Age is nothing more than a number that indicates how long you’ve been on earth. It took me a long time to see this, especially during my early 20s. I wouldn’t date, talk, or engage with anyone significantly older than me. This didn’t change until I had a baby by someone twice my age. To be honest, I had no idea of his real age until a government agency told me. I was upset and hurt, because it went against everything I believed. I was officially having a kid with someone who was older than my mom. Despite the messed-up conditions of finding out the truth, underneath it all was a valuable lesson. Don’t judge people based on their age.
Often, people will ask my age and seem surprised as though I’m lying. “You don’t look your age,” they say. “That’s because Black doesn’t crack,” I think to myself. What exactly is age supposed to look like? Why when you don’t look your age, people assume that you have the Benjamin Button disease? The world has become a shallow place where you are expected to look and behave your age. Why though?
I’ll never forget the night my roommates returned home after a short night of partying. The reason for their early arrival was due to the club being predominately filled with people 45 and up. Secondary to the older crowd, the music selection wasn’t a favorite either. Although I never mentioned it, this was highly offensive.
Nothing was quiet offensive as another colleague referring to me as “Patti!” Her reasoning was that I acted like a 90-year-old woman. Every time she would refer to me as Patti, it was a verbal spanking for not keeping up with what’s relevant to a 20-something year old.
One time I was working at a global PR firm in midtown and a worker overheard this person making fun of my age. He looked at me and asked, “Why do you let her talk to you like that?” I responded by saying, “It’s okay!” Recently her uncle died and I tried to excuse it for the moment. He looked at me and said, “It is never okay to allow someone else to make digs about your age. When people do things to bring you down, it’s because they are not happy within themselves.” By making excuses for her, this age shaming continued until I stopped having anything to do with this person.
I kept telling myself that once my program was over in April, I would never have to deal with this person again. Little did I know by staying silent I was perpetuating said behavior. The cycle repeated and she went on to age shame another colleague who was three years older than me.
Instead of celebrating our age, we’ve been taught to create biases against people who have lived longer. Thinking younger means better and older means out of date. And, the whole act your age movement is a joke. There are plenty of people 60+ living their best life. People like Angela Bassett and Gabrielle Union have amazing careers, families and everything in between.
Who do we think we are to tell anyone how to act based on the eight digits on your birth certificate? Who are we to assume we can’t have fun with people who might be twice our age?
We must become more accepting of age differences. Instead of prejudices that exclude age groups from our lives, we should make a conscious effort to include people we would not normally talk to. This opens us open to new experiences, fresh wisdom and cool relationships.
I have found people from all age groups to enrich, support and give me the best advice in life. My grandmother is one of my best friends and her wisdom helps me get through some of my darkest moments. My son is wise beyond his years and his honesty is the reason I can find the good in challenging times. It would be crazy for me to assume that someone younger or older could not teach me anything.
I will not close myself off to people or circumstances due to my preconceived notions about age. I will love, be kind to and embrace differences.
Moving forward try to give people a chance without judging them based on something superficial such as generational differences or age.