On the Friday before Chicago's gigantic Gay Pride Parade, I walked past an intersection bedecked with rainbow flags fluttering from the lampposts. On each corner there two people from the Human Rights Campaign carrying clipboards and stopping people asking for their support for gay rights. They did not stop me, even though I have been gay several times longer than they have been alive.
Passing one pair who tried to engage those just in front me without not so much as a flicker of an eyelash to acknowledge my existence, I turned and walked up to one of them. “Did you not stop me because you knew I was gay, or did you not stop me because I am old and therefore my opinion does not matter?” She had no response, and I moved on.
The exact same thing had happened a few months earlier...a nice looking young man on the same corner with the same Human Rights clipboard stopping passersby...but no one over 40.
For most of my life being invisible was a form of protection from harassment. But times are different now, and to be invisible because I am old...to be invisible because I obviously have nothing to offer or contribute to society stings. But to be invisible to my own people hurts.
Of course I realize that some part of my being invisible is the result of the fact that I do nothing to make myself visible. Not sure what I could do...or that I particularly care...to make straights acknowledge my existence. But as to my fellow gays, there are a couple of reasons why I don't try harder. For one thing, there are many things other than age which divide us: popular culture interests and experiences primary among them. I honestly cannot relate to some of the social things they are attracted to, and they cannot possibly understand the social aspects of the time in which I was raised.
However, since we live in the same present, I am exposed to those things which have great appeal to those younger than I and, because they are not what I'm accustomed to, I mostly just don't have a clue as to what their interest is based on. I am quite sincere when I say that I cannot tell one hottest musical artist du jour from the others. Bands seem to rocket to fame one minute and then disappear...and again, I cannot tell one from the other and have no idea how anyone can. (I know, I might as well go around with an “Old Fogie” sign around my neck. But by the same token, they have had only peripheral knowledge of or interest in those things which were popular when I was their age.
A charge often and somewhat justifiably leveled against the “old” is that they seem to have far fewer interests than the young. Few seem to consider that to those in their twenties and early thirties, things tend to be...and in fact are...new and exciting. Partying, drinking, dancing, and bar hopping are fun and exciting, filled with new things. But it is simply a fact of being human that repetition tends to dull the sharpness of any experience; the more often we experience something, the less exciting it becomes. The “been there; done that” phenomenon is real.
What's that you say? I've drifted off the subject of the invisibility of the old? Well, that's not entirely true...there is a definite link. The young push the old to their peripheral vision, I suspect, in a deeply subliminal form of self protection. By doing so they are spared the necessity to contemplate the fact that they themselves, if they are lucky enough to live long enough, will one day become invisible to those much younger than themselves. While I very consciously avoid reality whenever possible, it is a trait which exists in all of us.
I suppose it is a matter of our not wanting to see what we do not wish to see, or to confront that which we do not want to confront. The old are a subliminal reminder to the young of what they will become, and that is simply unacceptable. The young don't have to worry about becoming invisible. They will remain young forever. Of course they will.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).