Archive for the ‘discrimination’ Category

Entitled

Posted: August 10, 2012 in discrimination, women

Those of us who have been glued to our big-screen quad-sound televisions — or whatever’s handy — for the last week or so should remember that the thrill of watching the U.S. women’s soccer, beach volleyball, and gymnastics teams win gold has been brought to you by legislation that, at the time it was enacted in 1972, was wildly controversial.

The ruling had its roots in the civil rights foment of the 1960s. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation website, Title IX is really very short and simple: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Sounds reasonable, no?

As a result, high schools, colleges and universities were forced to provide for women’s sports programs, in many cases sacrificing smaller men’s programs to make room, both physically and financially.

“While Title IX was never meant to be an overhaul of athletics, in many ways, that’s what it became,” writes Amy Donaldson in the Deseret News. “It certainly bolstered educational opportunities for women, but it was sports and the creation of women’s teams and leagues that made Title IX so visible, so controversial and so impactful.”

“While it opened doors for women that had not only been shut but non-existent, it was also used (some would say as an excuse) to dismantle and reduce the number of athletic opportunities for men — especially at the collegiate level,” she said.

At my college, wrestling and men’s gymnastics were phased out, and I remember that their fans and alumni were really vocal in their disappointment: How could women athletes possibly make up for such a loss? Who would ever want to waste their time or —GASP — pay money to watch a bunch of girls play? The legislation would effectively ruin college sports, critics predicted.

It was the beginning of a long period of transition for women. I had older brothers who were stars on their high school football, basketball, and baseball teams during the Sixties, and my father avidly followed their games and bragged to his friends about their plays and points. Me? I was never encouraged to try out for anything but choir. It simply wasn’t a consideration. My parents pointed me firmly in the direction of academics, arts, and homemaking. The basketball hoop installed at the end of the driveway wasn’t put there for me. I got piano lessons. If I dreamed of gold, it was in a tiara accompanied by a big bouquet of roses and Bert Parks singing, “There she is… Miss America!”

And I think I was the worse for it. I didn’t learn the sort of team-building skills my brothers acquired on the field. I never learned how win graciously, or — more importantly — how to lose, how to shake it off, congratulate the victor, and move on.

I remember at the time the legislation was enacted listening to former U.S. Congresswoman Karen Shepherd describe watching her son and daughter play basketball.

“Why did you keep giving the ball to _____?” she asked her son. “I thought you all hated him.”

“Oh, we do,” said her son. “He’s a jerk — but he’s our best shooter.”

Later she watched her daughter play. “Why didn’t you give the ball to _____?” she asked her daughter. “She’s your best player. You might have won the game.”

“We were mad at her,” her daughter replied. Discussion over.

We girls just didn’t get it. We often couldn’t separate our personal feelings and fears from the possibility of achieving a greater good, and I believe we carried that lack of understanding into our jobs and our relationships. I’m sure I could have learned something  really valuable, even life-altering, from sports.

After 40 years, the benefits to women have been impressive. Consider the following stats, courtesy of ESPN:

  • In 1971, the year before Title IX became law, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports, about one in 27. Today, the number approaches 3 million, or approximately one in 2½.
  • The number of women participating in intercollegiate sports in that same span has gone from about 30,000 to more than 150,000. In the last 20 years alone, the number of women’s college teams has nearly doubled.
  • Before Title IX, only tennis and golf had established professional tours. Today, there are also women’s professional leagues for soccer, volleyball, bowling and two for basketball. Women have even made inroads in the traditionally male sport of boxing.

Don’t forget that, for the first time in U.S. Olympic history, the 2012 team had more women athletes than men. And, as of this morning, CNN was reporting that, of the 39 U.S. gold medals won so far, 26 of them went to women. WOOT!

Despite all these gains, Title !X has yet to be fully realized. The arguments and numbers vary depending on what side of the debate you’re on, but 40 years later, women’s sports program still fall short of the 50 percent mandated by the federal legislation. (If you’re interested, it’s all on the Google under Title IX controversy.)

But I’m not going to worry about that right now,  I’ll think I’ll leave enforcement to the feds — and go back to basking in the glow of all those gold medals. You GO, girls!

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Reader, we’ve moved. Literally and figuratively, it turns out.

After a couple of serious falls that landed her in the hospital, my 91-year-old mother-in-law agreed to move to an assisted living facility (where she promptly tripped over her oxygen line, fell, and broke her femur in 20 pieces — but that’s a story for another day). The Spouse and I had talked about buying her very nice condo in a 55+ development when the time came for her to sell, but that time came much quicker than we expected. Both our all-brick rambler and her home had become undervalued in the current economy, and we wondered if we would be able to sell.

Meanwhile, downstairs at our house, our son and daughter-in-law, who had rented out their townhome and remodeled and moved into our basement to start saving for a house with property, were wondering how they could afford anything in today’s market. (Their best prospect? A small two-story no-basement home on a whopping .1 acre of land miles and miles away in a wildfire-plagued area — all for a mere $275,000. Yikes.)

“Would you consider buying our house?” the Spouse asked. They would, and promptly did. Our son was very happy growing up in our neighborhood, and his wife is thrilled to have a space to remodel. She does AH-MAZING things with paint and fabric, and the place is already looking better than it did when we lived there.

Very quickly, it seemed, we went from having them living with us to us living with them, so we speeded up the move, boxing up everything and throwing away ENORMOUS amounts of flotsam and jetsam that had washed up in the basement and in the corners of every closet over the 25 years we lived in that all-brick rambler. Papers, Books. Broken Christmas decorations. A plethora of pillows, most of which had to be tossed because of the dust. Cases of peanut butter and black beans long past their use-by date. Rock-hard bags of sugar. Piles of Apple components, hardware and software for computers we had long since abandoned. You know, the usual kipple. (My constant refrain: “What the frack was I/he keeping this for?”)

I considered (for about a nanosecond) having a yard sale, but I’ve had great luck with placing unwanted items on the front of the lawn with a FREE sign on them. They rarely last the day. It’s my way of stimulating the neighborhood economy: Let somebody else haul them off and sell them if they want. Everybody’s struggling.

The move was completed in a frantic four hours on a Saturday four weeks ago thanks to a very motley crew of our friends, their friends, and family members, all paid in pizza, cookies, water and our undying thanks.

So. Here we are. The dust has settled, the remodeling is nearly complete (new carpet and tile upstairs including a jetted tub in the bathroom, and a new family room and bathroom downstairs). I’ve spackled all the holes in the walls, touched up the white trim, and applied Danish oil to a few water-worn kitchen and bathroom cabinets. The TVs are hooked up, the furniture is mostly in place, the ice maker in the fridge works, and we’ve put a few things on the walls. There are pots of geraniums on the front and back porches. I even have a room of my own downstairs with a futon, desk, bookshelves, wi-fi, TV, and a recumbent exercycle. I’m still looking for a couple of pairs of sandals that went missing during the mayhem, but most things have turned up.

It’s a nice house, open and bright. It has the feel of a place where someone has been happy. No ghosts here. We’re settling in nicely.

So why am I so unsettled?

There’s a clue in my first paragraph: “a 55+ development.” Yeah, we’re 55+, even 60+. The Spouse just retired, and I’m seriously thinking about it. We more than qualify for a little slice of no-upkeep heaven like this. So what’s the big deal?

Our little slice of heaven is a ghetto, and I say that in the nicest possible way. According to the Interwebs, a ghetto is “a part of a city predominantly occupied by a particular group, especially because of social or economic issues.” Ours is a gray ghetto, where most of the residents (who like my mother-in law bought their homes 15 or so years ago when they were in their 60s and 70s) are now in their 70s and 80s and even 90s. We’re among the youngest ones here. And it just feels weird, sort of like moving back in with your parents, only now we’re middle-aged or beyond.

And it makes me feel terrible at the same time. The people we have met here are lovely, gracious and welcoming and friendly in the way that they, “the Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw dubbed them, have always been. Perhaps I feel like a fraud. After all, I’m one of those selfish, spoiled, economy-destroying, resource-guzzling Baby Boomers and I don’t deserve to be counted in their class. But maybe I’m just not ready for yet another capitulation to the ravages of time.

This, of course, all adds to my on-going angst about aging. I now alternate from my job where I’m surrounded by dewy-skinned, inexperienced 20-year-olds to my home where I live among survivors of the march of time whose lives, well-lived or not, are etched indelibly on their faces.

Oh, I’m just DISGUSTED with myself. I carp on and on about age discrimination, and here I’m teetering on its very edge. I have much to learn about the hard business of growing older, and I now am surrounded by experienced and willing teachers and examples.

And learn I shall. More to come.

This little bit of good news/bad news from The Salt Lake Tribune caught my eye today:

Carol Masheter, at age 65, is now the oldest woman to have reached the top of the tallest mountains in all seven continents, a feat completed in four years: Denali, Aconagua, Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Vinson Massif, Everest and Kosciuszko.

It’s likely she will keep the record, because those who issue permits for Everest in Tibet have since decided no one over 60 can attempt the climb.

Masheter, who arrived home in Salt Lake City from Australia Wednesday morning, said that attitude makes no sense when held up to death-rate statistics for big mountain climbs. Older people have better survival rates, she said, likely because they have better endurance and judgment.

“Each climber needs to be evaluated on their own merits,” she said.

While I am delighted that a mere woman from my often misogynistic state has achieved such a staggering feat, I am as baffled as she is that the powers-that-be banned the over-60 set from ever receiving a permit to climb the Big Kahuna.

I’m certain the Tibetans are tired of hauling all the thrill seekers, masochists and adrenaline junkies to the base of Everest only to have them litter up the place like New York City after the St. Patrick’s Day parade (only with oxygen tanks, human waste and tarps instead of green bunting, cardboard and glitter) and, yes, DIE in frightening numbers on their way up and down the slope, their corpses left to dry out in the relentless winds and subzero temperatures. Perhaps this senior ban was a cheap and easy way to cut down on some the sheer numbers.

But I find myself surprisingly saddened by it. Even a little kicked in the gut. Somewhere in the back of my mind, on my half-formed Bucket List (you know, that list of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”) was the hope that I might do something nearly impossible someday, like travel in outer space, win a Pulitzer Prize, date George Clooney —  or climb Mount Everest. Of course. It is the ultimate lofty aspiration.

My friend Liz and I try to do something every year that scares us a little, and one year it was summiting our local Everest, although at 12,000 feet above sea level it is less than half as tall as the real thing. And it nearly killed us. I was so oxygen deprived and dehydrated at the end that I was scooting along the spine of the mountain on two legs and a hand, like a chimp. But I made it. And it is a great memory. I look at that mountain every day and know that I beat it.

But now I’ll never be able to “beat” Everest, and my odds of winning that Pulitzer are dwindling as well.  It is the latest in a series of lowered expectations that I have had to make as I move through time. I find myself looking at new, more reachable goals, like finally embarking on a serious study of art history, living in New York City for at least a month, or even learning how to knit — which for someone as impatient and domestically challenged as I am would be a good thing.

What “Everests” are you no longer able to climb, and what are you replacing them with?

Becoming invisible

Posted: January 23, 2012 in aging, beauty, discrimination

As I may have mentioned before, I do try to keep myself up, although it’s becoming a bit more challenging all the time. So a web coupon for a two-for-one microdermabrasion package sounded like just the thing for a post-New Year’s pick-me-up. Both Mother and her sister had serious age spots and other pigmentation issues with their faces, and I didn’t like what I was seeing in the mirror, despite my liberal use of some of the over-the-counter creams. So I did the deal and made the call.

The “spa” where I would receive my treatments was in a nearby town and, like many such services, was attached to a plastic surgeon’s practice. Walking in, I was impressed by the decor and vibe. It was very zen — all blonde wood and stainless steel, water fountains and cushions, with the requisite new age music playing gently in the background. I’ve had such treatments before, but this was probably the most chi-chi place I’d ever visited, and I made a mental note that, if I liked the service and the price was good, I’d probably return.

The receptionists were both occupied, so I stood for a moment and continued to survey the room. The nearest receptionist was young and attractive and pleasant, and she would eventually take me back to the “solarium” where I’d fill out my paper work and wait for my therapist. The other woman at the counter — well, she was my first clue that this would be a memorable experience.

Rail thin, she could have been anywhere from 25 to 50 (that was probably the point) and I have never seen anyone so whose face was so sculpted, all taut skin and protruding cheekbones and unruffled brow, except for her lips, which were double plumped. A generous application of makeup accentuated all the angles.

Now, I don’t think I’m a complete snob about such things, and I will allow that some women can benefit psychologically from “a little work” (like my middle-aged friend whose husband unceremoniously dumped her in the middle of her chemotherapy). This, however, was WAY beyond a little work, and was, for the right potential client, probably great advertising for the nearby plastic surgeon.

No, it wasn’t her appearance that was startling. I stood at the desk for several minutes, chatting with the other receptionist, and at some point, I realized that the well-sculpted woman wouldn’t look at me. No, she wouldn’t even acknowledge I was there. And by the time I left, neither would anyone else. My therapist was very competent, but I had expected at least a half-hour or more of pampering, and she had me out the door in 15 minutes. And, unlike every other day spa I’ve visited, no one tried to sell me anything or get me to return for other services, even though in my paperwork I had marked several procedures that I might be interested in. I was literally hustled in and hustled out.

Surprised, I mused about all this I sat in my car in the parking lot, and I came to two conclusions:

1. I wasn’t their kind of client. They wanted walking advertisements for their services, and no matter how much work I had done, I would never meet their mark.

2. At 60, I was the walking embodiment of a future they — in particular the well-sculpted woman — probably feared with all their souls, a future where they couldn’t depend on their looks to open doors and make their lives easier. If I hadn’t been standing in front of them with a paid-for voucher for services, I think they would have looked right past me.

I’ve never been able to cash in on my looks (which is why I became smart and funny), so I don’t understand that kind of dread. My fears about aging run along the lines of disability and penury. But I’ve never had anyone make me feel that invisible before, and I expect it will happen again. I’m 60, and most of the time I’m pretty okay about that. But I keep running into reminders that a lot of people aren’t okay about it, for themselves and for anyone else.

Are you okay about your age? I certainly hope so.