Some of the most unracist, unsexist, woke people you meet will still be unashamedly ageist.
“I understand why women over 40 get Botox,” a Millennial mused to me earnestly. “It’s the pressure that stems from society not valuing them!”
“Society,” I replied in my head, “does not value complete drongos at any age.”
Out loud I said something about how society had always been perfectly nice to me. But it sounded pathetic. Unconvincing. My voice fading out as she turned away to talk to someone more valued.
For a moment I felt like driving at high speed to the nearest Botox clinic to demand that someone pump up my face like an inflatable canoe. Hell, maybe I could get a ride there in an ambulance.
But then I calmed down. The fact is, I was probably ageist at 25 and, when it comes to people older than me, I still am.
Take today’s cover story on octogenarians who continue to work. The writer of the story, Yvonne van Dongen, sent me a list of their contact details so I could organise photos. I rolled my eyes at the list of landline numbers and commented to a colleague that this was going to be a mission.
It wasn’t. All four of these people were more onto it than I am. The older generation may still have landlines, but here’s something else: they actually listen to their messages. And then they phone the caller straight back. They know their diaries inside out. “I would like to be wearing a suit in the photograph,” Margaret Austin, CNZM, informed me. “Because that’s who I am.”
Gordon Levet told me in his crisp tones that he could only be contacted after dark. If it’s daylight, he’s out on the farm. Olivia Sheehan, who bounces each week between her clifftop West Auckland home and the flat she shares with others in town, was as flexible to deal with as her profession (yoga teacher) would suggest.
Sir Ron Brierley was less co-operative, although he did email a shot of himself shaking the hand of the Queen.
These are all people who were exceptional in their younger days and continue to be so now.
The moral is: don’t try to cling to your youth – that’s a mug’s game. Instead, try to cultivate yourself. Because the person you’re evolving into now is the person you’ll be at 85. And 85 can be amazing.