How to Handle This Age Issue

The woman who was interviewing me asked my age. She was apologetic. “My boss wants me to get ages.”

I was ready for her.

“I am 76,” I said. “Not a problem to ask. I think it’s good that folks realize that older people can still be productive.”

“That’s one way to handle it,” she said, flatly.

Handle what, I wondered? But I didn’t ask just in case she would think I was being snarky and end our conversation. She was a columnist from a newspaper published in my old home town, calling to conduct an interview about me and my first book, a memoir.

Quite a few years ago, when I was dipping my toe into the writing life, I heard a local cookbook author being interviewed on a radio program. When the interviewer asked the author her age, she said, “I never tell my age. There are too many ageist readers out there.” I was floored. How would ageist beliefs disappear if those who are successful and of a certain age don’t sing their own praises? I wanted to reach into the radio and shake this woman. Since then I had been on a mission to tell my age. That was the way I was handling the age issue.

Once I stopped into a Weight Watcher’s storefront to get help in dropping the ten pounds that I have habitually lost and gained over the years. The helpful clerk was promoting the additional support one could find on the internet. “There is a Weight Watchers’ Blog,” she said, eyeing me before she continued. “Do you know what a Blog is?”

I immediately assumed she thought that I was too old to know what a Blog was. Since I had just recently set up my own Blog following advice on how to promote my future book, I huffed and puffed and said rather haughtily, that I have my own Blog, thank you, then turned and marched out the door. Only later did I recognize that was the wrong way to educate the clerk. Now she knew I was not only older but super sensitive. I should have just laughed and told her I had a Blog as if it were no big deal. Then she would be impressed by my age and my poise.

Since it is obvious that I am older, my new tack is to just be me and disregard any real or imagined mannerisms of others that are demeaning. While I don’t shy away from confrontation, and in some instances enjoy the battle, I would have to make an extra attempt to be cordial. Why call attention to my age? Let my actions and accomplishments speak for themselves. Yet another way to handle the age issue.

Now you can see that I am conflicted. Tell my age or not call attention to my age?

A week ago, a woman contacted me via email. She had seen my memoir on the publisher’s website. Could she talk with me about the indie publisher I had chosen? She finished her first memoir and now was exploring options. The memoir was about her grandmother who had sold alcohol during prohibition to support her family. The woman told me that she had written a few professional books and self-published a fiction story. We spent almost an hour discussing the pros and cons of self-publishing versus using my indie publisher.

During our conversation, we never mentioned age. Afterwards, looking over her website, I discovered that she was 82. I was impressed with her vitality, and enthusiasm to get her memoir published and promoted. Oh, to be so cavalier about one’s age! I now know how I will  handle this age issue.

Just ignore it.

 

decisionsright

OCEAN, ASHES AND THE N.C. WRITER’S FALL CONFERENCE

NC Writer's Fall Conference

pete's ashes
Pete’s ashes

The third weekend in November I attended the North Carolina Writers’ Network Fall Conference with my long-time writing buddy, Marilyn. She brought along her husband, Pete, in a double Ziploc bag.

On Friday, after check-in, we stood out on the deck of our room at the Holiday Inn Resort at Wrightsville Beach taking in the blue sky and expansive ocean while we decided when we would scatter Pete’s ashes. So we wouldn’t miss any of the workshops, we choose Saturday right after lunch.

spreading ashes
Marilyn spreading Pete’s ashes

Pete died peacefully at home two months previously. After his cremation, his ashes had been distributed to other family members and found their way to the Pacific Ocean. Now Marilyn would have the opportunity to scatter Pete’s ashes in the Atlantic, too, where he had spent summers as a child.

The conference came at a perfect time for me. I registered for all the workshops on publishing since I’m almost done with my book. “Almost done” is relative. I had deliberately avoided diving into my options since the publishing world changes so quickly. So I took copious notes and came home with multiple threads of information jumbled in my head. Luck was on my side. Jane Friedman posted an Infographic: 4 Key Book Publishing Paths. Now I have an outline to make sense of my notes.

It turned out to be the best conference I have attended.

reading at open mic
Reading “Hello Beautiful”

I read at the open mic. Okay, so I read “Hello Beautiful” again. This time I didn’t cry.

the view from the hotel
View from our hotel room

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect—clear and sunny each day. When we were in our hotel room, we left the door to the balcony ajar so we could hear the ocean’s waves wash over the beach.

Besides learning a great deal of new information from talented, knowledgeable presenters, I networked with other writers, many of  whom had already published a book.

Me & Marilyn
Me & Marilyn

Marilyn and I had time to talk on the car trip, two hours each way, and share our experiences at the conference. I felt honored to be present while she spread Pete’s ashes. I also scattered a scoop of his ashes and thanked him for his take on some of my stories. On target, Pete.