I didn’t set out to be a spokesman for the Graying of American Arts and Letters. I imagine my experience is the same as that of most former bright young things: for years I was always the youngest person in the room, until one day I looked up and noticed that everybody else seemed to have gotten younger. There didn’t seem to have been any noticeable transition from one extreme to the other, either, though that was surely more a case of not paying attention than any strange demographic swing in my life. At the same time that I first began to have opinions about getting older in the creative sphere, the opportunity to expand on them arose totally organically—first writing essays for Sonya Chung’s Post-40 Bloomers series at The Millions, and then collaborating with her on Bloom. So it’s not surprising, I guess, that I find myself riffing on the subject in other places as well.
Part of what keeps the topic interesting, for me, is my lingering surprise at being as old as I am. Which is, let’s face it, the result of a lot of privilege on my end: that I live in a large urban center and spend regular time with a lot of vibrantly creative people of all ages, and that my parts all work pretty much as well as they ever have, thanks to luck, maintenance, and good peasant stock. I don’t think about my age until I’m reminded.
What’s reminding me, these days, is the dubious pleasure of being what I think of as a New York Times statistic—middle-aged and on the job market. Certainly my skills, work habits, and body of knowledge are the best they’ve ever been. But I also have moments of self-consciousness, wondering whether a potential employer is picturing me in a client-facing, little-black-dress-wearing situation, and thinking, Nah, too old. So yes, this is a subject I’ve given some thought to lately, and therefore something I’m perfectly happy to expound on. Fortunately the good folks over at Apogee have a place for this kind of musing, and I’m pleased to be featured on their blog: Gray Matter: Reading into Ageism.