I’m over 50 and I’m female…and I’ve discovered I pretty much don’t exist in this culture. I have no husband, no children, no boyfriend, no lesbian partner, no financially successful career. So…people don’t have a box for me. It’s easier, I guess, to ignore me. I didn’t really get it unitil I lost the 3rd job in as many years. The industry I’d been involved in, and happy with, began to crumble (where I lived) around the same time I approached 50. I never had trouble finding a job. Ever. I had lots of experience, I loved working and suddenly I couldn’t get a job. I could not get a job. I started using my credit card for cash advances to pay bills. My roommate moved out (no notice) the plumbing in my house broke, my car broke, my home’s air conditioning broke. I still couldn’t get a job. The industry was flooded with just out of college applicants who would work for $20,000 a year. They didn’t have my experience, but who cares when they’ll work for nothing?! I couldn’t get a job. A woman at the employment security commission confided that women my age always had trouble finding jobs. Women my age??? What the heck did that mean?? I started asking around, and I found that there were other women, over 50, who had become invisible. We had a few things in common…no husband (most of us are divorced) no children or they were grown and out of town. Many of us, like me, had always worked, but our relationships had been our primary focus, so our career had never moved into that stellar big dollar arena seen on TV. I had paid for my own school (while I worked as a waitress) and I had to get a job quickly. I was poor, came from poor, married poor. But I loved him. I was happy working, making a home, living on a budget, etc. I was an artist and writer on my own time, but those creative outlets were satisfied after responsibilties to home and husband were taken care of each day. When I lost my first husband (I don’t even have to tell you why) I became involved with someone else right away. I never considered anything else. It wasn’t in my scope of experience. I was young, I met someone I responded to, we took off. After a few years, that ended. I moved out on my own and liked the solitary life. I was beginning to work my career and, of course, met someone. It took a couple of years, but eventually he was the focus of my life. I’m not blaming these men for my problems now. I’m blaming myself, my culture, and my own inexperience with the attitude of age. I never knew women who DIDN’T work, so it never occurred to me that after 50 I would become a non-person. I knew women who worked-not women with master’s degrees who had staff. I wish I HAD gotten a master’s degree. It was my dream for many years to go back to school and get a master’s in Art history. Or Art Therapy. Or something. I approached it a couple of times with my husband, but there was never enough money. Because he was my husband and my training said “he’s your husband, his word is law.” I kept telling said myself “someday”. Someday is now and there is no husband and for a long, long time, no job. I lost everything. I had a mountain of bills that kept growing because of past due fees, overlimit fees and higher interest. I wasn’t using the credit cards. In fact, after I bought my house I lost my first job. I found another one as a waitress but the money was terrible. It was new restaurant (the only reason I got it) and people hadn’t found it yet. I made nothing some days. I kept looking for work. I got three cash advances and when I finally found a job (8 months later) I cut up the credit cards. The debt is past due fees, overlimit fees and higher interest. I finally walked away from all of it. I gave up the house (went into foreclosure) I tried to work with the credit card companies., but what I got was “we’ll let you pay us a certain amount for 6 months and then we go back to tacking on over limit fees, higher interest, past due fees, etc.” If I couldn’t pay their set amount, I couldn’t get into the “program”. So, I said, you know what? I’ve been sending you as much as I possibly can, it’s not enough, you’ve continued to ruin my credit even though I’ve explained that I don’t HAVE the money, so…I’m not sending any. Period. They didn’t much like that, but I didn’t, adn still don’t, care. I went back to school for 8 weeks to learn another way to earn a living, ( I’m in home healthcare now.) I found a job at a convenience store, working nights, so I could go to schoool during the day. I referred to it as a career change, as if it ws my idea. I like the new industry, and I like being on my own. I won’t be with another man, of course, because now I’m over 50 and women over 50 are invisible. Except to creditors. And they can send me letters forever, I don’t care. I’ve decided to walk away from all of it. I’ve done the responsible thing all my life, worked, made a home cooked meal every night, done the laundry and cleaned my house and paid all my bills on time. Then when the floor fell out of my world, none of that mattered. It didn’t matter that I had PERFECT credit for 20 years. It didn’t matter that I had been a good wife, girlfriend. None of that mattered, so now, I do as I please. Period. Mostly that means I spend a lot of time alone, but I spend it creating-writing, drawing, sculpting, and I love it. If I meet anyone, they must accept that the skin on my neck sags, and that I would rather hike than go shopping. I won’t wait on anyone, if they want me to love them they have to love me back. I don’t see that happening, so luckily I don’t have to deal with it!!
If there are any other over 50 women out there who have had society’s doors slammed in their face, let me know. maybe we can network and help each other find work, exchange ideas, etc. I don’t want to just grouse about hard times. But it DOES help to tell your story and know there are others out in the shadows of our culture trying to find their way.