As Population Ages, “Sympathy Whores” Abound

DEDHAM, Mass.  When Marlene Jacobson’s 70-year-old husband Frank was diagnosed with Geriatric Osgood Schlatter’s Disease last year, she was prepared.  “He’d had it as a boy, but it had been in remission for sixty years,” she says as she pats his hand gently.  “It robbed him of his childhood.  While other kids were outdoors playing, he had to stay inside and beat off to lingerie ads in Saturday Evening Post.”

“He’s a bore, but he’s MY bore!”


What she and members of the Jacobson’s extended family were not prepared for were the secondary symptoms of his ailment, which are found in many other semi-debilitating diseases.  “Frank had always been a bore,” says his brother-in-law Mike Amadik, “but once he had a disease to talk about all the time, he really took that talent to a-whole-nother level.”

For the former life insurance salesman, having an exotic ailment gave his life new purpose.  “I thought it was important to make a very public show of my courageous struggle,” he says as he makes sure this reporter is taking copious notes.  “I want to be a spokesman for GOSD, so I can be the center of attention when people try to change the subject.  I think it’s important that I raise awareness of this horrible, tragic scourge, which is a growing problem for me.”

“But enough about me.  Let me tell you about my disease.”


Jacobson and other “sympathy whores” like him who drain the life out of social events large and small represent a new aspect of the “greying” of America, according to demographer Charles Lukey, Jr. of the New Hampshire Institute of Technology.  “It used to be with just three TV networks you could put these folks in a chair and let them watch Wheel of Fortune,” he says.  “With cable and on-demand movies, they can’t figure out the remote so they inflict themselves on others.”

Before retirement Jacobson had both a secretary and an administrative assistant to help him in his work, but once the disease struck he quickly demonstrated that he was fully capable of taking care of himself.  “I called the TV station that has that big tower near us,” he recalls with a mischievous grin on his face.  “They said ‘What’s so special about you?’ and I said ‘Do you realize you’re talking to a member of the Golden Circle of Top Producers for Modern Moosehead Life Insurance Company–twenty years in a row?’  That shut ’em up!”

While Jacobson says his hoped-for interview never came to pass because of “scheduling conflicts,” he now has own show on a local cable access station which by law must allow any resident of the town to broadcast content as long as it is not obscene, libelous or interesting.  “I’ve put together a boxed set of season one,” he says as his wife indicates that it’s time for his afternoon nap.   “How many can I put you down for?”


2 thoughts on “As Population Ages, “Sympathy Whores” Abound

    1. Thanks to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I’ll be well-prepared to yell “Get off my lawn!” when the time comes.

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