The Poison of Ageism

There was not a year of my life as long as I was in contact with my mother that she didn’t scream at me “You’re ___ years old!!!”  It was always a reproach–her way of belittling and shaming me for being ‘too old’ or ‘too young’ to be doing or saying something.  She had some precise developmental chart in her mind, and no matter what I was always in the wrong place.  She also seemed to believe that age had some supernatural knowledge attached–whereby even if she didn’t teach me something or otherwise facilitate my learning it, I should be shamed for not knowing it.  When, the fact is my parents had taught my older siblings many things (how to drive is one example), but when it came to be my turn, they simply gave up and tuned out, but it was still painted as my fault.

My brother was just eighteen months older than myself, but my mother, my parent’s ageism was so profound that they really believed this made him more honest, reliable, and worth talking to than me.  So when they would come home from work and find that he had broken down my door to get at me again–to assault and terrorize me–they would ask him what happened, and take his word for it outright regardless of what lie he told.  They never even asked me.   I’ve recounted here the terrible condescension I faced from my family when recounting my brother’s abuse, and when I recall those statements, I want to shout; “how do you know?  You never asked me how bad it was!”  When I tried to start to tell them, years later, they still didn’t want to listen, but were sure that it was nothing important.

My older sister did not think highly of me; when I was a college student and developing some intellectual confidence (I didn’t have any emotionally,) beginning to express my own ideas and philosophy which I posted online, she seemed to become enraged.  She needed to think of herself as intellectually superior to me, she wanted to “put me in my place.”  Once she actually said to me “you’re nothing” in an argument over my website and then said “I bet you even think you’re smarter than me.”  This was not something I cared about, now or then; intelligence level nor academic achievement in themselves don’t prevent someone from being an abusive, sociopathic person after allr.  But she actually called our mother about this incident, who automatically took her side and started to personally attack me along similar lines.  When I asked why at some later date, she told me “because you’re sister is older.”  So even when we were both adults, I twenty and she thirty, this hierarchy was still in place and I imagine would have remained forever if I stuck around.

My older brother and my father never stopped repeating back things I had just said in voices exaggerated to sound incredibly high-pitched and “whiny.”  They still called me (and I hesitate to write down such a hideously ugly phrase) “little s–t” as even with no height difference they still saw me as “little” compared to them, and they thought they had a right to insult and degrade me.   In one of our last letter exchanges, my mother ridiculously wrote in all caps-lock “HOW DARE YOU JUDGE YOUR BROTHER?!”  I certainly do ‘dare’ to judge the person who intentionally set out to ruin my life out of hatred and jealousy.  I know that they often “judged” and made fun of me together, her and my abuser; both of my abusers.  But that was sanctioned behavior against me because I was ‘younger.’

When I was 15, my sister had a baby; and I was not simply left to silently watch the parents who neglected and abandoned me happily playing and showering their grandson with (of course empty) affection.  No, they, unprovoked and for no clear reason decided to yell in my face about how he was “better” than me and humiliate me for still having needs at 15, 17, while all they cared about was the occasional presence of a toddler who wasn’t even their own child.  This was odd, because they hated children; my mother expressed over and over again how much she hated cartoons and stuffed animals, etc. and how glad she was to enforce the idea that I should already be ‘over them’ at her discretion.  I was called childish by them and my sister, and negatively compared to my nephew because I exhibited the signs of the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse I suffered through in that house.

Despite their acknowledgement of my brother’s age in one sense, my parents didn’t think anything of the differences in strength and size that this would give him, or bother to ever look at the more important difference in temperament between us (since of course age never gave me his psychotic rage or violent will.)   They would often just say ‘no fighting’ before they went out to leave us alone again; leave me at his mercy. Their ageism was centered on punitive judgments–no protection, no recognizing of individuality.  There is a lot of ageism in the world, a lot of misdirected hatred and condescension poured onto children because adults choose to forgive, absolve, and adopt their parent’s belief system once they come of age and seek out a socially acceptable scapegoat for their repressed feelings.   Likewise when young children are abused by adults with no way out, they will often seek an outlet via bullying or sibling abuse.

Having a predefined map of where a child should be in their growth at every minute and excessively comparing them to others (and finding them wanting) are poisonous methods of robbing a person of their childhood, of their vitality and natural progression.  Children deserve equality and respect for their feelings, their own pace, their own voice from the very beginning.  I deserved that from the start, my parents were wrong, and my older siblings chose an utterly bankrupt path to launch themselves on.  The way they acted was unacceptable, and I am no longer looking for their approval.


About proudlysensitive

Gay male survivor of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
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3 Responses to The Poison of Ageism

  1. Pingback: Fake Kindness Can Kill… | Proudly Sensitive

  2. t-money says:

    My mother used to call me “CHILD” whenever i started to have my own opinion, challenge her, or if she just wanted to rip me apart. She said this word loudly, boomingly in a sneer. “You’re just a CHILD. You listen to ME, CHILD! You’re wrong, CHILD. Stop acting like a CHILD. You are out of line CHILD, You dont know what you are talking about CHILD” are some of her more common ones, but it would always come out. I was 30 when i cut her off and she was still pulling that crap. Its a way for abusers to belittle someone and invalidate anything they may have to say as if they lack the mental capacity to make decisions or have opinions.
    And then there is the other where she would demand that if i wanted to be treated like and adult, i would have to stop acting like a child. As if my asking and later setting boundaries where i should be treated respectfully were unreasonable and i was acting like a child. The reality is that she was the only one who consistently acted like a child. i had been caretaking her, meeting her emotional needs and taking care of her responsibilities since i was a child. I never got to be a child, she stole that from me with her never ending, unrealistic demands. She was the one stuck in arrested development and i actually was and am smarter than her. But abusers get off on making you feel less than and inferior because that is how they feel. Its all about projection. All of it. ITS ALL ABOUT PROJECTION. i cant say that enough.

    • T-money, I’m sorry you experienced that horrible gas-lighting and condescension from your mother. Using ‘child’ as her own four letter word to shame you is despicable, and no, it never really ends until we end it. I also realize that my own mother was in fact deeply immature, and that her idea of me ‘growing up’ meant basically shedding my own feelings and boundaries in order to become an abuser, like her, as opposed to healthily developing as a person and an individual separate from who she thinks I am.

      Thanks for reading and sharing your great insights,
      take care,

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