January 1, 2010, 9:30 am

Complaint Box | Why Whine?







Ruth Fremson

The New York Times




We are a group of women verging on old, old age. We have known each other for more than 40 years and are closing in on 80.

We are beyond face-lifts and Botox. Most of us will not opt for hip replacements or assisted living (yet). We travel around the world,

to Rome, France and the Galapagos. We garden and paint our walls. We do yoga and swim at the Y. We go to the theater and the opera.

We volunteer time and energy to community services: housing help, food pantries, the historical society.

Our icebergs loom offshore, but weíre not dead yet.


We are survivors. Five of us have survived our husbands and the grief and trials of widowhood.

We rely on one another for medical referrals (most of our doctors have retired), handymen, plumbers and tree men.

We have survived knee replacements, cancer and major surgery. We take a ton of pills just for maintenance.

We are getting old, quirky and impatient, often with one another. A friendís dream of us all living in a large house

together will never happen. We complain too much. We have more fun than not, but we complain a lot.


I am learning never to ask someone in the group, ďHow are you?Ē because I will get a litany of woes.

When my tongue slips and I ask out of mere politeness or real concern, I am filled with regret after five minutes.

I donít need the back story; I know your history. I donít need your 10-minute apology for taking my time.

Tell me what I asked in 25 or 50 words. Donít ask for advice and then throw obstacles and rejection at me.

Voiced complaints should result in solutions. Some are easy. Cold in the supermarket? Bring a sweater next time.

Unhappy with the meal you ordered in a restaurant? Donít make a fuss and send it back;

youíve just made a poor choice, as we all sometimes do. Canít hear in a theater?

Get a listening device in the lobby.


I am not innocent; I often complain of missing my nap time. Of course the answer is, ďHave another Coke.Ē

I complain of being overwhelmed and having too many To Dos. I complain of arthritis or having to walk uphill.

I complain about keeping up when long-legged friends dash along Seventh Avenue to Times Square.


But, really, the only permissible complaint is lukewarm soup.

Unless it is gazpacho or vichyssoise, soup must be served hot.

Go ahead, send it back.


Thelma Karro, a retired librarian who lives in Northport, N.Y.,

has lunch every Tuesday with a group of women she met

years ago in a consciousness-raising group.

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