Stereotypes are Alive and Well – No Matter the Generation

Now that I’m officially a senior, I find it interesting to see the stereotypes attributed to me, old and youngthings I also once attributed to “old folks” without knowing a darn thing about the individuals. Some of them I can laugh at; some annoy me.

I remember, back in my dancing days when I was young and svelte, seeing an overweight person ordering dessert and making some stupid comment about why they couldn’t just control their sweet tooth. And then I retired from dancing, stopped smoking, put on close to 50 pounds and discovered I couldn’t turn down doughnuts and pastries and cookies and pie and cake … you get it. Karma’s a bitch but the lessons are invaluable. Just sometimes wish I could learn them sooner.

I also remember friends snickering at old men with socks and sandals or old women with ugly varicose veins and the audacity to go out in public in shorts! Did they look in the mirror and think this look was attractive?

Here’s what I think now: I think we dress for others when we’re younger. A job can depend on that first impression. A first date can depend on that first impression. Your place in the pecking order can depend on that first impression. But when you reach my age and you realize that (a) you’re not likely to be dressing for a job or a mate ever again and (b) you’ve learned that you don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about the way you look, it makes it really easy to live in sweats, sneakers and ratty T-shirts. My success no longer depends on someone else’s opinion.

Each generation likes to think it’s raised the next one to be more tolerant, more forgiving, more discerning. Not so. Stereotypes exist, no matter the generation or the upbringing. The “young’uns” as my southern, small town generation would call them,  have just as many preconceived ideas about the older generation as we do about them. Case in point: I have sat in Starbucks and listened to kids in their teens, twenties, thirties and even forties opine all the old people who drive too slow, all the rich kids who are snobs, the immigrants who won’t learn English, the homeless who beg for money and spend it all on cigarettes or booze, the rocker who must be high on drugs, etc. I could give even more egregious examples but these will do.

Here’s the thing: somehow the young’uns don’t seem to see that they’re doing exactly the same thing they accuse us oldies of doing. This came to my attention when I was trying to explain to a computer repairman, who had helpfully suggested that next time I had an issue with my new computer I should try to resolve it online with a customer service rep, that I had tried that, but that the operator appeared to be in another country as her English seemed limited and I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say. He looked at me like he very much wanted to tell me that all the customer reps were highly trained, not in a foreign country and that the issue was probably that I didn’t understand the customer serviceinstructions. But the truth is, that’s not the case. The sentences were written like you hear beginners in a language communicate (me included when I was traveling in foreign countries and trying to explain something): subjects and verbs are sometimes inverted, adjectives are misplaced and articles are eliminated. Then when a wrong word or two is used, the meaning and nuance of the instruction goes all to hell pretty fast. But most of all, I was struck by the look on his face and the realization that he would always think the fault was mine because I was old and clearly not able to understand.

It was frustrating to see myself as a stereotype, but I guess that was inevitable. After all, there are a few that fit: I no longer dress to impress, I sometimes have to ask how to do IPhonesomething on my iPhone, I wear “granny pants” instead of G-strings, I wear “sensible” shoes and I put fiber in my morning smoothie.

 

 

The Subconscious Speaks

It’s been two weeks since I turned in my two months’ notice at work. I haven’t reached a point where I’ve second guessed my decision and wondered if I should try and work until I’m 70 in order to maximize the Social Security I can receive. I come down firmly in the camp that I should go for it while I still have the health to do it – whatever “it” turns out to be.

That said, I’ve found myself engaging in some interesting things lately … well, two. One concerns my waking state and the other concerns my dreams.

As far back as I can remember, if I’m going to have a dream that I would recognize as showing anxiety, it has always harkened back to my dancing days. I will either be onstage in the wrong costume or I’ll be late and trying to perform the wrong routine. In the past two weeks, I’ve had a couple of those dance dreams but they seem to have some other interesting components to them. In both cases, I was trying to lead the ensemble to the stage location and we couldn’t quite get there. All the other dancers were younger than I was and I was afraid they weren’t listening to me.

Okay, should we try to analyze them? I think I’m worried that my “legacy” will be forgotten by the younger generation taking over my duties and that I’ll be seen as useless. Sound about right? The reason I find this interesting is because in my waking Yin-Yang-Woven-Dreamcatcher-8_3.jpg.optimalstate, despite the dreams, I’m aware that people at work think I’ve made some significant contributions and that we need to get someone who can continue them as is. So I find it fascinating that my subconscious says otherwise. Perhaps I need a dream catcher over my bed – at least until my actual retirement.

Then there’s my waking state. I have found myself, illogically, stocking up on things like books on CD for my car, magazine subscriptions, cases of prescription cat food, sneakers for the gym, custom-fitted trash bags for my kitchen garbage can, my favorite cologne Screen-Shot-2015-11-05-at-9.57.43-AMand the oversize tees I sleep in. What’s up with that? I guess I know that when those run out, I’ll probably see them as extravagances that I shouldn’t be spending my Social Security money on, so the idea is that if I stock up now, it’ll be quite some time before I have to face the music.

Who knows what other illogical things I’ll come up with in the next six weeks in preparation for retirement? Time will tell

Do Shoes Indicate a Person’s Worth?

Male shoes nice

I once worked for a man who admitted that he judged everyone by their shoes and I found that ludicrous. Now that I’m contemplating retirement and the freedom to “dress down” permanently, I wonder if my worth will hit rock bottom? If I choose to go out in a worn pair of sneakers, am I less of a person? I suppose the best question should be, “Do I care what anyone thinks?”

Dirty sneakers

I believe the idea is that scuffed shoes mean you’re too lazy to take care of your things. I’m not sure that correlates to someone who would be a lazy employee. Maybe you’re just so damn busy living an interesting life that you haven’t found the time to buff them up or repair them. I realize I’m simplifying the issue but I dislike the premise and think he needs to find a different standard. Plus, the man that started me thinking about this many years ago was a good-looking, pompous ass that I detested because of his sense of entitlement. So, yes, I’m biased against any pronouncement he uttered. Let’s set that straight from the get-go.

The most interesting people I’ve ever met don’t follow the “standards.” And, I might ask, who exactly sets those societal standards? I personally have a hard time subscribing to this notion because, as you might well imagine, I’ve never had two cents worth of interest in having a different pair of shoes with every outfit. Like my car, they’re just things to get me from Point A to Point B without tearing up the soles of my feet. I know – heresy. But the truth is that if I could get by with wearing fluffy house slippers to work every day, I would.

I guess I’m trying inarticulately to say that the outer accoutrements don’t tell you much about the person inside. Maybe my scuffed shoes mean I’m living on social security and would rather eat than look chic. I understand that in a business environment, a conservative boss might not want me strolling in in something better suited for a night on the town, Wild shoes but I maintain that judging a person by the shoes they wear is an assumption of what they’re capable of and how smart they are and it shouldn’t be. Now you might say, “How smart can you be to show up at work in unsuitable attire?” Yes, I get it; there are unspoken standards in any workplace and there’s a comfortable middle ground that most people stick to, but my point is that the statement about being able to determine a person’s worth by the shoes they wear is not a standard for determining whether or not they can do the job you’ve hired them for. If I’m in accounting, my scuffed, beat up, out-of-date shoes don’t prevent me from adding and subtracting. Nor do they tell you that perhaps I paint like Picasso in my free time or I’ll soon be publishing a cookbook on French cuisine. Or maybe I just have a boatload of debt and can’t afford new shoes right now. You get the idea.

So here’s my question: Who does it say more about when a person is judged by his fashion sense? By this executive’s criteria, I’d have to come to the conclusion that Jesus and Gandhi were total losers.

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