In recent months there has been a lot of public discussion about the relationship of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. By all accounts, their ten-year marriage has been successful.
Nonetheless, many people have fallen into divided camps, based on their reactions to their respective ages. Brigitte Macron is 64 years old; her husband is 39.
Some have ridiculed the couple for the age difference. Some have praised it as exemplary because the female is older. Few in either camp appear reluctant to pass judgment on a marriage they have little or no knowledge of.
Few if any today would suggest that a marriage is “religion appropriate.”
Few if any today would suggest that a marriage is “race appropriate.”
A rapidly declining number of people would suggest a marriage is “gender appropriate.”
Nonetheless many are entirely comfortable passing judgment on other couples as being “age appropriate.”
In addition to the Macrons, there has been a minor social media storm about the remarriage of New York Times columnist David Brooks. Recently divorced, Brooks married a former researcher, two decades his junior.
A Matter of Judgment
In America, we have the right to speak our mind about any topic. No one disputes that.
How to exercise that right is a matter of judgment.
Censoriousness is not an attitude of service. It’s self-referential by definition.
Surely we can all agree to wish any married couple every happiness. To the extent others have made choices different from our own predilections, that should spur interest rather than condemnation or ridicule.
Ageism Runs Rampant
To be sure, opinions about what is “age appropriate” are often expressed in other realms.
It’s common in business or politics for people to refer to someone’s age in positive or negative terms, in order to advance themselves or their own agendas.
If you’re a young person—say, under 30—when someone asks your age, you well know it could be a snare, used to diminish you.
If you’re a middle-aged or older person—in the indeterminate zone between 35 and 65—you might well be dismissed by some under-30s out-of-hand as out-of-date.
If you’re an older person—say beyond 70—you might well face ageism from all sides.
As with any other stereotype, there is a risk of losing great talent and value by overlooking individual cases.
The notion of “age appropriate” is weaponized age profiling. With America’s population bulging at the younger and older realms of adulthood, the time is ripe for a reset.