Aging, ageism, cheese and gray hair

in One Week Job - USA

“Age is not something that matters much unless you are cheese.”    (from Brain Rules by John Medina; sent to me by my friend, Ann Dockendorff)

So, I wish that that was true.  I was walking Brady dog  yesterday and ran into Bill, the gregarious, handsome, warm, intelligent and beloved social hub of the hood.  He told me that he had worked for years in high tech, was much respected but unfortunately laid off four years ago.  Bill is 63.  He had applied for 74 positions in the past two years and there was always much excitement about his resume, interviews seemingly went well—–and then nothing.  Bill said to me: “Uncle!  I can’t believe I’ll have to default on the mortgage.  I’ve just reached the end of resources.”

This is my story too (well, in upcoming posts, the ‘rest of the story’ will emerge…).  Laid off, applications sent out for positions I was highly qualified for, interviews had (which I consider my forte)—and then nothing.  I finally realized about a year ago that I was finished.  Finished with going about trying to obtain a job the traditional way; I was not going to subject myself to such a futile effort any longer, especially with the job market as it is.  I needed to get creative, think outside the box…..and then I met Sean.

Going Gray

Bill has a great head of hair: thick, wavy–and silver.  My hair is also silver.  It wasn’t always this way:)

About two years ago, I was shopping in Fred Meyer and was told cheerily by the cashier that “golly you are lucky–, today is Tuesday, senior discount day, and you’ll receive 10% off  your total purchase!”  WHAT??  You think I’m a friggin’ SENIOR??  Well, crap.  The past few years have taken their toll (more later in the ’emerging story’) but sheesh, I’m not ready for this!  Are we ever?  Clearly my dyed hair was not fooling anyone, and it was my children who encouraged me: “Mom, you should go gray.”  I’m now loving my newish gray/silvery hair color.  The business world often does not.

Last week the Oregonian newspaper featured an article titled “Working Women Daring to Go Gray.”  The good news: as one woman put it, “It’s a bold statement to be gray…people take me more seriously now.”  The bad news, as one man put it, laughing: “I don’t think a woman in the workplace is going to follow that trend (going gray)…If I were an older working person, the last thing I would do is go gray.”  SCOFF!  Really?  Really?  How dare he!  Song insert: “It’s a Man’s World.”  And then I think of Bill; ageism is not just for women. 

I remember my mother saying she didn’t recognize the gray, wrinkled woman looking back at her in the mirror–that inside she still felt like the youthful, vital woman she always was.  I understand now how she feels as I live with the everchanging visage in my mirror (which, by the way I comically thought of as just a stage I was going through).  Although now I rather comfortingly do not get stared at and husseled as I did even in my recent “attractive” years, I do often have the sense of feeling invisible now—somewhat diminished and less relevant.  I am beginning to see that this adventure I am on is really a quest not so much to find a “job” but also to recapture that vitality, and to share my  experience and transformation with others.

And, by the way, Bill was offered a great job this week through friends who truly know his worth.

—Linda

 

 

 

 

  • Savannah

    My 91-year-old grandma told me recently that she is shocked when she sees herself in the mirror because she still feels 25 inside…which is why she is still a vibrant, independent and adventurous woman. At 85, she and her best friend (also late 80s) took a cruise around the Cape of South America together. I hope that can be true of me at her age 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Linda

      Thank you, Savannah. Your grandmother sounds incredible.

  • Camilla

    This morning we buried my 93-year-old mother-in-law. At the funeral, I was struck that no one mentioned her longstanding dementia, though they fondly remembered her vitality and strength from years gone by. How easy it is for me to notice and dwell on my own physical and mental imperfections as I age, yet I am certain my legacy is not based on those things but on the loving relationships I have nurtured over the years.

  • Nancyhiker1

    Lin, your blog is great, and I like being part of it- like Savannah’ s grandma. I hope
    good responses come from your brief bio. Cookie felt much younger than she was
    also.

  • Mark

    Yes ageism abounds and hence it is best to find some second profession that it does not matter as much. Easier said than done. Of course it does help to have friends who can hire you as well.

  • Janel

    Linda,

    I enjoyed this post so much. It was almost as if it could have been written by me. I am experiencing all of the same things, and yes, I have silver hair also. I’ve thought about what you said about how it’s perceived in the workplace, the corporate world, and I think that’s sad…but that is indeed how it is. I’m trying to make adjustments with that myself. At this point in my life, and coming back from a disability/injury that severely limited me for the past 5 years and during which I have not worked, I won’t go back to that type of environment, and am not sure what I will do but I know that I have to be true to myself no matter what. Getting a little off topic, but I wanted to let you know that I understand so well what you’re saying in this post.

    And good for Bill! I’m so glad that an opportunity opened up for him. I love your wording, “through friends who know his worth.” Made my day.

    Janel
    http://www.messyhappylife.com