Recently I had something of a run in with a little young thing, who looked around 22 years of age, at a happening LA hotel bar.
The incident went as follows: Trying to push through a crowded room, she looked at me and said, ‘Move! We want to get through!’ I was taken aback by her tone and general sense of entitlement which said, ‘I’m more important than you so get out of my way. ‘
My disgruntled response was, “Wow, you are really behaving like a colossal bitch!” The 22-year-old retorted with, “Well…. You’re OLD!!!”, fully intending that remark to be the final below the belt sting she wanted. Unfortunately for her I came back with: “Well, guess what? You’re going to be old too one day. So, remember this moment. And… you’ll still be a bitch.”
A few generations ago it used to be we had more respect for those older than us. We looked to them for experience and advice. In fact, back then it was deemed okay and even commonplace for the over-40 set to go out to clubs and bars whereas nowadays it’s pretty strictly limited to the under 3os. Hence her insult.
After all what the hell was I doing going out? And isn’t my name something like Ethel or Martha or Gladys? I mean that’s what “old” women are called, right? (I actually see this kind of thing in acting character breakdowns on film and TV. Young writers, fresh out of school, reckon being over 40 is now ancient and those characters must, for some inexplicable reason, have the names of my grandmother’s era.)
Millennials are very much aware that there is a rudeness epidemic in America. 93% of millennials perceived there was a civility problem according to Weber Shandwick’s Civility in America Survey. But equally too many of them seem not to want to do much to address it.
Now I don’t want to be one of those people who bitterly go on about ageism but it’s evident that it is very much alive and thriving. Unlike the over 25’s in the Logan’s Run movie I’m not going to retire without a fight.
— Chimere Lynch (@ColoradoChimmy) October 10, 2016
Sadly though being “old” is so frowned upon in the USA and Millennials aren’t showing any signs of reversing this trend. Especially in Los Angeles where I live, many actresses are choosing to go under the knife in a fruitless attempt to ensure a little more longevity as the “young” leading lady they are/were/or hope to be.
Unfortunately for most of them, what ends up happening is that onlookers tend to notice the surgery first, before they see the woman or the talent. But then, what is the alternative?: Do nothing to yourself and you are cast as the mother to a man that is only 5 to 7 years your junior. (Sally Field in Forrest Gump and Mare Winningham in The Affair spring to mind.
But it’s not just the women for whom this has changed. In the new Star Trek movie, gone are the manly older men with experience like Scotty, Bones, Spock, Kirk or even later with Captain Picard. Instead it’s stuffed with pretty boys who have no gravitas or looks of experience.
Because again, nowadays for the mainstream heartthrob, “older” is frowned upon. Think of the male stars of old: the Humphrey Bogarts, Lee Marvins and Robert Mitchums. All were older, very manly and not too pretty or young.
They had LIVED and it showed –they were real, had gravitas, experience and were loved. But today? Would they be leading man material? Probably not. Thankfully Quentin Tarantino has redressed this in films- particularly Jackie Brown- by hiring older actors that were stars back in the 1970s but were virtually retired by Hollywood once age caught up with them.
Robert Forster and Pam Grier just killed it in Jackie Brown pic.twitter.com/YbJtDGoSoU
— Col. Sebastian Moran (@MyBearNinja) May 22, 2014
Yet the younger set watching those movies merely frowned and said, ‘Who are those old actors?’ What we are seeing now is a lack of respect for experience in favor of the “We want newer, younger, fresher!” mentality.
There are whole swathes of society where being young is the only option under consideration. And if you are applying for a job that has medical benefits? Guaranteed the powers that be will go for the younger option because who wants to pay more for an older person’s health insurance when we can get someone younger to do the same job who is easily moldable and will take lower pay?
People with experience come with a certain level of knowledge and wisdom but tragically many are overlooked. In turn the substance that comes with the experience and the accumulated knowledge is lost. “New” only works when the “old” is considered and factored in. (Historical revisionism anyone?)
There is actually room for all of us. Why acknowledge one and yet ignore or disrespect the other? It’s ironic since it was the baby boomers’ generation that was responsible for the birth of the teenager and the “Youthquake” movement.
Yet now that they are older, they are reaping what they sowed. But I will forge on, fight the urge to visit the surgeon for a nip and tuck and celebrate the fact that I’ve lived.
And if it shows? So what.
Julienne Davis is an actress and writer