I think this is the first birthday where I’ve wanted to cry. There was another that I associate with the news that I had cancer, but my day was technically over by then.
I’m being showered with more love today than I probably deserve, and I’m not even being self-deprecating. I’ve already gotten cards, gifts, phone calls, and more emails, Facebook posts and Snapchat messages than I can count, and the day is still quite young. Even notes from my eye doctor, dentist and financial planner. Plus, all — all — of the Snapchat photos were in goat face. (My volunteer work at a goat farm this year was epic!) That’s when you know people really love you. My baby called at midnight from her dorm and has messaged every way possible, even though she’ll be home later today. My beautiful exchange-student daughter threw herself at me. My 15-year-old has been decidedly un-snarky. Of course, doggie kisses. And, I woke to roses from my husband. Also cool? I share my birthday with my little sister who is amazing (and she won’t even see this!).
On top of that, there was breakfast: a chocolatey “granola” bar (yes, I get the irony), jalapeño Cheetos and a Diet Coke Lime. It’s not like I hit this ripe old age without taking good care of myself! Dinner will be even better. In a little bit I’ll run several miles, in preparation for a half marathon this weekend. It’s at the beach, so more fun yet.
This is my first year on Medium, and it’s definitely been a highlight — even better than the goats. The amazing prose and poetry of walkerjojones, the heart and soul of Tremaine L. Loadholt, the über love of Wild Flower, Colette and Anna Now, the insights of Deborah Foster and alto, the fire of Classical Sass, Meg Barclay and Ezinne Ukoha, the uncompromising truths of H. Nemesis Nyx and Jules, the powerful observations of Jason Stelzner, Zelda Pinwheel, Abbie… I could go on and on, and not being on this list is absolutely no indication that I love you any less! Equally important, I’m starting to find my own voice again after years of marketing speak.
These aren’t the things that are making me want to cry. It’s the world seeing me as old, when I don’t feel even remotely different from thirty. Other than a tiny bit of neuropathy (damn chemo!), I seriously feel exactly the same. Why doesn’t the world treat me the same as it did then?
It really doesn’t help that my EX boss mentioned on occasion how it was best to hire people under 40: “They still want to learn.” Or when he encouraged me to hire an attractive woman because “She’ll look good with your customers.” The fact that he got fired was only small consolation, since I got laid off first. I didn’t think it would be a big deal because I’ve never had any issue finding a job before and I’m pretty decent at what I do. But now? Ageism. Yeah, there could also be other factors, but when it’s a quantum change from previous searches it’s highly suspicious. When the cute, youthful start-ups tell you that, sorry, they found somebody “more qualified,” as if that’s even possible. When your skill set could make the hiring manager look awesome but they assume it’s all too dated. When the phone doesn’t ring at all.
And other moments, of course. When you mention the race you just ran, and your coworker says “Oh I didn’t know you volunteered there!” The smile on the pimply clerk’s face when you’re buying wine and they ask for your birth date. The way that all of your kids’ friends call you Mom. (Okay, I lie — I like that part.)
I don’t mind being older at all. I’m living a great life, I look pretty fucking good if I say so myself, and my boobs don’t even sag (thank you, cancer!). But what is obvious with each passing year is that you are less relevant by mere dint of a number. The laugh lines tell people, you’re probably out of touch. If you put 30 years of experience on your resume, it doesn’t say damn she’s good but rather earns too much and is too close to retirement to be worth it. The most frequent mail is direct mail from frickin’ AARP (am I too old to get email?!). Your kids? Love you mom, but busy.
Okay, so I’m sitting around feeling sorry for myself on my birthday. It’s all right. Birthdays are a good time for some self-reflection. And I know I didn’t appreciate older people till I got there, myself. Perhaps being bit by karma now? But I do wonder what this says about or portends for our aging society (actually, it’s kind of ironic that you’re less employable after 50, until you get close to 70 and then you can run for president). Kids laugh off history, they assume we’re technologically clueless, they avoid grandparents. What happened to those wise old wrinkly shamans everyone looked up to? I’m available…
Enough musings for now. I have some more Cheetos to eat. Maybe some wine and chocolate. Peace out.