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Commentary: What does age mean?

by Kathryn Mora

When I was a little girl and someone asked me my age, I smiled big, blurted out my age and held up my little fingers to show my age. I was excited to tell everyone how old I was. If they didn’t ask me, I’d tell them anyway! Now, years later, I rarely share my age and don’t have enough fingers and toes to show how old I am. Whenever I do tell people my age, which isn’t often, I feel an immediate change in their attitude toward me, and it’s not for the better.

What does age mean when referring to people? Since I’ve never been old before and don’t know when it starts, I continue to learn as I celebrate more sunrises and sunsets. Its real life on-the-job training.

The first time I heard age and old in the same sentence referring to me, was when I applied for a job at a large insurance company in the Mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles, after my divorce. I hadn’t worked outside the home since the birth of my two young sons. The interviewer asked my age and I proudly announced 30. He frowned and said I was too old to work for this company. Too old? I didn’t understand how I could be too old for anything. To be 30 again without losing one minute of my experience or wisdom would be extraordinary, rather than feeling too old during the interview. He had another concern besides my age.

“You have little work experience,” he said. “This job requires a person with more experience and is able to multitask.”

I needed a job now! Had to think fast about how to satisfy his concerns and come up with something that would convince him.

“As a wife and mother of two young sons, I’ve had experience in many areas and multitasked all day long,” I proclaimed. “Responsible for the daily well-being and caretaking of my sons is an important job. Also, dealing with my household duties and having dinner ready when my husband came home all took great organization and multitasking.”

Due to my quick wit and ability to think on my feet, even though I was seated, the interviewer seemed impressed. Evidently not enough because I didn’t get the job. In another interview not long after, I wasn’t asked my age, but he wanted to know if I was a good cook. I was a bit confused since the job was working in an office.

Something else I’ve noticed during my life, when men age and their hair turns gray they’re referred to as “distinguished looking” and “attractive.” When my hair turned gray, society mandated/pressured/encouraged me to dye it. I learned that women aren’t supposed to age and must do whatever it takes to look young and desirable. However, when men age they’re still considered attractive and sexy.

Speaking of sexy, through the years I’ve read studies that men are more satisfied than women in their sexual relations. Supposedly, they also have a more active sex life than women, even after the age of 60, and fantasize twice as much about sex than women. Is that true, men? Who’s collecting this information anyway? Was it gathered in the dark ages when women weren’t supposed to fantasize and enjoy sex?

Okay, I’ve said enough about sex and age. Maybe this is a subject for a future column … or not. Oh, I just have one more thing to share, men with younger women and women with younger men. I’ve noticed that an older man with a younger woman is more accepted than an older woman with a younger man. Another area that needs more equality. In fact, older women with younger men are called cougars — a large American wild cat. Is that a positive or negative label? I’m not sure. I suppose it’s a better label than “the old lady” with the younger man? And what are men called?

Speaking of descriptions of aged, there are positive ones. But, they refer to wine and cheese. Aged wine is earthy, full bodied and smooth like velvet. Aged cheese is sharp, rich and ripe. The respect given to aged wine and cheese is much greater than the respect given to people who have aged. I’d love to be described like wine and cheese, wouldn’t you?

What does age mean? I feel it’s what we want it to mean for us. Age for me is feeling alive and vital, full of energy as I nourish my mind, body and spirit everyday while following my bliss —living my life doing what makes me happy. I’m a valuable person and a work in progress, youthful and ageless — the opposite of elderly. I see myself as a luscious fresh plum rather than a dried up old prune.

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