Aww! Bless! --- by Susan Price
|After Rembrandt - Wikimedia|
I grow old also and, in recent years, have been increasingly met with a particular attitude from younger people, and I wondered if fellow Electrics were also familiar with it.
I first fell foul of it when I was a mere slip of a thing of 60. I went to the dentist, where I was treated by a very likeable and friendly dentist and nurse. The conversation (when my mouth wasn't full of implements) was perfectly normal. The kind you might have with any adult person in the world.
I can't remember the details of the treatment -- it was some kind of filling or tooth-repair. As I was collecting my things to leave, the dentist apologised because the repair would only last about twenty years. Oh, that's okay, I said. It will probably see me out.
Oh no, she said. In another twenty years, it would have to be done again. She was sorry about it, but that was the best she could do.
Well, I can cope with that, I said. I'm 60, after all.
Both dentist and nurse reacted with gratifying astonishment. Was I really? Was I really 60?
Yes, I said -- isn't my birth date on your forms?
Aww! they said. Bless! Was I doing anything nice later? Oh, bless!
So, it seemed, when they'd been talking to me as another sentient being, it was only because they hadn't suspected my great age. The moment they knew it, I became a barely functioning walking miracle, to be patted on the head and cooed and simpered at. It was astonishing that I'd managed to get myself to the dentist's at all, let alone fill in the forms and climb the stairs..
Every visit has gone something like this. I enter the practice room and the conversation is completely normal and friendly until the nurse or doctor checks my birth date and realises how ancient I actually am. Then, instantly, their face screws into a simper and my every word after that is greeted with, 'Bless!' As if it's suddenly a miracle that I'm able to speak, when, somehow, it wasn't moments before.
Some medication disagreed with me? Oh, bless! I have some arthritic pain? Bless! I have been wary of crowds because of Covid? Oh, bless, bless!
It's always 'Bless!' With the simper. Even a little variation might make it slightly more tolerable. 'Hallowed!' maybe, or 'Sanctified!' But this godawful response is so uniform I suspect it may be some kind of NHS training -- or, more likely, training by whichever Tory pal has been allowed to buy up my local GP service on the cheap.
In fairness, I should say I've only, so far, met this from women. During one vist my details were initially taken by a young male nurse who, on noticing that the day was actually my birthday, laughed, wished me many happy returns, and asked was I going to have a drink and some cake later? All without a trace of a simper and not even a whispered 'Bless.' It was almost as if he was talking to a compos mentis grown-up. Which proves it can be done, even if the patient is sixty-plus.
As for the young women (and some of them weren't so young themselves), I don't understand what goes through their heads. A patient comes to see them and is treated as professionally as any other -- until the moment they clock that the patient is over sixty. Then that same patient instantly becomes something fluffy with the mental age of 4, who must be cooed at and blessed.
As someone decidedly unfluffy, I find this baffling. Nothing else has changed. I haven't suddenly begun to suck my thumb, asked where my mummy is or started telling them about my teddy bear.
I asked my partner, who's in his early seventies, if he'd been blessed like this, and he said no. (But then, he's a Scot and, while generally affable, he is capable of radiating crushing Caledonian disapproval at a second's notice. He also tends to tell his medicos what he expects them to do for him rather than asking their opinion. So, on reflection, it's unsurprising that none have ventured to simperingly bless him. I shall have to ask him to teach me the trick.)
I'm throwing the question out to readers of this blog. If you're sixty-plus, do you find yourself being simpered at and blessed at every turn? And how do you like it?