I suppose there are worse ways to be put through the unemployment ringer. I'm not standing on a street corner hoping a job drives by and stops in front of me (which hilariously means one thing if you're a woman and an entirely different thing if you're a man, regardless of the time of day). The difficult thing for me is to hear women my age complain about how difficult it is to get back into the workforce. They feel as if their very own peers (who never left the workforce) are putting them out to pasture. And yes, that's disconcerting as hell, but a whole other level of disconcerting awaits them should they lower their standards even the tiniest bit and find themselves alongside 20-somethings whose mothers didn't teach them not to ask, "Aren't you too old for this job?"
The most difficult part of hearing these middle-aged laments is knowing some of these women are the same ones who, ten, 20 and 30 years ago, told me I wasn't their choice for the job they were filling for a variety of reasons, none of which were relevant to the duties of the job itself. The same women who told me I wasn't "mature," educated, or experienced enough are now hearing the same thing, but with the twist that their education and experience is too dated to take into consideration and that the "mature" they themselves were looking for many years ago is now the very reason they're being shuffled to the bottom of the pile.
The irony grows when we get to the issue of revitalizing one's education. While I struggled with plates of food to save money so my children could go to college, these women were in college. Like me, they have kids in college while tuition is at an all time high and minimum wage jobs are at an all time low. Unlike me, they know they either have to share a seat next to their kids in the lecture hall (and bear the added expense) or tap out their woes on their laptop while I pour them yet another cup of coffee and bring them yet another lemon cake.
Forgive my generalizations. There is of course the distinct possibility these women weren't the higher-ups leading me out of so many interviews so many years ago with so many false hopes and empty encouragements. But I'm willing to bet these women were somewhere around – "filing away" my application, answering the phone, directing their assistant, typing, making lunch plans, negotiating terms, finalizing loans, faxing, banging on the copy machine, pouring coffee, and meeting with the higher-ups. They were there somewhere, all the while thinking they'd never be the poor, misguided waif being escorted out of the office unencumbered by employment.