Every once in a while, someone offers me a seat on the subway as I stand hovering over him. I always say, “Thanks so much” and immediately sit down as soon as the good samaritan vacates the coveted space. However, if I had a nickel for every friend who has admitted to being thrown into an existential crisis by the offer, I’d have several nickels.
It seems that in some people’s thinking, being offered a seat by a younger person is tantamount to looking old, even if you haven’t self-identified as an elderly person. One friend said that she got on a subway one day when she thought she looked “pretty good”, was offered a seat and promptly felt miserable and insulted. She declined the offer. I told her she was pretty crazy to do that but apparently her self-image and self-esteem had been dealt a blow.
I suppose we all have our flash points. I was insulted this afternoon when I gave a dollar to a middle-aged subway musician who had lugged a keyboard aboard the #1 train and asked for money after he played. As I handed him the dollar he said, “Thanks, grandma.” Now, I happen to be a grandmother and am delighted when my grandchildren, all 5 and under, call me “Grammy”. But I didn’t feel old enough to be this middle-aged guy’s grandmother. I was going to ask for my dollar back.