I interviewed Anna Quindlen, a 65-year old American journalist, author, and opinion columnist. I had previously read some of her articles in the Public and Private column in the New York Times column and on Newsweek, and I had developed an interest in the topics she handles and her way of reasoning. I requested her audience through the email at the suggestions section below the column and surprisingly she agreed to host me on a weekend at her family home. Most of her topics are related to the social norms in society and through the columns, she offers her opinion and solutions to some of the issues. Some of the issues she has previously discussed include gender discrimination and gay marriages in the country. From the interview, I noted significant similarities and differences between individuals of different ages and genders from how she welcomed me into her house to how she handled my questions, which made me develop a very different perspective of various disparities among people in society.
Differences in everyday life and major life experiences
One of the major differences between the two of us was gender. The gender differences began right from early in the day when she made the first call to confirm that I would be visiting. Upon getting to her place, everything was all set and ready for the interview. She was not only caring but also more concerned about her security, as she kept on asking more questions about my background.
Furthermore, I learned that men who are so anxious are always looking forward to the next activity. I noted that, whereas I was so anxious about the interview, she took her time to prepare a meal before embarking on the interview. Moreover, I confirmed that women are so good at capturing details because she remembered the tiny details I had told her through the phone about my family. We discussed one of her articles named “Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha” where she was concerned on the idea that only men are allowed to sign the military draft, which is used in selecting individuals who could defend the nation in times of emergency (Quindlen, 2001). She mentioned instances in a society where women are discriminated in society worldwide, for example, in job opportunities and also education where women are denied their right to education and instead forced to serve their male counterparts through forced marriages. In her opinion, she considered gender discrimination and provided detailed examples, both traditional and modern, where women have proved to be equal to their male counterparts. She also noted that women undergo objection and poor representation in administrative roles, a fact that has greatly contributed to gender inequality.
The issue of age disparity was also evident from the discussion, given that I am barely out of teenage years and she is in her upper sixties. Older adults disagree with the dressing code of young people and they believe that what young people consider fashion has led to disrespect and loss of human dignity. At the beginning of the interview, she complimented my hairstyle and official dress code. She confessed to having expected a college student in “funny dressing and hairstyles” as she put it.
Among her concerns with the younger generation was the use of the internet. In her opinion, Google had its advantages and disadvantages but social media worsened the situation. Children no longer interact with their peers on face-to-face thanks to social media. She also complained about young people seeking information from the internet instead of talking to their parents who would offer first-hand information from experience. She also confessed that the desire to meet a young person who was willing to converse on face-to-face with an older person was the main reason she granted the interview. Quindlen also believes that younger people have developed ageist attitudes and no longer take care of their parents. She quoted research, which proved that even professionals engaged in various forms of prejudice. For example, negative stereotypes among healthcare practitioners affect their behavior towards older patients, which facilitates depression among the old (Meisner & Baker, 2013). On the contrary, young people find old people to be old-fashioned and thus, prefer to seek advice from their peers through the internet. Old people also disapprove the casual manner in which young people handle matters of relationships and she believes that sexual immorality among the youths has led to an increase in social evils and the spread of diseases.
We also discussed one of her articles regarding gay marriages whereby she seemed to agree with the behavior. Despite being in a heterosexual relationship, Quindlen agreed with the notion of people of the same gender getting married. She echoed the words of Wolfson who suggested to society to show admiration to partners of the same gender who support each other against all odds, gather confidence, and declare their marriage to a condemning society (Wolfson, 1996). To her, the act indicated love and commitment, and felt like, in such scenarios, society should respond happily and approve of the union.
I must confess that given the age and gender difference between Quindlen and I, and considering the sensitivity of some topics, I at times became so uncomfortable in discussing the matters. In particular, discussing the topics pertaining to sexuality made me uncomfortable but I managed to get the answers I desired thanks to her maturity, knowledge, and understanding. She explained all the issues diligently and even touched on issues that she realized I feared to ask.
Most unexpected Information
The most unexpected information I learned from the activity was concerning the issue of aging and ageism. Despite witnessing ageism as a form of discrimination through birthday cards to anti-aging advertisements, I never knew the seriousness of the matter until she explained. It is absurd to realize that ageist attitudes are contributing to the early deaths of older adults through conditions such as depression. I learned that despite the fact some bodily changes are inevitable, older adults can enjoy a good life provided they engage in activities that help them maintain a well-functioning mind. Experts suggest that it is possible for society to transform the negative perceptions towards older adults into more positive attitudes and beliefs ( Kurth & Intrieri, 2017). To achieve the change, individuals should start by providing correct information about aging, which would counteract the uninformed beliefs about old adults and the aging process. Judging from racism and sexism, changing some social norms can also lead to a more prosperous and equitable community (Officer & de la Fuente-Núñez, 2018). Encouraging and having good behavior, understanding, and political determination concerning age and aging promotes healthy aging while fostering people’s ability to live productive lives and participate in activities of their choice.
Similarities between old and young people
Despite the many differences between young and old people, they share several notable similarities including at workplaces, young people are considered too inexperienced while old people are considered too old and technologically disadvantaged. Both parties also suffer loneliness as young people separate from friends when moving away in search of schools and jobs while the old are separated from their friends by death. Both of them also suffer dependency as parents tell youths what to do while adult children tell their parents what to do. In terms of gender, some of the similarities between both men and women are that both have the capacity to lead, to understand concepts in class, and to make wise and thoughtful decisions. In terms of age, the most surprising similarity was that both parties suffer from similar problems in society including loneliness, dependency, and the fact that both parties sometimes engage in the use of drugs, either recreational for youths or over-the-counter drugs for the old age to control their emotions. Gender-wise, the most important similarity is that both men and women are perfect in different areas, for example, men are good in times of danger as they keep looking for possibilities of threats while women are good in capturing details and thus, they complement each other (Handa, 2019). Besides, gender discrimination affects both women and men through their female family members becoming victims.
Significance of the activity
All my life I have always supported the idea of excluding women in technical occupations including the military. I also believed that the old belong to the retirement home, as they seemed to condemn every idea that a young person conceives. Moreover, I grew up in a religious family where gay relations were an abomination. After the interview with Quindlen, I have learned that old age and gender are beyond human control and every person in a society has an important role to play. In addition, different people have different reasons for belonging in certain groups and therefore, it is wise to respect their humanity and learn to embrace those who are different from us to promote peaceful coexistence.
Handa, R. (2019). Does Gender Diversity of Boards Affect Performance? Evidence from Indian Banking Sector. IUP Journal of Bank Management, 18(2), 41–56.
Kurth, M. L., & Intrieri, R. C. (2017). Attitudes, perceptions, and aging knowledge of future law enforcement and recreation majors. Educational Gerontology, 43(6), 313–326.
Meisner, B. A., & Baker, J. (2013). An exploratory analysis of aging expectations and health care behavior among aging adults. Psychology and aging, 28(1), 99.
Officer, A., & de la Fuente-Núñez, V. (2018). A global campaign to combat ageism. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 96(4), 295–296
Quindlen, A. (2001). Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha. Newsweek, 138(19), 76-76.Wolfson, E. (1996). Why we should fight for the freedom to marry: The challenges and opportunities that will follow a win in Hawaii. Journal of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Identity, 1(1), 79-89.
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