When I was in my early thirties, a fiftyish co-worker offered me a ride back to my building, as a light rain had begun to fall as we emerged from a meeting. I gratefully accepted, then followed her up and down multiple aisles of the closest parking lot as the rain gradually increased in volume. Finally, she remembered her car was in the next lot over. Already soaked, I cut my losses and walked to my building. As I walked, I promised myself that I would not allow myself to be so ditzy when I got old. My 57-year-old self laughs at that younger me.
I don’t remember things as well as I once did. There are daily reminders that I’m no spring chicken. But I’m still perfectly capable of working hard, completing projects, and producing high-quality results. There are moments, however, when a younger colleague will either patiently explain something I already know or simply take over because I’m not moving fast enough for them. There is an expectation of ignorance and a degree of impatience that I don’t think would be there if my hair wasn’t gray.
Ageism sucks. Preconceived notions are dangerous in any form. But finding an appropriate response is tricky. In a setting where group cohesiveness is important, setting yourself apart by calling attention to something that only you will understand is a problem, could have the opposite effect from your intent.
Job-hunting can be fraught with peril. I suspect my resume has been tossed several times because reviewers did a quick calculation in their heads. I can’t prove that. But I know it happens. Do you alter your resume? Some say yes. Others say no, because if they’re going to discriminate, they’ll do it at the interview.
There was a time in history when older adults were revered. But in our youth-worshipping culture, replete with facelifts, boob jobs, Juvederm, Botox and a sick obsession with skinny, how can one hope to be taken seriously? The answer is dogged determination. One must stick around long enough to gain clout. And if that seems like a lost cause, one must uproot and look for better soil conditions.“You have no idea how tenacious I can be,” a mentor once taught me to say in situations where I knew my cause was just. Instead of saying it, I must now demonstrate it. That I can do. Even if I get rained on.