I went for that magical College Education, the sure-fire way of being successful in the mid-20th Century. I earned a degree in Communications with a Speech and Theater emphasis because I wanted to be a screenwriter, or go into television development and programming. The plan was to get my Bachelor’s degree and then head to California to Film School, or go to work at a studio in whatever entry job I could get and then work my way up.
At graduation I was sidetracked by a stunning pair of blue eyes whose owner talked me out of moving out to California until he got his degree, and then we would go together. After he got his degree we married; however he didn’t want to leave his well-paying job or all his friends, and he talked me into staying. He expected me to be content with the role of Wife and I, eager to please, foolishly went along with it. I wasn’t the only fool, however. He apparently thought anyone born with a uterus just automatically “knew” how to cook and clean and bring home the bacon and be at the ready for amorous intent at all times.
We lived together for a year before we married – how did he NOT realize by the day we took our vows, I only knew how to scramble eggs and make spaghetti for the first four months we were together and made marginal improvements for the rest of that year; avoided the hated housework until the dirty clothes and dishes led an armed rebellion against me every week; and struggled to find a balance between getting enough rest to go to work and being at the ready when he was ‘ready’? I improved over the years with the cooking, but Hints from Heloise-level cleaning took a long time for me to master. One is not born with a scrub brush and broom in hand, I don’t CARE if they’re supposedly doled out through the Uterine Clause.
Yet he married me anyway because We Did What Our Parents Expected Us To Do. We never went to California where I could pursue my silly dreams, since the field was too chancey for he or his parents to think practical. Instead we remained in the middle of the country where he could pursue his hobbies of racing motorcycles and shooting pistols and hanging around with his wealthier buddies who brought their expensive cars to the auto shop he managed. His degree was in education but he never planned to ever use it. He wanted the lifestyle of his friends but didn’t want to work and struggle to get it.
His job made more than mine so therefore his opinion outclassed mine. Despite three marvelous children, he was unhappy because I was not the Obedient Stepford Wife he expected, who put more effort into raising the kids than he thought necessary. They made good mini-butlers to fetch his beers but were more of a nuisance to him than anything. At least, that’s how he behaved to us. We eventually moved to Atlanta where his parents lived, and tried again. Atlanta Georgia – on the opposite side of the country from Tinseltown.
By the time the kids and I had had enough and left him, my dreams were long gone. By the time the kids were mature, responsible adults, those dreams were dust. I still have loans to pay off and no savings from essentially being the sole support of three. No network wants an intern over 40, certainly not over 50!
But why not? I know it’s a young person’s world in entertainment, but that doesn’t mean that mature people can’t start out and contribute. At least with me, there isn’t the problem of having me giggling with friends over the phone about “how much fun I had clubbing last weekend, ohmyGAWD I got sooo wasted” or “I envision having lavender bows on all the pew ends with thin white streamers dangling down like a curtain all along the way, while my fifteen bridesmaids in gowns of different colors of the rainbow glide along in front of me, where the fifteen groomsmen in white tuxes are waiting.” Or worse yet, “I CAN’T BELIEVE HE SAID THAT TO ME; OH GIRL I WAS READY TO SMACK HIS – oh yes ma’m, just fill out this top part and then sign at the X, here’s a pen – SMACK HIS JAW WITH MY HEEL–”
I raised three kids successfully on my own; juggling a multitude of tasks and reports and development ideas is really no different, just tidier. I’ve worked with fevers, chills, shakes, broken bones, burned fingers (oh damn that pan was still hot; stupid stupid stupid) so there’s no “cough cough I can’t come in today, I think I’m going to come down with something that’s going around” stuff. On the other hand, if I sound like I am actually slamming the knocker against Death’s Door, I’m not going to come in to work and contaminate the entire building like a latter-day Typhoid Mary.
There’s no tight skirts or goofy shoes or low decolletage on me, and never has been. Since 2004, I have shopped solely in the Men’s Section. I’d rather spend my thick dimes on a nice pair of wingtip oxford shoes. And none of that has anything to do with how well I type, file, do correspondence, collate, stamp, staple or categorize – but it does mean I’m more comfortable as I do those things. I don’t go in for the newest fashions but I do keep out an eye for what is trending. Keeping up with what is trending is keeping oneself in the now and future, rather than blithering on so much about yesterday.
The simple truth is, mature workers are just as viable in the workforce as our younger counterparts. We have the distinct advantage of reflecting our educational backgrounds of rote, readable penmanship and “respond using a complete sentence.” We didn’t have Sesame Street growing up, so the need to be constantly entertained is not as prevalent, and certainly was not considered necessary in a learning environment at all times. We learned to get along with each other on our own by either talking it out, avoiding each other or duking it out behind the gymnasium until a teacher grabbed us by the ears and dragged us to the office for punishment. There were no prizes for all participants; if you didn’t win or place second or third, well; that’s the breaks and we accepted that. Sometimes we were graded on a curve but most times we weren’t. It was a different world back then, but we learned from it and that is the gold we bring into the work environment.
Oh I know – waa waa, cry me a river, everyone has it tough sometimes and I should have done something sooner with my life. That’s true. But I didn’t, and here I am. I still write novels and screenplays and I’m trying to network. I lost a job a couple of years ago and became a grocery chain baker just to pay the bills until I can find office work again. Of course, I get flooded with emails from job search companies that promise me !!Great Baking Jobs!! They see what my current job is and assume I am following up on a mid-life crisis decision rather than trying to get back to where I was before Life’s Game of Sorry slid me off the board.
NOooo! I don’t WANT to be a baker, I want – oh, never mind. Unsubscribe, try again. I’m not Old; I’m Mature. I’m not Over The Hill; I’m Seasoned. I can keep up with the crowd and even win over conversations through charm and comportment. I don’t have the svelte figure of my youth but I’m not helpless and I’m not hunting. I don’t have to have history explained to me, I can spell without cringe-worthy mistakes and I can do math without taking an entire page to prove my work. I know how to use computers and am ready to learn something new at any time because I’ve been learning new things literally ALL MY LIFE.
In fact, I bet I can beat you at Trivia through sheer experience and not by simply cheating by using Google.