Gushue: A Winner?

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My interest in age studies and curling has sent me into a tailspin this evening.  The Tim Horton’s Brier took place this afternoon.  Brad Gushue, representing Newfoundland and Labrador and the current Olympic Gold Medalist, age 26, was pitted against Glenn Howard, age 44, and his team from Ontario.  Glenn Howard lost the Brier final last year to Jean-Michel Menard from Quebec.  Brad Gushue won his gold medal with Russ Howard (incidentally Glenn Howard’s brother) at the helm.  Gushue threw fourth stones and Howard called the game. 

To win the right to represent Canada at the Olympic Games, your team must win a Brier like competition in which the top teams in Canada (determined by Brier wins and total funds won on the cash spiel circuit) play against one another.  Unlike the Brier, composed of teams representing their province to become a Canadian champion, the Olympic curling trials are not constrained by this residency requirement.  Hence, Gushue – who won the right to compete in the Olympic Trials due to curling accomplishments in the field years prior – asked Russ Howard (who did not qualify to compete in the Trials) to join his team.  Accordingly, Gushue shuffled the positions of his team to make room for Howard.  Gushue’s lead became their fifth player, Howard threw second stones but called the game, and Gushue continued to throw fourth stones.

Controversy erupted when Gushue won the Olympic Curling Trials.  Was Gushue worthy to represent Canada at the Olympic Games in Torino?  Did his team win the Trials because Howard had joined the team?  Although Gushue has been deemed a skillful shot thrower, his youth and inexperience is considered a draw back.  He makes “bad calls” as a skip the critics say.  In a curling game, you often have to pit “risk” (how many points am I going to give up this end if I don’t make my shot) versus “reward” (how important is it at this point in the game to score multiple points).  Inexperience – the critics comment – leads skips, like Gushue, to choose risk over reward more often than is necessary.  But with Howard at the helm, this problem was considered rectified by the critics.  And sure enough, Gushue and Howard brought home the Gold Medal from Torino.

When Gushue won the right to represent Newfoundland at the Brier this year, of course, controversy returned.  Gushue was again calling the game, and moreover, he added a new (young) player to his team because Howard was no longer with them.  Howard, instead, was competing in his home province of New Brunswick, and incidentally lost.  Critics and curling fans watched with baited breath.  The pressure was on.  Gushue had to prove he earned the Gold.  Gushue started shaky; he lost 3 games early on in round robin play but then his team came back to win their next 5 games to earn a spot in the playoffs.  As they say, the game was on.  In the playoffs, Team Ontario played Team Newfoundland; Gushue won 7-6.  As a result, Ontario had to play Manitoba, and conquer Veteran skip, Jeff Stoughton (who interestingly lost to Gushue in the 2006 Olympic Trials final). 

Howard scoffed off criticism about Gushue during an interview with CBC during the Ontario-Manitoba semi-final game – and ironically, minutes later, Stoughton lost control of the game coming up short after deciding to pit “risk” versus “reward.”  With Howard’s victory, Gushue and Howard were set up for their third match of the week.  I watched Gushe and his teammates today and along with my curling colleagues cheered for Gushue.  For the first half of the game, Gushue had control.  After the fifth end break the tides turned.  Gushue’s second flashed a take-out – and then almost in an effort to prove the critics wrong (or right) – Gushue called a gutsy shot – and missed.  Howard was up 3 points after the 8th end.  A game that was within reach for both teams, in a matter of seconds, was out of reach for Newfoundland.  Sigh!  Critics united in victory across the country. 

Unlike other sports it has become vary apparent to me that “youth” is not valued in curling.  The curling circuit involves a gentleman’s club –and only after being on the circuit for years – and having experienced the ups and downs of wins and losses are you granted entry.  Age politics are rampant.  What the critics fail to notice for example is that Stoughton, a Veteran skip, lost the semi-final the day before for similar reasons.  He pitted “risk” versus “reward” and came up short but this blip in his repertoire is downplayed.  Moreover, Gushue is not the only “risk” playing team.  Martin and his team from Alberta are also “known” for taking risks and often end up on the wrong side of the inch.  But when risk taking fails up short for a young team lapse in strategy is hailed. 

When the Brier tankard was presented to Team Ontario today, Gushue wore the voices of his critics on his face.  And not surprisingly, Glenn Howard was asked to comment on Gushue and his team during the reward ceremony.  The camera zoomed in and focused on Gushue.  Howard said his team needed to be “patient” in order to win this game against the high caliber play of Gushue and his teammates.  Howard praised their “youth” and called them an “unbelievable team” when asked whether or not Gushue had accomplished his aforementioned goal of winning respect this week.  Notably, the question was phrased as a declarative statement, “he’s won it” – yet if he has really won it, why the need for all the questions?  And if Gushue had won today, would he really have “won” in the sense of earning the respect he so clearly deserves?  I expect the grief he feels tonight has nothing to do with failing to bring the tankard to Newfoundland.  Instead, he will need to repair the gash inscribed in his pride.  If this is the “experience” his critics say he lacks, he has at least “won” something today with this loss.

The Fountain of Age

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I had a life-affirming moment today.  While reading in a coffee shop between curling games I looked up from my book to notice a middle-aged woman sitting beside me with a second hand copy of The Fountain of Age by Betty Friedan.  I am an age studies scholar today because of this book.  When looking for a Honour’s Thesis supervisor at the end of my third year of undergraduate study it was suggested I read this book.  I abided like a diligent, seeking to please student and spent coffee breaks and a large majority of my spare time that summer, reading, digesting, and making notes on all 638 pages.  By the 638th page I was convinced.  Ageism was real – and something needing to be conquered – and like Friedan, I was going to spread the word.   

Friedan writes of an “age mystique” that is rampant in our youth-oriented society denying and distorting the aging experience.  She argues we need to re-think how we do age – and instead conceive age as an adventure, a stage with possibility, rather than decline and despair.  There is a compelling alternative, one that celebrates the fountain of age, not the fountain of youth.  She chooses “age” as the core of her model of personhood, in effect de-centering youth in her version of an authentic self.   

So, when I saw this complete stranger with my bible – I did not hesitate for a second to ask why she was reading it.  She told me Friedan’s earlier book (The Feminine Mystique) had spoken to her in the 60’s – and now that she is older, she wanted to see if Friedan had anything interesting to say about aging.  Friedan was the first to inspire me to think outside of the aging box to envision age alternatives within my own life and the lives of others.  Friedan would find satisfaction her work is doing just that – not only in my life as a young, aging academic currently planning a program of work, but in the life of this particular middle-aged woman.  Moments like these remind me there is a reason I am a sociologist and offer hope that one day my work will also rest in the hands of someone seeking questions my work might speak to.

Frownies

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New word, new product… 

From Frownies.com: 

Frownies are facial pads made from natural, skin-friendly materials. Frownies are applied to the forehead and corners of the eyes and mouth to gently re-educate the underlying muscles to assume their correct, relaxed and natural appearance. Frownies, in fact, allow the deep expression lines to heal leaving younger, relaxed-looking skin.These amazing results were achieved after using Frownies every night for only 3 weeks. More results can be expected with continued use and may vary from one person to the next.

I wish my imagination was this vivid.

I can’t keep up.  Anti-aging dictionary, anyone?

Gerontological Pickle Epilogue

Gerontological pickle asked me to curl in a bonspeil next weekend with him.  How about, no!  Quoting my dear friend Kikmo, “That shite is inappropriate!”

Gerontological Pickle

 

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So, get this…  I curl regularly on Sunday afternoons at a local rink.  The league composition involves a few young members of varying skills levels, in their mid to late twenties like myself, though the majority of the members are middle-aged or “young-old,” which in gerontology speak refers to those who are in their early to mid 60’s.  As part of the curling etiquette for this league, the winning team buys the loser (which is often my team, sigh) a round of drinks, and conversational exchange between the two teams ensues.  Many different bits and bytes were discussed this past Sunday, of which was the topic of my research (the anti-aging component was a hit), and my ability to throw kick-ass take-out weight (which for the non-curler reader means, I can throw a curling rock at a high speed accurately to remove a rock from the house: woot, woot!).

As I was leaving the curling rink I stopped to read the curling announcements on a poster board, and during my pause the skip for the other team approached me and said, “Do you mind if I pay you a compliment?”  I’m somewhat baffled of course, but think to myself that he is prefacing a further comment on my research topic or take-out weight.  On the contrary, I am thrown for a loop.  The skip of the opposing team, who I learned in our previous exchange, is a 58-year old grandfather says to me, “You’ve got a rockin’ ass!” to which he adds, “I’m almost old enough to get away with that.”

I’m not even sure where to begin to make sense of this encounter, but here goes my gerontological musings…

The gerontologist in me, who is encouraged to think outside the aging black box, does not want to desexualize this older man.  Think of how often we are exposed to sex scenes involving those we are older in the media.  Furthermore, think about those rare occasions in which we are exposed – and the way in which these sex scenes are delivered.  We were encouraged to laugh when we saw Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson doing it on Something’s Gotta Give – almost to suggest, “You know, S-E-X is not supposed to happen at this age.  You don’t really need to take this part of the movie seriously.”

Who am I to say that because this man is “older” that he should have to suppress his desire?  So, you’re still interested, that’s great.  Good on ya!  In spite of this, I’m angry and want to label him a “dirty old man.”  Who is to say that just because I am a gerontologist (and sensitive to the inequalities experienced by those who are older) that it is acceptable to endorse this behaviour even though he is older?  Now here again the gerontologist in me breaks through.  He’s not a dirty old man, but refusing to conform to some age-appropriate standard that says he should parcel his sexual desire.  Did I witness “age” resistance albeit in the form of sexual objectification (ironically of me, a gerontologist)?

If this man had been closer to my chronological age, would this so-called compliment even be an issue for me?  I’m certainly no stranger to these forms of objectification – cat calls from the street and ass grazings at the bar happen – and although this is not appropriate behaviour (it is still objectification), it is age appropriate, in the sense that it is common for men in this age group to do it.  I wonder though, did the chronological age difference between this 58-year old man and me (a 27-year old female) create a safety net that allowed him to think that this form of objectification of me was permissible?  That is, did age have anything to do with it?  After all, he did proclaim “I’m almost old enough to get away with that.” 

A gerontological pickle to be sure.

Beautiful? Beautiful… Beautiful.

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Beauty Junkies

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