Saturday, March 14, 2009

"When You Lie About Your Age, The Terrorists Win"

I treated myself to a spa pedicure this afternoon, even though I could hear my mother saying, "You don't have a job and you got a pedicure? Things cost money!" (I could also hear her when I was in the supermarket the other day saying "you're buying food and you don't have a job? Eating costs money!") While enjoying my unaccustomed pampering, I read the latest issue of "Oprah!" magazine. Comedienne Carol Leifer had a funny essay about how she "turned gay." (I'd wondered what she'd been doing since "Seinfeld."1)

The essay was promoting a book that's also coming out called "When You Lie About Your Age, The Terrorists Win." That's a relevant title for me right now, since I'm about Carol Leifer's age, and because, since losing my job...did I mention I lost my job?...I've gotten this advice: "Don't let people know how old you are!"

While I always take the time to touch up my roots and avoid the dreaded Mom Pants, and while I don't think it's necessary for my resume to reflect everything I've done to make money since disco, I think this mindset is way behind the times. A significant portion of the workforce is now over 40. If we're all going around claiming to be 35 for the rest of our lives, what are people going to think happened to all the 40- and 50-year-olds; that we all got made into Soylent Green?

"But Brunobaby," you might say to me, "and by the way, you should think about changing your e-mail address or employers won't take you seriously..." oh great, old and unserious, "you can just lie about your age until you get the job and then once you've fooled them, spring the real you on them! You know. . . just like marriage!"

Okay, assuming that I can lie my way past HR and past the hiring manager, do I really want to spend ten to twelve hours a day, five days a week, for possibly the next five six seven years, in a workplace where the corporate culture is geared to people under 30? First of all, somebody trying to act younger always makes a fool out of themselves, like the mother from The Partridge Family saying "groovy."2 You end up looking and feeling older than you are, not younger.

And the pressure caused by living a double life will sooner or later make you snap, and then you'll be in a bell tower shooting student nurses. Oops, '60s reference.

Getting older is a trade-off. Okay, sure, you lose your looks, your health, and the shining hope for a better future. But in return, the great thing is that you no longer have the energy to live a lie, whether it's about your sexuality, your age, your personality or your nickname (and if a prospective employer is wigged out by "brunobaby," do I really want to work for them?) And you realize that your life will have had a lot of phases and a lot of careers.

In my case, one of those phases and careers was stand-up comedy, and I saw Carol Leifer perform zillions of times in comedy clubs and she was really funny, so her book will probably be funny too and you should buy it.

1 Not that there's anything wrong with that.

2 Although I can't recall the mother from the Partridge Family actually saying "groovy," I do remember Florence Henderson singing "Come Together" on The Tonight Show. Thank God she changed some of the lyrics and didn't say the words "Holds you in his arms yeah you can feel his disease." She just repeated the verse, "One thing I can tell you is we've got to be free." It was potentially such a traumatic experience that I can still remember it.

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