Wednesday, March 4, 2015


You don't have to be a political correctness zealot to know it wouldn't be cool to call a short person "big guy", an overweight person "skinny", or a street person "Senator". You'd be a complete oaf. So why is it okay to refer to older guys as "young man"?

There's a dude who works at my supermarket who's taken to greeting me as "young man" (the first of a long line, I'd expect). This last time, I smiled jovially, and replied "I'm good! How are you today, genius?" He was offended (maybe it takes an actual genius to parse the equivalence).

A few years ago I crowed about how it was "The Hippest Time in History to be 48":
I'm the same age as Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. Never before has it been this hip to be 48 years old. When I was a kid, people like Jonathan Winters and Ed McMahon were crustily 48, and no one under 40 trusted anyone over 40. It makes it easier to be 48 when you're living at the hippest time ever to be that age.
Well, that's over. I'm 52 and I look like I have one foot in the grave (as do, for that matter, Stewart, Colbert, and Obama). Problem is, I've never stopped feeling like the exact same person I've always been, irrespective of the old dude staring back at me in mirrors. Aging isn't tough; the hard part is people having more and more trouble seeing who I actually am. But I can't blame them. Appearances, after all, are the main thing they have to go on. If I had to look at me all the time (instead of existing obliviously nestled behind my own eyeballs), I'd surely have the same impression!


Display Name said...

Interesting post Jim. I play magic the gathering and my friends are Young!
About a month ago I went to a cafe with my young friend and the barrista told me she would bring out the scone for my husband. I almost fell over.
I don't think I look that young but maybe context has a lot to do with things. Or she was legally blind. :) But stuff like that keeps happening. /shrug.

Unknown said...

I think even more people think it's OK - or even cute - to call a middle-aged or elderly woman "young lady," and I find it extremely insulting. I'm 48, and I'm Southern. Ma'am will do quite nicely, thank you. The last thing I want is to be condescended to by someone younger than I. My 90-year-old mother is the only one with the right to call me "young lady."

Steve said...

Prof. Peter Hoberg: You know how old I am?

Jesse Fisher: No, how old are you?

Prof. Peter Hoberg: It's none of your goddamn business. Do you know how old I feel like I am?

Jesse Fisher: [shrugs]

Prof. Peter Hoberg: 19. Since I was 19, I have never felt not 19. But I shave my face, and I look in the mirror, and I'm forced to say, "This is not a 19-year-old staring back at me."


Prof. Peter Hoberg: Teaching here all these years, I've had to be very clear with myself, that even when I'm surrounded by 19-year-olds, and I may have felt 19, I'm not 19 anymore. You follow me?

Jesse Fisher: Yeah.

Prof. Peter Hoberg: Nobody feels like an adult. It's the world's dirty secret.

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