I turn 55 in one month. I’m writing this on April Fool’s Day, which is lamely appropriate. I know, people who are older than 55 don’t want to hear me whine about that number. So I won’t. But let’s do ruminate.
My dad died on July 4, 2003. My mom thought he was 79. And she thought his birthday was August 12. When she got a copy of his REAL birth certificate from New Haven, in order to create a death certificate, she discovered he really was 80, and his birthday really was August 13th, not 12th. Being a superstitious Irishman, he’d taken the liberty of changing it so he never had to celebrate a birthday on Friday the 13th. At least that’s the theory we came up with. The year part I can’t really explain.
Except I do understand not wanting the number that describes your age to grow after a certain point. You become a senior, you become eligible for things you don’t want to think about, you leave a certain demographic behind even before you were really used to being part of it.
The ugly side of ageism recently played itself out for me in an insidious way. Is there any other way? Probably not.
Though I have a job I love, I still like to peruse copywriting jobs to see if something looks fun or intriguing to me. Recently I met two representatives of a certain hipster company based in NYC. They were nice kids, and I was impressed with the things their company does as part of their business model.
A few months after I met these folks, they advertised a head copywriting job. The application itself was fun. They sent me product images and I had to write about the product in different voices, to different audiences. I made it through three rounds of this sort of game/application, over the course of three weeks. I had to send them all sorts of writing, both on the spot and from my portfolio.
According to them, at last I was in the final round along with four other people. We’d still never had an in-person meeting, mind you. Our final assignment was to write a high school or college memory involving a pair of eyeglasses.
I wrote about attending my first Elton John concert in 1975 and seeing his wardrobe of eyeglasses. The story was very much a “road” story, since my girlfriends and I had camped out at this thing, taken the requisite mood altering substances, and capped the night off by skinny-dipping. But the moral was we all donned new eyewear the next day. I thought the kids would appreciate the sort of Kool-Aid acid test-ness of it all.
Silly me. As soon as these kids barely out of knee pants did the math, I never even heard from them again. Not even a polite “no thank you” – not even a “thanks for playing” – nada. Didn’t their mamas teach them better than that?
So, the lessons learned here were many. Here’s the main one. Even if your age is ok with you, it may not be okay with other people. Of course that depends upon what you’re trying to do out there in the world, how you’re trying to make your way. Best not to try to make your way through where you’re perceived as not belonging.
But here’s a secret that’s revealed itself to me as a reward for living this long. When you’re a writer, you can create that world where you do belong. In a hundred different ways. It’s the best anti-aging solution I can think of. And the best revenge, as they say.