One of our Facebook friends took issue this weekend by inferring that the ‘Sr’ in lgbtSr must mean ‘senior citizen’ and that my partner and I did not qualify. At least he didn’t take offense at the word, as many people do. Our culture’s rejection of all things aged (except antiques and fabulous-looking cars) has been especially effective with language. One is never ‘old’, and one is not a ‘senior’ until the last possible moment, preferably as one takes one’s last breath.
We use the phrase ‘senior moment’ to indicate the onset of forgetfulness. I’ve even explained my own memory lapses by saying I was getting older. But the subtext (I was a playwright for ten years, and subtext was always important) is that senior moments are for those whose brains have begun the slow slide into degeneration. It’s not a phrase I use.
I replied to our friend that the ‘Sr’ was a matter of branding. It’s a logo: lgbtSr. I first pronounced it in my head, and continue to pronounce it, ‘L-G-B-T-Ess-Arr.’ I know almost everyone else pronounces it ‘LGBT-Senior.’ I can’t stop them, anymore than I can make them spell it without using all-caps. But it was never intended to indicate that the site or anything we’re doing is limited to an audience officially categorized as senior citizens. AARP starts reeling people in at 50. There are websites, such as Savvy Senior, that are intended for people over 50, or 55. Once I hit my 55th birthday in October, I’ll be taking the discount at IHOP, whatever they call it.
Perhaps I could have named the site LGTBoomer, but it’s awkward, and I’m still getting used to the word ‘boomer.’ It sounds like a child’s toy.
Maybe I was just too subtle from the beginning. ‘lgbtSr’ to me indicated both an extension of the now-ubiquitous LGBT acronym, and also the use of ‘Sr’ as an honorific, a term of respect, a sign that we have lived long enough to be called … senior. Senior Executive. Senior Analyst. Senior Programmer. Senior Assistant. It’s only when we apply the word to our aging selves that we recoil. Why is it impressive to be a Senior Advisor, but not a senior person? Chalk one up for the marketers, the image makers, the cultural lock-steppers. As for a technical definition … I never said I was a senior. But when I am I won’t hesitate to call myself that.
We watched Jane Fonda on an episode of Oprah’s Master Class not long ago. At one point she said with refreshing exuberance, “I’m seventy-five! I’m old!” and I knew who I wanted to be when I grew up. Senior. Old. Alive. Unafraid. Here’s hoping.