Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Too Old for This S**t

I'll never forget my business partner telling me to cut a troublesome employee some slack because she was 50 and just didn't want to work that hard anymore.  At the time, firmly rooted in my 30's, with no grey hair, pretty good vision, no need to stuff any body part into a form fitting undergarment, and the perk and drive to grow a career, that seemed like an insulting statement.  There was no reason in the world that I could see that a woman entering her 50's wasn't just as capable as anyone else.  I think, looking back on it now, maybe I even pushed her harder after that statement got made because I wanted her to prove to the world that women were just as capable as men.  I don't know that I did it consciously.   But I bet I did increase the pressure, because the one thing I can tell you I remember thinking for certain was that no one would have said that about a man that age.  Turns out he was right about her - maybe not for the reason he thought he was - but she just didn't want to work as hard as it was going to take in the heady, hard days of trying to take the little mom and pop company we had and make it something more.  But I don't know if it was age so much as her world view.  She didn't need the money all that badly, she and her husband were relatively well off.  He was winding his career down, their daughter was grown and out of the house, and they envisioned finally recapturing that quiet time together that they had briefly as a young married couple.  It wasn't that she wasn't capable of working hard, she just didn't want to.  At the time, I think I saw that as shameful.  I've always felt the weight on my shoulders of the women who came before me and worked to create fissures in the glass ceiling.  I know myself well enough to imagine I projected that onto some of the people who worked for me.

I think about that long ago statement a lot now that I'm on the other side of the half century mark and I've definitely been thinking about it after last week.  And here's why:  I got a call late in the day on the Wednesday before Easter asking if I could come down to Dallas for a meeting with a new client on Monday.  I said sure, but it would probably be expensive to get a flight at this point.  My boss asked me to check into it and we'd decide the next day.  I did, sent him what I found and - he's very busy, I realize - it wasn't until very late Thursday that I got the go ahead to book everything and plan on coming.   So, that night, with one eye on the hockey game and one eye on the computer screen, I made all the arrangements for myself to fly out Easter Sunday, spend the day in the office and then fly home Tuesday so I could be logged back in and working by mid-afternoon.  Of course, since I've renamed Friday Hair on Fire Day at work, there was no time to really do much more than the normal stuff, that left Friday night to try and get some housework done because Greg and I were going to the hockey game the next day.  That really left Sunday morning to get ready to go to meet a client who is important enough to pay large bucks to fly me down for.  So, I take a look at myself as I ready to pack and this is what I see:

  • Once I peel off one of the baseball caps that I almost constantly sport, it was obvious that the roots are showing as are some hints of grey through the now-aging dye job with no chance to get to my hairdresser.  
  • I have what I refer to as "hockey nails".  For a full half century, I never really bit my nails.  That all changed when I started watching hockey - it's a nail biter kind of sport, often never over until it's completely over, so I'm working on getting past that, but I find it's a bit like an addiction and saying that you're going to stop just doesn't make it happen.
  • I'm certainly not as slim as I used to be and body parts that used to have some bounce in them now just have some flap and flop.
  • In all, looking at the person in the mirror, it just wasn't the person I would feel real confident putting my trust in as a client.
"Packing" for this quick trip now has to include a quick trip to Target for a box of root cover up, which was applied literally two hours before I left for the airport, then doing as much work on my nails as was possible to do with the material I had to work with, ending with a coat of clear polish to try and make it look at least like I give a damn.  I try to whiten the teeth with some cheap tooth bleach while I agonize over my potential wardrobe, which I finally resolve by tossing together an outfit featuring a long shirt that hides some of the bumps and rolls and pack some of kinds of undergarments that were probably used as torture devices in the Dark Ages.  I figure I've done as much as I can do to fix the wreck that is me and I unhappily head out to the airport for a long day of travel with my ego and self-confidence riding low.

Flash forward to Monday morning where, after a less than full night's worth of sleep, I look at the hair with the cheap root cover up job on it through the harsher light of the hotel bathroom and realize that the top of my hair is definitely darker and redder than the rest of the head.  I have to fight the sudden urge to bite the slim bit of nails I have as a result, I'm so freaked out by this discovery, because that harsh neon lighting is exactly what I will be facing at the office.  Finally, I realize, there is nothing for  it and maybe if I don't call attention to it, no one will look closely enough to notice.  I go down to breakfast in the lobby and sit near the TV where they are showing the Mike and Mike Show on ESPN.  So, rattled by my two-toned hair and uncomfortable in my tortuous underwear and dress shoes, I look at the larger of the Mikes.  He looks like it took him all of ten minutes to get ready for work and maybe that's generous.  Maybe he only needed five, if you don't count any time spent sitting over a cup of coffee and the morning paper.  And I all but guarantee you he out earns me by a lot.  There is not a woman alive who could make that much money on air and look like that, I reckon.  That got me to thinking about Rush Limbaugh, who is an overweight gas bag.   How much do I suppose he makes?  And he looks like a hateful, spiteful Pillsbury Dough Boy.  What a double standard, I bemoan to myself.  All of that would only serve to be reinforced the next morning when, after a long day and a very early morning, I see a sharply dressed, tall and slender woman in the airport hurrying to get to the security checkpoint to whisk off to Wherever with her head held high and her shoulders back, and I think to myself, "Now that's a look that inspires confidence!" only to catch my reflection in some glass wall a moment later and see a tired, pale old woman. 

Bottom line, at this point in my life, it's work, and hard work, to try and look good enough to compete in the marketplace, and that's just to get the look.  I'm not even talking about the other stuff:  trying to always anticipate what the competitors are doing, stay ahead of them by working with the best cutting edge technology and thinking up the Next Big Thing.  Or, since I'm sort of out of that game, it's more about successfully supporting my boss's Big Things, but doing it well and anticipating how best to do that.  It's not as easy nor as fun as it used to be.  It's work.

I think I have to say that I'm getting too old for this shit.

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