The other day I got an email from an evidently well-meaning local health operations. The text of the email began: “At your age . . . .” The rest of the sentence was “watch out for these injuries,” but I really couldn’t get past the introductory phrase. Couldn’t they have come up with something a little bit less aggressively in-your-face about the age issue, and a little more neutral in tone?
(In case you’re wondering, the email pointed out that aging people tend to lose strength and flexibility, and have problems with their balance. In short, when you get old you’re going to become a rigid, brittle-boned, stumbling weakling. Welcome to the Golden Years! And watch out for those falls that cause hip injuries.)
Messages that begin “At your age” are right up there with messages that begin “We regret to inform you.” When you see that, you know bad news is coming. Sometimes you don’t even need to read the introductory phrase to know that the tidings are grim. When I was applying to law schools back in the early ’80s, I quickly learned that a slender envelope inevitably equaled rejection. Applicants were looking for the fat manila envelopes that provided information about acceptance, financial aid availability, and other information that an accepted student might need, not the basic envelope white envelope carrying the one-page ding letter from some flunky in the registrar’s office. (Of course, that was back in the days when people used the mails to communicate, which just shows why I’m getting emails that begin “At your age . . . .”)
And speaking of messages, sometimes what starts out positive can take an abrupt left turn with the use of the word “but.” A wise older person once said that you should ignore everything that comes before the “but.” Being old, after voicing those words of wisdom she no doubt promptly stood up, lost her balance, and suffered some kind of joint injury.