A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
It’s been a number of years since I first heard “the voice,” but I remember it quite clearly. I was going through a grocery store checkout and the little popsicle at the cash register said, “And, how are you today?” She drew out the “oo” vowel and leaned slightly forward as she said it. It was at that precise moment I realized I wasn’t a young man anymore. And I have to admit it annoyed me.
For those of you who are unfamiliar (read “under 50”) “the voice” is the inflection adults add to their speech when they’re talking to children, dogs, foreigners, hospital patients and old people like – uh – me. It’s a strange combination of empathy and authority. It suggests that the speaker thinks you might not understand the words, but wants to reassure you that they are in charge and there’s nothing to worry about. And despite its condescending tone, it’s actually full of goodwill.
Over the years, I’ve gotten used to “the voice,” but, honestly, it still grates on me. I can’t help it; I just don’t like being talked to on the same level as “Who’s a good boy, then?” This is especially true when the speaker is a 20-something somebody whose major accomplishment in life is a totally cool Instagram profile. I know these folks are full of good intentions, but treating grey hair as if it’s a terminal disease is hard to take when you’re on the receiving end. (Full disclosure: Like everybody else on this planet, I used “the voice” when I was younger and still do, on occasion.)
The problem is, after a while, “the voice” doesn’t quit. It’s like you’re living in a gigantic daycare centre. Pretty much everybody who doesn’t know you, uses it. They start every conversation with a simple question so you’re not stuck for an answer. They constantly repeat themselves as if you can’t hear, don’t understand or have no attention span. And they over-explain everything — as though your age and your IQ are somehow connected – adversely. It’s totally tiresome. But, the worst thing is “the voice” tells you – in no uncertain terms – that you’re no longer a viable sexual partner and you are not now — nor ever were — a badass.
It’s been a number of years since I first heard “the voice,” but I remember it quite clearly. I looked at the little popsicle at the cash register, saw her smile, looked into her eyes and thought, “You have no idea who you’re dealing with, little girl — and if I told you even half the story, you wouldn’t believe me.” But, all I could think of to say was, “Not bad — for an old fella!”