Confession time: I'm an ageist

Monday, October 03, 2011

Lately I've come to the unpleasant realization that I'm a bit of an ageist. I'm not sure if that's a real word, but I do discriminate based on age. I prefer to deal with people who are older than myself and I don't take younger people seriously enough. The obvious exception is people that I know personally or who have been work colleagues - if I've seen you work and know you're capable I tend to forget how old you are, whether it's 22 or 82. But when it comes to people in customer service positions and other one-off encounters I will almost always go for the silver fox versus the young'un.

I feel bad about it, because I very clearly remember being in my early 20s and super pissed off at the world because I was always treated as a junior at my jobs and felt that no one took me seriously because of my age. I remember crowing about "how am I supposed to get experience when nobody will give me a chance?" and boo-hooing all over town when I had to do crappy tasks. Hellooo, paying your dues.

Fast forward to now. If I'm at the Superstore and I need to find, say, PEANUT SAUCE, I'm not going to ask the stoned 16-year-old with his pants hovering down around his ass stocking the shelves with all the speed and ambition of a blind sloth. I'm going to go find the creepy 65-year-old lifer with the bad combover. I feel like the old person is going to at least make an effort to help me out, whereas young Cheech is just going to stand there slack-jawed and not make any attempt and then direct me to the peanut butter-and-jam section, stand there and stare at the peanut butter display and just say "Uhhh" over and over. (Based on true events).

In the hospital a couple of weeks ago, I found myself asking all the nurses who were obviously younger than me about school, their jobs, their pets, and so on, but if the nurse was older, I'd ask her my serious questions about my health and how things were going with my monitoring. I didn't realize I was doing it until much later, but for some reason I only assumed the older nurses would know the answers to my questions, which I'm sure is totally false. There's a good chance a nurse just out of school would actually be more knowledgeable than one on the verge of retirement, but for some reason I saved the medical questions for the older ones.

I'm not sure what the reason for this is.

Is it that I'm getting old and crotchety in my elderly age?

Is it that "kids" today really don't present themselves as being knowledgeable, helpful and competent?

Do I get jealous and insecure when I see smug little underqualified brats earning double what I do? (Answer: YES)

Or is it just a natural thing...we tend to trust people that are older than us, assuming they're more experienced or wiser somehow?

Either way, I know I need to get over it. I'm not getting any younger, and every year I'll be dealing with more and more people that are younger than me, so I better learn to communicate with the youngsters.

Now get the hell off my lawn.

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  1. Do you ever find the opposite, though? That people who are older than you don't give you the credit you deserve? I'm hardly old enough to be qualified to look down on people who are younger than me, but I totally do it. But by the same token, I get so frustrated when people insinuate that I'm naive or that I can't be as good at my job because I'm under 30. It's a double-edged sword, I think. Interesting topic!

  2. Indeed, this IS an interesting topic! Do you find most of your true friends being older than you (even if not by much?) I've always been judged as being much younger than my actual age, same as my Husband, but looks aren't everything. We have to fight to be taken seriously by our peers, because even though we're just as qualified and on "their" level, we're still looked over because of our "youth." I wish I could say the same about the "lifers" at our grocery store, unfortunately the ones at my store make my eyelid twitch. I have to watch them like a hawk with coupons and sales items as they're not as observant as the checkers closer to my age.

  3. I've been thinking about this lately too. A new young adults pastor was just hired at our church - and he's younger than me. How the heck can I have a young adults pastor who is younger than me?!? I'm not THAT old! He's nice enough but like you said - he's not someone I think I'll be able to take "seriously" as a pastor. A friend, maybe, but I'll take my "pastor" conversations to a pastor older than me ... even though I'm sure he's just as qualified. I'm totally an ageist!

  4. Lindsey - I have found that! Not so much at my current job but in past ones for sure. It's definitely a common thing.

    Supahmama - Most of my friends are my age or younger...I usually get mistaken as being younger too (which I'll never complain about) but it can be a disadvantage at work for sure.

    Holly - I think I'd feel the exact same way in your situation!

  5. The last line really sealed this one for me. I'm so with you... even though I hate when people I work with treat me like I'M an idiot because I'm 27 & they're all, like, 61. Damn it.

  6. My first question to the nurses was was "Do you have any children"? There are some golden oldies which still think you need to give birth in a traditional manner. And, there are some youngsters who have kids or sisters etc. and they watched the delivery!