Take a Number — Please!

By Brigitte Surette

Age is just a number.

I’ve heard that often and I agree with it. But, it seems the higher that number gets, the less that number gets called. I wish it were like a diner, where the highest number was called out first.

“You, number 58, pick up your goodies here. You’ve earned it!”

That might give those of us over 45 a fighting chance at getting to the counter. (I’m picking a random number though female friends as young as 40 have stated they have experienced what they perceived as ageism.)

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles.”

Really Ralph? You are one of my favorite writers ever, but I don’t know many women who like being compared to an old fiddle.

The Older Woman
What is so mystifying about a woman growing older? Do we know too much? Is it the glint in our eyes that shimmers like cut glass when someone says something such as, “You have too much experience and my fear is we can’t mold you in the way our current culture is.”

Someone actually said that to me and it was fairly recent. I don’t believe it was my experience holding me back, which is ridiculous if you think about it. I think it had everything to do with age. Are women regarded passé after a certain age?

Do we have a shelf life?

Thanks to the Me Too movement, women feel empowered to take a firmer stance on issues that have been far too long ignored. I worked in a corporate culture during a time when sexual harassment or inappropriate comments weren’t just here and there. They were rampant. But we women of that era soldiered on and paved the way for the next generation of women.

You’re welcome.

And, thank you, sisters, now for speaking up, leaning in and demanding that those who treat you with disrespect suffer consequences. If we direct our frustration at the true culprits, temper our emotions so we can think clearly, remember that many of our male colleagues believe as strongly as we do about equality, and work toward a common ground, true change will happen. It already is.

What doesn’t seem to be changing is ageism. Being a woman, my perception is that woman face it more often than men. I won’t lament about the fact that men on television and film are still offered parts that women of the same age are not. When they’re paired with women 20 years their junior, the storyline isn’t about that. Put a woman 55 and a man 35 onscreen and that is the story.

The Interview
Ageism is way down on the priority list of discrimination. I don’t wish to cover up who I am, which includes the time I’ve spent on this good green Earth.

I’ve gone on interviews at shiny new companies, some of which feel as if I’ve stepped into a spa and everyone there is bright-eyed, beautiful and young, thinking to myself, “Wow, this would be a cool place to work.”

“I claim ownership of this part of our marketing plan, while Devin claims ownership of how to interpret the integrity of the context in which it originated. In addition, during our thrice-daily meetings, we add to our individual buckets, at which time, they are then prioritized, and that affects the team’s overall bucket items,” the Interviewer says. Devin nods.

I love and respect Devin with his skinny jeans and colorful shirt, I do! I just don’t think Devin loves me back.

When I respond to questions, the Interviewer and Devin rapidly tap their keyboards, nodding and smiling. I assume it’s so that they can read what I said later, putting it in its relevant bucket.

My expiration date seems to be stamped on my forehead and Interviewer and Devin, though charming and clearly intelligent, are already looking through me to talk to the person in the lobby who is a decade or two younger. I leave knowing my answers didn’t warrant a cup, much less a bucket.

Reinvention – Overrated?
Can’t we learn something from each other? I think we can if we put away preconceived notions. I admit, I already have perceptions going in and that could be why I get the same results. Or maybe, I’m chalked up as a woman who has “reinvented” herself one too many times.

Maybe I have it all wrong. I still get some pretty decent writing gigs and I love what I do. But, there are times when I wistfully think of those bright, shiny cool offices with all those buckets.

Or, I could go to a European beach where I’ve heard mature women are celebrated, raise a glass of Sancerre to the horizon and rage against the dying of the light.

There’s always that.

Brigitte Surette is a full-time writer. She blogs whenever the mood strikes at brigittebanter.com and maintains her portfolio of writing at brigittesurette.com. She dabbles in painting, upcycling old furniture, Ikea hacking, fiction writing and has been trying to finish a novel for a few years now. She lives with her husband and two kids with paws near Charleston.

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