Just a Number

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My grandmother used to say getting older beats the alternative. She lived to be 87. She was independent and vibrant, mentally and physically, until the very end of her life. And yet culturally we have so many ideas about aging that make my grandmother's story seem anomalous. Is it?

Transcript available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vS6UY1EtpADgTpW4koZC7tVHwoMehiQacvDhqmsTH5TJIbWrYOYeak28KG74bl0q78iCEOrWJSmh1Cu/pub

Articles and other items we references for this episode:

Attitudes about Aging_ A Global Perspective _ Pew Research Center, Jan 13, 2014

Discrimination and negative attitudes about ageing are bad for your health, Sept 28, 2016

Improving Attitudes Regarding the Elderly Population _ The Gerontologist _ Oxford Academic, Aug 2001

Thinking Differently About Aging_ Changing Attitudes Through the Humanities _ The Gerontologist _ Oxford Academic, Aug 2015

American Attitudes Toward the Elderly, from Life in the USA_ The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

7 Cultures That Celebrate Aging And Respect Their Elders _ HuffPost, Feb 25, 2014

How Do Different Cultures Take Care of Seniors_, Oct 10, 2016

What it’s like to grow old, in different parts of the world _ TED Blog, Nov 25, 2013

Growing Old in Ancient Cultures _ Psychology Today, Mar 22, 2017

Communication, Aging, and Culture - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication, Sept 2017

Teenagers_ A 1944 Photo Essay on a New American Phenomenon _ Time.com, Sep 28, 2013

Why Young People Need To Look At Older People Differently, Jan 21, 2016

Changing the Narrative

Ideas for Kids to Dress Up Like Old People

This Chair Rocks

Hidden Brain: What Our Google Searches Reveal About Who We Really Are

Implicit Bias Test

Aging Superheroes

 My mom and partner playing cards. 

My mom and partner playing cards. 

I loved Logan, the Xmen film that came out in March 2017. It had an indie movie feel to it, despite being a big budget action film. And, poignantly for me, one of the main characters, Professor X, was afflicted with dementia. Watching a movie with Wolverine, a crusty, action guy with anger issues, navigate the responsibilities resulting from loving people was surreal. It was also beautiful. In the midst of high speed car chases and impossible stunts resulting in gory violence, Wolverine deals with the realities of caring for someone with a disability. He pushes the wheelchair to the car; unloads Professor X; and then folds the wheelchair up and puts it in the trunk. And THEN gets into the driver's seat and engages in speedy, highway shenanigans.  

Aging is inevitable. And, as my grandmother used to say, it beats the alternative. The humanity Logan brought to the experience of the effects of aging to a broader, action oriented audience is really beautiful to me. I hope more mainstream media starts broadening the content of their stories in this way. 

Others Must Also

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It is not enough that I succeed, others must also succeed.
It is not enough that I have peace, others must also have peace.
It is not enough that I have abundance, others must also have abundance. 

Competition can create the inspiration to push ourselves harder and farther. And the need to win, to be on top, can become a lens limiting our view of others as only obstacles to overcome. Recently some things have occurred in my social circles to remind me of the dangers of trying to be right or righteous. I have been reminded of the ways in which misery loves company.

I am grateful to know and love people who want to live differently. Who seek to embrace a doctrine of support and seek to life one another up. Thank you. May we spread our view to a larger circle and see an increase in compassion and curiosity.  

 

International Women's Day

Cultural misogyny is so often heard as "men treat women badly". As if only men can be misogynistic. As if misogyny always looks like being treated badly. Misogyny is a dangerous word. It's a misunderstood word. People tune out and turn off when they hear it. It has been overused. So, in some ways, misogyny is a useless word. 

So, what is misogyny? I can look up a definition and copy it here. I tend to love Merriam-Webster as my generic answer to life's questions. Instead, I thought about what it looks like in my world and the world around me.

Misogyny is when I am treated better and differently when I have long hair. And when my male friends are treated worse and differently when they have long hair. Misogyny is the way women distrust beautiful women. Misogyny is the way strong women feel the need to apologize for their strength. Misogyny is my mother telling me not to work out and get too muscled or I would be unattractive. Misogyny is my neighbor telling me she didn't understand why I was a lesbian since I was "pretty enough to get a guy". Misogyny is knowing my hair is only attractive on my head. Misogyny is I apologize when someone bumps into me. Misogyny is men being afraid to wear skirts or share their emotions with other men. Misogyny is women denying their sexual desires. Misogyny is effortless perfection. Misogyny is Prince Charming. 

Misogyny hurts us all in different ways. 

 

Strong Enough to Be Gentle

 The first time I ever shot a gun.    

The first time I ever shot a gun. 

 

My ex mother in law used to say this. As I experience the America of mass shootings, I am reminded of her wisdom. It takes strength to be gentle. Or as Utah Phillips sang, force is the weapon of the weak. It feels powerful to yell or punch or dominate. We have all had those moments of feeling ourselves fill with rage that feels like power and acts like fear.

The current national conversation around gun violence focuses on more gun control and blames the mentally ill. This ignores the numerous gun control laws in place that are neither funded nor enforced. And we ignore the most glaring and obvious traits of the shooters. They are men, white men often. Obviously they are mentally ill, as they shot lots of people. Women are 40% more likely to experience some form of mental illness than men. However, out of the 134 mass shootings experienced in American since 1966, 131 were men. Being male is a much higher indicator of potential gun violence than being mentally ill.  

Why do American men feel the need to shoot school children and movie goers and gay dancers? When #metoo got legs in the fall, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook wall, what is good about being a man? I was startled and ashamed to realize I couldn't think of anything. I could think of things like "men have privileges in our society", things I didn't feel really spoke to what is good about being a man. Somehow in our efforts to identify and embrace female leadership, we have created a void for men.

With all the best intentions, we have left our men behind. And the most sensitive, most lost, are using the tools they have to tell us. Rage, violence and lust are the emotions we affirm for boys. So they express those emotions in ever increasing extremes. Traditional masculinity is either viewed as suspicious or bad, and literally fought against ideologically. And we haven't replaced it with a new way to be. Sites like the Good Man Project  do a good job addressing some of these challenges. Our national culture is lacking in leadership and examples of how to be a man in today's society.

#metoo and mass shootings have a common thread in my view. A thread that underscores what we are doing isn't working. The men in our communities feel repressed and isolated. They have unclear directives about how to be as people. They have uncertain acceptance of themselves as men. And as long as that is true, no one can be strong enough to be gentle. 

The Meaning of a Handout

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My uncle was an Irish Catholic New Englander. Born days before the crash of the stock market that kicked off the depression as the fifth child in his family, he was the epitome of cheap and hospitable. His funeral was last year. At 80+ years old, his wake was standing room only. Hundreds of people came to remember and appreciate him. The stories shared during the eulogy were a fitting tribute to a man who opened his home to my mother when she lost everything in my teen years. The same man who constantly hounded me about not eating more than my 25% of any meal. 

He didn't believe in 'handouts' and opposed the liberal agenda, as he called it, with the passion he brought to everything in his life. Still, no one went hungry on his watch - there was always room for one more at the table in his world. He had a cultural prejudice against Italians. This didn't prevent his sister or his daughter from choosing Italian spouses. And we held the meal portion of the wake at an Italian restaurant. Sitting there with my family, drinking red wine with my cousins, I looked around and knew Uncle Paul would approve of our lovingly getting the last word. 

My uncle loved me, loved his family. We argued about abortion, capitalism, homelessness, and taxes. We likely argued about a lot of things I don't remember arguing about. He raised my aunt's children as his own after they married. He took care of her through years of degrading memory loss until she passed. Fair didn't really mean much to him-- for me or him or anyone else. There was your word and your actions. 

As progressives, we have something to learn from people like my uncle. He was overt in his prejudices. When confronted with something unexpected, he was able to see it and change. As liberals we are often pretty self-satisfied and smug. We pull out our graphs and charts and bully people with intellectual assertions. Many of us have ousted god from our iconography. This doesn't mean liberals have escaped the clutches of self-righteous faith in our religious values. Academia. Inclusion. Logic. 

Getting stuck on words like 'handout' or 'religion' loses us something important- the awareness of our fundamental agreement on doing better for more people. Our methods differ. Our goals are remarkably similar. My uncle was a force for good in his world, in many ways. I hope to have the same said of me in 30+ years. Don't we all?