Is ageism societal or internal? Turning 30 was hard. But turning 40, now that felt monumental. Somehow in all those years I'd missed something; look at all those people (rock stars, movie stars, musicians, novelists, etc.) who made it and were successful in their 20s, who became famous beyond their wildest dreams, who have not a money worry in the world. Didn't happen to me!
Haven't been there or done that. Now as I pass 40, I worry. People tell me it's much worse than 30. I wonder how so. Especially when at 30 the gay community shuns you as 'past your prime.' I wonder, am I now 'old'? I don't think so. Oh sure, I've heard all the jokes, the ones society and the gay community use for people my age. But that's not what worries me. And it's not growing old, in the physical sense at least, I've already had my share of 'getting older' aches and pains (bad back, aching joints from strenuous exercise, GERD).
What worries me most is the attitude my mother and other friends expressed when they reached 40; what I phrase the 'I'm too old syndrome.' My mother used to say she was too old to return and finish her college degree. A colleague said he was too old to begin a new career. And I've noticed myself feeling too old to wear certain youth-centric clothes.
Is this a societal attitude, or my own internalized ageism? Do I expect certain things from people in tight-fitting pants and bright neon t-shirts … something youthful perhaps. Do I disdain those older folks who wear these clothes as trying to act 'too' young, as trying to regain something lost long ago? Do I expect them to act immature?
Well, 'Yes!' Am I being judgmental? Sure. But our society advises us to 'act your age.' And as far as fashion goes, conservative is for U.S. older people and wild is for those carefree (under 40, and perhaps even 30) youngsters still sewing their wild oats. People over 40 are relegated to dark blues, blacks and browns (perhaps tans even), but we should never buy a 'bright color.' Part of me believes this.
So, I must conclude I'm internalizing a societal value judgment. I hate it! Follow the pack, go with the flow. Perhaps I should just take up the military motto of 'don't ask, don't tell,' then no one would know how old I was and I could do as I damn well please! Hell, since coming out, I have always wanted to be me, not a clone. I've worn western clothes and too-wide collars when they weren't in style. Anytime I damn well please, thank you very much.
I'm not a trend follower, I've always been a trend maverick. Now I'm worried about looking age-appropriate, what's up with that? What cataclysmic event has changed my attitude all of a sudden? What has happened to make me want to fit in, to wear age-appropriate clothing? How did I become one of those 'I'm too old' groupies? I'm not quite sure. How do racists or homophobes become bigots and crime committers? Is it environment? I don't know, but it seems too simplistic, even for me! I just want to be me, so I say damn society and damn fashion. Ready or not, here I come, in last year's flubs!