Friday, 14 March 2014
How to Thwart Age Invisibility
[The giveaway of Dr. Bill Thomas's new book, “Second Wind” and tickets to his Second Wind Tour Live Event” remains open until tonight, 14 March 2014, at midnight Pacific Daylight Time. You can enter the drawing at yesterday's post.]
Somewhere in the mists of time past on this blog, I told the story of standing on line at a coffee and bagel shop one morning when I was in my late 50s waiting my turn to order.
As the customer in front of me moved on to the cashier and I began to speak, the counterman skipped right past me with his eyes and asked the person behind me what she wanted.
At no other moment in my life has the phrase, “What am I, chopped liver?” been more perfectly appropriate and you can believe the entire shop heard me say it. (I even got a couple of laughs.)
I was reminded of this when I read a comment on Wednesday's TGB post about the age at which someone becomes old. Elaine of Kalilily wrote, in part:
”Personally, I think that those of us who consider ourselves 'elders' should make a big deal and celebrate that fact as something to admire, respect, and have some fun with.
“Wear funky glasses and hearing aids rather than try to hide those evidences of aging. (I do the glasses; I still hide my hearing aids behind my hair, but I'm getting there.) If you need a cane, use a colorful one.
“If ya' got it, flaunt it. Maybe if we had some fun flaunting being "old," the idea would lose its stigma.”
Elaine is on to something important that, as she says, could change the perception of elders. There is hardly an old person alive who has not been ignored, made invisible to the people around us, as I was in the coffee/bagel shop. It's painful.
But in Elaine's new view, our visibility is increased – a good first step toward elderhood losing its stigma.
Admiring her point, I was kinda pleased to realize that without meaning to or even realizing what Elaine is advocating, I have taken a couple of the kind of steps she suggests, mitigating two of the more obvious stigmas that give younger people permission to ignore old people: the need for comfortable shoes and baldness.
For a long time after pain forced me to give up my (still) beloved high-heeled shoes, I bemoaned that I was stuck with boring flats. Only in the past two years or so have I realized that there is fun to be had with that.
I have been buying silly shoes now. Shoes with gold and silver and pewter sparklies and most recently I have been taken with cute little brogans that use ribbons for shoe strings. (You can now buy ribbon laces online for any shoes that tie.)
See those gold sparkly flats in the photo above? I was wearing those on a recent visit to the neurologist for a minor foot problem. The first thing he said to me was, “Wow, love your shoes.”
I laughed and we had a connection beyond my floppy foot. I wasn't just another old woman patient anymore; I was the lady the the sparkling gold shoes. I won't forget to wear them for my next appointment and he won't forget me.
Other people sometimes notice my shoes – a couple have asked about where to buy the kind with ribbon shoe laces.
I've shown you my hat wall before now:
The crown of my head shines through the few strands of hair that are left there so I never leave the house without wearing a hat. People I know and people I don't know often say, “Love your hat” and two different friends have given me a hat.
Yesterday, I was dressed in a pair of nice, wool slacks, a tunic-length light-weight coat, a beret and those gray shoes above with white ribbon laces. I'm not too shy to say I looked good, looked well pulled together – which isn't always the case.
On a whim, after a morning Villages meeting, I stopped in a local resale shop. As I walked through the door, one of the sales staff smiled widely and said, “I like your style,” then led me to a rack of clothes she thought fit my “style.” And it did.
When people acknowledge you for something that stands out, something unrelated to your age, that is what they remember you for. There are innumerable food market checkout people who nowadays know me as the hat lady.
The neurologist, on the other hand, is concerned with the other end of my body - my foot, and is reminded who I am because of my silly shoes.
So I am no longer invisible to that neurologist, to the sales woman at the resale shop, to anyone on my normal rounds including innumerable people in the food markets and Japanese restaurants I visit regularly. To them, I'm the hat lady.
So thank you Elaine of Kalilily for helping me recognize that what we're both doing in playing around with our age markers also removes our age-related invisibility cloaks and makes us more “human” to younger people.
Elaine has a lot more to say about this at a terrific post on her blog titled, I Want to Have Fun with the Trappings of Age.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: The Lady in Red