Andrew DowningNovember 1996
Yesterday, on IRC, I was talking to two of my Oasis colleagues, when the subject of response mail came up.
One of my fellow feature columnists (elite fraternity that we are) mentioned that he was pleased to have received favorable response mail on his first column. When I remarked that I had gotten no response mail at all regarding my October column, our fearless leader Jeff Walsh said something which, to me, was fairly disturbing. And what he said was this.
"The younger you are, the more mail you get."
Wow, if he's right, how warped is that? Response to my columns isn't dictated by the subject matter or quality of my writing, but by my age?
To a degree, I can understand this. Younger readers usually better identify with writers of their own general age group. I realize that I'm not in high school anymore, and that I've gotten through many of the things that younger teens are still struggling with. And, of course, I don't seem as "eligible."
What truly bothered me about that statement, though, was that it got me pondering the question, "When did I get old?"
I didn't feel old at all -- not even when I turned 20 and my ex-boyfriend sent me a card saying "Happy birthday to my favorite ex-teenager!"
But that didn't make me feel particularly old.
I didn't feel old when someone said that they thought I was too old to have a relationship with him... because he didn't consider me to be within his peer group. (For the record, he later changed his mind.)
It doesn't even make me feel old when I'm in #gayteen and a channel non-regular finds out my age and says "I thought this was #gayTEEN!"
However, I turned 22 on the 19th of October, and magically, I feel like I've got one foot in the grave. My writing is to be judged by my age. I'm 22, so I have nothing to offer anymore. My usefulness is at an end. Well, if you think that, it's your loss.
As I said before, maybe I've been through some of the issues you're still working through, but hey, look at it this way - I may have valuable insights as to how you might be able to get through things. Hell, I was even an advice columnist, once upon a time, so perhaps I know from whence I speak. Maybe I can make your life a little easier. Maybe I can't. I don't pretend to have all the answers; but if you don't give me a chance, we'll never know, will we?
Relationships, coming out, job discrimination, school discrimination, verbal and even physical bashing -- if that's what you're dealing with any of them, I've been there! And in some cases, I'm still there! All of life's problems don't simply disappear when you hit the age of majority.
It all boils down to this -- if I'm not writing what you want to read, it's because I don't know what you want to read. And I'll make you a deal. If you treat me as a peer, I'll do the same for you. Every email you send will get a reply, and I seriously consider all suggestions. Tell me what you want to read. Tell me whether you liked my column or hated it, but be gentle with me, I'm frail.
Until then, I'll be looking at retirement homes.