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“How Old Are You?”

October 6, 2013

Every moment I’m in public, I’m subject to the Public imaging I’m 20-something.

Telling my life gets tiresome. Proving my experience via my autobiography and resumé in response to relentless questioning… Telling stories always gets to them saying, “How old are you?”

When I tell my age I’m met with incredulity.

Am I ridiculous to be bored, annoyed, tired by this response?

Societal perceptions of age and the life course(s) associated with age are, in 2013, ignorant.

Here, in Chicagoland, a social ecology that’s crazy conventional, it’s oppressive.

(Some would be flattered by the same type of misperception. I’m not.)

Defending ones life experience in contrast to ones physicality… (What’s that? My good genes? My ethnic mix? My life choices? Or my “child-like” way of being?)

Folks attributing my way of being in the world to a child is offensive, to kids and to me. Misplaced. Unfair.

In just about every social interaction I have, I feel freakish.

Children don’t own energy, playfulness, spark, curiosity, vitality.

As a grown-up who has resided along the margins throughout my entire lifespan, I’m not psychically or otherwise damaged by residing under such scrutiny.

I’m just doing me. Residing on the margins in a whole new way. I’m not the confused one and that’s all that matters.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 8, 2013 11:59 pm

    You, doing you: Well said — a gentle rant. Many folks want & seek credit and assurance. If they never learned how to make this for themselves they’ll try to get it from others. You seem to be perceptive to their awkward impositions. We can’t always be right but we can be confident.

  2. October 9, 2013 8:17 am

    great post! I have come to feel that the coercive and corrosive intention of adultist rhetoric is based on conservative social values. namely, to be a ‘grown up’ women is to ascribe to hegemonic gendered norms (including appearance) and gendered plans (i.e., be straight, married & with child/ren), and/or take part in a conservative notion of ‘professional’ activity that ‘looks’ professional (i.e., be corporate take part in corporate culture). Oh and don’t forget to enjoy and take part in all the requisite cultural activities that are ‘normal’ for your demographic — just as long as you’re consuming the ‘right’ cultural products (i.e., the ones EVERYBODY is talking about) and exchange that cultural currency for ‘connection’ and ‘community’ you should be doing great – just don’t dare have an interest that is off the map. Or if And finally, own or occupy a material and socio-economic lifeworld that we see on TV (and that is increasingly out of reach to many) that includes owning property, a car, etc (by a certain age). One thing I will say about the ‘child’s’ ways, world and identity, is that what is seen to be the purview of children – or, more correctly – of a certain ‘stage’ in our development is really just a temporary authorization of certain ways of being, sensing, communicating, responding that we are simply no longer permitted to do. my own work examines and interrogates ages and stages (developmental epistemologies) and how they have functioned not only as a form of disablement for the neurodiverse but also how they function to halt critically important sensory knowledge and exploration that are halted and redirected towards the more ‘acceptable’ cultural and social knowledge that turns us all into consumers or producers of the sensory rather than scientists, explorers. By charting your own life and continuing to ‘explore’ you break the rules and the social contract of the proper adult, whose sense of self and the world should be decided by others – by deciding for yourself – what matters to you – you break the main rule of ‘adult’ culture. You choose freedom and autonomy. You choose to be you. And what an accomplishment that is!

  3. October 12, 2013 2:26 am

    So, are you saying that experience is useless?

    If I judge you on the same scale that I judge my age-similar peers, would that be fair? Seems to me if I see a someone with a foolish opinion, I should not think “experience is meaningless, therefore this person will be just as foolish in ten years as he is today. Therefore there is no such thing as youthful naivity that should be tolerated, even treasured for the spirit it conveys, but only smart people and silly people.”

    I’ve been living on my own since I was fourteen. I was an emancipated minor at 16. i was Apple Computer’s youngest manager at 20. I bet I know how you feel. Now I work with younger people and I love helping them come along faster than I did. I deserved a chance and so do you, but do not be too eager to be evaluated against the standards of a 25 year veteran in the field of your work. What makes more sense is to present your ideas and to have your ideas nurtured for the greatness of what they can be, rather than criticised as a finished product.

    I recently heard a young politician say that one is given the respect that one demands. That is not how respect works. I think in ten years she will understand that, but the fact that she doesn’t understand that now doesn’t mean she’s an idiot… If she still thinks that in ten years, though, it will not bode well for her reputation.

    Experience as an intellectual cannot be faked, but it can be hurried– make the most out of everything that happens. Everyday of striving to accomplish something is like a master class in action.

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