“Young people these days have no manners” is the sort of thing old blokes like me and John Crace say to each other (If you see me on the tube, please don’t offer me your seat, 1 December). But nobody in a social gathering would dream of suggesting we might be getting on a bit. So why is it that when we get on a crowded tube that young men offer us their seat? It’s worse than that. Young women do it as well.
What we need is a strategy. The grey hair doesn’t help, although I have enough to delude myself that I have achieved the suave, silver fox look. Maybe it’s the way we dress? I’m usually in “smart casual”, going home after an afternoon tea dance, buoyed up with confidence because an attractive young woman has asked me to dance with her or I am on my way to a jazz club. There’s not much scope on a crowded train to demonstrate that we can walk unaided so maybe it’s the way we stand. I have tried that Fred Astaire pose: one foot flat on the floor, the other crossed at the ankle, toe touching the floor (it’s harder than it looks, try surreptitiously holding the vertical pole). Then there’s how to respond: “No, I’m fine, thanks” or “It’s OK, I’m getting off at the next stop”. I’ve tried avoiding eye contact, then they get up and touch me on the shoulder. Suggestions on a postcard… no, not a postcard, that makes me sound old.
• I can empathise with John Crace. It was also among the worst moments of my life when, quite a few years ago, I was offered a seat on the bus by a young woman. I could only assume she thought I was either pregnant or elderly. I was neither, and I was mortified.
• It is indeed a nasty shock the first time you are publicly treated as an aged person. But please, John Crace, smile nicely, say thank you and sit down. Otherwise the young person may be too embarrassed or too angry to repeat the gesture. And eventually you really will need that seat.
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
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