always about gender and belief, and the most discrimination I have felt over the past month or so has involved my age (despite my age revelations, I look about 15), and that is just as I just as assuming people like my friend know nothing (especially when he is an example of knowing everything). Be kind to people, don’t dismiss people. Nobody needs that – regardless of what they have or haven’t been through.
FYI – he read the book and after I gave him my schpiel about being equal to everyone and all regardless of gender et al, he totally agreed. I don’t know if he identifies as feminist yet, but he totally ‘gets it’.