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Addressing Ageism with Humor & Civility with Steven Petrow

Episode #69July 13, 2021

I have to admit, as a Geropsychologist who strives toward anti-ageism, when I set out to read Steven Petrow’s new book, STUPID THINGS I WON’T DO WHEN I GET OLD, I was skeptical. I judged the book by its title and doubted that it would match my mission of anti-ageism, but boy was I wrong. Steven Petrow’s new book is a warm and witty journey through aging and the valuable lessons learned along the way.

In this podcast episode, Steven and I dive deep into his book and explore:

  • Steven’s journey with aging
  • The important role of intergenerational relationships
  • The courage to discuss mental health concerns like depression and suicide
  • Finding balance and resilience
  • End of life love letters
  • How to respond when someone makes an ageist “gaffe”

At the end of this episode, you’ll have more tools to stop age shaming so that you can enjoy the ride.


“Whether it’s falling in a yoga class or falling short in life, I can see more clearly now that the coveted state of balance is not about status, or symmetry, but flexibility and change.”

– Steven Petrow

About Steven Petrow

Steven Petrow, the author of STUPID THINGS I WON’T DO WHEN I GET OLD, is an award-winning journalist and book author who is best known for his Washington Post and New York Times essays on aging, health, and civility. He’s also an opinion columnist for USA Today, where he writes about civil discourse and manners. Steven’s 2019 TED Talk, “3 Ways to Practice Civility” has been viewed nearly two million times and translated into 16 languages. Steven is the author of five other books, the most recent of which is Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners. He’s a much sought after public speaker and you’re likely to hear Steven when you stream NPR or one of your favorite — or least favorite — TV networks. Steven also served as the host and executive producer of “The Civilist,” a podcast from Public Radio International and North Carolina Public Radio WUNC. A former president of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, Steven is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, the Ucross Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the National Press Foundation. In 2017, he became the named sponsor of the Steven Petrow LGBTQ Fellowship at the VCCA, a prize that is awarded annually. Steven lives in Hillsborough, N.C. with his cocker spaniel, Binx Bolling.


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Dr. Regina Koepp 0:00
Today on the podcast, we have a very special guest. Steven Petrow is the author of the new book, stupid things I won't do when I get old. He's an award winning journalist and book author who's best known for his Washington Post in New York Times essays on aging, health incivility. He's also an opinion columnist for USA Today, where he writes about civil discourse in manners. Stephen also had a 2019 TED Talk three ways to practice civility. And it has been viewed nearly 2 million times and translated into 16 languages. He's a much sought after public speaker, and you're likely to hear him when you stream NPR or maybe a TV network. In today's interview with Steven, we dive deep into aging, our own personal lives, the important role of intergenerational relationships, we talk about mental health concerns like depression and suicide, about the importance of finding balance and resilience in aging. He reads an end of life love letter that was in his book, and talks about how to respond when someone makes an ageist gaffe, I can't wait for you to hear this episode. So let's get started.

Dr. Regina Koepp 1:31
I'm Dr. Regina Koepp. I'm a clinical geropsychologist, which means that I'm a psychologist who specializes with older adults and families. And this is the psychology of aging podcast, your go to resource for Mental Health and Aging.

Dr. Regina Koepp 1:51
Steven Petrow, thank you so much for joining me today on the psychology of aging podcast and talking about your new book, stupid things I won't do when I get old. Which when I started reading this, I was I thought were actually your publisher reached out to me and asked if I would interview you. And I was like, Oh, I don't know if I want to interview somebody about a book that says stupid things they won't do when I get old. I thought well, your auntie ages a match my anti ageism. And I have a pretty self righteous, even though I'm not even older, pretty self righteous anti age ism. And then I started reading your book. And I couldn't put it down. And I was I just fell in love with you and your the way you tell stories and just your transparency. And, and I'd love it if you would share a little bit about how you named your book and what you're hoping to achieve with it.

Steven Petrow 2:51
So well, first of all, it's just great to be with you. I've been looking forward to this. And the title is a little bit out there and write the book was based on an aesthetic for the New York Times about four years ago. And that essay came about after I was observing my parents as they got into their 70s. And I just turned 50 now and I saw that they were making decisions that were not really in their best interest. And they were they were sort of small things like my mother loved her home decor. She wouldn't pick up the throw rugs that my dad kept tripping over and fall stuff. So I just kept like adding to this list, I got to about 100. And then because they often write about things for the newspapers, I wrote about it. And it was under the headline things I will do differently when I get old. And so it was much more milk shows in tone. It still got a ton of attention. It was on the most read list for about two weeks. And then people started sending their lists to me and I must have gotten to three more than 300 actually. I was like, I thought I was doing this thing in private, I have my own little like, shame bubble about, you know, being a spy. And then, you know, all these other people are doing it. And I realized we felt badly. We felt like we were doing something wrong. We were finger pointing at those that we loved. And yet we love to them. And you know, so I use my parents mostly here is the narrative arc of of this book. And really as a way in the moment it was to try to help them make better decisions less and less stupid ones. And for me, you know, as I got to that point, and I have to say like yesterday, I supposed to be moving some furniture in this cabin that I'm staying at and my friend didn't show up. So hey, I did By myself, hey, stupid, you know, my back is all tweaked out. And that's not my cushion here. And but, you know. So one of the one of the main points of the book is, try to be a little bit more aware try to be a little bit more mindful decisions that we make on such a frequent basis that it can impact how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about our lives, and especially as as we get older. So then the title itself was, it was written by a committee, and everyone loved this as soon as the first person said it, and I was kind of dragged in slowly. You know, I read a lot of instability and treating people with respect. And one could argue this is not the most respectful time. And fact when I first started promoting the book, a friend of mine who's a gerontologist, she said, Steven, I love you. But this title, this book, this doesn't sound like you. And I said, believe me, when you read the book, you'll see that Steven wrote the book. And, until that, getting us to a place where we can use humor to talk about these topics that are really hard.

Dr. Regina Koepp 6:14
On you do it so beautifully. What I love so much is that you say What you won't do. And then you'd say you use your parents, but you also use yourself and then you put yourself in the sort of hot feet and share Okay, I'm not gonna do this, like, I'm never gonna dye my hair. And then and then you dye your hair. And then it's a big fiasco.

Steven Petrow 6:38
Yeah, I mean, it was just awful. But I, my, my hair cutter said he had this great new technique, and no one would know. And I was like, younger, and I was I was working in the digital space, then I was, like, I figured 40, I was the third oldest out of 500 people. And so he did it. And I came out, as my friend Vince says, looking like a trashy secretary. from Staten Island. He meant no disrespect to either secretaries or to the borough of Staten Island. He meant to sort of get me to so what did you do, Stephen? And I saw her sort of falling prey to what especially a lot of guys do, which is they think, you know, nope, they think no one will notice. And then you know, you get like a total die job, inadvertently or advertently. And you've really done something that's counterproductive. So I, you know, I was doing a video shoot, like, in two days, I was going to New York, I went to a color correction specialist spent a lot of money. Anyways, a really good lesson in either going to a better hair colorist. Or starting that process of self acceptance of who I am. And this is this is my real color. Sometimes I use that gray for men's stuff or whatever. But

Dr. Regina Koepp 8:01
Well, it looks great.

Steven Petrow 8:02
Old habits die and die hard. So yeah, I do put myself in the book in a vulnerable way too, because I thought, I really thought it would be unfair to just say, Oh, yeah, Mom and Dad, you were you were dumb for doing this. And because we all do it. And that's, that's kind of the point.

Dr. Regina Koepp 8:21
Oh, yeah. What you do so beautifully in the book is say, this is one stupid thing I'll never do. And then you do it, and you learn the lesson from it. And then you're sharing these lessons and gifts really with all of us. You know, you have this. You say I'll never be afraid of falling or on something like that. And then you go surfing and you're terrified of falling in the water. And you know, you have all of these examples of or I'll never lie about my age, and then and then you get a divorce and you start dating and you lie about your age and then you can't you want to fix it. And in the system, the online dating system won't even let you change it. Can you change it now? Has that corrected?

Steven Petrow 9:02
Most of those dating apps, but I think in Tinder, you can't change anything, you know, if you've chose the wrong handle the wrong age, you are now this person unless you deactivate your account and But yeah, I was lying. And then I was making me begin to feel badly about myself, you know, and sort of was all these little things, you know, okay, he lies about his age, he had colored his hair, you know, I was sending up his birthday cards that were kind of snarky, and you know, that we're gonna, you know, I'm gonna give you this card and it's gonna say almost nothing because you might not live to you know, more than 10 minutes after you get it kind of thing. So I was really, you know, I realized I was propagating these stereotypes about what it means to be older. And I know you know this but I was kind of surprised to learn how, you know what they call casual ages and more everyday ageism, you know, impacts our health, our mental health. And shortens our life expectancy. So it's so important that we start to become aware of what we're doing to ourselves and to those we love and change.

Dr. Regina Koepp 10:10
And your book is a great sort of gift to helping us do that. I mean, each each chapter is basically an example of what you won't do. And then how either you did it, or you learned a lesson with it. And which is, was just so clever and friendly. And one of my favorite examples, and this wasn't what you won't, or can't remember what you wouldn't do. But you talk about your your friendship with Denise, who was a 90 something year old friend, and you share about the importance of multi generational relationships and mentorship. And that was such a beautiful story. And then, and then, as I was preparing for this interview, I was learning more about you online, and I was researching more about you. And I learned that you had created or have a fellowship in your name for at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and and it's to help sponsor or provide a fellowship for LGBTQ journalists. Is that right?

Steven Petrow 11:14
LGBTQ writers, emerging emerging writers, and I'm on the board of what's called the VCA. And it's an art residency program for for writers for visual artists and composers. And I've been doing their best 15 years as a fellow. And then I realized, this is part of also the arc of the book, I realized, you know, now that I'm in my 60s, I'm 63, that it's time to start implementing the list and to start doing the things that, that I that I said that I would, and giving back was one of them. And it's been, it's been a very gratifying experience to, I think we're in our fourth year now to have awarded this fellowship, we've gotten to know each of the individuals some, and it also reflects this, this shift of when I was younger, I was very focused on what people call the resume values. You know, what degrees did I have? What jobs, what job titles, how much money? How many? How many, you know, when cloud existed as a social media platform, how many cloud followers I had, and as I kind of pass through 60, I realized, there's this other way to evaluate yourself. And it's called, it's sort of roughly called eulogy values, but it's really how do you want to be remembered by the people that you came in contact with. And, you know, nobody really wants to be remembered by the number of clap clap flowers, followers they had. And so in a very sort of conscious way, I've been trying to, to do things that help others, you know, I, you know, I write about civility and kindness a lot. And that's like, professional Steven. But I also, and I'm far from perfect in this, I just want to be totally frank about that. But in my day to day life, I try to be nicer. I grew up in Manhattan, I probably didn't grow up being a person, you know, I had to elbow my way to get everything I you know, I lived on the subways. And we all you know, we all came from backgrounds where we might not have become the person that we would like to be now. So um, I often take what's called the sacred pause, I learned that in meditation. So, you know, if you were to have suddenly asked me something, and I thought, Gosh, I don't know what to say here. I would just take that moment of breath and a pause, and then and then answer you rather than sort of coming right out. And so in situations now, I try to take that pause and then do the better or the nicer thing. And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't to be to be honest. I mean, I'm still quite human, and wired.

Dr. Regina Koepp 14:01
Oh, thank God, I'm not alone. Yeah. Yeah, thank you for sharing, sharing that I because you're creating this fellowship is such a beautiful example of mentorship and giving back, and in a way that, you know, Denise gave to you, and I'm imagining that the fellows are younger or not at the stage in career that you are, so it's a great opportunity to, to create multi-generational relationships like you talked about.

Steven Petrow 14:30
Yes. And you know, and Denise is just such a wonderful story. I met her when she was about 77. And I was, I think, 39 or 40. And I applied to be a tenant in her duplex in San Francisco. She was so busy, she couldn't schedule me for an appointment. She was doing water aerobics. She was still a cheerleader with with three of her friends called the last hurrah is the last hurrah and She would go do like charity, cheerleading things to cheer up people and so on. And she was copy editor on the local newspaper. So when I finally sat down with her and met her, I got the apartment, but she said to me, I am trying to surround myself with younger people, because I want to stay connected. And also, I realized, this is her saying, you know, as I get older, my friends are passing. So we stayed friends for 20 years, she was 98, when she died, she had really a collection of younger friends 20 to 40 years younger, and she was a mentor to me in many ways. And also, we were able to mentor her especially on it issues, you know, when she would get a new computer or a new iPhone, yeah, she would call up her it squad. But I'd like to describe Denise as a role model, but also as what I call a perennial. Literally, she would have been Greatest Generation I would have been millennial, so on and so forth. But we need to get out of those labels, we need to really kind of cross pollinate and and see each other for who we are and and have those connections and experiences. So if they say in the south, bless her heart, Denise.

Dr. Regina Koepp 16:12
Now tell us what a perennial is?

Steven Petrow 16:16
So I did not make up that term. It's I think the sociologists who came up with that, but it's really an individual who tries to connect across demographic boundaries and stay in touch, stay passionate, and stay connected, regardless of their age. So you can you know, you could be a perennial at 25. I like to think that my nieces or that you can be a perennial perennial at my age, you know, in your 60s and in your 90s. It's, it's a lot about the psychology of aging or one's attitudes. And, you know, those don't, they don't get old in the same way that our bodies might get older over time. This is a very clever little device out there. But I mean, impacting your territory, so I don't want to do that. Because you're you're the expert.

Dr. Regina Koepp 17:06
You're closer to an older adult, though. So. Perennial, too, in gardening, right. Isn't isn't a perennial flower, one that blooms in any season?

Steven Petrow 17:17
In I think it's one who blooms year after year.

Dr. Regina Koepp 17:21
Year after year. Okay. Thank you. Yeah, no, switch.

Steven Petrow 17:25
As opposed to the annual, which is a one shot pony.

Dr. Regina Koepp 17:25
Right, right. Okay, thanks. Yeah. So I knew we had to do with blooming. Okay, so you're blooming year after year, you don't have an end an expiration date.

Steven Petrow 17:35
You don't have an expiration date.

Dr. Regina Koepp 17:36
Like an annual? Mm hmm.

Steven Petrow 17:38
since we were just talking about psychology of aging. In your book, you talk about a little bit about your your history with depression. And finally sharing about your experience with depression when you were 59. And even though you'd experienced it, I think, since age 11, I think you had written about, can you share a bit about one of my goals with this podcast is to help people and families who intend to kind of shed some of the stigma and shame around reaching out for mental health, especially for older adults who are too often left out of a conversation around mental health, engaging in mental health care, or talking about mental health concerns? Would you be open to sharing about your life with depression and how you manage it, and what inspired you to sort of share about your mental health?

Steven Petrow 18:34
You know, I'm gonna answer a little more broadly, and then and then be more specific. I am. I suppose if I have a secret sauce to what I write about it is using various aspects of my life, to connect with others. And to say, it's okay to suffer from depression, or to have had cancer, or to have sexual dysfunction from time to time. Those are all topics that I've written about. And, you know, and with depression, and especially with men, it's a really hard topic for guys to acknowledge. The symptoms are often very different than for women. And with all due respect to your profession, many, many professionals don't understand that. And I, I had a very good friend who, who died by suicide, I guess this was five or six years ago now. And I had never known that he was depressed, nor had his family or friends. And that was because he never talked about it. And we talked about so much and I thought, here are some something here. This door has been open for me a little bit to see the deficit when you don't talk about this kind of pain that people hold. So I said well I'm going to, I'm going to try writing about it. And about the same time I have interviewed Andrew Solomon, who I consider just a mentor, and in so many ways, as a gay man, as a man who has suffered from and written about depression, and, you know, it's always helpful to have have role models. So you can see that you're not walking on a cliff, and you just kind of fall off. And, and that was published in the in the times, and I was very gratified by the number of people who wrote me privately to say, You've made it okay for me to say, me, too. This was before Me too. Me too. But and that's what I that's what I was hoping to do. And then, you know, to be able to point people to resources, and in some ways to, you know, help professionals in this field also start to realize that they should be looking for some different things than they might otherwise. Yeah, so thank you, thank you for asking me about that.

Dr. Regina Koepp 21:04
Thank you for sharing it's so important, and relevant, beyond even you know, here, just here being this podcast, it's such an important part of human life. And in the book, you are so open and transparent about your own experience. You mentioned living with cancer as a young man, your personal mental health journey, and your relationship journeys. And, you know, your being willing to share that has really also inspired me to be more courageous and generous. I think there is a generosity and you sharing your story. And I think it's inspired me to be more honest with my- or more, more open about sharing my own. So thank you for that.

Steven Petrow 21:49
Is it appropriate for me to ask you, in what ways?

Dr. Regina Koepp 21:52
Sure, yeah. So a couple of weeks ago, I had a podcast, I grew up in pretty stark poverty. And we were homeless until I was eight and rate raised by my mom and my, with my four brothers. And none of our dads are bio dads, I shared on that podcast, my bio dad is a transgender woman, she transitioned later in lifestyle, use feminine pronouns for her, but I'll say bio dead, so you can anchor her in my life. So I just shared a little bit about that. And I was, I was kind of afraid to share it on the podcast, because I was afraid it would just live on in perpetuity, and I could never change it. And then I thought, well, so what, you know, so So what if it does, and, and I talked about how I didn't grow up with grandparents, and, and how working with older adults sort of helped me to heal some of the wounds of abandonment in my life, and not knowing grandparents and getting sort of modeling for that, like you said, it's so important to have that mentorship so you can see what's possible for you, even if you're from a historically disenfranchised group of people, like if you're LGBTQ, or if you, you know, hold an ethnic minority identity that's, you know, harm harmed in society experience a lot of trauma, or if you grew up in poverty, like me, and I had experienced a lot of abandonment, and I talked about that, and then how the opportunity to work with older men who had also abandoned their children, was a way for me to heal some of even though it was, my patients didn't know this about me. Even just working through with somebody that journey or the process of remorse and grieving the loss of relationships and seeing, you know, just what that looks like an older adulthood following abandonment was so rewarding for me in terms of my own healing process. So that's a little bit about what I shared in the past.

Steven Petrow 23:58
But thank you for thank you for answering that for me. And, you know, there's, there's a courage and you know, honesty, you know, that I see in you and that I'm, you know, that I'm working for myself. And this might be a little bit off topic. But, you know, we live in such a fractured and polarized world. I think that's really one of the biggest challenges to all of us, whether you're red, blue, purple, green. And the more that we can be authentic, and be open about our strengths, but also our weaknesses and our fears. I think that is what connects us and that is part of the human condition. Yeah. So I think, you know, I hadn't really thought about this book in that way. But that's partly what what I'm seeing now that I'm that I hope will come out of it that if we can talk more, you know about illness and about lack of independence, and, you know, fear of death and dying, those are universal attributes, and we're going to get closer to each other, and maybe, you know, maybe the red and the blue will fade away a little bit more.

Dr. Regina Koepp 25:06
I hope so I hope that we can see common humanity. And I think you're right about transparency and vulnerability. And I actually don't think it's too far off topic. I think it's right in the sweet spot, the essence of why we do you ride and I do this podcast. So I think it's right on you part of this, you know, in your book, I'm trying to make a link between what we just said and where I want to go next. But maybe there will be no link. In your book, you talk about finding balance. And this was such a sweet chapter, I want to read a little excerpt. Okay. So so you would talk about finding balance. And, and you talk about being in San Francisco, and there's an earthquake, and you're in a high rise hotel or something. And it's in it this, this building is sort of designed for earthquakes. So you're moving a lot. And it's intense. Well, you set the stage for us before I read this excerpt, what was it like to be in that building?

Steven Petrow 26:07
So this was a very tall skyscraper. And it was, it was an office building, look, nice, fantastic windows of the entire Bay Area. And we've been up there many times before. And then this earthquake started. And the structural engineering on this building is meant to allow the building to sway with the seismic waves. Because if not, over will go the building. And that that became a metaphor to me about what it means to you know, to be resilient. And up until that point, I thought, well, you know, if you have if you have something come at you, you need to have that fight and fear response and get rigid and hunker down, like if that building had hunkered down that we would have all gone over. So, you know, I think I talked in the section you're going to read about learning to be more like a weeping willow and learning to have this kind of flexibility that will allow me to be resilient and then thrive in something like that.

Dr. Regina Koepp 27:14
Yeah, so you You said I survived, obviously, climbing back out from under a desk once the the temblor stuff. I'll skip more of the engineering gobbledygook. But that earthquake revealed to me that balance is not about stability, or rigidity, but the ability to yield and move. And really, with this book, I really feel like you are helping us all and yourself. You're describing you're yielding and moving through older adulthood and, and you're doing it with such balance and grace, and then later and that's my Yeah, my right. No, that's my, that's my assessment of this book. But then later, this is what you do, right? You write about this yoga class and learning about balance. And you say that "the more quickly you can respond and make those adjustments that's balance balance comes from adapting quickly." I think that was your yoga teacher, Susan. And, and you then go on to say "my 60s are no time to mindlessly swallow the bromides (Kool Aid)." Oh, thank you. Okay, let me back up. "My 60s are no time to mindlessly swallow the bromides of our day, which I've learned can be as unbalanced a diet as any, whether it's falling in a yoga class are falling short in life, I can see more clearly now that the coveted state of balance is not about status, or symmetry, but flexibility and change." I love this. So I wanted to say that your book is just such a great opportunity for us all, to sort of weather these earthquakes that come with life, and maybe, or maybe not with aging depends on your life. And, but just how we could all I think this is a book for any age, really, because for perennials, because we could all learn the lessons that you're sort of laying out for us.

Steven Petrow 29:16
Well, I do think it's for all ages, because no matter how old you are, you face you face challenges. And a good life will teach us how to respond to those and give us a little bit more experience as as we get into the next set of them. And there's no reason to think that they are going to end and often, you know, like an earthquake, there's really nothing that you can do to prevent that. But what you can do is do the work within yourself to be adaptable, to be flexible, to not have a fear response and to, you know, to grasp it in some way and then to go forward with that.

Dr. Regina Koepp 29:59
Just like the engineer built that building, you have some some element of control to sort of build a healthier, healthy lifestyle for you.

Steven Petrow 30:07
And, you know, and one, one point I make in the book that, that matters a lot to me is that, in this culture, we have really conflated being older with being sick. Yeah. And, and as though they're both bad. Yeah, you know, take a really take exception to that, because that is that is one of the bromides of this time. And, you know, being older, you know, is not bad, and in fact, is good. I could like it, you know, and or it's, you know, certain neutral frayed, but, you know, there is the experience, there's the wisdom. There's the, the nature of being a perennial, and, and, and having those kind of connections that I think get overlooked in the imagery that we see. You know, I was just going through some things this morning. A friend of mine thought this was really funny. And I guess I haven't read the book yet, because as of today, it's not out. And it wasn't, it was, the text was, how does grandma delete a friend on Facebook? Then the images on her iPhone, and she's got the white out, and she's, you know, and how I thought, that is so not funny. That is so mean. No perpetuating the stereotype that that anyone over 50s, you know, a nincompoop, when it comes to technology, and, yeah, and so on. And it's not as though I mean, I have a really good sense of humor. And so I, you know, I could see where somebody thought that, you know, it was funny, but we need to look a little bit deeper at these at these things as well. And see, there's their subtext. And, you know, their stereotypes, and they're actually wrong and hurtful. Yeah.

Dr. Regina Koepp 31:54
Thank you for saying that. Yeah, I was just calling my husband out today on our walk. Not about that one, but another one that I won't go into, and he received it.

Steven Petrow 32:04
I never get in the middle of marriage.

Dr. Regina Koepp 32:07
At the end of your book, there's a section stupid things I won't do at the end. And I want to talk about a chapter that you have, entitled, I won't die without writing letters to my loved ones. In this chapter you share about your friend Jackie and her letters to her 19 year old son. But just a minute ago, we were talking about resilience. And here you have such a perfect example of resilience. He said once she understood the road ahead of her, she was dying of cancer. She took charge of her future. And I think that's such a beautiful example of resilience. She knew she had a deadline. And she took charge, she was empowered and resilient. And it's, I think, a message we could all use. But as you these, these letters to her, her budding filmmaker, is it. We're just so powerful. I was I was like, Steven, I think you might need to write me a letter before we end the interview. I think I'm going to need a little holding. Um, can you can you share a little bit about your relationship with Jackie and these letters,

Steven Petrow 33:18
Jackie, and I went to Duke together. So we were contemporaries. And she married a very good friend of mine dogs and, and they had four kids, three boys and a girl. And I think it was around when she was 55 she was diagnosed with brain cancer. And she did everything possible, all out numerous opinions. And then she got to the point where she realized wasn't going to work out for her. And so um, I didn't know this at the time, but Doug told me after she had died, that in those last couple of weeks, and I believe she was in a wheelchair and actually could not use her right arm and she was right handed, but she was writing three letters each to the kids, one of one for graduating from college, one when they got married, and I think then when they started a family and putting a enormous amount of effort into them, and and um, so Jerry kindly kindly shared his first two letters, and he's only received the first two letters. And so I'm just going to read a paragraph here but so that I want everyone to imagine this the way I saw the witches, she had perfect cursive handwriting, blue ink on white line paper. And so there's so much personality in her hand writing as well. And it really matched matched her overall. So dear Jerry, my budding filmmaker, I know you have a lot of emotions running through you as I did when my father died. But I was much older than you at the time. So I really can't begin to truly comprehend what you were feeling. I am so incredibly sorry that I had to die while you were so young. And I assume it sucks for you. Perhaps you can use some of these emotions and feelings in your upcoming works, assuming you continue to pursue film. And then she added one thing here, let me assure you that I did absolutely everything I could to stay alive for as long as possible. I know you realize that having been with me and many of my treatments or tests, plus the acupuncture tons of praying, I also did that for some reason. I just didn't make it as one of the chosen ones to be cured. But because of what I did, I'm sure I live much longer than if I hadn't been in good shape to begin with. And she goes on and then she just signs it. Love common mom. And I know how much this letter has meant to Jerry and and his siblings their letters. But you know, we live in denial of the future and she saw the future coming at her. She realized she was unable to do anything more with that. She stepped up she stepped in. And she left a beautiful legacy to last over time.

Dr. Regina Koepp 36:16
As you're reading that I was just so tearful. I think it's a letter to Jerry but it's also a letter, I think to all of us and and just how relationships live on and the importance of these bonds and how to foster them even in end of life. It's so beautiful. Okay, okay, so now final question. Since you are an advice and etiquette columnist and expert on civility, what is the etiquette around calling someone out for being ageist?

Steven Petrow 36:47
So what is what is the etiquette for criticizing someone who isn't just

Dr. Regina Koepp 36:52
Say you're on a walk with your husband? (laughter). Or let's say you're at a dinner party or in a conference room filled with colleagues, similar levels? What's the etiquette for calling out an agent's comment?

Steven Petrow 37:12
So I love that question. And I've never been asked that question before. So, you know, I think it's all about respect, even if someone makes a gas. And I'm going to say it's a gas, because in my experience, very few people are purposely trying to hurt someone or some group. We do it. And I say we because I do it from time to time we do it inadvertently. And you know, so my advice in this situation would be don't don't make a big deal out of it. In the group. Take this person aside, if your husband aside, and, you know, unexplained do a little bit of education, why that language might have been problematic, how others might have heard it, and also address the intent question because often people say, Well, I didn't really mean to do that. And I believe that, but we also need to be thinking more, how do people understand what we do what we said, and we're responsible for that? So you know, that's how I would and I think ageism is often you know, it's not seen, you know, we're very clear these days, this is racist, or this is homophobic, transphobic massagin, ism, ageism, is still kind of acceptable. And that's part of the education that you and I are both doing here.

Dr. Regina Koepp 38:35
Yeah. And you're helping to highlight ageism, and also helping us to find our balance in the midst of illness in the midst of typical aging, in the midst of body changes, and so many things. So I love your book. I loved reading it, I laughed, I cried. It just it was so warming and lovely. So thank you, I'll put a link in the show notes where people can go and buy it.

Steven Petrow 39:06
Well, it has been a pleasure to be with you today. And I just I thank you for for reading the books or listening and also for the background that you bring to this conversation. It really matters and really deep in debt. And I appreciate that so much. Thank you.

Dr. Regina Koepp 39:23
Alright, that's all for today. If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. It really does make a difference. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now.

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