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,

Ridiculouswoman

A Sailboat and a Maid

That’s what I should have said, when the Jeopardy showrunner asked me in March of 2017 what I’d do with any winnings.

I should have just said, “buy a sailboat and hire a maid!”

But I was too long winded. I stumbled through a long recitation of how I had always lived or vacationed near large bodies of water and I was embarrassed that I had never learned to sail. I saw the guy’s eyes glaze over after about 5 seconds.

And I know I missed a question on the quiz they gave us, out of sheer nerves – made the cardinal error of changing my answer, when we all know the first answer you give is usually the right one – or the rightest one you know, anyway.

So I blew my chance to be a Jeopardy contestant.

Today it is 91 degrees and humid, not a cloud in the sky, and we don’t have air conditioning.  I have just finished washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the downstairs bathroom toilet, and doing two loads of laundry. This after my 6 am “30 minute total body workout with (8 pound) dumbbells” on YouTube (bodyfit by Amy)  in the relative cool of the basement, then shower, making breakfast for and driving Angelic Daughter to and from work and then to obtain her salad bar lunch, stepping out into the garden at high noon to harvest enough lettuce for my lunch, and streaming sweat (again) for the five minutes it took to wash each leaf thoroughly.

I am my own maid service, and even though this weekend was the Mackinac race (a sailing race from Chicago up the full length of Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island – pronounced “Mackinaw”) there’s not a sailboat in sight.  Although we benefit from the lake’s cooling breezes, it is two miles away.

On these hot, hot days, we used to just put on our bathing suits, soak ourselves in a cool shower, and walk around wet until we dried off, and then we’d do it again. Or, we’d go outside and use the garden hose to wet ourselves down with still ice-cold Lake Michigan water, and sit under a sun umbrella on the deck until we needed to soak ourselves again.

One excruciatingly hot summer, with multiple consecutive days over 100 degrees, Mike just sat on the deck in his bathing suit with a full bucket of that cold water next to him, that he’d dump over his head as necessary.

As I was toweling lettuce-and-floor washing sweat off, I noticed how it doesn’t bother me at all, to be streaming sweat like that, on a hot day. We’ve gotten used to it, and for years, when we go someplace that has air conditioning, it has been bone-chillingly cold and  has felt artificial and weird.

The house was built in 1948, best I know, and has a remarkable ability to stay relatively cool, as long as we use our “close the windows and the blinds before 8 am” strategy, and keep fans upstairs set on “exhaust.” Strategically placed trees provide shade, and thick plaster walls, insulation. The new windows do a better job of keeping the hot sun out, too.

But none of this keeps me from dreaming of learning to sail, and guiding a small boat of my own to a calm and lovely place on a beautiful lake, dropping anchor and diving in.

I skipped the Jeopardy online quiz this time – didn’t have time to practice and my failure on the first round took the wind out of my imaginary sails.

The caliber of the contestants has gotten so amazing that I’d feel totally out of my league, anyway, even if I ever got on.

But it’s a more realistic way to get a sailboat (and a maid!) than winning the lottery.

And as I write, Angelic Daughter’s new bathing suit arrived in the mail, and she promptly put it on and headed outside, to frolic in the cold spray of the hose.

That’s better than a sailboat, and worth being my own maid.

Off to allow myself to be playfully drenched, I remain,

Your two-or-three showers a day until further notice,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

Non-Toxic Love Challenge: Double Whammy Edition

How do you show love and compassion to someone who has just done something spectacularly disgusting, or said something hateful, in public?

Last night I took Angelic Daughter to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play the score of West Side Story along with the film at the major summer music festival near here – a festival where I have been attending concerts and dance performances for over 50 years.

We had aisle seats, by design, in case of need for an early exit, and had to rise three times to allow those sitting toward the center of our row to pass. Once everyone was seated, I began to peruse the program while waiting for the show to start.

It was then I noticed that the elderly lady next to me was rummaging around in her large purse for something.

The next time I glanced up, it turned out that something was…

dental floss.

She was flossing her teeth, right next to me, in public, with visible chunks of her dinner dangling from the floss, which she was using to make at least two, maybe three rounds of her mouth.

This was without question the grossest thing I have ever seen someone do at a concert performance (or anywhere in public, for that matter, and that includes the guys who routinely used to pee against the fence of our city townhome’s backyard, which bordered an alley).

I put my program up next to my head, to shield my hair and face from chunks of her dinner flying from her mouth, or dropping from their tightrope of floss. I was thinking, “what the hell is the MATTER with you? In what universe is this anywhere close to acceptable behavior? THIS IS THE GROSSEST THING I HAVE EVER BEEN FORCED TO SIT NEXT TO! Couldn’t you have done this in A CLOSED STALL IN THE LADIES’ ROOM BEFORE THE CONCERT?”

When I slightly lowered and peered around my program, she was still at it, and continued for another two or three minutes, whereupon she began rummaging around again, and produced some kind of lollipop which she popped into the now flossed-and-flung orifice.

It occurred to me that maybe she had some medical condition that made her behave this way – maybe the lollipop was medicinal? Or calming or something? She seemed not to have noticed or was unperturbed by my shielding myself.

Then the orchestra, instead of launching right into the overture, began to play the national anthem. I don’t know if that was because it was the opening night of the orchestra’s summer residency, or if it was a gesture toward unity based on the theme of the film – hope (tragically dashed, in the movie) of overcoming differences based on background.

Never one to miss an opportunity to overdo it, I launched in to singing it, along with most of the rest of the audience. But my rendition comes with the showy high note toward the end — “o’er the la-and of the free-EEEEEE!”

And as the anthem ended, dental floss lady turned and, with an utterly innocent smile, complimented me on my voice.

I said thank you, and added a little flourish with my “fit and flare” dress and the black petticoat (worn as homage to the dance number “America” in the film, which has a lot of dress-and-petticoat flourishing in it).

When she looked at me with that wide-eyed smile, I didn’t tell her how disgusting and gross flossing her teeth in public was, because I decided she genuinely didn’t know that’s how others would view it, or that she had some medical reason to do it and had to do it there, because otherwise she’d be late for the concert.

Then today, I attended a town hall hosted by my representative in Congress. There was a couple there, trembling with anger over anything having to do with what they called “illegals,” especially extending health care coverage to them. The magnitude of their anger, fear and hatred was loud and clear to everyone in the room.

After the meeting, I was walking back to my car, and there they were, Mr. and Mrs. Angry.

I asked Mrs. Angry if I could ask her a an honest, genuine question. She stopped ranting long enough for me to ask, “if you tripped over someone who was obviously dying of thirst, would you ask them about their citizenship before giving them a drink of water?”

And she said, “never.”

So somewhere in there, hiding in the cracks between fear, anger and hatred, there was an teaspoon of compassion.

She continued her rant but I was able to tell her as I walked away that I was glad to know that she didn’t lack compassion.

Instead of getting into a heated argument about what an ignoramus she was.

Biting my tongue, I remain,

Your high-note singing, dress-swishing, hoping-for-unity,

Ridiculouswoman