Well, I tried to post an ABBA video from YouTube this morning, but for whatever reason it’s not working. So you’ll have to wait for your morning dose until it shows up or I give up and re-post it.

I have been thinking about age this morning. I’m making friends with a delightful young man I’ll call Charles. I met him out with his friends this week for the first time, and we had a lovely time. He was teaching me how to three-step (or something?) at a local, completely empty gay bar. Lots of fun, and I quite liked his friends. At one point in the evening Charles mentioned he was from a certain small Texas town where one of my good friends is also from. I asked his age, wondering if they might know each other. And Charles got weird on me – blushed, shifted his eyes around, and stammered out his age. I noted his reaction, and went on with the conversation.

So yesterday I asked him (via e-mail) why he had reacted oddly when I asked his age. His response: “I guess I was worried you would suddenly think to yourself, “Why am I out with this kid…??”” Which is ridiculous, of course, he’s only three years younger than me.  But that stark insecurity came from somewhere, and it got me thinking.

In the last week, I have had two people literally not believe my answer when they asked how old I was – one was sure I was older because of my professional accomplishments and one was sure I was younger based on my appearance. I showed one my driver’s licence (the one who thought I had to be older) and one my business card (the one who thought I was a 21-year-old undergraduate). It’s exhausting, this constant concern about age!

I’m too young to be a professional. I’m too old for my looks. Charles is too young to be friends with me. I’m too young to have a substantial and relevant moral and ethical position. (That last one is a whole other story I won’t even get into here.)

I am so freaking tired of people making judgments based on age! My age, your age, my children’s age, none of this is information you can use to make a personal judgment

Recently I’ve watched several of the old episodes of Doogie Howser, M.D. on, which has also brought up some of thinking about age. Setting aside the rather laughable theoretical basis for the show, it’s interesting seeing an image of a teenager functioning in an adult world and dealing with professional slights and injustices based on his age. I remember experiencing the same intellectual slights and personal injustices as a teenager. I occasionally feel them now, albeit not nearly as often.

And ageism can certainly plague the young and the old – just last night a friend cringed in passing at the thought of an elderly couple having sex (and I regret I did not stand up and argue the point as I know that the author Joan Price would have done).

So what are your experiences with ageism? And how do you work to keep your interactions clean of ageism?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. Karen,

    As long as you’ve watched “Hee Haw”, I don’t think your age really matters.

    With love,

    Lynn (sorry, dear readers, it’s an inside joke)

  2. I have to say that this is funny. My first interactions with you were here, but when I met you in person at Our Whole Lives training, my first thought was “Wow, she’s so young. Wow, I’m so old.” It actually took me a day to sit down and get to know you a little better. I had to address some thoughts within myself. You made me feel old.

  3. Yes, Don, some people who “meet” me first online and then in person are somewhat taken aback. (I used to have a picture up on my blog – perhaps I should get one up again.)

    I would like to gently point out that you allowed yourself to feel old by comparing our chronological ages. This is a point that I have needed to work on in myself – I can’t take on responsibility for making anyone feel old. I just can’t personally take that on.

    While I know that your feels were something that you felt, thought about, and let go, not everyone has been able to go through that process without blaming me. I’ve had people get angry at me because of my age – while clearly it’s just not something that I can help – except by continuing to live, which I fully intend to do!

    Thank you for your kind, supportive words about my writing this afternoon, Don. Much needed and much appreciated.

  4. (Inadvertently posted that before I was ready)
    What I had to address within myself wasn’t what you had accomplished at so young an age, but what I hadn’t. We all have grandiose dreams in youth. Some people follow them. Others find different paths. One of the things that I have come to terms with is that I am still growing up. I am still learning what it is to be an adult, a parent, to be me.

    On just the subject of ageism, I fall back on comments I have made before. We all use stereotypes. They are a crutch. We should use them, when we have to, and abandon them when we have moved on. And we need to move on. The use of the crutch beyond absolute necessity is somewhat pathetic. However, an important part of moving on is acknowledging the crutch.

    You are one of those people that prove to us just how wrong our use of the crutch of ageism can be. Please continue to help us address it. I’m sorry it keeps hitting you.

  5. Hmm. I completely forgot to answer your questions What am I doing to address the ageism that I see in myself/others? I put myself in the middle. Not as a mediator, but as a participant. For myself, it forces me to see everyone in the group differently then I had before. Hopefully it makes me more vocal to speak up when I’m outside of the group(“Elderly couple sex? I hope I have/still plan on having the energy and drive that they have.”). Externally, maybe I can draw members of each group into conversation with each other. I mean if I have interests with both, maybe they do too. And I also can be an example.

  6. Well, I’m the same age as you and my own brother and sister-in-law thought you were an adult and I was a kid even though the only tangible difference between us was that you had a child at the time and I didn’t, so….

    But I’ve been in the same situation as you, where people think I’m too smart to be as young as I am but too young-looking to be as old as I am. Like when I was 17 and my 40-year-old friend poured me a glass of wine because he completely forgot that I wasn’t 21 yet. And when I was 26 and my infant and I got nasty looks from people on the train because “unwed teenagers shouldn’t have babies.”

    It gets tiresome, but, I think if we humans didn’t ever apply any stereotypes at all, we’d all go insane from having to look at similar situations with new eyes every time.

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