Categorize Me! But Don’t Categorize Me!

 In Blog
Having returned home now, I’m camped out in front of the tube and catching up on the local news.

I just watched a segment on how to refer to people over a certain age. See, it seems that, to people over 55, saying senior citizen, elderly, geriatric, old timer, mature, etc. are all derogatory. This all results from a UNC study on how to refer to the grey generation (wait, is that derogatory too?)

One of the women they interviewed, a woman of around 75, was just aghast at all the terms and insisted emphatically, “Don’t categorize me!”

Um, okay, but how do we really get around this? For years, I’ve noticed people who talk around my disability. They’ll start to say “blind” but then, after the “B” sound is out of their mouth, they realize this may be offensive. Instead of switching to “visually impaired”, they’ll spout off with something like, “people who don’t see as well as other people.” What? That’s ridiculous! But people have had such an issue with being labeled that we’re all hypersensitive about how to refer to our own, or others, individual traits.

Well, two segments later, there’s a local tourist story on the annual “Gay Days” event held around Disney. This yearly gathering is composed of over 140,000 individuals who are homosexual.

To me, who one wants to sleep with is no one’s business but their own. But to create an entire event where the only common interest is sexual preference? Just seems like that’s something which could better be left behind closed doors instead of right inside Cinderella’s Castle.

What I find so interesting is the desire to be labeled. God willing, we’re all going to reach adult maturity, a.k.a. retirement, aged, old, etc. Therefore, we’re all going to be categorized when we get there. The old lady interviewed didn’t want to be categorized – even though she’s reached a milestone we all (hopefully) will attain.

And yet, 140,000 others want to be known, want to be categorized, want to be labeled for something they choose to do in their private life.

This whole thing makes me wonder what if there is an 80 year old homosexual? How do we refer to him/her?

And the really sad thing about these two stories is the things we value as American society. We all try to fight off growing old as long as we can. Age and maturity aren’t valued. But personal preference (even eccentricity) is. So we have those who’ve attained a certain age embarrassed about their age, but those who chose to live a private lifestyle making that lifestyle very public.

There’s no real solution to either of these – except that we try to respect all people… and try not to be ashamed of hitting AARP status.

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