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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Growing old

Posted Wednesday, May 6, 2009, at 3:40 PM

I turn 47 on Friday.

Earlier today, I interviewed a school principal -- a school principal! -- who kept calling me "Mr. Carney" every other sentence.

I wanted to reach out and smack him, but I'm too aged and infirm to do much damage.


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Know the feelin' well John. I try my best to ignore it, but the body keeps reminding me.

-- Posted by stevemills on Wed, May 6, 2009, at 3:57 PM

Eh? What's that? Speak up, sonny!

-- Posted by MotherMayhem on Wed, May 6, 2009, at 3:57 PM

47 is barely out of puberty.

At this stage of life,we're only "winding down" in the sense that we're getting past the awkward days of preparation and we're starting to reap the rewards of all we've learned and accomplished beforehand.

Sure,we're not youngsters anymore but that's a blessing.

We're experienced enough to "get" the wisdom of our past and current mentors while we have enough vitality and credibility to pass some hints on to others.

We still have some elders to learn from but we're also capable of getting new insights from a younger generation.

We're approaching whole new areas where we can apply what we've learned and who we've become.

In a while,we won't be the worn,obsolete members of the last stage in life but the feisty,new kids of the next.

As the Red Hat t-shirt says,one is "old enough to know better,young enough to do it anyway."

Or,it could be said that people from 45 -60 can take on life while wondering how anyone could buy the notion that rational and moral choices could be boring.

Yeah,the sense of indestructability that youth has is gone along with the sense that life can be put off until tomorrow.

There's a greater need to find out what matters and authentically experience it.

But,there's a reason the popular culture is so obsessed with immortals who are attractive and vital but have the savvy of someone who's been around a while.

That juxtaposition of wonder and hubris and wisdom and stability is irresistable.

A 47 year old on the cusp of his past and his future may not remain at that point for hundreds of years but he still has that appeal.

It can serve him well if he concentrates on what he's gained and what he has to look forward to and refuses to brood over roads not taken and "glory days".

-- Posted by quantumcat on Wed, May 6, 2009, at 9:44 PM

Mr. Carney, I would not be so quick to assume that it was an insult, even if you found it insulting. It could have just been respect for your position, or good manners. I routinely address acquaintances of a similar age to me in a formal way. If you are referring to one of several local principles I am thinking of, you should probably understand it to be absolutely complementary.

QC, I have not had much to comment on lately, but I do still read regularly. I really enjoy your comments and the optimism they display. Thank you for taking the time to type them.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Thu, May 7, 2009, at 3:03 AM

I was trying to be funny, memyselfi. I certainly didn't think he was trying to be insulting.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Thu, May 7, 2009, at 6:31 AM

Thank you,memyselfi.

You've been missed.

John,I understood that you were joking but I get the heebie-jeebies myself when a grown person calls me "ma'am" as if I was ready for the glue factory.

That just sounds different than when people use the same words to address someone out of respect.

I dunno,I guess I figured there'd be a few more years between the time folks get asked "Does your mama know you're buying this snack so close to supper?" and "Be sure and get those baby-boomers' food out to them quickly. They're here on borrowed time as it is."

-- Posted by quantumcat on Thu, May 7, 2009, at 11:33 AM

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN JUST REMEMBER IT IS ALL A MATTER OF COMPARISON YOU ARE YOUNG COMPARED TO THOSE THAT ARE IN THEIR 60'S 70'S 80'S AND YOU GET THE IDEA! ENJOY!

-- Posted by Thatsmystory on Fri, May 8, 2009, at 11:40 AM

I hope you have had a good birthday. You are right between the ages of my two sons.

I know exactly what you mean about having younger people address you as Mr. They don't call me Mr.; they call me Miss Betty. I didn't like it when people I worked with called me that. Finally it dawned on me that it wasn't an insult.

I know two men who aren't that much younger than I am who both called me Mrs. Brown. When I asked them to call me Betty, they refused because their mother had taught them to saw Mrs. They never came out and said it was because I was an older woman, but that's what they meant. If they had just said Miss Betty, it wouldn't have had the same effect on me.

Later this year I'm having a BIG birthday. I dread to hear what folks will call me after that.

-- Posted by bettyhbrown on Sat, May 9, 2009, at 9:14 PM

Mr. Carney, Sorry about that. I did understand the humor, and I did not imagine that you really wanted to smack the principle that I am guessing to be Mr. Harwell. I did however, assume that after the interview, and possibly even after the writing of the story, that it was still on your mind enough to write about, and there was some small kernel of discomfort about the situation, especially with your birthday.

I just wanted to get across to you the idea that some of us absolutely could not address you in any other way, even if we wanted to. I could not even imagine addressing any one of the commenters on this page in a casual way if I were to meet them, regardless of their age. If it is Mr. Harwell you are referring to, on the few times that I have spoken with him, we were both Sirs. As a matter of fact, it seems like every other sentence had the word "Sir" in it. To someone listening, it may have appeared to be a "Sir" war to see who could get the last one in.

I guess some of us were expected to be formal as children, and it stuck. I have to know someone very well before I am casual, and it is very hard to change. That tendency is magnified for me when I am in a professional situation, and I imagine the same is true for Mr. Harwell. I have heard him address someone who I imagine to be 2 decades his junior (or close to it) as Ma'am. It just is not necessarily about age, and even if it were, do your (now) 47 years of experience not deserve some respect?

-- Posted by memyselfi on Mon, May 11, 2009, at 2:34 AM

At a few months ago, at my current 59, I was sitting in the hot tub at LA Fitness where I used to live. I had just finished a 60 lap swim and was complaining about a rotator cuff that was acting up, to my sometime swimming buddy Bill, 77. A quiet thoughtful old guy, he chewed on it for a few seconds during of one of my rare verbal pauses and said, "Yeah, pain is like tree rings, the older you are, the more you have." It was not and still is not encouraging.

-- Posted by kyosaku on Sat, Aug 8, 2009, at 8:59 AM


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John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.
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