You’re Not a Young Lady Anymore

Dear WWED,

Every time I go to the local grocery, the guy behind the meat counter calls me “young lady”.  When I hand him my number he says, “What can I get you today, young lady?”

This makes me uncomfortable.  I never say anything, I just smile and tell him what I want.  But the more I hear “young lady”, the more I don’t like it.  I’m 65 years old and retired.  I don’t know whether to feel embarrassed or insulted.  Should I feel this way?  No one has called me young lady since I was a kid.

Jody, the retired “young lady”

My dear Retired Jody,

You have the right to feel embarrassed and insulted.  And you don’t have to take it anymore.

When people call older people “young lady” or “young man”, they think it’s a compliment.  That’s because our society believes being young is about the best thing that could happen to anybody.  But not recognizing and respecting older people for who they are and what they have accomplished marginalizes them.  Our culture tries to shoehorn older people into the “young” mold no matter how many years have passed since the term fit.

The next time your butcher is inclined to be patronizing, I suggest you call him on it.  Instead of just smiling, you can smile and say, “I’m not a young lady, I’m actually retired and 65 years old.  And by the way, right now is the best time of my life!”  Then ask for two nice lamb chops. 

Who wants to be thought of as inexperienced and naïve?  That’s what people are implying when they call you, or anyone who is older, young.  You’re an elder and at the peak of human development.  Let them chew on that for a while. 

And if your butcher won’t change his ageist ways?  It’s time to find a new butcher or eat more vegetables.