Sunday, January 28, 2007

The "Elder"

I had one of Those Incidents at the gym today. I'd finished my weight training and was pulling my stuff out of the locker, and I said, "Oof." Not for any reason; I just felt like making a noise.

The young black woman toweling herself off next to me jumped and said, more or less, "What was that?" (Background here: we didn't go into biography, but based on her manner and slight accent, this was an African woman, not an African American; also probably a Muslim, assumption based on the head wrap.)

"I said, 'Oof'," I replied, "no particular reason."

"I guess you said that because you are an elder." Now, I'll confess that this young woman was, oh, maybe twenty-something; so yes, I'm older than she is. But...

Ouch. I remarked that I don't think of myself as an "elder", although since I'll be 61 in less than 3 months, I suppose I have to admit it. And she was extremely polite (if a little startled by this odd woman), saying that I was, at any rate, her elder. It's a remark that an American wouldn't have made; and it made a point that, frankly, I'd rather wasn't brought up. I guess I have to get used to it; if anyone anywhere has figured out a way to turn that clock back, I haven't heard about it. But I prefer to think of myself as "well seasoned," or maybe "experienced"...


  1. Anonymous6:30 PM

    I know what you mean. A few years ago the grocery checker started asking politely if I wanted the Senior Citizen discount that they give on Thursdays. I think I wasn't quite sixty. That would be one thing if it was some kid - but this lady was as old as I am. For years people thought I was younger than I am, but since I damaged my foot and hip and have been visibly hobbling, they think I'm old, old, old.

    Christine Stone

  2. Anonymous10:54 PM

    Then there is the other side of the story. An individual I know is short, and people the same age as she call her "dear." Or, say, "when you are my age..." Personally, I think we are poor judges of age. So much can make our personal evaluation go west: dyed hair, physical condition, early retirement or still working at 60+, even intersts. Hey, take the senior citizen discount and run with it.

  3. Well, probably I'm too sensitive; I got a senior discount at a coffee shop (Shari's, I think) in Washington state a few years ago and it shook me. But I'm spoiled, for the stupid reason that I'm not seriously turning gray; and since my last knee surgery I walk normally. So I try to persuade myself that I look younger than I am; and I probably do look younger than I am; but I guess I'd better admit that I don't look all that damned young!

    And I freely admit, boggart, that I personally am a crummy judge of age, especially of people around my age. I'm not bad at the youngsters. But I'm constantly looking at people with white hair and wrinkles, and thinking, geez, that person is old, and then realizing that I'm 60 and will be 61 in exactly 2 months. "60 is the new 40", like hell.

  4. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Well if it makes you feel any better, I am 36 and am reguarly placed in my 50's when people guess my age. I have lost count of the number of people who think my younger brother (9 years younger) is my son...

  5. With any luck, Stephen, you'll turn out to be one of those people who look pretty much the same anywhere between 30 and 60; so you will look relatively younger (or ageless) as everyone around you appears to age past you.