Recently, my friend and I exchanged niceties with another woman who noticed that my friend was limping. She heard the cause (and it wasn’t age-related, rather related to gravity). Then the woman remarked, “Well, we’re not bouncing back like we used to!” Wink, wink.
My friend ignored the comment. And because she did not respond in the moment and it was awkward for all of us.
Do we shame because we can find nothing else to say in casual conversation?
Age shaming oneself, or age shaming a woman near you is—icky. Not only racism and sexism, but ageism keeps people from feeling welcome. Think about it. For generations, we have lived under the rule of patriarchy–the idea that women lose value and power as they age.
When women internalize that oppression, the cycle of women shaming other women continues. “We compete with each other when we should be supporting each other,” writes Shannon Ridgway in everydayfeminism.com.
I’ve shared meals with a man and a woman, both in their early 60s. The man orders and eats his food, and says, “No thanks,” if the server offers him food he chooses not to eat. But the woman, rather than saying “No,” mentions her weight and age when offered food like cheeseburgers and fries. This makes me sad for the future.
I have never heard a man in casual conversation mention his age in any limiting way.
Research shows that the more positive your outlook about aging, the longer and healthier your life will be.
Let’s focus on the positive. If you’re searching for a way to connect with another woman in casual conversation, stick to complimenting them on their sweater or the recent project they launched. If all else fails, you can always talk about the weather.
Elizabeth McBride is the director of Intergenerational Programs and editor of Café and takes her role seriously when it comes to speaking out against ageism. She believes that a multigenerational organization that values all is sustainable.
Photo: The author, Elizabeth McBride, and Candace Eubanks, Milwaukee, Wis., act cool at the Tenth Triennial Gathering Lounge event in Minneapolis.