Finally—a snappy answer when someone calls you “young lady”

It’s great to see Peg Cruikshank blogging for the Silver Century Foundation alongside Margaret Gullette and me. Cruikshank is the author of Learning to Be Old, among other important books, and her first post tackles what she calls the “Young Lady Dance.” What’s her response to being addressed as “young lady?”

“Why are you calling attention to my age?”

As Cruikshank points out, she has yet to be thanked for this excellent corrective. People tend to deny that they’ve done any such thing, or respond indignantly because, hey, they’re not biased—and, hey, it’s a compliment. I’ve had people insist that women love being called “young lady.” But it’s condescending even to women who actually are younger; it’s embarrassing for the no-longer-young who feel insecure about it; and for those of us who’ve stopped being embarrassed about being older, it’s infuriating. (Here’s my take on it.) 

Unless we call out ageist language, people keep using it. Tone matters.  Next time some clown calls me a young lady, I’m going to try a slightly gentler take on Cruikshank’s rejoinder: “Hmm . . . how come you’re calling attention to my age?”


7 thoughts on “Finally—a snappy answer when someone calls you “young lady”

  1. I am 57 and have slugged out working in a male dominated career. I am accomplished, educated and trained on current management techniques in a challenging career field. When store clerks and servers call me young lady I respond “Did you just cal me an accomplished 57 year old United Steates Marine Young Lady”? Works Every Time!!

  2. I’m in my mid twenties and hate being called young lady. It seems inappropriate, especially in a professional work setting (my situation)

  3. I HATE it! So demeaning and faux-complimentary–like I’m supposed to giggle and bat my eyelashes…..I always tell the guy (it’s ALWAYS a guy) that unless he’s 90 he’s not allowed to call me a young lady. I’m 71 and I know what I am and “young lady” isn’t it.

  4. A clerk in a local store calls elderly women, like myself, “young lady.” Finally, I told her that I cringed every time I was called that, and I told her why. I said that I am obviously not a young lady, and that calling me one says to me that what I am is not alright. I felt badly because I know I hurt her feelings. She thought she was being kind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *