Aww! Bless! --- by Susan Price

After Rembrandt - Wikimedia
 In recent months, several Authors Electrics have written about growing old.

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..

From Wikimedia
At the time, I thought this odd and funny and soon forgot about it. But as the years mount up, I find myself involved in this odd scene more and more often. I've recently had a round of sessions with doctors and nurse practioners. (Let me soothe your alarm: they were just check-ups, nothing serious.)

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?


Jan Needle said…
Would it help if if I said you appear to be doing alright on the grumpy old cow stakes? But I'd probably go off on one because my voice recognition software turned all right into one word, which is of course TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE. I'm not sure yet if the phenomenon is a problem or a boon. I fell down on the stairway in the London underground this week ( sorry – I had a fall. People of our age can no longer even fall over I'm afraid) and while nobody said bless, they were all helpful and concerned, for which I'm forced to admit I was very grateful. I'm still struggling to come to terms with slight loss ( even partial) but I am getting used to the fact that people see me now for what I am – a shagged out old get – rather than the handsome and debonair bearded beauty about town I see in the mirror. ( slight loss, remember! Plus perennial delusion).

Another advantage, perhaps,Is thatYou probably won't punch me on the noseFor That crack about Badtempered bovines, But feel sorry for me rather for The newAnd sudden phenomenonBy which mySoftwareHas now decidedTo capitaliseEvery otherFucking letter.Good fun old age, intit?


Bill Kirton said…
I asked myself your question, Susan, and realise that the genuine reason I have for saying I don’t get that sort of treatment is that I rarely see anyone in the flesh and hold very few conversations with strangers, even caring ones. The nurses at our GP’s practice have been dealing with my needs for years and, right from the start, had a concerned, sympathetic attitude which may have incorporated ‘Bless’ but never articulated it.
Fortunately, my wife has never been a simperer, and nowadays, it seems that the occasional 'Bless' is reserved for cute babies and toddlers (which, needless to say, are unquestionably off our agenda).
To offer, however, a possible linguistic corrective to your observation, I notice that my own reactions to concepts such as ‘in the fullness of time’ are rather compromised, and tend to provoke imprecations far removed from benediction.
Umberto Tosi said…
At 84, I know whereof you speak! I can't decide if younger folks -= not all of them spring chickens themselves, are giving me deference, or patronizing me, or both. Probably both. LOL.All I can say is that it's better than pushing up daisies. :D
Oh how awful for you! Although 10years older than you, I've seemed to escape so far - the words "aw, Bless!' only occur when the receptionist (or occasionally the vet) is giving our CAT his 6-monthly check-ups.

May this remain so!

Susan Price said…
Jan, I embraced being a grumpy old cow some time ago. That fall sounds nasty and I'm not surprised you were grateful to the people who came to help. So would I be.
And Bill, it's not genuine kindness and concern that I object to. It's this pantomime, insincere show of sympathy and kindness that annoys me. There was no sign of it before they discovered my age: then suddenly I'm drowning in syrup.
The simper and 'bless' have never been necessary. I'm usually answering some routine question. I haven't fallen, I'm not ill, I'm not hurt.
Most of the time, I feel like turning round to see who're they're talking to. Clare's cat, pergaps.
Bob Newman said…
I've always found you pretty fluffy myself.
Susan Price said…
Hmmm. How should I take that?
madwippitt said…
Watch the blood pressure! Have a nice sit down and a cuppa dear ... slice of Battenberg?
Sandra Horn said…
Sorry to be late coming to the party. I'm such a grumpy old cow that I'd be tempted to deck anyone who 'blessed' me - they don't, though. Hmm. Thought: I went to school in Tunbridge Wells, so tend to sound a bit on the crisp side - sharp consonants, clear articulation, long words etc. Then again, I'm scruffy. The combination, together with obvious agedness, tends to confuse people. 'Bless' dies on their lips while they struggle to think how to react to which bit - looks old and scruffy/looks old, sounds scarey.

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