How do you do, fellow adults? by V.M. Agab

 

My seven-year-old brother walked up to me the other day and asked me how old I was. I said I was 23, and he said, “Oh! I thought you were forty!” It makes sense. I’m sort of adult-looking, I help him with his homework, know absolutely every answer to his questions, and am about the same height as our mom. In his mind, I’m a person separated from him by decades, and apparently living in a different plane of existence.

It seems oddly reminiscent of how people interact with each other online.

I’m fairly new to fandoms, only partaking in them for a handful of years so far, and I didn’t even know that lesfic existed until a few months ago. My main mode of connecting with others with my interests is through Tumblr, and I believe there’s an easy explanation as to why there’s so much ageism. The conversations go one way. A person makes a post and whoever reblogs it can add their two cents but there’s rarely any chance for any discussion. It’s just not how the site was built.  It’s one of the easiest places to create problems between age groups. There’s no profile on Tumblr, no friends list, a barely functioning message system, and a constant stream of impersonal interactions that often go one direction and not so much a back and forth. There’s also no way to tell age except through offhand comments and a string of clues that users might share about themselves.

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When it comes to age, it often gets strangely hostile and personal and plain offensive. I’ve seen people get called pedophiles for talking to other members of fandoms that happen to be in their late teens. I’ve seen callout posts blowing up over something as silly as using the word “queer” to define oneself. I’ve seen people delete their pages and stop participating out of fear of “deceiving” or offending anyone with their very existence as “a person over the age of thirty”, as if their fandom memberships ran out and they must now forget their hobbies and likes and interests and live an adult life, whatever that means. The amount of arguments and heated debates I’ve witnessed about what older people should behave like, how they must alter their vocabulary, who they should and shouldn’t speak with, and what makes a person “older” in the first place, is a number I’ve lost track of almost as soon as I started to participate in queer online spaces.

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Now, that’s not to say that all of these debates are a cesspool of garbage and sh*t flinging; I’ve learned most of what I know about the queer community and feminism through there (which shows just how little diversity schools actually teach these days). But there is a clear dislike of anyone “older”.

The question is, what is “older”, and why can’t we talk with each other. I’ve had the most difficult time trying to enter spaces with older women, mostly because there’s an invisible layer of defensiveness that I’m not sure many are even aware of, and also because it feels like I’m invading a community, as I imagine many on the other side of the equation also feel.

So few people are trying to close the gap that ageism creates. There’s no rapport, no sharing of experiences. People love their personal bubbles and hate anything that alters their fundamental understandings. At the same time, we “young ones” are starved for guidance and mentors and those who have figured out things we’re struggling with. I’d like to assume that those considered older feel that disconnect too. Because it that’s the case, then are we really that different?

If you want to chat, come hit me up on tumblr: korrasamishipper.tumblr.com


V.M. Agab writes the occasional fanfic on her free days when she’s not reading 4-6 books and writing weekly papers simultaneously for her undergraduate studies. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently working on original fiction. Stay tuned for her upcoming story “Inscribed” on the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast.

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7 comments

  1. I am 48 and I connect with people of all ages but you have to be mindful of your conversations. Some folks don’t feel comfortable with such a age difference in their friendships. In the quest to being a person who is relateable and relevant you have to check to see what other folks are up to.

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    • The issue isn’t necessarily that people aren’t comfortable, it’s that they aren’t sure how to interact with people of different ages. People aren’t willing to talk to each other because everyone is too cautious of each other’s age. Of course it is most likely inappropriate in many situations if an adult is chatting up a child, but in a lot of these cases, its 20&30-somethings unwilling to talk to older people and vice versa.

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  2. I’m 51 and don’t use Tumblr; I think young people have a natural inclination to be suspicious of older folk, especially if you look at the mess the world is in, and what we’re handing to them. I’d be mighty pissed if I was a 16yr old right now. Then again, especially in the Queer community, we have so much to offer in terms of history and lived experience; perhaps how we express that seems a bit defensive? I know I get annoyed with some of the 65+ lesbians who won’t accept bisexuality as a valid feminist sexuality expression for example… we all need to soften our hearts, and open up to each other hey? With kindness from Australia, G

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    • That’s absolutely the issue, we’re literally perpetuating historical amnesia. I literally am just finding out about the extent of the AIDS crisis, and that’s literally part of contemporary history that we’re still recovering from and going through. People need to talk to each other, because no one else will do it for us.

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  3. I’m 28 and I feel like Tumblr has me in a state of mental arrested development. I feel like I’m not evolving beyond the mindset of a 15-year-old ’cause all I see day in and out are memes, and even the politcal “discourse” on the site is mostly shared and spoken by teens. When I post on Tumblr I post in the same tone, I’d never ever speak that way on other social media where people my actual age would see it. Do you ever feel this way?

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    • I used to, but then I started curating my dash more closely, and only follow people who’s posts I actually enjoy. Unfortunately a lot of stuff still gets through but for the most part I’m just more diligent in who I follow and interact with.

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  4. I am an OLD! WOOOOO! I talk to people across the age spectrum and I am SO GLAD VAL IS HERE BLOGGING ABOUT THIS.

    I find that fangirling seems to bring people together in some ways, because we all love certain shows and fandoms and geekdoms and those can be an icebreaker. Having said that, I also mentor a lot of writers, some of them much younger than I, and I think that’s an effective way, too, to share experiences and perspectives. I learn things every day from people, and I love that younger people are willing to listen and share, too. At least some are, in my experiences.

    There is, of course, baggage in LGBTQIA communities because anti-LGBTQIA people have created a shitty narrative that implies that adult queer are predators and trying to “recruit” younger people or to exploit them (Val mentioned that above), so those of us who are no longer young are only too cognizant of that baggage, and that of course plays into the reluctance of some older queerfolk to interact with younger and sadly, that baggage may play into a reluctance on the part of younger LGBTQIA people to interact with older.

    I think as queerfolk, we can do much better at bridging generations and dispel that terrible, harmful narrative that has been perpetuated against us. Perhaps fandom-ness can help with that.

    Thanks, Val, for joining us. Hope you stick around.

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