‘Good job!’ and other casual degradations

I used to think that the biggest humiliation a runner could endure was having a nice person in a car pull over and offer transportation.

Then I got older.

Now, a disturbing number of nice people I pass on the road feel the need to give me a thumbs-up, or some other form of encouragement.  

The worst is “Good job!”

When a nice, young woman said that to me last week as I was limping back to my car after 5 miles that felt like 50, I wanted to throw a Saucony at her.

I may have shrieked “I was running half-marathons when you were in diapers.”

But really?

“Good job!” is what you say to 5-year-old who presents a fingerpainting that is said to be a cat but looks more like a carburetor with whiskers.

“Good job!” is what you say when someone is trying to do a plank, but has collapsed at the point of kindling.

“Good job!” is what you say when you encounter someone is clearly trying to run for the first time and looks like she needs an IV and a stretcher to get back to her car.

It’s a sugar-coated insult, even if not intended that way, much like the all-purpose affront used by southerners, “bless her heart,” which loosely translates to “she’s trying, poor thing, but gawd, what a train wreck.”

I am, as they say in obstetrics, of advanced maternal age, and it is hot, so hot that Englishmen and mad dogs are cowering inside. I have also run 21 miles this week. Approximately 2 of them were pretty, but I am proud of each one. I’m also a little cross, because it is unmercifully hot and I have bunions.

To the kindly shirtless wonders out there: Take your good job and, well, love it.

But my day is coming.

I read this week on Fit is a Feminist Issue that the fastest growing population of runners today is women between the ages of 90 and 99.

That is not a typo.

On one hand, this is a little disturbing because an explosion in the number of older women runners puts a major dent in my plan to win lots of age-group trophies when I get to that age.

On the other, these wonderful women are far less likely to say something stupid when they encounter another runner. They are more likely to just nod brusquely or wave slightly, which are the international signs of respect that runners convey bestow on their equals or betters.

Go and do likewise; otherwise a Saucony may be headed your way.

9 thoughts on “‘Good job!’ and other casual degradations

  1. I LOVE this!

    I’m not a runner, but I’ve much more frequently noticed an extremely patronizing phone-tone in healthcare and insurance employees, anyone who has access to my age but no clue who I am, as though I’m a sweet, frail—and for some reason, incredibly dim—grandmother sitting in my rocker and barely able to dress myself.

    I have advanced degrees, workout, walk, lift weights daily, have done yoga for 45 years, hear, see, and, well, physically and mentally function just fine.

    What is up with this? It’s like the last frontier of prejudice in our culture; even excessively liberal comedy hosts make frequent fun of people over 60, like we spontaneously generated as “elderly,” and they won’t themselves age as well. (If they’re lucky.)

    So, thank you! I LOVE your writing and am grateful for every finely and wisely-crafted line in this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kitty, I’m with you on the patronizing attitude of medical workers toward those of us who are “older.” My favorite is how they always ask, “have you had a fall in the past year?” When the nurse in the optometrist’s office (the optometrist’s office!) asks, I have to bite back the urge to respond, “why the hell would I tell YOU if I did?” One time, when she could only see my profile after I took my glasses off, she saw the circle under my eye and exclaimed, “oh, you have had a fall!” When I turned to face her directly and she could see the perfect symmetry of the bags under both eyes, she realized she was wrong. But I still remember how gleeful she sounded; it was as if she had won a prize. BTW, I’m not yet on Medicare, so it’s not as if this line of inquiry is mandated by the government or something. Just plain ‘ole condescension.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ageism is alive and well as is the apparent need for those, still in their prime, to imply entitled superiority based on less years under their belts. As much as I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, I’m skeptical that their “supportive” comments are well-intended but rather passive-aggressive, covert condescension. Maybe they’re driven by a desire to appear kind and encouraging, when in fact they may simply have a subconscious realization that soon enough, they will become me – older, less vibrant, weakening – which necessitates the basic animal instinct to inflict injury on an already battered being. Or, maybe they really are attempting to be kind and encouraging, and my own resistance and denial over aging elicits my defensiveness.

    Like Jennifer, I am a runner, and lately, when passed by (usually) younger runners who sometimes give me those “sympathetic” glances, I literally have to bite my tongue to not shout out “let’s see how you’re doing when YOU’RE on Medicare!” (When I’m passed by someone my age or older, I just get mad.)

    Lately, on medical visits, I get comments (from shockingly young doctors) something along the lines of “we start to see things like this people as they mature” or “that is to be expected in someone in their 60’s.” The worst one yet – on a report from a recent test to check the status of a heart issue I’ve had since I was 10, I read “common with elderly patients.” There is was, on paper – I AM ELDERLY!! Doesn’t matter that I still run 35 – 40 miles a week, or that I recently qualified for the 21st time for the Boston Marathon (which I hope to run in 2021, assuming COVID allows for such a gathering) or that I ski 100+ days a year, or that I live an active and vibrant life… I have been officially labeled, and I suppose I need to accept and embrace all that comes with that. Or learn to be less defensive about it? Or learn to just not give a hoot? (BTW – I met Jennifer during the 2007 Boston Marathon when I took off my pants and gave them to her – long story…) Keep up the great writing, Jen!

    Liked by 1 person

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