Stereotypes are Alive and Well – No Matter the Generation

Now that I’m officially a senior, I find it interesting to see the stereotypes attributed to me, old and youngthings I also once attributed to “old folks” without knowing a darn thing about the individuals. Some of them I can laugh at; some annoy me.

I remember, back in my dancing days when I was young and svelte, seeing an overweight person ordering dessert and making some stupid comment about why they couldn’t just control their sweet tooth. And then I retired from dancing, stopped smoking, put on close to 50 pounds and discovered I couldn’t turn down doughnuts and pastries and cookies and pie and cake … you get it. Karma’s a bitch but the lessons are invaluable. Just sometimes wish I could learn them sooner.

I also remember friends snickering at old men with socks and sandals or old women with ugly varicose veins and the audacity to go out in public in shorts! Did they look in the mirror and think this look was attractive?

Here’s what I think now: I think we dress for others when we’re younger. A job can depend on that first impression. A first date can depend on that first impression. Your place in the pecking order can depend on that first impression. But when you reach my age and you realize that (a) you’re not likely to be dressing for a job or a mate ever again and (b) you’ve learned that you don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about the way you look, it makes it really easy to live in sweats, sneakers and ratty T-shirts. My success no longer depends on someone else’s opinion.

Each generation likes to think it’s raised the next one to be more tolerant, more forgiving, more discerning. Not so. Stereotypes exist, no matter the generation or the upbringing. The “young’uns” as my southern, small town generation would call them,  have just as many preconceived ideas about the older generation as we do about them. Case in point: I have sat in Starbucks and listened to kids in their teens, twenties, thirties and even forties opine all the old people who drive too slow, all the rich kids who are snobs, the immigrants who won’t learn English, the homeless who beg for money and spend it all on cigarettes or booze, the rocker who must be high on drugs, etc. I could give even more egregious examples but these will do.

Here’s the thing: somehow the young’uns don’t seem to see that they’re doing exactly the same thing they accuse us oldies of doing. This came to my attention when I was trying to explain to a computer repairman, who had helpfully suggested that next time I had an issue with my new computer I should try to resolve it online with a customer service rep, that I had tried that, but that the operator appeared to be in another country as her English seemed limited and I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say. He looked at me like he very much wanted to tell me that all the customer reps were highly trained, not in a foreign country and that the issue was probably that I didn’t understand the customer serviceinstructions. But the truth is, that’s not the case. The sentences were written like you hear beginners in a language communicate (me included when I was traveling in foreign countries and trying to explain something): subjects and verbs are sometimes inverted, adjectives are misplaced and articles are eliminated. Then when a wrong word or two is used, the meaning and nuance of the instruction goes all to hell pretty fast. But most of all, I was struck by the look on his face and the realization that he would always think the fault was mine because I was old and clearly not able to understand.

It was frustrating to see myself as a stereotype, but I guess that was inevitable. After all, there are a few that fit: I no longer dress to impress, I sometimes have to ask how to do IPhonesomething on my iPhone, I wear “granny pants” instead of G-strings, I wear “sensible” shoes and I put fiber in my morning smoothie.

 

 

The Obligatory Farewell Party

The funny thing about the last few weeks of employment is that people suddenly come out of the woodwork to make suggestions that are now clearly too late to implement and could’ve been made any time at all within the last thirteen years. I know they mean for them to be helpful hints for me to use while training my replacement but I find myself wondering if a lot of what I’ve accomplished in my career is viewed as very-nice-but-could’ve-been-better. Okay, yes, I’m probably overly sensitive in my last few weeks but I can’t possibly be the only one who’s left a career wondering if anything they did for their length of time in the organization made any difference.

I’m also aware that just as there are many people I’ve been cordial to but won’t particularly miss, I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual. So if they’re not going to miss me, I’d rather not have a party where they feel like they have to show up because someone (whether me or the CEO) might notice their absence.

Retirement cake blunderI found this photo of someone’s cake to be hilarious but it also aptly sums up my aversion to the obligatory retirement party and, presented with a date for my own staff farewell party, I politely declined and said I’d just as soon leave quietly (that in itself will be novel to most of my co-workers).

Every retirement party I’ve attended in the last thirteen years has had the same format and it goes something like this:

  1. An email invitation is sent to most of the company’s employees inviting them to attend the going-away party.
  2. A lot of people who’d rather finish their work, take the time to saunter over.
  3. A conference room is set up with soft drinks, cake and maybe cookies or fruit.
  4. Everyone sits around the conference table and waits for someone to say something.
  5. The retiree is eventually asked about a favorite work story. Everyone listens politely and nods approvingly but really has no connection to the memory.
  6. Another awkward silence ensues until someone asks if anyone has a good story about the retiree.
  7. Having finally run out of pithy comments and stories, the retiree is given a gift. In our case, it has often been a crystal vase with the company logo on it – nice, but I probably won’t want to spend my meager Social Security funds on bouquets of flowers.
  8. A final thank-you-for-your-service is voiced and then a few people grab refreshments and the rest head back to their work stations, having fulfilled their duty.

I think this tradition needs to go. Too many people feel like they have to show up because they know the retiree knows it was sent out to most of the departments and they think they have to attend because she will notice if they’re not there. I believe the people who actually give a damn will stop by and say goodbye. And that’s enough.

Why Aren’t We Born with Good Sense?

 

 

human body

It’s taken me 65 years to learn how intricate the body is and how interconnected all the parts are. If you damage one, you may very well be damaging the whole. But I didn’t see that in my youth. I saw disparate parts, each deserving its own focus and attention and, of course, wholly repairable if my latest fad didn’t work to my advantage.

Up until I left for college, I was pleasantly thin and never worried about what went into my mouth. As a kid I remember going through a butter phase where I would cut off a piece and eat it while I watched television with my parents. I recall my mother laughingly telling my aunt that she thought it was strange but how could a little butter hurt me?

Then I got to college, put on some weight and decided to try some very interesting diets. I started drinking Tab (horrid stuff even then), with a metallic aftertaste that was probably my digestive tract turning to lead. I realized I couldn’t live with Tab long-term and somehow a diet drink didn’t cancel out the crushed oreo covered ice cream I’d have for dessert at the dorm. But then I read about a terrific diet that I knew would be easy to follow – the sherbet diet. That’s all you ate. Yep – sherbet. As much as I love sweets, even I couldn’t stick with that one for long. Who knew I could actually crave a green bean or a spinach leave after a few days of nothing but sherbet?

I’m pretty sure at some point I’ve tried every diet known to mankind. And in my dancing days, I was fixated on the latest trend for improving health – a boatload of vitamins and minerals based on iridology. That would be great if the person “prescribing” the plethora of pills had any medical training, but no, he did not, and yes, I bought close to 15 different products that were going to give me the energy I already possessed as a thirty-year-old and extend my life (which we’ve yet to prove but I hope is accurate). It was the nausea from the handful of pills that finally convinced me to stop.

I’ve learned a lot by working in the medical field and listening to how, as the song goes, “the shin bone’s connected to the knee bone…” The more I hear, the more I understand the complexity of the body and how one small change can have enormous effects up and down the line. It’s no wonder that so many people are loathe to take medications because even though many are great short-term, many are dangerous (even lethal) long-term. In my own case, once I reached perimenopause, my gynecologist decided I needed to get on a low-dose hormone pill. My problems started showing up after about 3-4 months and over the next year got worse and worse. I told our hospice pharmacist that my hips hurt and it felt muscular. He’d never heard of that side effect. I noticed that I couldn’t stand up straight when I got out of bed in the morning and it got so bad that I couldn’t pick up my feet. I would shuffle around the bed to turn off my alarm and then into the bathroom. Oddly, after about half an hour, I would be able to stand up straight. I finally found a doctor who had heard of these drastic symptoms and she agreed I should stop taking this medication. Who would’ve thought that a medication seemingly meant to help me was slowly fusing my joints (my description, because that’s what it felt like).

So here I am at 65, no longer turning my health over to someone else. I’m aware that I eat too many sweets but my cure for that will not be to take a medication; it will be to cut out the majority of the empty calories I eat. It’s taken me decades to listen when I hear people discussing the complexities of the body but it’s fascinating. There’s a ripple effect through the body and it no longer surprises me to find that a pain in my foot is connected to a problem in my eye (I’m making that up but you get the picture) or a muscle spasm in my back is associated with my liver. It’s all connected.

I have a relative who is very heavy . . . and a vegetarian. He has said he can’t understand how he can be so overweight when he eats pretty good meals. Okay, sometimes those “pretty good meals” include soups with a bazillion grams of fat or low-fat products with a bazillion grams of sugar. He’ll liberally salt his meals before he’s even tasted them and then say he can’t figure out why his feet swell.

anti-aging-skin-care-products

Bottom line? I don’t really care if I have wrinkles and grey hair but I do care about how I feel. I realize it’s far more important than I ever understood to know how everything that goes into the body affects all the parts. I figure if I’d had more sense about how complex the body is, how the smallest thing can make such a huge difference, and that some of the damage we cause in our youth is not reversible, I might’ve paid more attention to what I was swallowing a long, long time ago.

Or maybe not. As a kid, I probably wouldn’t have listened because as kids, we know everything, right?

A Short in the Brain

Meeting_the_Challenges_of_Copper_Plating_Hi_Res

It was a simple Christmas gift card that eventually led to my realization that my brain is not wired symmetrically and I may no longer be as confident about learning new things as I used to be. Here’s what I mean.

Back in high school, the most complicated electronic thing I had to work  with was a typewriter, figuring out how to carbon copy without making a typing error that required either starting over or tons of white-out. (And I feel certain the younger crowd, if any of them read this, are probably wracking their brains trying to figure out what that means).

Then I entered the computer age and with my verging-on-midlife confidence, knew I was capable of learning anything. Why should computers get the best of me? And learn I did … sort of. I always picked up  enough to do my job but not really much more than that. I would equate it with my capability with cars: I can start them and figure out all the interior bells and whistles but when it comes to how a carburetor works, I’m out. Or maybe it’s just a question of my interest level. Perhaps I could learn it if I needed to; the problem is, I don’t need to and I have zero interest in it.

So that brings us to my gift card. I decided to buy an Amazon Echo Dot and play with Alexa’s fun capabilities around the house. However, I opened the package and panic set in. The instructions seemed straightforward enough but the second I hit a snag and the computer told me one thing (you’re connected to WiFi) but Alexa told me another (you’re not connected to WiFi), I knew it was going to be hours of frustration before anything was resolved (this is why I hate gadgets nowadays). And I was right. It took two trips to Target and three phone calls to Cox to figure it out. It doesn’t help that they ask me questions like, “Is your original equipment a modem or a router?” I finally had to explain to the technician that I had no idea. Those two words are just that – words. They have absolutely no meaning attached to them for me.  He might as well have asked me if my equipment was a squingle or a skelpty. Same damn thing to me! All in all, it took a dedicated four hours to get this simple gadget up and working. Yes, it’s fun but next time I’ll live without it.

What I’ve learned is that there is a limit to my keeping up as I age. Thing is – I don’t really care. I like my world the way it is, thank you.

Climbing the Ladder

Woman in Charge

As a woman, and a pretty adamant one about being in control of my own destiny, it’s interesting to look back at my own journey and the journey of many of my friends and colleagues over the years and tally the common things I’ve noticed about that fight up the ladder – whether or not any of us ever reached the top rung.

There are any number of directions I could go with these observations, and maybe I’ll take one or two of those in other posts, but for now I want to talk about the propensity for women to use skills we learned as kids in order to maneuver in a male-run world (especially the Baby Boomers, I think) and how they may have gotten some women ahead in the male-dominated corporate world, but they also made them disliked by other women. Interesting, isn’t it? Is that because they became different people during that journey to the top, a person their friends and colleagues no longer recognized, is it a bit of jealousy that one woman found a way to succeed when they didn’t, or is it that they now emulate the very male behavior they tried to overcome to get there? Like their male counterparts, they become no strangers to hubris.

In the business environments where I’ve worked, I noticed one thing that remained consistent: regardless of the spoken words, the top echelon set themselves apart and their actions (speaking far louder than words) essentially showed us that the rules don’t apply to them, the implication being that they’ve earned something better and don’t really need to be a part of that “team” they so often tout. It’s always frustrating and leads to morale issues. Is that strictly a female behavior? No, not really. But maybe women dislike it more from their own sex because they feel like the women who reach the top have become different people. I don’t know what organizations would look like if those powerful women set up new playbooks with feminine rules, but I suspect I never will, either.

And what, you may wonder prompted this post? It was a conversation I had with a co-worker – a smart, savvy, self-assured woman – who admitted her scorn for Hillary Clinton because of her “demeanor.” I realize this is a whole different discussion but I couldn’t fathom voting for the likes of Donald Trump when the only argument against Hillary seemed to be her “demeanor.” I could only surmise that part of the issue was the Baby Boomer upbringing and our views on a woman’s place in the business world. And that led me to look back at all the women executives I worked with over the decades and why we’d feel that way. This post then, is an exploration of the issue and I’m not entirely certain I’ve drilled back to the core but I know much of it is apt.

Television Tastes

Television through the ages. My, how tastes change and how television has changed. I can remember when a television show where one person got killed was astonishing and now, it’s become so commonplace that if there aren’t more than a dozen deaths in one hour, the show seems boring. And some say we’re not influenced by what we see every day? I would disagree.

Nevertheless, I really want to focus on some of the shows I watched through the decades and see which ones resonate with other seniors – or which ones they watched instead. Until I hit the 60s, I don’t remember watching anything other than whatever my parents had on.

The first show I can remember that I found titillating and scary was Dark Shadows. It’s the only daytime drama I ever watched – then or now. I would hurry home from school to see what Barnabas was up to.

dark_shadows_1966

And I, like many of my schoolmates, was crazy in love with Little Joe from Bonanza. Well, that is until I went to a dance convention in Houston and someone said Little Joe was in the big ballroom next door and when we trooped in to see him in our pink tights, black leotards and clunky tap shoes, he was smoking a cigar and had his feet up on the table while people were eating around him. That ended my love affair.

Bonanza_FeaturedNEW

I moved on to a succession of shows through the decades – shows like Dick Van Dyke, Laugh-In, All In the Family, Dallas, West Wing, Mission Impossible and Will & Grace. Now, I watch a lot of CNN, Survivor, The Voice, Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.