We may be forgotten but we’re not gone!

May 14th, 2021 10:10 PM

By Southern Star Team

Mary Rose McCarthy, relaxing in Courtmacsherry. She believes mental illness is another invisible phenomenon in our society. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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Nearing her sixties, Clonakilty woman Mary Rose McCarthy feels ‘increasingly invisible’ and worries that older men’s feelings are being neglected too

AT first, it’s so subtle, it goes almost unnoticed. The ‘take your time there, love’ and a little pat on the arm when fumbling for change in the supermarket, or ‘careful there, love’ as you cross the street.

Due to the Public Sector stipulation of retiring at a certain age, irrespective of ability or need to do the job, there are less of my age cohort in public life.

It’s no longer funny to say my doctor looks like a teenager, because so do the gardaí, the TV reporters and presenters, teachers and even TDs! All appear to be getting younger and younger. Of course, the real truth is that I am just getting older.

There is an upside – I can now invoke the wisdom of the crone and speak forthrightly!

But the downside – I’m more in tune with a lot of other negatives in society now, too.

For example, mental illness is another invisible phenomenon in our society. While in theory, there is much talk about mental health, especially during these pandemic times, in reality there is still an awful lot of stigma in talking openly about it.

We’re all now speaking to each other via Zoom of Facetime.

D and I are no exception, as he lives in another county. D struggles with his mental health. Thankfully, he recognised it in time, sought, and received the support he needed. He tells me he is on regular medication.

What gets to D most, though, is the secrecy and the stigma. He says there are more ads on TV for erectile dysfunction and incontinence pads than anything to do with mental health. It is okay now for men to speak to other men about their need for Viagra – but not admit that they need antidepressants or counselling, or both.

It is a downright shame that in the Ireland of 2021, it is more comfortable to talk about needing a little blue pill for full sexual function, rather than whatever colour pill is taken for full mental health.

Anyway, D also asks, why is advertising for incontinence products aimed only at women? Men also need them, he says, but that’s another subject on which men are silent. There’s one particular advertisement that particularly irks him.

The woman in the Tena advertisement is at the gym. She goes to lift what she refers to her as ‘pee weights’. She then informs the viewer that she has a super power ‘down my pants’. After which she sashays across the room while the camera closes in on her wiggling buttocks. It’s always a woman’s anatomy that is on display, further adding to the objectification of women.

Imagine, D says, TV ads showing men using the same products. Have a man check if the contour of his Tena pants fit snuggly without showing through his trousers as a visible panty line. Have him sashay away, while the camera focuses on his wiggling bottom. We enjoy a laugh at the very notion.

I’m not using D’s full name at his request. He’s not confided in his family because they disapprove of some of his lifestyle choices.

As D says eventually the slights and hurts build up. ‘It’s things like that that come in on top of you.

‘No one considers the stress and grief the man undergoes during a separation. Instead the sympathy and emphasis is almost always with the woman.’

I think it’s very sad that some families judge each other. Life is too short for bearing grievances and grudges against others.

I’ve heard people say the pandemic changes everything. I only hope that’s true.

I’d like to see an Ireland where, when asked how we are, that we replied with how we actually feel, be that low, angry, sad, depressed, or glad, joyful, happy.

I wish for a society with more kindness, less judgement, where to speak of mental health, especially among men – and not just young men – would be just as ordinary as talking about a sports injury.

And I’ve decided now’s the perfect age to be curmudgeonly.

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