Age – which we wear by virtue of being retired—is a great equalizer for women. Maybe men, too, I don’t know, but there were some decades when being a single woman, a single parent, definitely felt like not being chosen for the team. Couples made social plans, talked over me, at Little League games or high school sporting events. “Hey, what am I here, chopped liver?” my hurt self wanted to shout. Now, more women are widowed or divorced, or like me retired and single, hungry for the friendships that were not part of corporate travel or monthly sales numbers or whatever we were striving for. At meet-up groups, we’ve confessed to what sounds like traditional male displacement at the end of a career. “So what do I do now? I was a corporate lawyer, all I did was work.”
Or we get together for card games in the middle of the afternoon, and no one cares if your card partner was a corporate lawyer; they care if she has any clubs left.
I had been chief executive of several small non-profit organizations, and managed a couple hundred people in my last job. It was no big whup in the scheme of things but it was a big whup to me. I’d learned a lot, was expert on a couple subjects, led workshops at professional conferences. Then I retired, and found out no one gives a whup.
I’ve stopped introducing myself by what I used to do. I say where I am from. How long I’ve been retired. I explain what book the book club last read, and why I loved it and recommend it. I have read the most recent issue of The New Yorker. I’ve even submitted ideas for the cartoon caption contest. I collected monopoly game pieces from the grocery store, and as I guessed, it’s a big waste of time, but I tried to win new kitchen appliances I can’t use in an apartment, or a truck I’d never drive.
It’s humbling, you know, to find out you’re just another person out there in the world who people judge on attributes like kindness, friendliness, sense of humor. I struggle with software applications, when I write and post, because there is no administrative assistant to correct my errors or show me how to hook up the printer. I’m actually far less competent than my staff let on. They knew, and I suspected.
I’ve tried new recipes and only had to throw one meal in the garbage, a total disaster. I bought an Instant Pot, now that I don’t need much instantly.
And I’ve made new friends. I’m realizing how little time I made for friendships; the checking in, lunch-dates, birthday celebrations. Friendships at work, such as they are, substituted for the friendships you must seek out, now, in retirement.
So, here we are, titles in the dustbins, the future has an end-date, and we’re trying to calculate a plan with too many variables to complete the algebra problem. I have x amount of dollars in my IRA, so I have to die by 92 or I’m screwed. Or whatever particular variation on your mortal anxiety you wrestle with; maybe it’s a chronic medical condition or figuring out who will manage your health care directive.
Evaluating a merger was easier. Your highness.