Column: Don’t Call Me Sir!

By Stuart Adelberg

I have noticed something strange happening to me recently. It’s been unsettling and completely unexpected. I don’t know how else to say this. . . but. . . people are being nice to me – treating me with respect and kindness and offering me help. I am suddenly, and without any warning, being looked at differently. THIS MADNESS HAS TO END!!

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I have begun to look my age. This is hard to accept, as my height, physical build, and yes – immature sense of humor – have often led people to see me as younger than I am. I loved this!! But evidently, the party’s over!

I first noticed this about a year ago when walking my dog in the park. I accidentally stepped into a hole in the grass and went down on one knee. My automatic reaction was embarrassment. I looked around to see if anyone was laughing. Instead, some young guy in tight fluorescent leggings came running over and asked if I needed help. What now? I looked behind me wondering if someone else had fallen down. He couldn’t possibly be talking to me. But it soon became clear. Sometime over the previous year I had matured to the point where a fall was no longer funny – like slipping on a banana peel. I had sadly and unceremoniously entered the world of “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Etiquette required me to thank this nice young man. Of course, even calling someone a “nice young man” is evidence of my apparently advancing age!! So, despite my fury, I expressed gratitude – showed him that my legs still work – and quickly walked away! I immediately suppressed any memory of this experience, but I am now much more cautious walking in the park.

Sadly, the past few months have demonstrated that my aging process continues. Recently, someone politely opened a door and encouraged me to enter a building before him, not ordinarily a nefarious action. I would have been grateful for the kindness, but after I thanked him for his gesture, he responded with, “You’re welcome. Have a good day, Sir.” SIR???? Who was he talking to? Was my father walking behind me? I have admittedly been called much worse, perhaps deservedly so, but none of those words came close to stinging me as much as being called Sir!

A couple of weeks ago I went to my parents’ house. They were traveling and asked me to start their car. As I pulled into the driveway, I began to worry about the neighbors. What if someone sees an unknown car and takes note of a strange person, obviously much younger than the homeowners, entering the house, opening the garage and taking their car for a ride? Maybe they will call the police! Who was I kidding? By now I had begun to realize my changed circumstances. I had to admit that if a neighbor noticed me, instead of calling the police, they would probably come over and ask if I was lost and needed help getting home!!!

I am baffled by all of this. I thought 60 was the new 20. . . OK. . .maybe 30! I’ve decided to fix this. You may have to look really close to recognize me on my next walk in the park. But, if I fall again, I might need your help to get up. My tight stretchy leggings don’t allow me to bend my knees and I don’t think they are ever coming off. I will gratefully accept your assistance. But please, don’t call me, Sir!

Stuart Adelberg has had a long history of leadership and active involvement in the region’s nonprofit arts and human services communities. He is still in the process of deciding what he wants to be when he grows up!

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