Ageism cuts both ways: Don’t Discount the Kids

Gen-Xers to Millenials
Sharper than WE were?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the What Kind of World do YOU Want? Series

Eavesdropping on an interesting discussion

Shortly after calling for an end to Stigma in my 2017 September Awareness Days article, I had the occasion to revisit the topic through another lens.

Coming across a couple of “kids” in the nearby park where my puppy TinkerToy and I sometimes wander, I was reminded yet again of the need to guard against our knee-jerk assessments.

By looks alone, it would have been all too easy to dismiss the pair as yet another Blonde Barbie and an over-eager lad who wanted nothing so much as to get her alone and in private.

Since we seemed to be wandering the same paths, Tink and I just a bit behind them, I had an opportunity to eavesdrop on their lively conversation.

BOOKS! They were discussing classic novels, comparing and contrasting them in a manner that would have done any geek-level book club proud.

Their vocabulary was certainly equal to my own, and their knowledge of the books they were discussing was superior.  They looked to be no older than 18 –  freshmen or sophomores, most likely, attending one of the many nearby colleges.

When they turned around to head back my way, apparently reaching a dead-end on one of the paths that Tinker wanted to investigate, I asked them how well they knew the park and if they knew where a different trail led.

I discovered, in the lengthy conversation that followed, that they were both not only intelligent but delightful – and very kind to Tink.  It turned out they were just beginning their senior year in High School!

I hope they discovered that whatever they initially thought about me was inaccurate as well — especially since I am probably at least as old as their grandparents.

How many times do we assume a “generation gap” that doesn’t really exist?  And how many opportunities to populate our world with friends of all ages pass us by because we do?

Have you ever actually talked with a couple of dark-skinned dread-locked young men — or a few of those “kids” with spiky purple and green hair, belly-baring tee shirts with confrontational sayings — and nose rings? (I mean, about more than who does their hair and what happens when they have a cold and need to blow their nose.)

Respect goes both ways. Some of them have equally “out of the box” views on drug abuse, politics and life itself that just might save us all.

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Another young beauty

I gave my phone number recently to a graduate student I met on another walk with Tink.  She and I were both heading home in different directions, passing each other on the sidewalk.

She was truly gorgeous, with long dark hair, a beautiful smile, and obviously much younger than I.

She stopped me to ask if I’d mind if she pet my puppy, and wanted to take a photo of Tink to send back home to her family.

That comment led to a lengthy conversation during which I learned where she was from, that she was a devout Muslim, that she wore the hajib only once she returned home — and that her mother was originally from Iran.

I shared that an Iranian doctor and his wife lived next door to my parents when I was in High School, along with a few examples to underscore the point that they were some of the loveliest people I had ever met – and that my father was a pioneer in America’s missile program.

That’s when I found out what she was studying: astrophysics!!

We went on to discuss feminism and how difficult it is still for female scientists to be taken seriously. She joked that she sometimes wondered if she needed to tie up her hair and don the geekiest pair of glasses she could find.

I suggested going to lectures in a lab coat to hide her figure – although the outfit outlining her curves could easily have taken her to lunch with the most conservative of American grandparents.

Her ready laughter was contagious, as we segued into the topic of relationships, and how difficult it was to recover from heartbreak and move on.  We hugged as we parted company reluctantly.

Did that interaction shatter any stereotypes about Muslim women?  Or beautiful women?  Or young women in general — or the interests of the younger generation of the world we share?

She, apparently, held no such stereotypes in her mind that might have encouraged her to believe that an older American woman walking her fluffy little dog had nothing to say that would be of interest to her.

Even though she doesn’t drink, I hope to introduce her to my trivia team at Tink’s Cheers bar – we need a few more young people at the table who have a clue about some of the topics that leave us “oldsters” shaking our heads!

More Stigma Busting

Speaking of Tink’s Cheers Bar (where everybody knows his name) . . . I have been relatively recently adopted by the friendliest and most eclectic group of interesting people it has ever been my pleasure to meet.

I am always eager to talk with one particular 30-something male covered in “ink” — quite a few tattoos, even for a bar where they are commonly seen.  This really nice guy seems to seek me out as well.

We have touched on everything from disabilities to hemispheric neglect and neuroscience, to incarceration, to goal setting and making a living. Nobody walks away without being uplifted by his positive outlook.

At the other end of the calendar . . .

There’s Rif, the gentleman with whom I share a birthday — along with, he tells me, a much younger Indian student who frequents the bar.  We plan to party together this November, gathered around the wood-burning firepit that is a winter feature of the large fenced in patio space outside.

Everybody knows Rif – and adores him. The trivia team on which we both play every Sunday night is named for him: Rif Raff.  He looks so much like Gandalf (long grey beard and walking stick included) that the young female patrons want to stroke his beard, and snap photos hugging each other closely.

Rif is primarily self-educated, spending many of his younger years with grandparents in Appalachia, and knows more about the natural world and “eating wild” than anybody I have ever met.  He is MUCH more valuable to the team than I am!

Beginning as a youngster, he continues to read the Oxford English Dictionary for fun!

I could go on to mention more than a few interesting individuals approaching my age and older, who interact with abandon with the other patrons.  They are age as well as color-blind, it seems to me, their backgrounds and current situations quite different from my own:

  • a Cincinnati bred “singing Irishman” who, winter and summer, will be seen in sandals, with a newsboy cap atop another of his huge wardrobe of tie-dyed tees. He is an artist with his own website where some of his 40 years of artwork can be seen, TDR Galleries . . .
  • another interesting Cincinnati native — a part-time driver who drinks only cola.  He often walks me safely home, and has been kind enough to take me on several personal tours of the city — with so many past careers that it would, no doubt, take an entire blog article to describe the ones I know about so far . . .
  • the single mom of an amazingly talented, ambiguously-gendered youth, who comes to support on karaoke nights in the front bar downstairs . . .
  • and many more fascinating characters, with depth that transcends all stereotypes stemming from their appearance, age, sexual preference or race.

IMAGINE what delights I would have missed had I walked Tink quickly by the front doors of this neighborhood bar after taking a hurried look at the crowd inside.

It might have been easy to do, especially since a motorcycle club occasionally parks so many bikes in front of the place that a less adventurous soul might have concluded it was “one of those biker bars!” (as if they knew what those are like!)

Stereotyping of all kinds hurts everybody –
but most of all, it hurts US!

The next time you catch yourself making assumptions,
take some time to check them out.
You might just meet some new best friends.

Interested in More?

Click HERE to catch up with Audrey and Tom (and their chocolate lab, Tink’s friend Emma), as they journey through the United States, spending time with people they might otherwise never have met, listening to their stories, and searching for the connections they always find and share (along with photos and videos of some gorgeous countryside!)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

111 Responses to Ageism cuts both ways: Don’t Discount the Kids

  1. I think you are definitely right about the ageism thing going both ways, Madelyn. My son, Gregory, can have a wonderful and intellectually stimulating conversation with an adult and so can many of his friends. I have more diverse friendships in the blogosphere than in real life but I don’t have many close friends as I am a loner and have such a demanding job and hobby. I am going to be staying on at my company for at least three more months full time as we lost nine senior partners in our firm on Friday. It was very devastating as two of them I worked for directly and almost exclusively. All due to the political environment in South Africa which is a sad shambles at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Robbie, I am so sorry to hear that you will be staying on! I know how overworked you’ve been and how much you were looking forward to time to pursue your personal goals. This sounds sudden and unexpected. You just wrote that you were working out your final week.

      Losing nine senior partners is practically a bloodbath! In our country, partners are effectively “owners” so can’t exactly be fired — if it is the same in South Africa, this had to be more like a defection. If they are planning on starting a competing firm, get ready for an offer.

      The political environment here is in a sad shambles as well – as most of the world is sadly aware. I once managed a project for one of the [then] Big Eight for several years when I lived in NYC. I no longer follow the goings on at the big accounting firms anymore, but. haven’t been aware that the partners have been walking out in large numbers. WOW!

      Liked by 1 person

      • These partners were asked to exit the firm. We have people from the US here at the moment helping us sort out the mess the firm is in due to bad decision making. It will be okay. I need to lead my team and colleagues and I am very good with people. Have been fielding phone calls all weekend. At least a crisis brings out the best in me. My love of people and ability to sooth them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. As a teacher for 33 years I can attest that teens have a very remarkable and clear sense of what is right and wrong and even more, a very refined sense of fairness.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed this post & found myself saying, “absolutely!” At the end of it. As a mum of 2 young men I been lucky to have been around the company of various young people associated with them as they’ve grown & in fact continue to grow. What beautiful, intelligent, vivacious, interesting, hard working young people I have had the pleasure of meeting. It does make me angry, when I hear people say derogatory remarks about ‘the young of today’ & sweeping statements such as ‘young people have no respect’, well that’s certainly not the case with the young people I have come across. I have also had the pleasure of working with many different people of varying ethnicities, such lovely people. Oh heck, you’ve set me off, I have so much to say on this subject I could go on… great post!! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you muchly for the reblog, Michael. Believe it or not, it came in *just* before Tink and I headed off to bed last “night,” so it was at the very bottom of my comment drop-down once we were up (and I was lucid). I was stunned to find it still in my “pending approval” folder 14 entire hours later. Please forgive. It does NOT mean I don’t greatly appreciate your reblogs – it’s often a timing thing in this global village of ours.


  4. Jennie says:

    Madelyn, you have outdone yourself. You’ve hit the core of what people- all people- are really about. And all we have to do is look and listen, without preconceived ideas. It’s that simple.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We certainly miss out, if we stereotype people. We are all worthy, no matter how we appear on the outside 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The singer in my son’s band was a long-haired, full-bearded loud guy who you wouldn’t want to meet on a lonely path. However, I did meet him and he was one of the world’s nicest people. He didn’t think of me or any of the band’s group of parents as middle aged, and didn’t care how old anybody was. He was just interested in the person. Gabriel, you rock!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dgkaye says:

    Hi M. Fantabulous article! Maybe it’s time many go back to some old proverbs and stop ‘judging books by their covers’. People of interest are everywhere. It goes to show how a mere walk with a cute dog can strike up conversations – something that is becoming a lost art since technology has taken over. ❤ (P.S. check your email) xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Madelyn, I’ve been out of touch due to loss of power(not mine, but FPL); still don’t have it, staying with friends who just got theirs. First of all, how are all your loved ones in Florida? I hope and pray that they are safe and sound!

    Secondly, your article does not surprise me a bit! In fact, I’ve recently commented to my husband, as I started this Fall semester, that I have only one Haitian student with pants below his underwear,perpetually plugged into his I-pod.

    Usually these guys and corresponding girls with piercings and body art are the brightest. I’ve already gotten some fascinating contributions to the initial class discussion from this young man as to why classical education, i.e. “The Great Books Curriculum” is essential to be integrated into modern culture.

    Of course, I also took him aside and gently reminded him that cultural sensitivity goes both ways; therefore, he should be sensitive to older ladies, his classmates, who do not enjoy the site of his underwear and his skinny behind. Next class session, he hitched up his pants before walking in. I don’t pick favorites, but this kid is brilliant and will go far!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. paulandruss says:

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant Madelyn… we make such snap judgements based on individuals and groups on the slightest thing, sometimes because we are simply ignorant of something and not sure what our comfort level would be if forced to interact. Each of these lovely examples teach we should never take people for granted or walk around locked to our own narrow path simply because we are afraid of what we might see if we only had the courage to look left and right.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Christy B says:

    Madelyn! Thank you kindly for the 2 references to articles over on my blog that relate to ageism. I enjoyed the first few experiences you shared in this article as they reminded me that
    (1) getting social can expand our understanding of the world
    (2) walking dogs is such fun
    (3) cute dogs lead to social interactions and
    (4) we mustn’t make assumptions!

    I’m loving these new connections you made while walking your doggy and also that you’re reminding us about the value people bring at any age. Many hugs xxoo

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    I will leave you with a post from Madelyn Griffith-Haynie on the subject of sterotyping… Working with young people does help but unfortunately there is a tendency as we get older to lump people together as young, middle-aged, old, geek, hippie, dumb blonde… when in reality it is us who has fallen into the stereotypical behaviour of grumpy old men and women. Head over and read Madelyn’s examples of how we are missing out on meeting some fascinating people when we do that. #recommended

    Liked by 2 people

  12. WONDERFUL comment left by Robert A. Vela under a reblog of this article on John Fioravanti’s Words To Captivate blog. The first paragraphs especially sticks in my mind, so I put the last sentence in bold to attract attention.
    Stereotyping is an aspect of our subjective human nature which seeks cognitive shortcuts to formulate opinions. We rely so much on our emotions, perceptions, and intuition because objectivity is a time-consuming process. Humans evolved to be fast-thinkers. It gave us a competitive advantage. Thoughtful deliberation was a luxury. But today, in this complex society we live in, objectivity may – for the first time in our history – be the key to our survival as a species.

    I make every effort to treat people as individuals without regard to their age, sex, ethnicity, etc. That said, however, there are generational differences which are relevant from a sociological perspective.

    The psychological dynamics between parents and children is a good place to start. There are too many factors involved for a comprehensive examination here, but rebellion is always present to one degree or another. It can be healthy and constructive, or unhealthy and destructive.

    Regardless, it stems from the need of children to be unique, to establish their own identity, and sometimes to reject or escape the failings of their parents. This is undoubtedly the driving force of cultural evolution, and it often triggers feelings of resentment among the older generation (e.g. the classic relationship between the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers).

    Another dynamic is also crucial. Older people are much more experienced and generally more pragmatic than idealistic and sometimes naive younger folks who struggle at times with the difficulties and perplexities of life. This dichotomy of outlook can cause friction because it inhibits effective communication.
    Thanks again to John for spreading the word and Robert for permission to reproduce his insightful comment here. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. mistermuse says:

    Remembering that you previously wrote of a very unpleasant encounter in Cincinnati, I’m pleased to learn that you found that my home town has its rewarding experiences as well. Now, having put that loser in the past, if only you could turn our professional sports teams into winners! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Muse. There are friendly people everywhere – it simply took me a few years to meet them here. My energy is lighter too these days, fairly well recovered from the mugging and the sudden move — so I’m sure that has a lot to do with the reason that I am meeting increasingly more of them.

      It doesn’t seem to have much effect on the teams, however – lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Great article Madelyn. So true. We continually have prejudice knocking on our minds door and it requires conscious effort to step back and not answer it. We could cite incident after incident when we would sit down in the evening and process our days and honestly note how once again we misjudged a situation about someone. Caution is good but we must employ discernment too. Oh how this triggered some great conversation over our cup of coffee this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jodie says:

    Such wisdom and truth Madelyn!
    In fact, I’m joining in on a campaign in October to “bridge the gap” between midlife women and millennial women for this reason exactly! We do tend to poo poo the others that aren’t just like us, yet by doing that we miss out on learning so much about others!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you, Jodie, for the upcoming campaign! And fashion is a great way to “bridge the gap.” So much useless judgment about what is “appropriate” etc. that keeps us needlessly separated. I look forward to reading it.

      Always love your visits. I need to get back over to see what you’ve been up to lately. Hurricane season and loved ones in Florida has distracted me even more than usual (and may for a while yet) – but I’ll be paying a visit “shortly.” Thanks for ringing in here.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. colinandray says:

    Great Post Madelyn. I have always had a broad cross-section of individuals in my “social circle” and not only do they keep me young and on my toes, they are also interesting to chat with. Perspectives are often vastly different, but there is usually something to learn on both sides of the conversation. Only yesterday I bumped into our neighbors daughter and boyfriend, and they were making a rather fancy medieval sword out of wood. I cannot really relate to their interest, but it was fascinating to hear how they were planning on finishing it with a leather wrapped handle, runes down the blade, and “jewels” embedded in the handle “cross pieces”. They were both being very creative! It was clearly being made for the girl, so I asked her what she was going to do with it when it was finished. Her response – “Hang it on my bedroom wall!”

    I guess one just never knows what’s going on unless one asks!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. -Eugenia says:

    A timely and timeless post, Madelyn. We live in a world full of prejudices, which is unfortunate. I believe we’re all can be skeptical of others until we see proof to the contrary.What we have heard, read or seen adds to the problem. You and Tink get some rest!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Opher says:

    I do find the minds of young people can be so scintillating. You’ve just got to find the on button and they zoom.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. John Fioravanti says:

    Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie gifts us with an interesting discussion about Ageism and the reality of Generation Gaps. Please, read on…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Bernadette says:

    I don’t just like this post, I love it. It spoke to me because I just had a similar lesson. I went on a trip with a group and one the members of the group was a beautiful 38 year old woman married to a man 20 years older than her. I stereotyped them in my head and expected not to like them. Boy was I delightfully surprised and now have two new friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Sue Vincent says:

    You really do need to drop the preconceptions to get the best of of life and people. If Ihadn’t lerned it before, I would have learned it as a young mother, struggling with two small boys and a pushchair. It was never the ones you would expect who gave a hand getting on and off buses, for instance…it was always the leather-clad, spiked and pierced ones, or the elderly gentlemen who really shouldn’t have been helping… never the clean cut thirty-somethings you might have expected to help.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Lucy Brazier says:

    I think we have all been guilty of this, assuming that people of a certain age or ‘look’ won’t have anything in common with ourselves. I always try to remind myself that once upon a time I WAS that ragamuffin with the green hair and nose ring! And, one day, I will be that aged and hunched bag of bones that shuffles along, taking up space on the sidewalk and muttering nonsense. I have always sought the company of older people as they are so interesting, but I must remember not to write off the young-uns, as they too have their stories to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. A wonderful read, Madelyn and I so agree totally with the whole post that was so inspiring and at any age people are friendly and would love to have a chat. It is our perception how we look at them and think of them. Thanks for the beautiful share.

    Liked by 1 person

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