Gerontophobia (ge·ron·to·pho·bi·a) –noun
1. a fear of old people.
2. a fear of old age, esp. of growing old.
My children are going to be gerontophobic, and it’s all my fault.
I don’t remember how it started exactly. It was probably a discussion about milk. It may have gone something like this:
“Mommy, can I have this sippy cup?”, Goose asks, pulling a week old sippy cup out from under the couch.
“Ummm, no. That’s yucky milk. Give it to mommy, please. Thank you.”
“Why is it yucky, mommy? Is this milk yucky, too?”, she asks gesturing to the sippy cup in her other hand.
“No. That milk isn’t yucky; that’s fresh milk. The other milk is yucky because it’s old.”
And there it is.
I was merely trying to keep my, then 2 and 1/2 year old, child from drinking spoiled milk.
How has this innocent exchange escalated?
BOTH Goose and Buddy now refer to anything even slightly undesirable as “old”.
“I can’t eat that chippy, mommy. It’s old.” (Chip dispensed from bag a mere 15 minutes earlier.)
“I can’t use that toy; it’s old.” (Toy that they had for maybe a month.)
“Does your back hurt, mommy? Why? Because you’re old?”
You can see where this is going, right? I am trying to explain things in different terms. Things are spoiled or broken or need batteries or “Because I carry kids and kid-gear all day” instead of saying “old”.
I liked “old”, because it was simple and they accepted it without question. It was even more effective than “hot”. If I said, “hot”, they would touch it to see how hot. If I said “old”, they would drop it, whatever it was, and back away as if it might bite them. Sometimes that quick response time is imperative, as in: “Drop that knife! It’s old!”
But I’m fearful of the day when we’re out shopping and some sweet senior attempts to engage them in conversation. I can never predict what they’ll say, but continuing to use “old” as an catch-all for things unwanted seems like an association that is likely to kick me in the rear.
So, if you hear my children referring to milk, or a toy, or you, as “senior” or “antique”, you’ll know why.