The Cantaloupe Story
INTERESTING STUFF – 16 November 2013

Conspiring to Pretend We Are Not Old

EDITORIAL NOTE: Following the Business Innovation Factory conference I attended last week in Providence, Rhode Island, the organizers asked me to write a guest post about my experience with them.

You can read it, titled Participatory Design Studio on Aging, at their blog along with some nifty photographs of moi.

Meanwhile, here at TimeGoesBy:

”Everyone wants to live a long life but nobody wants to be old.”

It can be argued whether that was first said by Jonathan Swift, Johann von Goethe, Bernard Baruch or several others but its point has not changed in more than a 200 years: that we twist ourselves in knots trying to find ways to deny that we are old.

Instead, we reach for euphemisms. Golden ager, senior, third ager, older, boomer, mature, x years young are some of the conventional substitutes for “old.”

Since none of those words and phrases fool anyone, it makes no sense to use them; we all know what they stand for and worse, when they are spoken or written, the widely-held belief that it is shameful to be old is further reinforced.

In that way, every time someone uses a euphemism about my age, I am demeaned. They are saying that because my age makes me deficient, courtesy requires that the two of us – the person using the euphemism and me on the receiving end – must conspire to pretend I am not old. And further, I am supposed to be grateful that we do so.

The late, great George Carlin has an outstanding riff on the abomination of euphemisms for “old.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Funeral Goody Bags


Love the beret on you - you look fab-u-lous! Thanks for the pic.
Wish we had a sub for George Carlin these days. He was more than a comedian, somewhat of a philosopher-satirist-hilarious guy. He's one for all ages.
Looking forward to more info from the conference.

Somehow I missed reading your paper - and couldn't agree with you more. So many times, I find myself reading for inspiration, motivation and realize how I miss the spark of mutual exchange with feelings of relevance and purpose.

I remember a comment Gloria Steinem made once, when someone complimented her on looking so well for 60 - I believe it was "Well this is how 60 looks!" I may have paraphrased but I liked her spunk at the time!

You look wonderful Ronni, your engagement here comes through the pictures like a light. I really enjoyed reading this. At 71, how I want to live is very much on mind these days. I am thankful everyday for not being hooked into ageist "products." I think my pragmatic father is responsible for a lot of that. "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." to quote Popeye.

My retirement "Aha" moment also involved missing part of the work environment. I missed the intellectual stimulation of being around a group of smart folks. So I found and joined a graduate school seminar group that discussed current issues. When we moved five years ago, I lost that important part of my life. But then, I found a new group, and three years ago became its coordinator. I think we elders need to think about how we want to live, and then get out there and create the life we want.

I, too, enjoyed seeing the current and good photos of you. I have always preached that we create our own lives. I'm trying so hard to create the life I want, having nearly lost the one I have this past year. It can't be the one I had before, but it can be good, just toned down a few shades.

Being old is a condition that escapes no one--unless you die. None of the "old" euphemisms bother me. I am 72 and so glad that I am not dead; my mother died at 58, my father at 60. The most amazing thing about being this old is that in my mind and thoughts, I still feel the same as when I was younger--only more at peace with it all.

Your hair and beret look stunning. Very modern. Great revelation...and you are still working every day just in a new area. You moved on to something that gives back to many of us every single day.

I don't mind the euphemisms for "old." People using them generally mean no offense and are actually trying to avoid giving offense. Rather like all the euphemisms for "died" - "passed," "passed away," "crossed over," etc. - or any other euphemisms. They arise from an effort to avoid offending.

And I love your beret! You wear it with such aplomb. Very chic.

Thank you for relating what you learned at the conference. It has changed my thnking as to how I'm living my life. A revelation to be sure. I'm 80 now and find it very unusual that folks merely 6 or 7 years younger want to help me up and down stairs, etc. No reason for that unless they're in a state of denial about being old themselves. Anyway, thank you for the stylish photos of yourself and for the wonderful George Carlin.

I'm with George Carlin about the euphemisms for old as if using the word "old" is negative. How is "older" a better word? Older than what?

And to me it doesn't matter whether people mean no offense when they use these euphemisms. I'm offended just as I was as a young professional woman decades ago when someone referred to me as a "girl." to see your blog text as a poster--title in bright red, boldface black letters for the rest. Waiting...


You look wonderful! I'd loved to have been a fly on the wall at that conference.

Agreeing that we need a new Carlin. I love the clip. Esp. the "older" part.
And then I noticed the subtitle on this blog, again: "what it's really like to get older" and I wondered, would be it better as "what is's really like to get old"? I don't know.
Thank you as always for very thought provoking material.

Ronni--Of all the wonderful photos across your banner, I really, really like the third photo in your story the best. How glorious you look!

George Carlin, of whom I had not heard until about the time he died, made good sense. Thanks for the video.

Good catch on the blog subtitle.

When I began TimeGoesBy about ten years ago, I wasn't yet as militant about ageist euphemisms as I am now and didn't yet understand how toxic they are. We live, we learn, we grow. It took me awhile to get there.

That subtitle has been bothering me for five or six years now. Fixing it involves a graphics re-do that (for my meager talents) is time consuming enough that I've avoided tackling it.

Maybe now that a reader has noticed, I'll do something about it.

I don't know how I feel about you changing it (philosophically, not technically).

Carlin's humor aside, I think he did touch on something.... "Old" has a finality about it, a kind of changelessness that isn't true... but "Older" or "Aging" captures the notion of continuing change, growth, etc...

Love your beret and hair style. Carlin is one of my favorite comics.

I often look for him on you tube.

He straightens things out right fast.

To me, it's nearly a lost cause. As the latest crop of old people, we'll grumble and/or rationalize about our situation and another group will take our place. Repeat/continue. But, maybe we'll help each other through this and that's good. I'd like to know what the meaning of life is young or old--sometimes I think it's reproduction and if true, being old, I'm in trouble.

Ronni, you look exquisite. Months ago, I read all your posts on hair loss and what to do/not do, and how you decided to address the matter. Here, your dashing hat, stunning natural hair color and cut, and outfit (visible part) are terrific and becoming, and you give me great ideas.

On your reports, I am most grateful for the Green Light affirming my right to seek and treasure intelligent company, intriguing conversation, and creative perspectives that lift (if not occasionally rile me). Increasingly, I suffer fewer fools, bores, and their kin less often though with greater kindness as previously while I vanish as quickly as possible. And, whereas most of my life I have preached or repressed my reactions and thoughts in the presence of bigots I have learned to respond immediately with facts and zero tolerance in conversations with me. (This last specific change is as much a function of having relocated from the USA to Israel as it does to aging. Methinks.)

Thank you Ronni for your wonderful posts and information. Regarding reader Doug's idea, how about ...what it's really like to grow old?" Aren't we, or shouldn't we, be trying to grow? If you're going to change the banner please add that great photo of you at the Providence meeting! I am enjoying growing old with blogger friends like you!

About Ronni's TGB subtitle. I'm reminded of another great one by another great writer, Studs Terkel. "Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do"! Loved the book and its subtitle — integral to what's between the covers.

I don't care if it pretending we are not old. What is inside matters. Even at 65 or 25 you always feel older outside than in right? I feel 18 lol...inside.

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