Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the double-ass ugly. Comments welcome! Jean

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Elderly Cutie Pies and Other Silly Stereotypes


My long-time hairdresser had a melt-down that caused her to cancel several appointments which meant I had to find someone new to cut hair. Enter the new kid on the block who, in the time it took to cut my hair, called me ‘cute’ or ‘cutie pie’ five times. I’d be flattered except she was calling me ‘cute’ for no other reason than in her mind I’m too old to be computer and cell phone literate. For example, when it came out that I use my computer every day, she said, “That’s SO cute!” And I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her I’d been using a computer/word processor every day since before the internet was invented but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off with the right tone of voice. There’s a fine line between old-people chit-chat and old-people cranky talk if you’re not careful.

When it came out that I have a cell phone and know how to text…you guessed it. “Oh, that’s SO cute!” my new hairdresser gusted. I wanted to say that I’ve had a cell phone since she was watching Sesame Street in her Pampers but I wanted a ‘cute’ haircut, not the don’t-come-back style reserved for mouthy or crotchety old customers. What’s so hard about texting, anyway? We seniors just have to learn to use a different set of codes than younger people do. Things like: ATD for “at the doctor’s,” WAITT for “who am I talking to?”, and WTP for “where’s the prunes?” etc. I would have told her about the old bag cell phone I have in the basement, but she probably wouldn’t believe it has a battery so big that you had to carry it and the huge handset around like a purse---thus the term “bag phones.” Don and I were some of the very first people in town to use cell phones.

You have to develop sense of humor about the way others stereotype you but I will admit sometimes I’ll use their stereotypical view of me for my own amusement. I’ll say things that shock even me. Yesterday I had an appointment to get my elbow break x-rayed and to get a bone density test. In the waiting room a woman, upon seeing my arm in a sling says to me, “Poor dear, how did you hurt your arm?”

“I’m on a roller derby team,” I told her. “And I forgot to put on my elbow pads one day and wouldn’t you know it that would be the day I took a fall. It’s hell getting old and forgetful.” I no more got those words out of my mouth when the nurse called me back to a room so I didn’t have time to tell the woman the truth, assuming I would have been inclined to do so. This exchange took place the day after I’d been gusted all over with ‘cutes’ from the hairdresser and I’d reached my weekly quota for endearments people reserve for old people.

Accepting our age and the stereotypes that go with whatever age bracket we’re going through at the time can be ego deflating. Back when Don turned 50 he got on a kick where he’d tell waitresses that he’d just turned 60 and did he quality for a senior discount now?  These waitresses knew us as regular customers and they would reply something like, “Wow, you sure don’t look your age!” After joking back and forth Don would admit the truth and we’d all have a good laugh. This went on for several weeks after his birthday until one day we went to a state park where the girl taking the money at the entrance didn’t know us. After Don pulled this fishing-for-compliments routine, the girl looked Don squarely in the eye and gave him the senior discount rate. That was the very last time he pulled that joke.

Since old people are stereotyped as always talking about their medical conditions I don’t want to disappoint anyone who is still reading this blog entry. So here’s an update on my arm/wrist. The sling is gone, the elbow break is healed, but I can’t lift, push or pull on anything for a week while I take another round of Prednisone for my hand and wrist. The trauma of the fall may have caused carpal tunnel and I’ll have to get tested for that if the Prednisone and babying my wrist doesn’t cut down on the pain and throbbing I get in two fingers and my wrist. (I’m not the type to give anyone the finger, but right now I couldn’t if I wanted to.) The orthopedic doctor says that the carpal tunnel like symptoms could go away if I didn’t have a mild case of it before the fall, but if I did have mild CT before it won’t go away now without treatment. I spend a lot of time on my computer and have for many years---a common cause of CT---but from day one I’ve always had an ergonomic keyboard and I’m fairly sure CT was not present before my fall. That makes me hopeful that it will go away on its own and that some day, if I lose my impulse control as I age, I’ll be fully capable of giving the finger to an aid in a nursing home who is trying to force-feed me medication-laced applesauce for lunch. ©

13 comments:

  1. THIS is what it feels like being older? Keep telling those roller derby stories, and dye your hair the color of the month. Maybe that would tickle your new hairdresser's fancy, and she'd take you out of the sweet little old lady category.

    Once I fished for compliments from a waiter. I was with my two sisters, one 7 and one 5 years older, and tired of being told we all looked like twins. "Who looks youngest?" I asked. No way to win this one, the waiter said "You". I was the only one with gray hair.

    I've dyed my hair ever since.

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  2. I've been having low lights put in my hair for nearly a year now and they sure do make you look and feel younger. (This new hairdresser is much better at it than my old one, so because of that and the entertainment fodder for blogs she may give me in the future, I'll probably stick with her.

    That was a smart waiter you had! LOL

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  3. I get a lot of "Dear" and "Hon"--makes me seethe.

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  4. I've often wondered why something so simple as a throw-away endearment can cause my hackles to go up. I think it partly is a learned response from remembering how much it bothered my mother-in-law and my mother when it started happening to them. The other part, I believe, is those endearments are a reminder that some people don't view us as 'reliant' anymore. We're 'cute' and 'sweet' etc., like we tell little kids they're cute and sweet---something to smile about but not take seriously.

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  5. Donald Hall has an essay about the way he's treated as an old person. He visited the Smithsonian, in a wheelchair, and was looking at a Henry Moore statue. The guard bent down and talked babytalk(!) to him. Hall, incidentally, had written a book about Henry Moore. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/01/23/120123fa_fact_hall

    Good comeback with the roller derby accident!

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  6. I love the roller derby response; perfect!! (When I was in my late 20s, I had some similar responses for people I barely knew who thought it was perfectly appropriate to ask me in the middle of a dinner party why I didn't have children!)
    The endearments bother me because they are infantilizing, and I actually consider myself a competent adult. -Jean

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  7. Ficherreader: After spending 12 years pushing a wheelchair nothing surprises me about the way a few people talk (or ignore) people using chairs. Good for Hall, for writing about it.

    Stepintothefuture: I used to get those 'why no children' questions too and it's only been in recent years that I am comfortable enough to say I was biologically challenged or to say "I had dogs instead"---depending on who's asking and my mood. People are more consider of asking that question of younger people now days that we know more about infertility issues.

    Thanks for sharing the root cause for why phony endearments bother some of so much. I never thought of it as "infantilzing" us but that's exactly what they do.

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  8. I don't know why, but it bothers me to have some young pipsqueak call me "sweetie"!

    Many years ago, I was talking to an old friend that I had not spoken with in a very long time. In talking something was mentioned about age, and she said "but you're a lot younger than I am". I asked her age, and she told me "70". I blurted out "you R old" and thank goodness she laughed. Well, the years have passed and now I'm 71; it's not nearly as old as I thought it would be. :)

    This is my first visit, so please accept my condolences. (hugs)

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  9. Thank you, Sally and welcome! Your comment about 70 being old wasn't nearly as bad as one my mother got on her 50th birthday. Some teenager was shocked when he figure out that was a half a century and asked her if she knew that. LOL

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  10. Hi - I'm new to your blog, so actually thought that the Roller Derby accident was for real. I love your sense of humor. I'm usually not quick enough to think of good replies at the time.

    Age is just a number. I still believe that if you don't use it you loose it. And you can get it back - you just have to start out a little slower, and be consistent. I say this as I get ready for my 3rd triathlon this year. I just moved in to an new age group, so hoping that will help me win some awards.

    I live in the south, but was not born here - I'm constantly getting called honey and baby by everyone. I guess it is just part of the language here. If it is someone I know, I tell them that I don't like to be called "Hon". If it is a waitress, I brush it off.

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  11. Welcome to my blog! Thanks for reminding me of the regional differences in how often people use the term "hon" etc. A friend of mine who moved from the north to the south had a hard time getting used to that at first. But now she just accepts it as part of the regional flavor of the south.

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  12. Oh, Jean...so funny and sharp, as usual. I need to get caught up on your blog, as you always cheer me up. Hopefully you'll be able to get back on those roller skates, soon ;-) You know those derby girls come up with very clever names. I think you might need one...

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  13. Oh, my gosh! A derby girl name...that will give me a few hours worth of fun thoughts! Thanks for the idea.

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