San Francisco Chronicle

Older grad student faces attitudes

- By Judith Martin Send questions to Miss Manners’ website: www.missmanner­; to her email address: dearmissma­; or through postal mail: Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

Dear Miss Manners: I just began a full-time grad program that is small, demanding and excellent. I am 73 and my cohorts are in their 30s, and I haven’t noticed any particular gap in our views or any alienation from the others. I am just absorbed in the reading, writing and discussion­s, like we all are.

My concern centers on others’ reactions when they hear about what I’m doing, like: “Isn’t that wonderful! Good to keep busy!”

Nobody would ever say that to the other students. It’s not a little hobby; it’s a program that will contribute a lot to my long-term projects and goals.

When they tell me how wonderful it is that I am doing this, I know they’re trying to be nice. But I find these remarks condescend­ing and insulting — pure ageism.

Gentle Reader: Ah, yes — the return, later in life, of that well-meant toddlertal­k: “Good job! You are walking all by yourself!”

Miss Manners has never heard of a toddler replying, “Yes, and I will soon be able to outrun you.” You should probably observe equal restraint.

But she will permit you to inquire pleasantly, “And what are you doing to keep yourself busy and active?”

Dear Miss Manners: Could you please educate us on the difference between a living room, sitting room, drawing room, saloon, lounge, parlor and boudoir?

Gentle Reader: These distinctio­ns have gone out of use. But for the sake of social history, Miss Manners will try:

Boudoir: A bedroom, or antechambe­r to one, where a lady receives her intimates — confidante­s, hairdresse­r, social secretary.

Lounge: A retreat in a commercial establishm­ent.

Living room: Kept empty so it would be clean for company.

Sitting room: Where the family was allowed to be if banished from the living room and where it often gathered when there was only one household TV.

Drawing room: For distinguis­hed company.

Salon: Reserved for guests who would be expected to wittily ponder the meaning of life.

Parlor: Where you would be on view before your funeral.

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