Don’t call me young lady!

This Sunday, advice columnist Amy Dickinson received a question from an active and still working 77-year old woman, asking how to stop “waiters, tour guides and all kinds of other public servants” from calling her “young lady.”

Amy shared that this had happened recently to her at an airport, and then responded:

“My first impulse was to think that I was looking particularly ancient, because, like you, I assume that this condescending phrase is directed only toward elderly women — intended, I guess, to make us feel youthful and appreciated.

And so, to all of you nice men out there doing this — please stop.

I went to Twitter with this dilemma, and I’ve cobbled together a response that has a distinctly Mae West ring to it: ‘First of all, I’m not young. And I’m definitely no lady.’”

Here’s Change AGEnt Randi Lewis’ response:

I read this and was once again frustrated by how this type of thoughtless insult is so common, and how it diminishes us based on age and on gender. So here is my letter to Amy:

Your response to Not Young is good, but I’d love to hear further suggestions from readers on how to respond. I’ve seen the keynote speaker at a business conference introduced as “young lady,” and it felt very demeaning and disrespectful. The speaker was obviously uncomfortable, but seemed to think she was taking the high road by not calling him out on his ageist bias. I disagree, and wish she had put him in his place. Ever since I’ve been apprehensive about that situation happening to me, and how I would respond. I’ve imagined something similar to your idea: “Why, thank you John. However, you should see your eye doctor as I’m clearly not “young.” And I certainly didn’t get to where I am today because I’m a “lady!”

Please Amy, NEVER assume you are looking particularly “ancient.” It shouldn’t matter how you look or what your age is. “Young Lady” is a compliment for the 13-year-old dressed up for a wedding; “What a beautiful young lady you are!” For anyone else, at any age over 18, it’s demeaning. We mature women must stop being so self-deprecating.

Randi Lewis, a Colorado lawyer, and a Change AGEnt for Changing the Narrative in Colorado.

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