Too Old and Too Expensive

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,


17 thoughts on “Too Old and Too Expensive

  1. I loved this post and am genuinely sorry for your struggles with a job and finding a home for your memoir. Have you considered a local publishing company which can be more open to new writers than the big guns? Or self-publishing which many people are doing these days? All the best, Pat Taub

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Pat – when I get my mojo back I’m going to barrel through that long list of agents and if no one bites, I’ll try to find a local publisher. It’s a very Chicago-centric story, and that might be a factor, I suppose, in trying to appeal to New York agents without ties to the Midwest. But my OCD kicks in when I think about self -publishing – I worry that I haven’t disguised identities effectively enough, etc. so I want the advice of an agent or publishing house on that, even if “truth is an absolute defense.” 🙂 Good to hear from you and thanks for the support.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Wendi – I am finding comfort right now in a gentle rainstorm, which we needed very badly. Hope it will take the edge of some of tomorrow’s predicted heat. And when that’s over, I’m going to double-down on the querying, finding places to submit other pieces to, and get serious about speaking engagements on subjects like caregiving, widowhood, resilience, etc. Hope you are doing ok.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. yay! you have received rain too 🙂 we were so blessed to have for a small part of the day yesterday and today but it is still hot as Hades outside.
        I just know you will find something! Someone will realize how amazing you are.


  2. I’ve been in your shoes too many times to admit. Several times this year it happened to me. Or I’d go on interviews that were just plain weird. Good news is I got a freelance job that I can do remotely. It’s a temporary thing but it’s a start. It’ll be a nice addition to my retail gig. Maybe there’s something like that you could do? I pretty much gave up when it happened, too. So you never know. I’ve also started volunteering for a couple of places. One person who runs a nonprofit has taken me under her wing and is making it her mission to find me a job. A friend of mine who did the same thing eventually landed one working for the place where she volunteered. I’m at the point where I’ll try anything. If you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, sometimes some of it sticks.

    Meanwhile, if you’re interested in making a little money with some original very short stories, here’s a link for original microfiction stories: Could be fun! Could be profitable! You can write, so why not try it? And it’s street cred! There are a lot of web-based magazines that take articles too. The Medium is also one of them. You never know where it might lead.


  3. I lost my job due to outsourcing the year I turned 60. I celebrated my 60th birthday unemployed with friends and my chickens. They were the best thing to come from losing my job. It took a while but I finally found a temp job, then a full time job. I wish I had some good advice for you, but I really don’t. Just that people told me “something better will come along” but that didn’t turn out to be in the job or the income, just being able to raise my chickens and have them as “family.” Maybe that will be the same for you and your daughter? Maybe she is your “something better.”

    As for your book…this is just a suggestion, as I haven’t read it…perhaps you could use your experiences to draw from in a fictional novel rather than a memoir type of book? I do believe sincerely that there are many people who could benefit from the experiences you’ve had and what you have learned. I recently read a book by Lisa Cron titled “Wired For Story.” People want to read stories that help them know how to face life difficulties so that they know ahead of time “if this were to happen to me, then this story will help me.” It works better, it seems through the structure of a novel where the reader can exist, if only for a time, in the main character’s world. Maybe, that is not quite as possible when written as a memoir from a first person point of view.

    Anyway, maybe I’m way wrong about this, so if nothing else, please know I care about you and want things to work out well for you.


    1. Thanks so much! Congrats on landing a full time job.

      I have actually thought of re-casting the book as a novel – it might sell better that way. I think if myself as lousy at writing fiction – the truth is so much stranger and funnier than I could ever make up! I’ve had two full manuscript requests which us more than I ever dreamed of, so I’m going to keep trying until I exhaust the list of agents I’ve made, and in the meantime I need to get started on my next book (while still looking for a day job!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps just changing from first person to third person is all that may be needed? Though I do think your humor would come across best in first person. Perhaps third person with diary-like inserts or interior monologues?

        Anyway, it is your story and you own it. Just simply having written it is a huge accomplishment in itself. And I think there is a different. greater sense of accomplishment when one has written for oneself rather than for a publisher or the market.

        Best wishes always!


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