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Unwelcome kindnesses of aging

Dear Annie: I find that I have a real problem with aging. When a flight attendant nicely says, “This way, young lady,” I want to punch him. I can’t stand the condescension! I hate being old. I am 76 and, while I still maintain an active life — teaching elementary school music and dance part time, and directing plays and musicals — I have found that I have finally begun to look my age.

This causes people in the Czech Republic, for example (where I am humiliatingly able to travel free on the trains and buses), to try to give me their seats and for people who don’t know me to treat me with deference. While that seems like a good thing, it is not.

I think it is reasonable to be deferential to people with disabilities. I would very much prefer not being looked upon as someone with a disability because I am old.

The people who know me do not treat me as though I am old. I am vibrant and an active singer, dancer, director, teacher and church member in my community. It is only with people who do not know me that I am treated as though I am old. While I understand it, I resent it greatly.

Can’t we just be nice to everyone and stop treating older people as aliens? Younger people: Hopefully you will get to be old, too. And then you will see what it is like to be treated differently just because you have lived longer. — Sick of Being Treated This Way

Dear Sick: I’m printing your letter as a wake-up call to anyone who might be guilty of this kind of behavior. Unfortunately for us both, not everyone will read this column, so there are always going to be those who continue acting this way. The key for you will be finding a way to rise above it. I’d be curious to hear from other readers about how they’ve dealt with this issue. I’ll print their insights here.

Editor’s note: Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.