Youth & Age

May 3rd, 2008 § 0 comments

Of late I wonder if it all comes back to those adolescent musings on gender I entertained as an undergrad. When I think about the majority of my undergraduate I work I remember how so much of it had to do with myself and being a young woman in a world dominated and dictated by older white men, and being in a relationship of a particular kind very young. It seems silly now looking back to think I was so preoccupied, but if I think more carefully I can remember why. The position I had put myself in, both maritally and in terms of lifestyle, made me unique from others and a target of public perception. It preoccupied me because it was a large force in my life for many years. Every year we became older it was less of an issue to deal with, we became more “normal,” and the less it became a question to answer.


As a woman there seem to be certain ages you go through that get more attention than others. Say for instance teenage girls from about 13 or 14 to 18 or 19, who are prime targets for male flirtation from all ages. Somehow it seems to be a societally sanctioned age of sexiness, perhaps it really is an age where one exudes a sort of Lolita-like charm, but all aged men seem drawn by it. The early twenties are not the same, I don’t get the same kind of attention I used to, I assumed it was because I was married or had simply gotten uglier in the past few years, perhaps both. Lately, however, I am beginning to wonder if the middle of the twenties fall into another of those desirable categories. Perhaps it has to do with age groups, what can be accomplished and at what ages. Most men are not looking for a wife in their early twenties, so perhaps not being part of youthful social groups was useful, but now perhaps they are. I am not exactly sure what it is, but I seem to be getting a lot of “favors” and “attentions” I don’t remember getting since I was a teenager. I have also been noticing it is not the same kind of attention, it is more of a possessive adoration than an outright call for sex. No one really seems to want physical favors, they are just willing to do things for me they won’t do for others. In France I got very used to being ignored, unless it was to be stared at like a foreigner, and it is a little odd feeling to be back in a position of “control,” of sorts.

The flip side to these new wonderings (no, not wanderings) has to do with being around Susana, the older and ever interesting Argentinian grad student. Being around her, so interesting, so determined, so accomplished, I realize how much age has to do with how people in our society are treated. I always assumed my mother was treated the way she is because she is blond and pretty, not because she is older, but I am not sure this is the case. It is amazing to me that Susana’s show was by far the best, so much better she seemed not even a part of the group, and yet they have completely dismissed her. I watch professors as well as students treat her as though she has lost the capacity to think, due to her gray hair. The older men who bend over backwards for me are horrible to her. The situations and the people I can charm with a smile and a demure gesture, she cannot get around because she has no smile to offer. It is frustrating to watch, and I am powerless to intervene. I dislike that I am supposed to feel empowered and special by this treatment of her. One day I will be her, powerless in the face of all those I can charm now. I told her tonight at dinner she cannot, must not, should not, let them dismiss her. She shrugged, and said, what can I do? She dismisses them and calls it even. I think it was in Pride and Prejudice that Elizabeth said, “the more I see of the world the more dissatisfied I am with it.”

Some hateful photo people and I have had conversations about relationships that break the acceptable age barriers, how he should not be friends with a twenty something couple any more than I should be friends with an archaic analogue image maker, but perhaps that is a start of what can be done about these assumptions and situations. Like all things in our society, however, they need to work the other way around. There is nothing really strange about an older man being friends with a young woman, what we need are young men to respect and consider an older woman as an equal. On my less thoughtful days I begin to wonder if it all comes back to those same conversations that began my relationship with that hateful someone, does appearance and attitude (or both), with age factored in, come down to the way in which one is treated? I wonder if my early suspicions were more correct than I grew to believe, one of my “favorite” critics seems to have picked myself and another grad out of the group, and both of us have a striking similarity of appearance and manner. What then are we chosen for? Perhaps Susana is lucky in no longer having to bother with such a ridiculous question, of course I imagine she might be asking, why then and I dismissed?

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