The Obligations of Elders in the Workplace
Guest Blog at Panchromatica

I Don't Mind That I'm Old

category_bug_ageism.gif Thanks to Marge Roach for alerting me to this “My Turn” piece in the latest Newsweek issue titled “I’m Old and I’m Just Fine With That.”

Writer Mary Blair Immel relates how she found herself in a home improvement store asking the location of the replacement part she needed:

“The thirtysomething clerk looked at me and then made an announcement over the loudspeaker, ‘Will someone from plumbing please escort this young lady to aisle 14?’

“…He made me feel as though I were teetering on the brink of extinction and needed his encouragement to keep breathing.”

I could quote at length, but it is too good a read to synopsize, so go read the whole piece. Except, I can’t resist Ms. Immel’s conclusion which I could not have said better myself:

“Yes, being young was wonderful, but why are so many people afraid of the word ‘old’? I don't mind the fact that I am an old woman. I confront my age every morning when I look in the mirror, but I don't feel the need to be nipped and tucked, lifted or sucked. What I see is what I want to live with.

“I have been around for more than three quarters of a century. That is a long time, but it is OK with me. There is a story behind each and every wrinkle and laugh line. I don't mind the passage of time—that is, I don't mind it until someone, embarrassed or frightened by the thought of aging, tries to convince me that I am not old by calling me ‘young lady.’"


Thanks for pointing this great article out. I wish I had written it ;)
Now the irony of it all is the ads around it. I went back twice: the first time, they were advertising Botox against my wrinkles and the second time, they were advertising for my tummy to get flat!
Just the right things! ;)

Hi Ronni. I visit often but never comment but today is different. Thanks for linking to the article and thanks to Newsweek for publishing it because “I’m Old and I’m Just Fine With That.” too!!

It appears that the author of the article felt the clerk's reply was "condescending."
I'm not sure everyone would have reacted the same way. What ever happened to a bit of friendly humor?

Hey, I just read that article here in the office and was getting ready to send a "Ronni Alert" LOL!

It is a good piece.

I detest that "young lady" shtick...It is insulting and degrading. Not a question of humor.

I am not a "young lady" and don't pretend to be anything other than the mature elder woman that I am.

Turn it around and think about it this way.

" Would some one please direct this "nigger" to Aisle 14.

Funny? I think not. Condesending and patronizing? Yes.

great article.

sorry, terri, i think it's intrusive to be referred to with anything but a generic "Ms." do you laugh when the credit card person on the phone calls you "terri"? not me. this old lady likes boundaries--and no hard rock on the "hold" line.

One of my pet peeves is when a clerk or waitperson or any young person I don't know calls me by my first name. There is a tendency, here in the south, for people to teach their children to call their (the parents') good friends Miss Betty(or whatever). It doesn't bother me all that much, for some reason, because I think it tells the children that even though the person is a close friend, she is not accorded the status of a relative, but still deserves the respect of a little formality.

I would have found it condescending also. We have a society that doesn't respect elders nor know how to address them it seems. My parents taught me to never use people's first names who were older than me and address uncles and aunts with the proper title but my cousins went for the first names and some even called their parents by their first names.

So many great comments. Your oldest readers---at least the ones who comment are getting more feisty and witty all the time. After all, what do we have to lose!

So, I agree. I don't mind being old. I don't mind kicking the bucket. And I certainly don't mind what someone thinks of me if I'm doing the best I can. (I sure wished I'd learned that a loooong time ago!)

Like I've said before, at this point I'm not philosophical. I'm practical and for today still percolating. L'Chaim!

I hate being referred to as "young lady" almost as much as I hate hearing a man refer to his wife as "the little lady". In fact, I don't like the word lady at all, preferring woman, which is what I am. Young lady is condescending. Ban it!!

I'll bet the unelderly man simply (but misguidedly) thought he was being complimentary. It's not really his fault (apart from his lack of thought on the matter), in view of his obvious inexperience in this regard. I'll bet he'd be embarrassed if the reality was explained to him. Most likely, and for whatever reason, he just hasn't yet lived enough to know better.

Whew...since I'm used to being in the minority and very fine with it, I guess I wasn't surprised to come back and read these comments.
Just to clarify...I quickly learned 19 years ago when I moved to the south that I immediately became "Miss Terri" to children. It's a southern thing and I think it's nice. Living in this very small southern town for 17 months, I also refer to women at least 15 years older than me as "Miss So And So."
However, to answer Naomi's question....if a credit card person on the phone called me "Terri" I have to admit, it certainly would not bother me in the least. We all perceive things differently. To be honest, I find the southern greeting of "Honey" and "Sweetie" a bit more grating than being refered to as a "lady."

Sorry....PS....I found Chancy's analogy comparable to apples and oranges. Calling me "lady" and using a racial slur are two different things in my book.

I am beginning to think we must be a sensitive lot; as I track around the blogs I read a lot about what we think (collectively) about how others (as in other generations, that is) refer to us and address us, and even think of us...

Should we still care so much?

"Condescending and patronizing" describes the way I feel about people who use these phrases. Add to this list of annoying terms:
"80 Years Young" and "Senior citizen" about bitter. A man/woman just tries to say something nice and/or make someone smile and then all this comes out? God forbid that someone calls an older woman "young lady." If this is something that you consider so horrible then I would suggest turning on the news. There are a large amount of people in Israel and Lebanon that might disagree with you.

I agree with you 100% Joe.

Perhaps if the author had responded with a little wit and humor herself, she may have felt the urge to smile.

I am a 38 year old man, who was raised to be polite and have good manners; and I have those qualities thanks to my parents.

However, with that said, I am not found of our overly-pc culture.

Many Americans have grown lazy, spoiled, and self-centered.

It's time people start taking responsibility for their own actions and emotions, and stop blaming everyone and everything else.

I belive in equal opportunity jabs including self-depracating humor.

So don't get your Depends in a wad, and have great day. :-)


We're all guilty at times. At my golf course this past Sunday, a junior golfer was dragging his feet while on the putting green, scratching the surface. An employee said "Son, you need to lift your feet. You're damaging the green." Son? The junior golfer wasn't his son.

Similarly, I've heard young people addressed as "Young man", such as "How are you doing, young man?" Would a reply such as "Not bad, old man. How are you?" be okay?

I agree with Betty that in the South, a little more respect is paid to ones’ elders. “Miss Betty”, “Mr. Smith”, “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” are heard much more often in the South than in the North.

On the other hand, I agree with Bill that I’ve heard the Miss Betty’s and Mr. Smith’s refer to these same young people as “Son”, “Young man” or “Young lady.”

I’ve known seniors who are complete b@stards (please excuse the language) and deserve no respect whatsoever. And I’ve met young people who continually renew my faith in the future of our great country.

Our life’s accomplishments should determine the respect we are given. Our wise council as the elder statesmen of our society should determine the respect we are given. But the simple accumulation of years entitles us to nothing, and certainly not respect. Sure, our growing frailties warrant consideration. But if we nit-pick in our evaluation of that consideration, (e.g., good intentions awkwardly delivered, as was the case with Ms. Immel), then we also need to look at our own behavior. Respect can’t flow in one direction. Condescending references to our young people only serve to antagonize the relationship between generations.

In the last paragraph of my post above, the word should be "counsel", not "council."

And Mrs. Legg, you can stop turning over in your grave. I fixed it.

Hi folks--new here. Interesting moment to drop in on. Thanks for the link, Ronni.

I think that whether or not that specific phrase, "young lady," had been the catalyst for the piece, any other number of equivilent phrases/actions/etc. might have been. The piece is valid, and responding to the comment isn't.

But another interesting thing as well is that it seems there's not only an age-ist element to that comment but a sexist one as well.

Has it been mostly men in these comments who have said the author should lighten up? I wonder how they would feel, walking into said cavernous store, making the same request, and having the sales help say, over a loudspeaker, "will someone please come and help this young man find aisle 14?".

I am a 64 year old man. I have heard it all and it makes me cringe. How about "pop", young man, sweetheart, old fellow... I am still the same man as I always have been and full of gusto for life. I have seen the disbelive on faces when I enter a club that is filled with "30 somethings". I am seriously thinking of moving to Mexico where ageism generally does not exist.

Hi my name is Victoria Knorpp I attend Starr Elmentry School in Richmond In and Mrs.Allen's class also my class read you'r book Caputred it is a very nice book and we loved it we would like you to find some how if you could come and visit my class room
thank you very much
if you can, Victoria Knorpp

I can't stand being addressed as "young man" in a condescending manner and I hate it when boys are addressed in this way by a disapproving adult. I hated being spoken to in this way even as a kid.

I agree that "young lady" sounds patronising, especially in the way it is often said in disapproval. It also implies the view that women should behave like proper ladies and seems to also suggest that the speaker is afraid to use the word "woman".

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