The Frugal Elder
This Week in Elder News: 28 June 2008

Adjusting to Changes

category_bug_gayandgray.gif [EDITORIAL NOTE: Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here.

It's a strange and wonderful time to be gay. And it can seem a particularly strange time if you're an elder. Most of us who are over 60 lived at least some part of our lives in semi-voluntary invisibility or, if we chose to allow our sexual orientation to show, feared rejection and stigma.

Yes, there has been an LGBT civil rights movement since the 1950s, a movement that gained momentum in the 1960s and never looked back. Lots of us "came out." But it wasn't easy. As recently as 2004, eleven states voted to ban same sex marriages - and in 2006, seven more followed. Then this spring the California Supreme Court ruled that forbidding same sex marriages was illegal discrimination within that state.

And all of a sudden, popular opinion seems to have taken a discontinuous leap. A Gallup-USA Today poll published June 3 reports that nationally 63 percent of us believe that "government should not regulate whether gays and lesbians can marry the people they choose, a survey finds." As far as a majority is concerned, gay marriage (and presumably a responsible gay life) is on its way to being seen as a self-evident individual privacy right.

There are still holdouts of course - and for an elder, the Gallup-USA Today picture is uncomfortable: approval of same sex marriage wins "among all ages except 65 and older: among younger groups, the results are: 18 to 29 (79%), 30 to 49 (65%), 50 to 64% (62%) and 65 and older (44%)."

Our age peers are finding change harder than the younger set. The social attitudes of our generation are being pushed aside. Anna Quindlen writes in Newsweek:

"The opposition is aging out."

Is this really because, as a group, older people have a harder time dealing with the unfamiliar? Perhaps. But I am sure the answer is more nuanced than just that we are bunch of stick-in-the-muds.

Just for fun, I'd liked to suggest a little experiment. Play this YouTube version of an ad from the United Kingdom. It's short and completely work safe. (:28 seconds)

Then, if you are willing, share your reactions in the comments. Do you like it? Did you laugh? If it makes you uncomfortable, can you share why?

The British advertiser pulled the ad after less than a week, after receiving numerous complaints. I doubt U.S. networks would have run it at all. But maybe I'm wrong.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia tells a story of satisfying comeuppance we can all cheer in Collective Critical Censorship.]


Adorable! An obviously happy family, and it's that what most strive for? Anyone bothered by the makeup of that family is missing out on the real secret of life. Love. That's all there is.

It's totally cute! Love it!

I felt uncomfortable. It's the kids in the commercial that pulls at me. Their home is serene, their parents are good, but outside the safety of home they face ridicule and rejection by their peers.

I laughed out loud but I know that my reaction would not fit with the mainstream -- it rarely does.

As an ad, I thought it was brilliant, as it will imprint the name of that mayonnaise into the minds of millions and that's what advertising is all about - brand recognition. But that's not your point. I had not the least discomfort with the couple's relationship or with their role as parents. My only discomfort is with the terminology. None of the gay couples I have known have gone the 'Mom and Dad' route. For one thing to them - as to me - a new concept of family needs a new terminology that's free of all those centuries of accumulated meaning. Secondly, it is heaps easier for a child to say that he or she calls parents/caregivers by their given names (there's a certain cachet about that in kiddie circles) than to have to explain that 'Mom' is a man.

Found it funny, original. It didn't scare me or make me woozy. It took me awhile to get used to seeing two men kiss, and I saw it up close and personal years ago when we took a gay couple (guys) home from a party. After seeing that smooch, I figured love is love, no matter where you find it. My philosophy is live and let live. I have been approached by gay women & well, it was flattering sometimes, as not all gay women look like Tony Galento.. however I told them firmly that I am straight. No problem. Live and let live.

I was thrown by how badly the "Mum" treated his son, compared to how he treated the girl. It didn't feel gay, it felt like The Odd Couple.

Well, the ad is doing exactly as was intended. We are all talking about Heinz Mayo.

I didn't even know Heinz made mayo;I thought they were strictly ketsup and pickles.

That being said, I thought the ad was brilliant! "Mom" played against the sterotypical gay guy. He was rough and tough. "Dad" was also "all man" running out the door to win some bread for the family.

Anyone who criticizes this commercial is not living in the 21st Century. Gay people are all around us and should be accepted for who they are.

About the statistics above. I am way over 65 and am proud to be in the 44% who approve of the lifestyle and abide by that old cliche "Live and let live".

I do agree with Marian concerning calling one of the men "Mom". That will be very difficult for the kids in public. He should be called by his name by the children.

I liked the ad. Just loved the 'aren't you forgetting something' part. I wonder if they'd show it in France?

It's too bad the ad was pulled. The very people who objected are the ones who needed to see this video. Showing a loving family is a good educational lesson for those who are showing their ignorance.

It bothers me that many in my generation are so narrow minded. It isn't just about the homosexual issue, but a host of other long held prejudices.

I loved this ad. It has made the email circle among the 'community' in my small town as I'm sure it has all over the place. I'm biased, of course, since I am half of a gay couple, too.

What's amazing to me is that a few small voices (read small minds) of complaint can scare off a huge corporation. Why doesn't it work that way when we complain to them about environmental issues or out-of-control profits?

I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other about one man being called 'Mom'. I think that could be left to the children to decide as they reach various ages.

I think that ads like this one, and one I saw for an online dating service that featured two men, can help to open minds. I'd like to see more.
I'd also like for those who rush to complain about a 30 second mayo commercial consider the question:
Do I add to the love in the world, or do I add to the fear?

Thanks, Jan. Great post.

I thought it was a great ad, made me smile. Not preaching but showing reality which is where people need to get to where it comes to homosexuality. For all of us seeing that homosexuality is normal, loving and not different, not perfect, not misshapen, but simply reality is healthy.

I am almost 65 and see the most important thing about acceptance of homosexual lifestyle being for the youth growing up-- that instead of it being beyond the pale to be homosexual that it is normal and their lives can be like anybody else's. When ads like this come along, they help that process. It probably wouldn't play in the US right now, which is too bad, but I hope we are growing and getting more to a reality vision and less dictated by the christianist bunch who have been manipulating spirituality to gain power.

I know several gay couples who have raised/are raising families, and have seen no instance of the kids running into ridicule in the community. these have grown up to be perfectly normal kids, rebellious teens and college graduates. However, names have always been used. "Dad," and "partner's name," "Mom" and "partner's name."

very sweet...and funny--i laughed out loud right here in the office. i'm ignoring the sexism buried several layers deep....

I just loved it!! It was so sweet.

Children of gay people do not come in for the ridicule that people think they will. I wasn't given a hard time. Of course there will be some knuckleheads but those are the same idiots that will give ANY kid who isn't exactly like them a hard time.

Children of gay parents become normal adults who may or may not have a good life just like the children of people who are not gay.

I haven't watched the clip yet because something grabbed me in the comments before I could. My "name" is "mythster" and I'm a 74 year old blogger. I can't pretend that I'm 100% free of homophobia - I doubt if anybody born before WW II can sincerely say they are. It's the word "mom" that caught my attention. I know it's only semantics but as much as I know that gay couples have as much right to marriage licenses and ceremonies, and that every human being is equal before the law, I find the use of "mom" to describe one of the members of a gay couple - inappropriate. The word denotes female gender and therefore takes the female pronoun - "she" As in: "My mom, she always does the dishes" Would this person refer to herself as "she"? Would this person expect to be referred to by others as "she"? If not then "mom" is not the word.

Mythster, it sounds like you are open to gays having rights and that's good. The word mom is from mother which generally does mean a female but does not have to be that. Mothering someone is nurturing and caring. In the ranch it can be a steer that takes over mothering a calf that lost its mother or a horse doing it or any animal so drawn.

From what I know of it, I think only a transsexual would want to be referred to as 'she' but for the mother, it would be whoever is filling that role. Some gay families have two moms or two dads and the kids are okay with that too. I think when children are loved and nurtured, they aren't the ones particular with what words are used.

I thought the ad was lovely. I admit the word "Mom" threw me because I am not used to either member of gay couples adopting the other-gender label, but I don't see any reason why they shouldn't if it works for them, and otherwise - more children should hope to grow up in a family that good. (I do know gay parents who don't use names with their kids; one couple I know is Mommy and Mama.)

I'm glad the company was willing to air it, but sorry they gave into pressure to remove it (and that the pressure existed).

It is time, it is past time, for society to turn this corner.

The survey used 10 or 15 year age cohorts and then lumped everyone over 65 in the same group. I would be interested in knowing if there is a difference between people in their 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. My views are a lot different than my 92 year old Mother but they lump us in the same group. It was people my age who were in the forefront of coming out and working actively to decrease the stigma of being gay or lesbian.

I think after we heard a child call one of their male parent's Mum a few times we would get used to it. Just as I got used to my lesbian friends referring to their partner as their wife or husband however they chose to describe the relationship.

Sorry to have been absent from this discussion; I was on an airplane all day. You've all said so much.

You should know that I too find the it very odd and somewhat off-putting when same sex couples use terms for each other that reinforce gender stereotypes -- "mom and dad"; "wife" or "husband."

Occasionally someone refers to my partner as my "wife" -- it is worse than fingernails on a chalk board. At my church, our gay priest (we're Episcopalians) calls his male partner with whom he is raising a child "my husband." I'm very uncomfortable with that.

I think a result of the fast changes we're all living through is that we don't have adequate words for lots of our lived reality. But we'll find those words as things shake out, I hope.

I especially appreciate those who were willing to express some discomfort. Changing social patterns are never easy to live through -- we all need to be honest about this.

shakespeare said it: "what's in a name?"

my friend annie's mother used to refer to herself as "the old she"--i.e., her kids used to say things like, "where is she?" "she said we could go." "she's mad at you."

i had a coworker years back who referred to her girlfriend as "my wife." i cringed when we were riding the train one night after work, and she mentioned her "wife" to a fellow passenger who was yet another coworker, an older churchgoing lady born in another country. i thought, here we go! but the churchgoing lady didn't miss a beat. she said, "oh, you're the other wife! i met your wife today at a meeting. now i know both wives." the churchgoing lady was not only pious, she was classy and kind. i was impressed.

My first impression was to say bravo to Heinz for bringing their ads into the 21st century. Then I read the Guardian article. Apparently the intention wasn't to a portray gay couple at all, but rather that the kids were getting their deli-style school lunches from a "real New York Deli man in the kitchen". Everything else was innuendo. Daring, but disappointing none-the-less and only 200 complaints took it down.

i have one more comment on the Mom issue. Perhaps the children wanted to call one of the partner's Mom because the other children all had Moms.

I'll admit that the first time I watched this, I was a bit uncomfortable. As I thought about it today, I decided that was probably because to me it was strange and therefore scary. It's certainly quite funny! I watched it again tonight and this time I think it's wonderful. I think there might be others who would react similarly. It's strange at first and therefore a bit off-putting, but in time you get used to it. It's kind of sad that Heinz had to pull the ad before people had a chance to adjust. Of course, some people will never adjust, but some will.

What a shame they pulled it. It's darling. I have one set of son in laws raising a grandaughter. They too are darling. Yes, slowly but certainly they are aging out. Thank heavens.

Hi, Jan; Jane sent me. I commented on this earlier in the week on one of my other home spaces (
"Kinda witty and sweet. Oh hum. Capitalist co-optive bastards."

I thought it was a cute ad and probably wouldn't have thought too much about it had it been shown on TV in the U.S.A. I did find the language terms using words so long associated with specific genders awkward i.e. Mom. Perhaps it hinges on an individual's self-perception. But, guess they're entitled to use whatever words they like. Heaven only knows we heteros use a huge variety of terms for our partners.

In real life, I've never heard the ordinary family gay men or lesbians I know use "husband/wife, dad/mom" to differentiate themselves to their children.

I think same sex affectionate kisses are difficult for most heteros to become comfortable seeing for the first time, much less the truly romantic sexual ones. Many years ago when I first saw gays exchange kisses I did feel uncomfortable, but that was coupled with the newness of the concept associated with people I knew quite differently.

Perhaps desenitization applies as it has with cultures, races. Some people are uncomfortable with public displays of affection between heteros too. Who knows what all the dynamics going on are.

The comments to this entry are closed.