Agesplaining: Far More Annoying Than Mansplaining
As I mentioned once before, here’s an image I really hate. It gets trotted out from the photo bank every time there’s a story about a ‘senior’, a ‘granny’ or anyone else over fifty. It’s not that the young feel contempt for older people but that many have no feelings at all because they haven’t been part of a multi-generation family or community.
Reading the memoirs of the barrister Jeremy Hutchinson, I was struck by the way in which the young sought to learn from the more experienced, and the popularity of mentoring. I wondered how much it happens at colleges now.
Agesplaining has become endemic, but had its roots in a noble intention; to be more inclusive and draw in older people who had become cut off. It has now resulted in the ridiculously condescending presenter style adopted by the BBC and the call centre language used by service companies. Typical agesplaining came to me from the help desk of Sight & Sound, the esteemed BFI magazine, whose online interface constantly crashes. This ranged from a bad-tempered drone asking me if I’d tried TIOTIOA, to another one elaborately explaining that I needed to clear my cache (which I’d already done) as if talking to a dim five year-old.
Perhaps it was always like this; the young dismissing the generations above them – but this time around I can’t help thinking that the boomers have been there first and have had wider experience than the current generation. They’ve more communication skills and are more worldly, as well as being less sensitive to criticism. Technology is still new ground for some – but frankly, tech didn’t quite live up to its promise and is pretty easy to pick up (unless you’re my friend Maggie, who turns off her computer every night ‘in case it overheats’).
We’re now expected to work until 67 in jobs where we’re not considered to be ‘part of the team’ after forty. But the problem, as we’re slowly coming to see, is that age is not linear in the way it used to be. This is Chuando Tan, a Singaporean photographer. He’s 51 years old. He’s also got the muscle definition of a 25 year-old gym bunny (he doesn’t drink or smoke). Looking younger makes you feel better but must only increase the disparity; after all, you’re involved in a deception.
So Tan is an extreme example, but the agesplainers don’t realise that one person’s 70 is not another’s. Mental alertness relies on regular communication, good diet, exercise and continuous learning. Many younger people now work in cubicles with headphones on, and never develop verbal dexterity.
The most challenging mental workouts I faced in full employment involved being in a small office with four writers. The crackle of ideas buzzing about the room always kept you on your toes. So to have someone talking to me on the phone (they never do it to me in person) as if there was a sheet of thick glass between us drives me crazy.
It’s the last real stigma, and it can’t be removed. The state wants us to work later (not a bad thing) but human nature dictates that younger employees want to be with those born in their own decade.
There’s an argument that suggest the US’s so-called SJW employees must be young to overcome ingrained prejudices (Marvel’s writing team of young women have been getting stick for supposedly promoting a left-wing agenda and causing sales of comics to freefall), so does that mean older employees can’t be woke? Adaptability is often what older staff do best.
There’s one way to fight back; call out agesplainers and teach them a better way to communicate. If colours, creeds and genders can get equal rights, why can’t ages?