Friday, October 24, 2014

The "little old lady" syndrome

 

The worst part of aging is not what aging does to you, it is what younger people think it does to you. This is going to be kind of a rant. You have been warned.

A couple weeks ago I was volunteering, with a couple of other artists, at an art exhibit. I got talking to one of them, a woman probably ten or more years my junior, about her photography. She told me she was actually taking a lot of photos with her phone and editing them, using a photo app on her iPad. "Would you like me to show you how I do it?" she asked. Without waiting for an answer, she whipped out her iPad and proceeded to demonstrate photo editing, using an app called Snapseed. She showed me all this, as if I had never seen an iPad and wasn't aware that cameras no longer use film. She spoke slowly and precisely—so I could keep up, y'know. Irritating as this was, I kept quiet and followed along. " isn't that neat?!" she concluded. I agreed, and added that her app worked quite a lot like the Photogene app I use, but I was frustrated that I could not change the pixel size, with any precision, in Photogene and wondered if her app had a better resizing feature. I told her I need to resize my photos to use them most efficiently on my blog. "You have a blog?" she asked slowly. I could see something change in her face—perhaps she was actually seeing me for the first time. Perhaps she was no longer seeing a "little old lady" but a person with a reasonable grasp on technology and the modern world. We had a nice conversation then. (And no, as far as she knows, Snapseed isn't able to precisely resize photos either.)

I'm not a fool. Neither am I extraordinary. I am not telling you all this to brag about how smart and up-to-date I am—for an old lady. I am telling you that with a few exceptions ( which I'll get to—) my friends and I are pretty bright, capable and aware and know a hell of a lot more than even a lot of bright, capable and aware younger people might think. And, for what it's worth, I think we all get funnier and wiser as the years go by. I hate being treated like a little old lady. So generic. So boring. I started noticing it a long time ago. Somewhere around the age of fifty women become nearly invisible. It's not so much that we are treated badly as much as that we are ignored. And underestimated. And marginalized.

And it gets worse. We are being sabotaged from within.

I was at a meeting this week where we were told an absent member would join us via FaceTime. One of my contemporaries rolled her eyes and declared she had no idea what that meant, claiming she was "too old for all this new stuff!" Later in the meeting we were told about online resources and web site changes that were really useful to our group, to which this same woman gaily chuckled, "if you can find a young person to help you use it!" Tee hee. So I guess I can't blame people for thinking age makes it impossible to learn new things when people like this woman keep confirming it. But it isn't true. It is true that there are a few older people who haven't embraced technology, but it isn't because they are old and unable to learn. It is because they aren't interested, or haven't the need, or maybe just phobic about change, all of which are fine, but they use age as an excuse. And I wish they would stop it. They make us all look stupid.

(My all-time favorite New Yorker cartoon, BTW)

And if I had not posted my photo you probably wouldn't have known how old, or how young I am. And, to me it doesn't matter. How I look and how I communicate are unrelated. Isn't it ironic that technology and the internet may just be the best thing that has ever come along for leveling the field? Like the dog said, on the internet nobody knows you're a little old lady.

End of rant.

 

 

47 comments:

  1. I use OneEdit to resize photos on my I-Pad. It allows me to give exact sizes.

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    1. Anonymous8:40 PM

      Another good one is AutoDesk's Pixlr Express+.

      JanetT

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    2. Anonymous3:26 PM

      Love it, totally agree with you. I am on the computer, keep up with all the newest gadgets and generally am with it....Those that do not, miss a lot out of life, My life story The Red Silk Robe is out there also on Amazon, and I am going to become a new greatgrandmother again,. Life is great., even if you are old but think young and keep up with everything new...Well said lady....

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  2. I couldn't agree more with your post! I'm sometimes tempted to own up to my real identity on my blog but always decide that anyone who visits it more than once is coming back to see what I do and therefore my age or what I look like is irrelevant.

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  3. Oh how true this is Terry - the worst time for me was attending a course in how to use my new digital SLR camera, where I ended up completely marginalised, and furious at myself for not being more assertive about it (and I used to teach assertiveness training in a past life!) - but in an unfamiliar environment, being patronised by a whole crowd of younger people, my confidence just flew out the window... though I did offer the trainer some feedback later. It didn't help that the course was (a) expensive and (b) a birthday treat!

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  4. Jacquie Scuitto4:04 AM

    LOL! I am usually perceived online as being much younger than I am. OTOH I make use of being a Little Old Lady when traveling alone, esp with lifting luggage -- which I appreciate very much. However for resizing photos I still use IrfanView which allows for very precise measurements.


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  5. Oh, Dear. I better take advantage of the next 4 months before I turn 50!!

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  6. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

    My father died in 1990, a time when I was just beginning to learn to use a SUN workstation and a high end desktop publishing program. He was not at all interested in learning to use email or a computer even though I told him our correspondence with each other would go up. I often wonder what he would have thought about the capabilities we now have.

    My mother was like your contemporary and worse, she dithered when presented with new technology. I loved them both but determined long ago I would not be left behind when it came to things technical.

    My knowledge of software and computers on the other hand, outstripps most of my grandkids and my nieces and nephews.

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  7. How true, how true. I'm 67 and loving it!

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  8. You are no older or younger than me. You are an extremely talented, thoughtful, expressive, observing, creative and sharing person. I truly appreciate that. Thank you for being you.

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  9. Such a good post. Thank you.

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  10. Amen! I recently was sitiing with an investment advisor who happens to take care of some on my own. He made a remark about 70 year olds not being computer savvy. Looking him square in the eye, I assured him at as a 70 yo, I am fairly competent on the computer, iPad and phone. What is more, he manages my mother's investments. She is 96 and does pretty darned well using her iPad to read, to email and more. grrrrrrr.......

    Thanks for this post

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  11. Sing it, Sister! I experienced the same invisibility you described when I was morbidly obese. After years of struggle with my weight I sought medical help and once I'd lost half my body weight people (strangers as well as acquaintances) began to see and respond to me. I'm turning 50 this year and recently quit coloring my hair so we'll see what happens. I LOVE the way you handled the encounter you had with your new friend. ;)

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  12. I agree. Although I fall into the category of choosing not to bother with more than basic technology (reading my favorite blogs!), I also resist being classified as a senior, with all the implications you describe. Although I am one, I am much younger in my mind...so far.

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  13. Very well said, Terry! I can't even tell you how much it irritates me when people, but especially older women, do that "I'm too old to understand these new fangled things" line. By the way, there's a wonderful novel that addresses this aging/invisibility thing, called "Calling All Invisible Women" by Jeanne Ray. It's about a woman over 50 who realizes that her family can't see her (and doesn't notice that they can't see her) and she literally starts disappearing, so she decides to find others and DO something with that. I think you'd enjoy it

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  14. Right on, Terry!

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  15. Excellent post Terry, thank you...I love how you managed to keep quiet :)

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  16. AMEN!!! Fear of the new, different, unknown can happen at all ages and stages of life. Why is it more acceptable to say"I'm too old" than "I'm too scared" or "I'm not interested"? Nothing cam be done in the first case; change is possible for the others.

    Dolores Miller

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  17. Bless you, Terry. As usual you are right on!

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  18. Enjoyed your "rant", Terry. It often applies to old men, too! BTW, I've done quite a bit of photography over the last few years and know the problem with resizing. The best program I have for that purpose is "Thumbs Plus", a program I won in a photo contest years ago. It beats Photo Elements, IMO. Keep up the good work with that blog. My best to you and Ray! - Carl

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  19. You go girl! I agree with everything you said and will add how much it needs to be said!! Thank you for being a courageous voice for all of us 'older' people out there! My husband also loved your rant, btw, and faces this kind of prejudice on the job everyday.

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  20. Excellent post. I have friends who think the internet is a tool of the devil. They say we've managed without it for all these years. You could say that about cars, TV, refrigeration, clean water......

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  21. i am 72 and have a desk top, a laptop and a kindle that i use all the time. Always been interested in computers but hubby doesn't want to have anything to do with them except to look at grand kids pictures on facebook. If i don't know how to do something i google it are send a message to my grand daughter that studied it in collage and ask. Learning at our age is a good thing

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  22. I'm 36 and I sometimes think I'm too old for all this new-fangled technology....

    On the other end of ageism, I started quilting when I was 26 and I still experience kindly, gentle advice about beginning quilting when I visit quilting shops, booths at shows etc. Which is kinda funny when I teach beginner classes, teach workshops on art quilting techniques at my local club and have had quilts accepted to major exhibitions. The advice is starting to drop off now as I approach 40.... because I'm getting more wrinkles?

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  23. Back in the mid-80's I bought my first computer, couldn't for the life of me interest my kids in it then. They resisted and I kept up. I kept giving them iPhones or iPods for gifts and suddenly they got it. My son is now an art director and sits at the computer day in and day out, My daughter is one of those people with her phone plastered to her face wherever she goes. And I think I'm pretty good at tinkering and messing with computers- I am quite shocked at the incompetence of some of my peers to send something as simple as a text!
    When I turned 50 I suddenly noticed I was wearing the Cloak of Invisibility wherever I went. I used to say that now is the time to start shoplifting because I could push the display cases out to the street and nobody would notice (or HELP!)
    Now, with all my bravado, why in hell can't I get my Airport Express to work? I just may have to play the old lady card next, tried everything else!
    Being 70 sucks because the time ahead is all folded up- so much to do, so little time left! I avoid the number, pretend I'm not there yet.

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  24. hey, good rant, I am 66 and a power user of Photoshop and Indesign (and a few other publishing programs) I explained my Mac problems to an Apple store tech and he was very impressed with all my diagnostic prowess! Now if I could get those little snots at drive up places to stop calling me "sweetie".

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  25. I have been following you since I discovered THE 12s. Technology has nothing to do with age but it has everything to do with whether one wants to pursue it/use it /or not. As for me, I embrace it.

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  26. Here, here!!! Great post!

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  27. I couldn't have said it more eloquently myself :)

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  28. I am a little old lady. And not an exceptional one. I always think your rants are insightful so I've read through this post and all the comments twice. And I can't relate. I can honestly say I have never felt ignored, underestimated or marginalized. I don't give a rats sneeze what other people think of me. I know that what is important is what I think of myself. As annoying as your encounter must have been, you changed an attitude and perhaps encouraged the person to grow a bit. For me, the worst part of aging IS what aging does. If I had a choice between what others think and younger eyes and knees, I'd take new eyes and knees!

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  29. It is definitely interesting how we treat each other. In my sewing guild, there are ladies who can't get on the yahoo group, and there's some that are creating garment patterns with a software program. Age doesn't seem to enter into the capability of it.

    I support software for my job, so you'd think that I'd be very tech oriented. However, I have to say that I get tired of learning new techie stuff at home. I stare at a screen all day and can't stand to do it at home too. I just want my pc to work. No bells. No whistles, no gaming. I want my phone to call people and take pictures and text. I have a game app only because I sometimes have to wait in the car and don't have knitting with me. I don't have a problem learning stuff. I CAN figure it out, it's just that I "get" to do that all freakin' day. I don't want to do it at home too. It would be like working 24/7.

    On the flip side of the ageism coin, I recently went to the American Sewing Guild national conference. For all they say that they want to attract younger members, there was only one younger teacher (under 50) in the whole weekend's lineup. Luncheon speakers cracked jokes about wrinkles, grandkids, fat/saggy butts, and other old age jokes. At nearly 50, I felt totally out of place. No wonder we don't get younger members.

    Bless you for being patient with your young acquaintance. She should have waited for an answer to her question. I bet she will from now on. :)

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  30. Oh my! yes indeed! Perfect post!

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  31. You are now a master and passing your skills along. I was "really smart" (smart mouth, smarty pants) as a young person. The older I get, the smarter I know my mother was.

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  32. Well said that woman. Age is truly an attitude of mind, even if the body doesn't think so.

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  33. So well said, Terry! I haven't run into that situation - YET -- but it doesn't surprise me and I love the way you handled it. You were much more polite than I would have been: I would have given that girl my rant or a version of it, right then and there. GRRRR...

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  34. Anonymous4:46 PM

    Perhaps was she trying to be helpful and inclusive? It did not sound like she was being condescending. I am nearly 50, use most technology and am interested. However a lot of times - if they talk with me - younger people (under 35) just talk over my head about apps, websites etc, and won't explain anything like it is beneath them. I would be glad if someone were to explain something to me. Maybe in her enthusiasm, she did not think about asking you if you were familiar with it. I would not take it so personally. There are plenty of people over 60 who do not know what a lot of the new technology is and have absolutely no interest.

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  35. brilliant piece - I have some amazing friends that are much more versed in using the technology than I, and others who are like the woman who said the technology is too much, too hard etc..
    I can tell you that my father who did not want a computer in his house has learned the merits of it when our son moved to the other side of the country. He Skypes with his grandad for a couple of hours at a time.. and my dad loves it.. My father is 83 years old. Anything is possible if you are interested in checking it out..
    Regards from Alberta,
    Anna

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  36. Years ago my oldest stepson's first wife began a conversation explaining the women's movement of the early 1970's. She thought that I was closer to her mother's age than to her own. (I was eight years older than stepdaughter-in-law and I was in college during said women's movement.)

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  37. Brilliantly said! I'm sending the link to friends, friends and more friends. We're sick of being invisible! LOL

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  38. My impressions are quite different from yours. I am 68 and work with late teens and early 20 year old co workers. No one asks if I need help unless I ask. They are overjoyed to help me navigate Pin interest and explain hashtag to me. Two things I can live without, I think.

    I would have an iPhone if I had anyone to talk to on it. That sounds sad, but I have never chatted on the phone with people. I had a phone for 90 days and never used it. Not once. So I returned it.

    I use iPhoto to transfer pictures from my phone to the computer and I size and touch them up for blog usage. But that's as far as I am interested in going. It's not that I couldn't do more--it's that I am just not interested in doing more, but it's far more than others my age and younger are doing.

    I think we each reach our level of satiety with technology and thats okay. I ask for help when I need it and keep quiet when I have nothing to add to the conversation. The constant use of the phone is both irritating and quite, quite sad. There are real people standing next to them and they do not converse with them.

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  39. love it. Thanks for the rant.

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