Saturday, June 15 2024

Miss Manners: Older grad student faces condescending attitudes

Estimated read time 3 min read

Dear Miss Manners: I just began a full-time grad program that is small, demanding — and excellent. I am 73 and my cohorts are in their 30s, and I haven’t noticed any particular gap in our views nor any alienation from the others. I am just absorbed in the reading, writing and discussions, like we all are. My concern centers on others’ reactions when they hear about what I’m doing, like: “Isn’t that wonderful! Good to keep busy! Keep your mind active! So important when you’re aging!” Nobody would ever say that to the other students. I’m taking this as seriously as they are. It’s not a little hobby; it’s a program that will contribute a lot to my long-term projects and goals. But because I’m two generations older than the other grad students, people (including my contemporaries) think it’s cute or sprightly of me.

When they tell me how wonderful it is that I am doing this, I know they’re trying to be nice. But I find these remarks condescending and insulting — pure ageism. My only response so far has been a weak smile and a change of topic. Do you have any other ideas?

Ah, yes — the return, later in life, of that well-meant toddler-talk: “Good job! You are walking all by yourself! I’m so proud of you!” Miss Manners has never heard of a toddler’s replying, “Yes, and I will soon be able to outrun you.” You should probably observe equal restraint. But she will permit you to inquire pleasantly, “And what are you doing to keep yourself busy and active?”

Dear Miss Manners: Could you please educate us on the difference between a living room, sitting room, drawing room, saloon, library, lounge, parlor and boudoir?

These distinctions have gone out of use, as they refer to activities that have disappeared now that people need only their own devices for company. But for the sake of social history, Miss Manners will try:

Boudoir: a bedroom, or antechamber to one, where a lady receives her intimates. No, not necessarily those intimates, but her confidantes, her hairdresser, her social secretary and, briefly, her young children.

Library: a room lined with books, whether or not they are read.

Lounge: where people retreat in a commercial establishment — say, the smoking area or the ladies’ bathroom.

Saloon: a rowdy drinking place, probably with gambling and the occasional shootout. Or did you mean “salon?” In that case, please see below.

Living room: kept empty so it would be clean for company.

Sitting room: where the family was allowed to be if banished from the living room — and where they often gathered when there was only one household television set.

Drawing room: reserved for distinguished company.

Salon: reserved for guests who would be expected to wittily ponder the meaning of life.

Parlor: where you would be on view before your funeral.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

#Manners #Older #grad #student #faces #condescending #attitudes

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