Monday, September 19, 2005

My friend, who admittedly is a couple of years younger than I am, is having a hard time with this aging thing. She, like all of us "mature" workers, has suddenly become aware of the influx of youth into our working environ. For years, we were the youngest members of the office, the objects of our older bosses' lust, the fodder of watercooler gossip, the movers and shakers among support staff. We maintained our status far into our 30s by virtue of the semi-professional nature of our work (legal assistance): those younger than we were the firm gophers, doing the humbling and mundane tasks we disdained. There was an age group in there somewhere who either were so well-educated by college that they did not choose a mid-to-low level work such as ours, or were lacking the experience to make them truly useful.

Flash to now. Our experience keeps us in the game, but only slightly. To say we are a vanishing breed certainly establishes our entry into the older generation! The glut of college graduates with degrees in art history, psychology, English and sundry other fine arts have created an influx of young workers into our work world. Recently, as I looked for a new position, it was apparent to me that the world had changed. Heretofore my experience had established me as a valuable and highly sought after candidate, but I found that probably 75% of the positions which vaguely interested me required a college degree, much the same way high school diplomas were required "back in the day." My friend and I were lucky to find a place that still values my years in the business, as well as the college hours which did not culminate in a sheepskin.

My friend has been very hurt to have been left out of the e-mail loops, uninvited to girl power happy hours and unconsulted in work-related dilemmas after a year and a half of warmly smiling, participating in the office pools and despite her best efforts at female bonding. As disconcerting as this was, I was able to deal. Why? Because I am used to the young. I have been ignored, ridiculed and sometimes even reviled on a regular basis for years, since my oldest child turned 15. Why hasn't she? Because she has no children.

As much as children keep you young, they certainly also make you face your advancing age.

The thing my friend doesn't get, and unfortunately probably never will, is that their e-mails would hold little interest to her. The stories of our wild single days would curl their hair; their college escapades and bachelorette parties and moments of inspiration would pall in comparison. These little ladies have rarely encountered the death of a mother, a friend's breast cancer, fortunes made and lost, the end of a lengthy relationship. And that's as it should be--they deserve some carefree days and the time it takes to learn life's lessons.

My friend will learn soon enough that had she the choice, she would prefer the company of us--her old, wise and salty contemporaries.

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