March 28, 2016 — I mistakenly referred to a calculator as an adding machine at work. Everyone burst into raucous laughter, followed by taunts about my age. Senior moment? Or generic brain fart?”
Did I conjure up the image of Eustis, the bookkeeper from “It’s a Wonderful Life” from my co-workers? I doubt that any Gen Xers or Millennials can identify Eustis. And it’s a black and white film. Younger people don’t like black and white movies.
Being one of the oldest at my workplace is new for me. I started full-time work in May 1980. This was before the Challenger blew up, before “Tear Down this Wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” before 9/11. Before diagnostic related groups, Obamacare, electronic medical records, and lung transplants. Probably before you were born, co-worker. Five years later, I started my first leadership level position in a hospital at age 28, which was (yes, indeedy, 30 years ago. People who have worked thirty plus years say “indeedy.”)
In 1985, I sat at the table with the big kids; I was the only one in my twenties. My co-workers were, at least, fifteen years older than this brunette with long hair, high heels, and eyelids lined with powder blue shadow. We lived in an apartment; my husband was in graduate school. Our second car was a ’73 VW Beetle. Our “good car” was an unairconditioned Chevette. All of my leadership team co-workers had homes and sedans or SUVs and kids and mortgages. Grown-ups.
Until my present job, I was among the youngest on my team.
The man who hired me in February 2014 was seven or eight years younger; my current boss is somewhere in her early thirties. My organization has about 120 employees. I guess that less than ten outrank me in age.
At work, I’m frequently lost in the conversation. I don’t get my co-worker’s jokes, and they certainly don’t get my quips. They talk about the eighties as ancient history. They see me as a child reading “McGuffey’s Reader” while a boy in overalls sticks my pigtails in an inkwell. They don’t listen to NPR. They understand nothing of the classics.
- “Never at dusk.” Steve Martin
- “Dave’s not here.” Cheech Marin
- “Nixon’s the One.” The 1968 Republican National Committee, now known as conservative Democrats
No one at work understands my jokes, literary references, or anything I say. I used the phrase “a pox on our house” the other day after a series of computer outages. My colleagues thought I was babbling in gibberish.
I referred to Mercutio’s triple epithet on the families of “Romeo and Juliet.” A quick Google search revealed Mercutio said “plague” a word which any hospital worker should know. One of the sources I used said “pox” was an archaic word not used today. Yes, indeedy. My co-workers probably don’t believe it, but I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s time.
(Time for a pop culture reference none of my colleagues will get. They often call what I say “random.” Perhaps it’s authentic frontier gibberish, as originated in a 1970s Mel Brooks flick. “I think we’re all grateful to Gabby Johnson, for clearly stating what needed to be said.” It’s a double entendre. You can’t get the pop culture reference from the 1970s without knowing who Gabby Hayes is from the thirties and forties. You know, like black and white?)
I don’t see myself as old. I don’t feel old. Isn’t sixty the new forty? Three of my grandparents looked ancient at sixty (one grandfather died in his early fifties.) Maybe it was the hats?
A 2015 study surveyed attitudes about aging in Europe.
“Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue, is middle-aged, but 200 years ago, a 60-year-old would be a very old person.
Dr. Sergei Scherbov, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, led a joint project with New York’s Stony Brook University, looking at how life expectancy has increased.”
The study, published in the journal “PLOS ONE”, found people across Europe were currently viewed as “old” when they hit 65.”
So what is Middle Age now? Remember the old saying Life Begins at Forty? If you married at 18 or 20 and started a family, you were footloose and fancy-free at forty. (Of course, most males had a job for life, and looked forward to a pension at 65, but that’s an entirely different story.)
We are healthier, working longer by choice or financial resources, and looking better than our parents or grandparents at the same age. Perhaps it was the hats?
Or paraphrasing the fake Fernando Lamas said on vintage “Saturday Night Live,”We look mar-veah-luss.
Google it, kiddos.
Let my co-workers laugh. They might learn something from me. And I’ll take it in stride. Tomorrow I’m taking in my son’s abacus to show them how we cave women used to count in the days before adding machines. Believe me, I can give it out as well as I can take it. When I drove the company van the other day, I changed all ten pre-sets on the radio to NPR. That’ll teach ’em.
Cross posted on BlogHer.