Tony Vagneur: Over 40 is the new under 25, so move over yourself
Back in the early ’70s, in the previous iteration of the Sundeck, the ski patrol had a reserved table just off the cafeteria line, with an emergency phone stuck on the wall. We were pampered, and late in the afternoon, before last call to clear the Deck, various ski aficionados (ski bums) would sit with us to share a little mountain lore. They, like many of us, were a young bunch of hotshots who thought they skied like Anderl Molterer or Max Marolt and snapped their buckles tight before heading out the door, ready for a speed run to the bottom.
Some of those guys are still around, and they still ski pretty much the same as they did then. If you’re 25 and wish them out of the way before you take off, maybe you’d be wise to wait a moment and then try to figure out how to keep up.
It works like this — avalanche control necessitated my first run down Bonnie Bell, back when no one was allowed to ski it except patrol and special guests. Last year, open to the public for a few days, my buddy Bob Snyder and I skied it eight or 10 times, maybe better than we did in the ’70s. Bob’s the kid on our team — younger than me by a couple of years.
So I thought the world was fine — still skiing most days in the winter, riding my horses all over hell in the summer mountains, packing salt and chasing recalcitrant cattle. When do people start to slow down? I didn’t know the answer.
That is until my friend Kanani Fong, a writer, editor, soldier’s wife and film producer, sent me an article on ageism.
“What the hell is that,” I thought at first blush? Never heard of it; thought it might be some kind of skin disease or maybe something about people who study aging.
If you’re over 40, you’re done, over with, a drain on resources, kept alive by the efforts of others. At least in the extreme, that’s how it is viewed by ageists. If you’re one of those little squibs from Silicon Valley, those punks who have everyone staring at phones instead of the person in front of them, you’re mostly convinced that good ideas happen only in one’s 20s; people older than 30 have nothing creative left to offer.
More to the point, ageism is just another “ism”, like racism, egoism, alcoholism, hooliganism, antidisestablishmentarianism (whew), many of those things that we don’t want our kids to grow up to be like. Loosely defined, “ism” means “state” or “quality.”
There’s a reason younger people are fixated on their tiny phones, but even they don’t realize it — they don’t want to have to look at you, yeah you, you older, over 30, aged person. That’s not all they don’t understand, of course.
When they do take a gander at you, sitting across from them in the gondola or at the next table in a restaurant, it’s like looking in the mirror — they can’t help but see themselves in a few years — a traumatic, although fleeting, experience for many of them.
We like to blame (or celebrate) age on the passage of time; getting older comes with another year, another birthday. The Earth is umpteen billion years old. A billion is all of a thousand million, so try to fit that comfortably into your mindset of living one year at a time. Time is a human invention, unknown to the universe, which goes on forever, ad infinitum.
No, it isn’t time that brings people down — it is gravity. We slowly gravitate toward the ground, one step, one sagging pull after another, until finally we rejoin that from whence we came. “Dust to dust …” and so forth.
The bottom line is that ageism never existed in my realm, and I’d like to keep it that way even though when you stick your head through the Sundeck door you can’t see anyone younger than 60.
Some of those old sports still feel inside much as they did when they were 20 or 30. I know. And some of them still ski as if they were that age.
To those younger folks, who might be flirting a little with ageism, allow me to say that you may be younger than me today, but it’s generally not a permanent condition, if you catch my drift.
Lastly, for those waiting for us past 40 to move over, be forewarned that we will not go into that good night gently, for our thoughts mirror the thinking of British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott: “May I be alive when I die.”
Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. He says the skiing has been pretty good, considering Thanksgiving came a week early.