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Friday, 17 April 2009


By Chrissy McB

I have a two-bedroom condo in a converted three-story apartment complex with thin walls between each unit. There are 12 units in my building with a good mix of ages. It’s a nice place to live with friendly, caring neighbors. Or at least I thought so until recently. The unit adjacent to mine was sold to a young couple who have friends over most Saturday nights to socialize.

That’s okay - I remember what it’s like to be young. Their “guest bedroom” must have an inflatable mattress because, when one of the friends stays over, I get woken up in the wee hours from the sound of a vacuum cleaner that is used to blow up the mattress. That’s still all right. because I’m a good sleeper and can usually get back to sleep easily.

Recently, however, I was upset when during the course of inflating the mattress, the guest said to the male neighbor: “What about the person in the apartment on the other side of the wall? Is somebody trying to sleep?”

The neighbor answered in a tone that implied that it didn’t matter. “It’s just an old bag.” I was so agitated by his lack of civility that I couldn’t get back to sleep for hours.

I remember what my mother told me when I was young that it didn’t matter so much what I said but how I said it. For example, a recent episode of the television show Grey’s Anatomy had a resident doctor resuscitating an elderly patient while saying “Come on, you old bag.”

He said it like he really wanted this old woman to come back to life. Although I do wonder, where were the TV watchdogs that check for political correctness? Does political correctness not apply to old folks?

My mind wanders back to an incident that happened when I was a teenager. My friend Teresa and I were walking to high school in the early ‘50s. There was a woman waiting at the bus stop. She was dressed in the latest fashion, her hair was dyed auburn, and she was carefully made up. In spite of her good grooming, she couldn’t hide her age because her face was deeply wrinkled.

Teresa said to me “Will you look at prune face.” The woman heard her and started yelling at us. Teresa didn’t mean to be mean. She was surprised that the woman overheard her. Being typical teenagers, we just giggled and kept on walking. I often thought afterwards about how hurt that woman must have been.

As the saying goes, “What goes around, comes around.” At a recent high school reunion, some of our classmates had “had a little work done and looked great.” Teresa and I weren’t among that group – the years of joy and sorrow were reflected in our faces.

I reminded Teresa then about prune face and suggested that we were now the prune faces. I must call her and say “Correction, old friend, the term for us now is old bags.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Humans are a little dopey. I know I am. Every winter, the first snow falls and I'm totally caught off guard, surprised that such a thing could happen, as if I had never seen snow falling before. If this can happen to me in less than a year, then surely I can understand how a young person who has never been old before might assume it will never happen to them. I recently heard a guy at the gym say "I've never been this old before." How obvious!! And yet how refreshing to hear out loud. Somehow, when I was younger, I assumed that old people had some sort of knowledge about that state of life or had chosen it wisely. Or actually I'm not sure what I thought but it is certainly very different now that I'm experiencing it myself. I guess it's up to us elders to spread the word, and the internet is a good medium to do it.

Jerry Waxler
Memory Writers Network


Maybe "old bag" is just another name for the human condition. Aren't we all just bags of bones? We're all looking for that meaningful spark - it's in there somewhere. Writing is a good way to find it.

Memory Writers Network

Chrissy, the tone of your neighbor's comment was so awfully demeaning. "Just an old bag" sounds like something to be discarded--a bit different from a teenager labelling someone prune face. At least his guest had had some manners instilled into him/her.

Jerry, you're too kind.

I don't know what agitates me more being called an old bag or a young lady. I find both disturbing. I,too, believe "what goes around comes around."

Political correctness applies only to those groups with a powerful lobby in the world. Those that have reached the age of wisdom, don't whine enough. They see how short life is and know how to choose their battles. Regarding the years writing experience into our faces, I'm reminded of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, "It's not the years sweetheart, it's the mileage." Good post, thanks. Garret

If you are interested in true retribution here's my suggestion.

The next time your neighbor has guests stay over on Saturday night, bring the stereo into the adjacent room in your place and play show tunes, 50s records or (God forbid) Opera till the wee hours of the morning at a volume level loud enough to make it heard next door.

Maybe they'll get a new appreciation of the "Old Bag" nest door.

I think Rich has a good idea!! I don't know that I could have resisted yelling.....'and THIS old bag needs her sleep!"

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