Every time I use the word “senior” to describe our generation, people flinch or cringe. “How did this happen?” I asked a colleague last week. When we were seniors in high school we felt like kings and queens of the mountain. A senior in college was even better. We were the class imbued with all the wisdom those hallowed halls could offer before stepping into the “real aka business world.” Once installed in the business world, we could not wait to achieve senior status: be it Senior Editor, Senior Manager, Senior Partner – Senior whatever. Senior was the epitome of excellence and achievement. Then, when we hit age 50, to be called a senior was a kiss of death. You were now over-the-hill, redundant or worst of all invisible.
Seniors tried to counter the negative stereotype with adjectives such as “Older Adult.” Talk about redundant; it’s like saying a child is a little toddler. Then, people seized on the word Boomer as a less vapid alternative to Older Adult. Talk about pathetic. Boomer sounds more like a slightly deranged character in the 1994 American epic movie, Forrest Gump, than a revered and respected senior citizen.
I remember being struck by a comment the late Betty Freidan made to an audience of hundreds at an NBA (National Booksellers Association) meeting. She said, “All of the prejudice I have encountered in Feminism pales – absolutely pales – in comparison to what I have experienced in Ageism.” That was back in the early 1990′s, and we certainly have not made much progress in the ensuing 20+ years.
Let’s look at a little aging reality here. Superman’s first appearance was in Action Comics #1, in 1938. Wonder Woman was introduced in All Star Comics #8 in 1941. No spring chickens, these two are still super acting 74 and 71 respective years later.
I know these riveting details, because I read the recent Wall Street Journal article, A Haven for Aged Super Heroes. The article was about Metropolis Collectibles Inc., a firm in New York City, which buys and sells vintage comics. Especially noteworthy, is the fact that Metropolis recently sold the aforementioned 1938 Action Comics #1, which debuted Superman, for $2.2 million. Talk about the value of an “Aging Superhero!”
A month after reading the “Aging Super Heroes” WSJ piece, the New York Times published History Hits the Campaign Trail. Their article describes how, in this miasma (my word) of political campaigning, Obama and Romney continue to “invoke the opinions of long-dead white males in powdered wigs.” The article notes, “While it’s been a long time since any of the founding fathers made a personal appearance on the campaign trail, they continue speaking from beyond the grave through the mouths of present-day candidates, weighing in on matters as disparate — and perhaps unimaginable to them in life — as health care reform, gay marriage and abortion rights.” It seems highly ironic in these times of rampant ageism, that politicians fighting for their political lives need the wisdom of these aged statesmen to validate their positions.
Last but far from least on the ludicrousness of ageism, I call your attention to a dazzling matter of “Advanced (as in age) Style.” We highlighted this book a few weeks ago, but I’ve just learned of a video – in which you can hear each of these fabulous fashionistas, Grande Dames [in their 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's and 100's] describe how they feel the secret of life has nothing to do with age. It is, rather, all about the art of being oneself forever!
I’m off to buy a new hat…