Old & Ornery

Marketers know that if you want to capture a customer, it’s much easier to do that when they are young.   That means as young as possible, as tobacco marketers understood when they pitched their “adult” products with cartoon characters.

The reason for this is simple: young people are much more susceptible to emotional pitches.

When you are young what you know is your own desires.   You want to be liked, want to be attractive to partners & pals, want to have status, want emotional satisfaction, want to look mature & sophisticated, want to find the way to gain traction & standing in the world.

Marketers know this so they can use those drives to seduce you into buying their products.   By piggybacking their claims on your desires, using the peer pressure to look cool and with it, they can convince you that they have a solution to your woes.   You can be better, prettier, stronger, more compelling, more like those glossy young people you see on TV and want to be.

Older people, though, have traded desire for wisdom.   They have tried to buy magic and often found the transaction wanting.  We no longer imagine that we can do everything, that a new box from the cosmetic counter or state of the art gadget will change everything about how people see us.

After learning our lessons, letting go of wishing for a more rational purchase process, well, we aren’t as easy a mark for marketers.   They can’t just push the emotional buttons and have us jump for the new and shiny.

Marketers have figured out that old people are just ornery.   We know our own mind and our own boundaries, know our limits and our possibilities much more than youths who are scrambling for the new and magical.

Older people too often believe that experience makes up for exuberance while young people too often believe that exuberance makes up for experience.   Both are required, the willingness to open up to the new and the wisdom to make sensible choices about where to invest.

So many of the “institutions” of the LGBT world are run by and for young people. In the trans world, adolescence starts again when we emerge as our target gender, opening up the need to learn to walk in a new way, to learn about ourselves and our choices all over again.

The exuberance of youth, seeking novelty, sensation and a kind of ephemeral perfection, makes it difficult for them to engage the ornery lessons of maturity.

When older people don’t immediately fall in line for the proposed solution, which usually involves telling other people how to think properly, the young assume that we don’t understand, not that we have tried that solution in the past and found it wanting.

Almost every young person newly made a manager has the same complaint: “I am given responsibility without authority!  How can I make things happen if those people won’t do what I tell them to do!”

Learning to lead is learning to step outside your perspective, knowing what generates respect and authority in other people.   They don’t respond to what you say, they respond to what you do, how you model responsibility and consideration.

The lovely thing about mature people is that once you have them on board, they tend to do the work without much drama, approaching the work without the spills and chills that young people often bring to an enterprise.

When the management, though, tends to choose thrills and dogmatism over supporting the rich diversity of a wide range of experience and viewpoints, mature people quickly cut themselves out of the equation.  They don’t want to have to trade approved canned exuberance for the hard won lessons of a lifetime.

Grown up transpeople didn’t earn their identity by playing nice, by being willing to do anything to become a member of a group.   We walked away from convention and correctness to claim the truth of our own heart, taking a very individual journey to an expression that rings true for us.

Does that make us kind of ornery?   Sure does.   Ornery, though, is something everyone claims with maturity.   The lessons of our life make us less susceptible to emotional manipulation, as marketers have figured out.

Is the proper approach to the mature and somewhat ornery to cut them out of the game, reserving attention and voice for those who we believe can still be moulded to our intention?

Or does a claim of celebrating diversity ring false when it does not honor the life lessons of the mature, deciding that if they question too much they are just old, faded, out-of-touch and useless?

I know why marketers venerate youth culture.  They know how to use it to make money from selling fads and nostrums.

I don’t understand, though, why people who say they want to claim dignity and pride tend to cut off people whose life lessons are extraordinary and challenging.   Aren’t they just trying to impose some kind of ideology over hard won truths?

Pride and orneriness usually come together in my experience.   When you have life a life you can be proud of you don’t want or need to try and fit into some group identity, no matter how correct and trendy it claims to be.

I’m ornery and I’m proud.   I’ll show you my scars; you can see that I earned it.

Even if the baby faced don’t understand the beauty of a mature and hard won life.