Internalized Ageism. Me?

December 20, 2010 By: celedra Category: Aging With Grace and Glory, Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit

I am 63 years old and a grandmother of four.

Notice the images that arise in your mind?  They are probably the images that invariably appear in children’s books – plump, white-haired women, an apron securely tied around their wide waists, a bun on top of their head and, of course, granny glasses.  They are often baking cookies.

This image, although we are culturally attached to it, is no longer applicable. The downside is, who is baking the cookies?  Not me.  I pick up my grandson Henry from school with a big package of teriyakii Nori that we munch on during the ride to my daughter’s house; we play baseball on the street and make up hip-hop songs on the rooftop.

I’ve recently become aware of my own internalized ageism.  Perhaps it’s a fear that I’ll be disregarded, undervalued, stereotyped as above.  I notice, however, that this feeling never occurs when I am actually present with someone and, in fact, I have great enthusiasm about sharing my 63 year old grandmother status.  What is the difference?  It is my fear that, without my being with you for us to feel our aliveness, passion and vitality, the big cardboard image of “grandma” will take over and close the door.

I somehow need to prove that I am not that stereotype in order to be valued.  Then I ask myself, valued by whom?  Myself?  You?  And valued for what?  Certainly our stereotype grandma was and is highly valued by the children she makes the cookies for; valued for the memories of sweet warm smells after school; valued for the sense of comfort and home that lives within the hearts and memories of anyone so fortunate to have had her presence in their lives.

There is something else though.  Perhaps it is my grandson Jake’s request:  “LaLa, will you please live until you are 107?”  I told him I would do my best.  He is my reminder to drink my green smoothie, do my P90X, meditate and remember every day all that I have to be grateful for.  This is my value – to participate fully in life, both mine and theirs, in the way that is most authentic for me and for as long as I can.

I believe that I am more the norm than not, at least here on the west coast.  Most of my friends exercise, eat a very healthy diet and many of them have a spiritual practice – the precise definition of a living mind, body, spirit love fest.  And the love fest is a celebration with life and joy and the willingness to take risks and finding at least one thing to be passionate about and loving unabashedly.  Oh, and having a good belly laugh frequently!  Love and joy to you!

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4 Comments to “Internalized Ageism. Me?”


  1. Beloved Celedra-
    You are one of the most courageous, beautiful, vital, out of the box, and loving women I am honored to know-And I am so grateful that I know many!
    Thank you for your willingness to go beyond your self for all our benefit and reveal your internalized ageism and the human vulnerabilities we all share-
    ps-I love the image of you and Henry eating nori together for his after school snack- and if he ever wants to come over for healthy cookies, let me know-:)
    So grateful to be so in this with you-Ahhhhh

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  2. John Cusack says:

    2 beloved celdra
    you have remarkable insights into aging and what the image of grandma is. my only recollection is either dead or very ancient…. you are a beautiful grandma.

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  3. My Gramma was an avid reader. I remember when she was really old and her body was failing her she would read huge novels and she would say that when she was reading the novel of passion and love that she felt ageless or young and beautiful. I realized then that age is as much in our heads as in our bodies. Some of my patients are 40 and act/look 80 and some 90 year olds bounce out of their chairs and jog down the hall to my exam room. It is really great when our heads are young and our bodies match and Celedra you are one example of just that! Vibrance and exuberance with lots of laughter in between!! I’ll be at your 107th birthday party!! And we will both do a jig!!

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  4. Sherry Anderson says:

    Celedra dear,
    What a wise insight—most the fears and old boogy women in our consciousness come when we are not actually in contact with other people. Your writing about this, naming it, is so helpful to our recognizing when the worried mumblings or Mother Goose images keep us from being our real selves!
    Love,
    Sherry

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