I used to be prejudiced toward older people. Maybe I still am. I didn’t realize the prejudice existed. I thought I was cool and that I calculated people's value equally.
As I aged, the bias turned itself against me. I loved my flaming
curly red hair, but at age 52, I felt the call of the wild: “Go natural.” I
cut my hair into a boy-like cut and waited for the salt and pepper. It
wasn’t there. My daily mirror checks exposed a crop of white hair. I
called myself Quetip. I was one white-topped woman. One day a child
pointed at me and asked his mom, “What is that grand mama doing?” I hold
nothing against being a grand
mom—really, I love it—but something snapped. That day I stepped out of
my youth and became an older adult. I entered the youth of my old age.
I remember climbing the steps of the pyramids outside of Mexico
City. I was greeted by an elder who said, “Welcome to the end of your
youth.” I was 40 and wasn’t ready to give it up! I thought, “What does
he know?” Twelve years later, I gave in. I was maturing.
I began to notice subtle changes in the way people looked at me.
Maybe it was a projection, but people looked through me or past me as
they hurried through their lives. As a younger woman, one who was often
center stage, I was used to being noticed, but now, I receded to the
sidelines of life.
My sister had a heart attack and I raced to LA to assist her
recovery. When she returned home, she carried an assisted living package
– a walker. All of the sudden walkers were cool. I checked out the
older passersby as I strolled through the streets of LA. I stopped and
talked with people about their walkers. Behind these walkers were
interesting people, not old folks. Again, my prejudices made themselves
known. I previously looked down on people using canes and walkers, but
now my contemporaries were using walking aids, wheel chairs, and
scooters. As I awakened from a silent fog, I wondered, “How many filters
and preconceived notions lurk in the dark corners of my mind? What
thoughts do I look through that determine how I view others?” There’s
not an answer; it was a moment of recognition: the mind has its secrets.
I’ve settled into my older years and continue to uncover and heal
my prejudices. People don’t look at me the way they used to, but I’ve
discovered that the transition from younger to older is not only about
who I think I am; it’s about letting go of an image that I believed gave
me some kind of advantage in life. No longer do I hold the success
images of youth. I have less money; my wrinkled face watches the jiggles
as I walk. Things hang off my body that previously
stood at attention, but there’s a softness replacing the vigor of youth.
There’s a knowing that I never was those things. I was never a body. I
was never young or old. I was never my thoughts or beliefs. They were
just an operating system. I was more, always more, and knowing that
certainly makes my life EZier and EZier.