On her 82nd birthday, visionary artist and activist Yoko Ono released a music video called “Bad Dancer,” named after the first single on her latest Band album. Critics didn’t mind the dancing—they were warned, after all—but made plenty of disparaging comments about her singing and her costume. Ono struck back with an open letter about ageism in the music industry.
A few years ago I took a dramatic monologue class to sharpen my speaking skills. The teacher was brilliant and a surprising number of the participants were talented too, including three who recently presented six moving and original pieces at the Producer’s Club. I laughed, I cried, and I stumbled over some language. One piece referred to a “creepy old priest” and I punted that to Yo, Is That Ageist? Another piece prompted this note:
This post is by Joan Broughton, whose blog is called Resist Ageism. She volunteers for elder-focused nonprofits and is also writing a novel. Broughton came to this from the online world, where she worked with Global Network Navigator, the first commercial website, and helped major retailers innovate in e-commerce.
Last month the Atlantic magazine’s cover story described living past 75 as pretty darn inadvisable. Now, in quite the about-face, the December cover story champions the Happiness U-Curve (or “U-shaped Happiness Curve," as I’ve been calling it, or “U-bend” in Britspeak): : the growing body of research showing, in writer Jonathan Rausch’s words, that “we reliably grow happier, regardless of circumstances, after our 40s.”
Caption: An analysis by the Brookings scholars Carol Graham and Milena Nikolova, drawing on Gallup polls, shows a clear relationship between age and well-being in the United States. Respondents rated their life satisfaction relative to the “best possible life” for them, with 0 being worst and 10 being best.
Once I got past the title (“What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?”) and the creepy photographs of faux-old toddlers—the ageist equivalent of blackface? Or “grayface?” as my colleague Andrea Charise proposed?—I read this article in the New York Times magazine with great interest. And mixed feelings.
Actress Frances McDormand has always played unvarnished women, endearing herself to me—and winning an Oscar—for her role as queasy and massively pregnant state trooper Marge Gunderson in "Fargo." She plays another one as the title role in "Olive Kitteridge," a four-part HBO miniseries that McDormand acquired and made happen, and she's been wonderfully outspoken about herrejection of the industry-wide fixation on youth. "Looking old," she told the New York Times, "should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.