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Miss Manners: ‘I don’t understand people who complain about getting old’

3 min

Dear Miss Manners: I don’t understand people who complain about getting old.

My mother-in-law, who will soon turn 97 and is healthier than I am, is frequently heard to say that “getting old is not for sissies.” These types of comments really stick in my craw because my son passed away suddenly from a pulmonary embolism at the age of 25, while on his honeymoon.

Many people are not afforded the luxury of living a long, healthy life. Instead of complaining, they should thank their lucky stars that they’ve lived long enough to see their children have families of their own, have grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

My son and his wife never had that joy. My daughter-in-law has not been the same since losing my son 21 years ago and has never remarried.

Lucky stars are rarely thanked.

It is not necessary to have suffered a tragedy as terrible as yours to find someone who is better off — or worse. But what good does it do? If you broke your leg, would you feel lucky in comparison to someone whose leg was amputated?

Would you be comforted if someone whose child died even younger said that you were lucky to have yours for 25 years? Or if a childless person said you were lucky to have had him at all? People do say such cruel things, and such comparisons are always hurtful.

Paradoxically, there is some comfort in sympathizing, if not empathizing, with others. This is why many bereaved people get involved in helping others, often in causes related to their misfortunes.

Miss Manners cannot help wondering whether your mother-in-law was close to your son, in which case, she, too, is bereaved. In any case, at her age, she will have been losing her contemporaries. And whether in good general health or not, she is perhaps suffering aches and pains and the loss of abilities she used to take for granted.

However, it is for your own sake that Miss Manners begs you not to consider suffering to be competitive.

Dear Miss Manners: I noticed some people introduce themselves with their occupation, such as, “My name is Dr. Jones” or “My name is Detective Smith.” I believe they should say, “I’m Dr. Jones” or “I’m Detective Smith.” Their name is not “doctor.” I don’t hear people say, “Hi, my name is Plumber Joe.” You get the point.

What is proper in this case?

No title ever goes with “My name is,” whether it is “doctor,” “Mr.” or “prince.”

But Miss Manners can think of working situations where clues must be given not only to identify the person’s occupation, but to provide the form of address. The newcomer who enters your hospital room says “I am Dr. Gamble” so that you don’t complain to her that breakfast is late. And you may be glad to know that the stranger at your door is the plumber — and to have a name to shout when the water backs up in another room.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

© 2023 Judith Martin