Ronni Bennett, whom I admire enormously, has written many blogs about ageism, prejudice against older people. I’ve certainly felt it; I know what she means. But now I feel like I’m also a perpetrator. People are friendly here in Pittsburgh and often talk to each other without formal introductions, particularly on the bus. I actually made a good friend by talking to someone on the bus. A few weeks ago a woman started talking to me on the bus to class. She gets on several stops after me and goes to a class in the same building. I had seen her before but never spoken to her at length. We had long conversations on two separate trips, first on the bus, then sitting and waiting for classes to begin; we arrived very early. At first she seemed an obvious candidate for a new friend, she lives nearby and is looking for someone to "do things with." But the second conversation was a rerun of the first; we never covered any new ground. So I’m not anxious to make this new friend, and I’m feeling guilty. I think ageism has a lot to do with it. She may be older than me; she’s certainly slower. We don’t seem to have any common interests. She didn’t remember what she told me two days before.  I have a strong suspicion she really wants to be friends because I drive and she doesn’t. I’ve been taking a later bus, the last few days, but I think I have to go back to the early one; I got to class late today. I guess I’ll continue feeling guilty; she obviously needs a new friend, but I also believe I’m entitled to choose my friends on the basis of common interests, not need or guilt.

3 thoughts on “Ageism

  1. Thank you both for your absolution. But I don’t think it’s that simple. Ageism is so pervasive in our culture it is almost impossible not to feel it. I’m not pursuing youth, I’m not kidding myself about my age or my state of decrepitude. People in my life die; they don’t pass away. So maybe I’m not afraid of death, only of slowly dying, becoming physically or mentally deteriorated. That’s where the ageism comes in. When I talked to this woman my thoughts were that she was much older than me, and in much worse condition than I am. So while I can think of many reasons to justify my not becoming her friend, and keep in mind I recently moved to Pittsburgh and am looking for friends, I know there was that little tickle of ageism in my mind.

  2. We meet people all the time who are not friend candidates, and for hundreds, thousands, uncountable reasons.
    It’s not ageism and you’re not required to be friends with anyone you don’t want to be. Connie’s right – you’re being discriminating.

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