Disrupt aging: Today's grandmas smash the stereotype... even when embracing it

Disrupt aging: Today's grandmas smash the stereotype... even when embracing it

Disclosure: This post made possible with support from AARP's Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

When I first started my blog in 2009, one of the "editorial guidelines" I set for myself was that I would not post photos of myself on my website. At that time I had been a grandma for a little over a year, and in those twelve-plus months, when I shared my grandma status with strangers—retail clerks, random folks encountered while out and about, friends-in-the-making, and so forth—I was more often than not met with the comment, "You don't look like a grandma."

As a goal for my blog was to establish myself as a go-to guide for all things related to the grandmother lifestyle, I determined that—based on such comments—posting pictures of myself might…

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25 things grandmas supposedly say that I've never heard fellow grandmothers utter

25 things grandmas supposedly say that I've never heard fellow grandmothers utter

My husband's niece delivered a beautiful — and big, 10-plus pounds! — baby boy last week. When I saw photos she'd shared of him on Instagram, I commented, "What a precious little love bug!"

To which I immediately thought to myself, "What a freakin' grandma thing to say."

I considered adding another comment cracking on my initial comment but figured what the heck, I am a grandma, and that's just the kind of thing grandmas say.

Which led me in my ever inquisitive way to soon after google "things grandmas say."

The results were sometimes hilarious, sometimes...

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6 grandmother myths debunked

Despite the endless amounts of knowledge available online and off, it seems many folks still have an astoundingly incorrect idea of what it means to be a grandmother. The stereotype of an overweight granny with gray hair pulled up in a bun, glasses firmly propped upon her nose and an apron forever tied around her waist is so very NOT what today's grandmothers are. Yet that stereotype persists.

My The Grandma in a box made a smidgen of difference in my mission to dispel the incorrect stereotypes of grandmothers. There's still a long way to go, though, so here's yet another effort.

grandmother myths 

Grandmothers are old.

Debunked: One quick perusal...

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How to NOT befriend a grandma... or, A passive-aggressive response to ignorance

frustrated woman

While awaiting a flight recently, I nabbed a spot at the airport charging station and proceeded to catch up on business on my laptop. A burger-carrying baby boomer woman soon secured a stool across from me and commenced consuming her sandwich with unabashed fervor.

Then things turned bad.

The woman began...

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Help wanted: Shattering the grandma stereotype

Do you feel marginalized, ignored, stereotyped when it comes to your role as a grandparent? Are you fed up with brands presenting erroneous and ageist advertisements that mock grandmas in unrealistic and ridiculous ways (how many times can we stomach the unoriginal, "this ain't your grandma's whatever" in an ad?) or brands that completely ignore grandmas in their marketing efforts?

I'm fed up with both. I'm especially fed up with the stereotyping of grandmas across the board, not just by ignorant brands, but by any and all in the media who think grandmas are nothing but old grannies sitting in their rockers, knitting their lives away. I'm talking about those perpetuating the myth that grandmothers look like this...

erroneous grandma images(screenshot of Google result)... instead of this...


Those are real, live grandmas above, a sampling of the grandmas I've featured as Grilled Grandmas here on Grandma's Briefs. If those lovely, vibrant women are what grandmas look like, why does a Google search for "grandma" result in — at the very top of the list — the inaccurate caricatures I show in the screenshot above? Gah... the frustration.

You've heard me complain about this in the past, especially by way of my The grandma in a box post I published here a while back. There has been some progress made since I wrote that post nearly a year ago. For one thing, The grandma in a box was named in the 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year as the People's Choice selection in the humor category. That post and I — along with 99 other well-deserving bloggers and their works — will be honored in the VOTY Community Keynote and Cocktail Reception Friday evening, hosted by none other than Queen Latifah. (Does that mean I get to shake her hand, hear her call my name, find out if she read my post? I don't know... but I'll share with you what I find out!)

That post is my fed-up-grandma story, though, and I want to hear your story, want to consider ways in which grandmothers and grandfathers may feel marginalized, left out, stereotyped, especially by brands, in advertisements and otherwise. I want to keep those things in mind while at BlogHer the end of this week, possibly even share a few of your stories and suggestions with the brands I connect with, in hopes the erroneous and outdated grandma stereotype will be shattered, that brands big and small will get that the grandparent demographic — grandmas and grandpas — matters... and carries with it a large amount of disposable income they spend regularly on themselves and their loved ones.

We all have a unique story, all have ways we relish being a grandparent, as well as ways we feel the title gets in the way when people look at us, consider us. I want to hear about the latter from you, today — your gripes and complaints about the grandma stereotype. I'd like to add your story to my story, carry it with me as I do my best to represent grandparent bloggers at BlogHer.

Sure, there will be other grandma bloggers at the conference, but I'm not sure how many will be proudly waving the grandma flag. I plan to proudly wave that flag in hopes of making you proud, in hopes of making things even just a wee bit better — and realistic — for all of us grandparents, at least in terms of how brands view us, represent us.

So my question for you today is this:

In what ways do you feel marginalized, stereotyped, ignored, erroneously represented by brands, marketers and media? Feel free to be as long or as brief as you like, just please be honest and real. Feel free to offer suggestions for improvement in the area for the brands, too, if you'd like. I'll share what I can.

Thank you for your stories and suggestions and for helping me (try to) make a difference for our grandmahood (which, I'm happy to report, includes a few grandpas, too!).

The grandma in a box

This post was named People's Choice in the humor category in the 2013 BlogHer Voices of the Year.

Grandma in a box.jpg


Once upon a time there was a woman.

Who had a husband.

And three daughters.

Plus one house, two cats, two dogs, and an addiction to collecting books and pictures of people she loved.

And she had a writing job that had nothing—yet everything—to do with all of the above that she loved.

She liked rock music, independent films, and playing games with her friends—which was usually paired with a wee bit of drinking, too, whiskey or beer but never, ever umbrella drinks of any sort.

The woman also liked learning new things, especially when it came to computers, cameras, cooking and cantatas.

(She also really liked alliteration, so cantatas worked far better in that sentence than piano.)

The woman loved her mom, her dad, her brothers and sisters. She loved Jesus and America, too—as well as stories and songs that turned her heart inside out.

The woman liked the things most women do. No matter what their age.

Eventually the woman’s daughters grew up and flew away. One got married and had two sons.

Which made the woman a grandma. Yet another thing she loved.

So the woman added to her writing job, writing about those grandsons. Writing about them online—along with lots of other things she'd write about—on a blog.

Which was confusing to some.

It wasn't the writing on the blog that confused some, it was the being a grandma. Grandmas are old and know nothing about being online. Or anything interesting at all, for that matter. Grandmas rock in rocking chairs, they hug and kiss their grandkids, they pull up their gray hair into buns. Maybe they crochet. But that's pretty much it.

At least that's what it seemed some non-grandma bloggers thought of grandma bloggers. They’re only grandmas. They’re old. They’re boring. And they’re invisible if there's the G-word in their name, the G-word in their game.

Once a grandma,only a grandma, they thought.

Some unenlightened brands, bloggy networks, and PR folks seemed to think the same thing, too.

If they even thought of grandmas at all.

Other grandmas understood. Other grandma bloggers really understood—even those who didn’t write specifically about their grandchildren, about being a grandma.

The other grandmas understood because all of the grandmas, online and off, were put in the very same box. Were trying to get out of the same box. Together were saying, HEY, you meanies who squished us up into this uncomfortable GRANDMA box: We want out! We love our grandkids way beyond words, but they’re not all we love. Can’t you see we are so much more than grandmas? Can’t you see we are all that we were before? Can't you see that we are now all that AND a bag of potato chips, er, grandmas!

But the non-grandmas didn’t see any of that. They didn't see the woman and her fellow grandmas pounding on the box. All they saw was the word GRANDMA. And the box.

If they saw anything at all.

Every once in a while, someone did see something at all. Mostly it was just the word GRANDMA, though, and they thought the boxed-up grandmas would be happy as clams to talk about canes and assisted living centers and denture cream and gadgets that help them when they’ve fallen and can’t get up.

Those non-grandmas didn’t realize grandmas can and do get up. On their own. And they get down, too. That they're still vibrant and relevant. That they still love music. Still have jobs that have nothing to do with being a grandma, yet love the job of being a grandma, too. They still have spouses and daughters and sons and parents and brothers and sisters and animals and friends and interests.

And that they do all the very same things they did before they became grandmas.

They even—gasp!—still have S-E-X.

And they still talk about and write about things that matter, with people and for people who matter.

So that woman who was now a grandma but still had a husband and three daughters and still really loved all sorts of things non-grandmas think grandmas shouldn't or couldn't like decided to write about being stuck in the GRANDMA box.

In hopes others might see her and her grandma friends in there and let them out.

Or…perhaps they might do nothing at all.

But at least that grandma who loves, loves, loves being a grandma yet is so much more than a grandma would have her say.

Then she ended her plea for release from the GRANDMA box with an oh-so cute photo of her grandsons. Simply because she could.

And to further confuse those non-grandmas who Just. Don't. Get. It. 


Today's question:

Anyone second that emotion?