Monday, July 01, 2013

Invisible

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).

8 comments:

Kage Alan said...

First, allow me to say that I agree with everything you say regarding the younger generation pushing the former generations into invisibility.

However, allow me to say that I have developed over the past couple of years a way of non-verbal communication when I'm walking with my father that makes someone think twice about approaching us.

I've been able to successfully carry this over into while I'm out and about by myself. It is entirely possible given your general feelings about people, places and things, that you have unknowingly also perfected this non-verbal communication that makes people not want to come up to you.

Just a thought.

Dorien/Roger said...

You of course have a point, Kage, but I really think the problem doesn't go much deeper than the fact that our society tends to devalue the old. My experiences with and observations of sidewalk pollsters have long verified that the do not approach (or, since they're usually standing still) or in any way attempt to engage anyone over 40.

Grumpy Olde Krowe said...

Dorian I saw a some of this when I was taking care of my elderly mother in a wheelchair. Some would purposefully ignore her, or scowl when she refused to be ignored. She wasn't pretty to look at, she had had a hard life and it showed. It used to hurt me when that happend. However there were just as many who run up in embrace her out of the blue, or smile at her. Those were the people who missed their own mama's or grandmamas. Mind you I live in the south, and we are probably more expressive and touchy feely here. But I saw as much good as bad in people then. Now I am getting older, and I am experiencing this again. I try to hold on to the good and beautiful souls out there that do see, and as far as the rest, I try to remember I was young and foolish once myself. Just the opinion of one older eccentric cat lady from the south. Hugs.

Dorien/Roger said...

Sadly, so many people have no idea of how the old feel until, if they are lucky enough to do so, they become old themselves.

Sue Brown said...

I have spent a good deal of time talking to elderly people as I worked with them for a while. Taking the time to 'talk' to people rather than just rush them through the washing and dressing meant that we relaxed with each other and I heard so many amazing tales.

I realised I was personally invisible at about 35. I'm not much to look at and neither was I confident, and I think like Kage says, a combination of all three, age, looks and confidence, and I acquired a 'leave me alone' air.

Now, a few years on, and actually feeling more confident (in certain situations), I'd be happy to talk to people, but I'm more invisible as I'm older. I try to initiate the talking. Sometimes it works.

Talon p.s. said...

GAY LOOKS BEAUTIFUL ON YOU OLD MAN!!!!
and I come from a line of people who's Elders are revered in our daily lives. The others are just too short sited to stop and cherish your value, and sadly they will miss you after you are gone.

At least some of us stop to hear your story

~Prin

Lassiter Fallen said...

I have always been an oddity among ny generation, but I enjoy learning from my elders. No one has more colorful tales, or more powerful insight to times I wasn't lucky enough to live in. (And that's a lot, I'm only 21.)

I often have far more friends that are 2-3 times my age, than of my own peer group, and while I can distinguish the music artists, there is no need as they are all the same. Why did "Baby baby baby Oh" take precedence over "Bye bye Ms American Pie" ?

Maybe I am the exception to the rule, or maybe the right young people haven't met you yet.

Dorien/Roger said...

Thanks to all who have taken the time to comment on "Invisible."

Lassiter, I very much admire your attitude at so young an age. I wish that you were in the majority of your peers rather than in the distinct minority.

Again, thank you.