Growing older – worth the perks?
“Excuse me, I notice you came back late after lunch,” said the new supervisor.
Dina looked up in surprise at being addressed in this manner. She had been working for the firm for 30 years, and everyone knew that on Thursdays she went to visit her mother in the home. The supervisor was easily 15 years her junior, although as a new man eager to make a mark, his raw ambition and irascible nature which was clear from the redness on his face had already started aging him prematurely.
“I visit my mother on Thursdays,” she explained. “Not in company time,” he snarled. “Not on my watch. You are being paid to work.” Angry and shocked, Dina swallowed. But she did not say she had an agreement with the management, nor that she had oodles more experience than him. A regular meditator and calorie restrictor, she suspected he thought she was a junior, or certainly junior to him. She did not “let on” how old she really was, even though to do so would have given her great momentary satisfaction. “Noted,” she said, and continued her work. He would find out soon enough from the others that she was the senior employee in the office.
One of the things that consoles us about getting older is more confidence. As fewer and fewer people surpass us in age, it becomes more difficult to be intimidated, and if someone tries to manipulate us, bully or offend us, we are less likely to take nonsense from any young whippersnapper. It feels so good to be able to pull rank, to say, “I was doing this while you were still in short trousers” or to laugh about bank managers and customer service directors being knee high to grasshoppers while they try to bamboozle us into accepting shoddy good or services. It feels fantastic not to fear the boss, who may be younger than us and actually be nervous about addressing us on any issue; it feels that at long last we are in control. We command respect, people call us sir or madam, and assume we have money; we have presence, and maybe some of the younger ones even fear us, just as we once feared those older than us with power. The journey has been worth it for this delicious feeling of being on top of things, and of finally not wondering how everything is going to turn out.
Stop right there.
There is nothing wrong with confidence and feeling that at last we have got a grip. “I felt so weird when I was called sir by a young employee, and I realised to him I was a rather intimidating 50 year old, far ahead of him in the hierarchy,” said Jack. “The odd thing was it really seemed like yesterday I was feeling nervous of the people who – most of them – have now all retired. It was a wake-up call. I kind of liked it. But at the same time it scared me. I didn’t want to be like the guys I used to hate.” This is the rub; we enjoy confidence, but our subconscious picks up on the social cues. If we are respected, or even feared, we must therefore be like “old Barrows” who used to sneer at us when we were new to the job, and who often laughed at us for being naïve – and old Barrows was a red-faced, heavy-breathing, overweight, whisky-guzzling arsehole. Or maybe we have turned into the former head of personnel Mrs Tunbridge, now retired or maybe even dead, who struck fear into us with her sour face and loud tutting when we walked past in our short skirt twenty years ago. Is that how the younger people see me now? whispers our inner voice. To have respect we must grow old, set in our ways and probably disliked by those lower down in the hierarchy. And so the metamorphosis begins.
“What!” said the woman on the phone whom Sylvia was calling about planning permission. Sylvia softened her voice, and explained her case again. “You’re wasting your time. The city no longer gives planning permission to people wanting to convert garages.” “If I can’t convert the garage into a flat I’m not sure the building has much value,” said Sylvia. “You’re surely not buying the whole building sweetheart!” laughed the employee. Sylvia, who had a young voice but was actually well over 50, almost lowered her voice to make a haughty statement about her financial status. But she resisted. “She obviously thought I was a young thing with limited cash,” she laughed afterwards. “I decided to take the compliment.”
Deciding to take being treated as a younger person who can be intimidated as a compliment is a very sneaky way of staying ageless. Refusing to align ourselves with the sort of senior adult who might command respect is an odd choice, but one which will prevent our vibration shifting to that of someone past their prime. Of course we know not all older people are misanthropic or arrogant, but this post is not about judging older people, nor is it for those who are quite happy with being seen as a mature member of society.
But if we want to stay ageless, and maintain indefinitely the vigour of youth, we sometimes have to fake it to make it and turn down certain momentary perks of being older.
Well, a matter of personal choice.
Identify with the young.
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