Friday, June 18, 2010

Gray and Groovy

Many people at job meetings look like me: "mature," fiftyish, and whose children are about to enter or finish college. Our idea of a great gift is a remote to find the last place we left our eye glasses. We're not too sure about text messaging, video gaming, and social networking  although out of necessity, we do get LinkedIn.  Having survived the predominance of corporate influence in many of our democratic institutions, we are now asked to brighten our teeth to remove years of coffee, wine, and other forms of abuse, the very things that have made us who we are. But oh, how times have changed.

To be competitive in today's market place we are advised to create a brand as though we were Post Toasties right out of the box. Our joblessness has spawned a new industry of counselors, coaches, advisers, and marketing professionals who are lining up to tell us what to do with ourselves as they collect our money. Don't get me wrong. Someone has to work.

Initially, I toyed with the idea of getting several tattoos to update my image.  A butterfly on the back of my neck.  Or maybe a rose cascading down my forearm. Body decoration is in. My job counselor gave me a card for his own tattoo parlor, highly recommended, guaranteed to run a clean ship.  And then the ultimate recommendation.  "This guy is a real artist."

But as much as I wanted to show that I had not mildewed in the corner with my copies of "The New Yorker,"  I backed off from tattooing in favor of highlighting my hair. It was much easier.  I could always shop for a new outfit, being sure to bring along my daughter to to guard against my buying the same black suit.

Once I only wore blue jeans.

We are the baby boomers, the ones who created the generation gap and proclaimed "not to trust anyone over 30."  Now we are hoping to be called for the first round of interview hoop-jumping. No longer radicals storming embassies and marching down the streets of metropolitan cities to protest wars and demand civil rights,  we desire a job with health benefits to ferry us through the gap between collecting retirement (if we're lucky) and MediCal. Let's be honest. National health care is an apparition that may materialize within three years, but no one seems to know what the heck it will look like.

Now we have something else we never had before: an understanding of how time is finite. Maybe instead of getting just any old kind of job, we are seeking a position in the nonprofit industry where we can "contribute something back to the community."  Because while we were stuck for years sitting in commuter traffic, we have become a society that no longer can afford social services, adequate health care, and teachers. Isn't that something? Maybe the legions of unemployed baby boomers will fill social service and educational posts that have been cut to the rib cage. You know it could happen.

This past week when I attended my aunt's 100th birthday celebration, I noted how every one of the flight attendant's had wrinkles. A charming blonde with crowfeet, a bald guy who kept passing out peanuts and pretzels like they were going out of style. Is the sixties generation revolutionizing the spirit and style of aging in the same way that we created political shock waves with Bob Dylan's "The Times They are Changing" as our personal anthem?

I'm not sure we're quite there yet. I can envision two half-time employees sharing a full-time health benefits package.   I can see researching cultures where age is valued for itself, and not just for being a pool of accumulated wealth, although there is that, too.

I am convinced as one of those aging boomers, there is a great need to create new ways to work and for that, even the Leftover Chef has no easy recipes.

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