I have good friends on both sides of this issue. I hope they remain friends when they finish reading my thoughts on this kerfuffle.
I'm not 30 any more. Or 40 for that matter. Increasingly I am called the “D” word that I previously believed was reserved exclusively for use by a 21-year-old senior at Emerson College.
And you know something? I don't want to be 30 again. (40, maybe.) I might have the health and heart of a 30-year-old, but I know the reality. Even if I still look OK in a Speedo.
The men (and women) of my generation lived through a lot. We all still do.
We lived through the neglect of a Republican president, and a Democratic Congress, who didn't want to talk about (or even hear about) an untreatable illness that was cutting people down like a buzz saw, before they had a chance to have a “prime time.”
We saw a Democratic president and Congress enact legislation that said we could only serve in the Armed Forces if we didn't tell anybody who we really were.
We saw a Democratic president run re-election ads touting his “defense” of marriage.
We saw the Republican Party as an institution become devoted to hating us.
And we made it through. It wasn't easy, you know. It still isn't. The gains we have achieved were not just handed to us. We had to fight for them, and take them.
Look, I know where I'm welcome and where I'm not. I am very sensitive to the notion that some younger men might think, “Ewwww, creepy old guy doesn't wanna play with guys his own age.”
Perhaps, as the saying goes, what others think of you is none of your business. But I am aware...
Which brings me to the matter at hand.
Throwing a party that's free *except* if you're over 40 is blatantly discriminatory. Perhaps it was discriminatory “for good reason.” Impulse is trying to carry a message to a highly at-risk group. They have a perfect right to imagine and execute events that target that group.
But the way they did it was wrong. And I am not surprised at the backlash. Quite frankly I received an invitation to this party on Facebook, and fully intended to go. I have friends associated with the group and I think their cause is highly worthy.
Then I saw I had to pay $50 to attend, because of one thing only — my age.
There's a clear (even if inadvertent) message in that: We want your money, but we really don't want “You.”
When I was in graduate school I took a course in behavioral economics. The professor will likely win the Nobel Prize in the next few years for his work (he is still teaching. I'm not that old).
One of his research findings was that people love discounts but hate surcharges, even though in economic terms the result is the same. That's why you see “ladies nights” and “senior discounts.”
They “feel” differently than saying “admission is $5, unless you're under 60 in which case it's $10,” for example.
There would have been less of a backlash if Impulse had offered a discount instead of a surcharge. And yes, it's still somewhat discriminatory. But as much as I understand “how” it happened, throwing an “open” party, issuing “open” invitations throughout social media, and then trying to get one select group to pay for the privilege of attending, is a crummy thing to do.
Still, younger men should have their own space, their own opportunities to build community within and among themselves. To demonstrate and develop leadership skills.
And yes, to make mistakes and learn from them.
So, next time, throw a private party. Ask for donations if you like.
In closing, there are two larger issues that should not be lost amidst the clamor.
First, is this a time when our community should be dividing deliberately, Balkanizing itself? Perhaps that ship sailed long ago. Yes, judgment is dirty. The last thing we should do is judge each other.
Viruses don't discriminate.
Second, and more importantly, our collective struggle is not over. Republican presidential candidates, governors and legislatures are eager to enact laws permitting discrimination against us, and trying to disguise it by calling it “religious freedom.” The state House here in Florida, in a party line vote, passed such a bill this past session.
We don't need a circular firing squad. We need to stand together, regardless of age.
It's time to move on to bigger issues.
Find more stories about Impulse at SFGN.com/Impulse