Monthly Archives: July 2016

In Defense of Little Old Ladies

There is no such thing as a little old lady. Now, someone might look like a little old lady, dress like a little old lady, or even walk slowly and use a cane.  But, there is no such thing.  Little old ladies do not exist, except in movies and books, short stories and fables.  However, that elderly woman who lives down the street from you is not a little old lady.

When I was a very young lady, and working as an “executive secretary,” some of the supposed little old ladies tried to get me fired. These little old ladies looked like someone straight out of a Norman Mailer painting.  But, they were not sweet, they didn’t necessarily love children, and they were ruthless.  Think Joan Rivers and Joan Crawford (“Mommie Dearest”) or even Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Not to mention Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem. These were or are all unofficial sweet little old ladies.  There was nothing, and is nothing, sweet or little about any of them.

How do I know this? Because I am supposed to be a little old lady (being 62 years old) and I’m not.  A few of my co-workers, who are in their 60s and 70s are supposed to be little old ladies, but they’re not. They love their makeup, they dye their hair, and some of them love new and trendy clothes.  If you even vaguely imply that they are little old ladies, you’ll hear a response worthy of a millennial’s respect.

Even when they can barely move, have lost teeth, and have sparse, white hair, they do not think of themselves are little or old. They still look at young ladies (and men) through the filter of youth.  Their bodies might be racked with arthritic pain, and they may be taking 3 or 4 (or more) different medications, but they see themselves as perpetually 35 years old.  I’ve seen little old ladies eyeing the bodies of young men and women, and they sincerely believe that their own body looks relatively the equal.

Are they in denial? For sure.  But, there are circumstances where they briefly break through that denial.  At yet another job, there was a little old lady who had the hots for a very young man.  Almost daily, she’d describe what she would do with that young man given the opportunity.  But, she realized that it was “just a fantasy.”  That didn’t stop her from flirting with him, or slowing passing by his cubicle while swinging her generous hips his way.  She still had hope.  I’m not sure if anything ever came of her subtle advances, but she had hope that something just might happen.  Nowadays, she’d be called a cougar.  Not a very nice word, but one that is used to describe little old ladies who lust after and pursue young men (or women).

Now, there are circumstances where being a little old lady can come in handy. If I’m stopped by a traffic cop, I’m less likely to get a ticket, and more likely to get a good scolding.  More young men hold doors open for me.  I’m more invisible now – a bit of ageism comes into play – but that’s usually okay.  However, I’m less patient but more tolerant, less judgmental but more observant, less accepting but more loving, but I am not a little old lady.

They just simply do not exist.


Gotta Make It Real … Compared To What?

With the recent murder of black men, and the murder of white police officers, the inevitable happened.

A white female colleague wanted to “discuss” it.

Initially, I was happy that someone had brought it up, happy that someone wanted to talk about it. After all, I am part of a staff that is truly diverse. This staff is probably the most diverse I’ve ever worked with. The people here are of almost every age, race, religion and ethnic background in the world. We have black Americans, white Americans, Pakistani Americans, Mexican Americans, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Buddhists. Here, most of the world is represented.

The first question I got from this colleague was: Is there really that much discrimination against African Americans? How?

Well this particular colleague has worked in remote areas of the Middle East, so I drew a parallel between her experiences there, and my experiences here. In the Middle East, she was an outsider. She was pointed at, stared at, treated differently, treated worse, and sometimes treated better. She was touched indiscriminately by men, taunted by children, and isolated by the majority. She was living, in many ways, the same way a black person lives in America.

She recounted how uncomfortable that felt. How it felt horrible to stand out all of the time, to be noticed all of the time, to never feel invisible and never feel included. I told her that’s just how it feels to be black in America.

She still didn’t get it, or didn’t want to get it.

She insisted that everyone is uncomfortable now; how she is afraid that a black person might just pull out a gun and shoot her because she’s white. She insisted that no one is safe and that everyone is on edge.

I told her that I fear for myself, my children, my brothers and nephews. I fear for their lives. I have feared for their lives for a long time now. I told her how I’ve been called a nigger, how an Arkansas cop once threatened my life, and informed me that in Arkansas “no one will ever find your body.”

She couldn’t process that.

She insisted that I didn’t get what she was saying. That I didn’t understand how she now feels that her life is at stake.

Now, on reflection, I think she wanted me to understand how important it is that everyone now feels threatened.

Somehow, I don’t feel that the lives of others are more, or less, important than those of my family. Somehow, and for some remote reason, I don’t feel any more panic today than I felt two weeks ago. Somehow, today, I still believe that given a set of similar circumstances, she is more likely to live through a stop by the police than I am.

If “people in general” are feeling threatened, feeling panic, and feeling unsafe in America. Welcome to my world. I have never been safe in my home. I can only hope that someday, somehow, I will.