As We Age, Doctors Say the Darndest Things

Physician, Heal Thyself!

As we age

“As we age …”

“I assume you’re retired.”

“It’s just part of the aging process.”

These phrases are part of my new — and offensive — normal, as I make my unmerry round of first-time doctor appointments in our new hometown.

And then, there’s my personal favorite phrase:

“You’re doing really well, ‘young lady.’”

As We Age Angst

And to each of these phrases, I want to counter:

To the “as we age” opening salvo, I want to parry and say, “Really? Are you aging? If so, I’m impressed. You look to be about 27.”

To the statement about my presumed retirement, I want to ask “Why? Why do you make that assumption? And really, what’s its relevance to my dental health?”

And to the “It just part of the aging process” line, which was made because I’ve got a problem with dry eye, I wanted to point out that I’ve had dry eyes since I was 32 and had Lasik eye surgery to correct nearsightedness! Was I “aging” then?

As We Age Anger

So far I haven’t “engaged” — i.e. corrected — my newly-acquired health care providers about their ageist comments, not because I feared sounding combative or bitchy, or God-forbid crotchety, but because I wanted to keep them focused on my medical care. Yet, if all they see is “old,” are they really focused on whatever medical issue is the medical issue at hand? Do I really want to fight the battle against ageism or just discuss my specific medical woe of the moment?

After weeks — no, make that, months — of all this “you’re getting older, not better, baby” language, I’ve been feeling blue. Feeling blue? Yikes! Is that another disease of the aged?

But then … Then, I discussed what was happening with Handsome Hubby, who’s been busy doing his own round-robin of appointments with new medical providers.

“Funny,” he said. “None of my doctors are saying that stuff to me.”

The As-We-Age Rabbit Hole

HH’s statement, of course, started me down a new rabbit hole of self-doubt about my appearance and how “old” I looked.

Happily, he quickly threw me a lifeline, offering a different “diagnosis” for my medical visit dialogue malaise: an advanced case of sexism.

Yes, it was another sad reminder that while life is good if you’re a cute girl, it is not so cute if you’re a middle-aged or older woman.

As one female wag put it, “I might as well spy for the CIA, I’m invisible now. I could sneak in and out anywhere. Nobody notices me anymore. It’s pathetic. No, make that, I’m pathetic. At least that’s how I feel. And I’ve got two advanced degrees.”

Come to think of it, what I just wrote strikes me as ironic. I was once recruited to work as a spy!

As We Age Advice?

So, the question, my dear lady middle-aged muddlers, do I start gently pushing back at sexist/agist talk at doctors’ offices? Because honestly, given my current sensitivity, I cannot think of a polite, constructive way to launch a conversation about these constant off-the-cuff thoughtless zingers! What’s your advice? Help, please, and as they say in the medical buz, I need it STAT!

4 replies
  1. Karen Polllak
    Karen Polllak says:

    I am having the same issues. I do not feel old though my body maybe old.
    The comments about aging are definitely sexist. Annoyingly so.

  2. L F McNeil
    L F McNeil says:

    “As we age? I have been 29 for years!” “Retired? Oh I’d put the emphasis on RE-Tired… you know… new wheels that go farther and faster?”

    • Karen Galatz
      Karen Galatz says:

      I quite agree … Yes, you are!
      Also, a friend just reminded me. The other line doctors now throw at us is “Have you fallen recently?” to which I want to reply, “No, sonny, but I’m getting ready to kick somebody!”


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