Farley was talking about what’s said about getting old, which is that you become invisible. As a bona fide Boomer himself, he was referring to those everyday slights, like getting ignored at the sales counter or at a restaurant, that is, until the waiter brings the check to the oldest person at the table.
The invisibility of the aging is such a truism that I just knew there had to be a survey on it. And sure enough, there is.
Just last week, there was a story in the U.K. Daily Mail at “The ignored elderly: We’ve become invisible to society.“ It was right on point. A Nominet Trust survey confirms that half of those over 65 feel they’re ignored, written off by the media, and generally disrespected. And I guess except for that particular survey about how society ignores the old, no one usually asks for their opinion unless it’s to fill out the survey form.
Do you think philandering Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) would have asked “Alex” Forrest (Glenn Close) to fill out a form when she said, “I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan,” in Fatal Attraction?
In his essay, Farley also angsted over the same predicament. How about those 20-something sales clerks chatting away on a phone while you wait around for help as though they don’t see you? “You will gradually fade from view. I think eventually you may become invisible.”
So as Boomers cross the threshold past the middle-earlies and the ending-earlies, it’s not all good. And contrary to popular belief that supposedly it’s “50: The age a woman becomes ‘invisible’ to the opposite sex, I think the phenomena is gender-neutral.
Then on Friday, there was a report about post-ripe working professionals, the white-collar types who choose to hang around on the job past retirement age. It’s one thing, the article says, if they’re still productive.
But if they’ve lost their mojo, then first, it’s the gentle push and then if they ignore the signals, it’s the kick in the pants out the door. Whaddaya mean my office was cleaned out overnight and my front door key doesn’t work?
The invisible lawyer.
The invisibility of the aging Baby Boomer applies whether the Boomer has retired or is stays on the job. But for those still at their desks, it’s taking on a darker cast. And this was the thrust of the report I read on Friday. In professional fields like law, as New York Times Reporter Nelson Schwartz writes, it’s coming down to “Easing Out the Gray-Haired. Or Not.” Old lawyers can also disappear.
When aging law partners aren’t bringing in the clients or producing the billable hours, bonuses get cut, equity gets whipsawed, and worse case, it’s ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out.’
While some of the ‘silver foxes’ are finding ways to bite back by doing what lawyers do best, i.e., filing lawsuits, the reality is that when times are lean, there’s not much room for expensive ballast. Nevertheless, as some of the law firms have found, if they’re going to fire older partners, they’d better make sure they fall within the exception and are actually employers not employees.
No window seats for lawyers.
In Japan,before that country realized it couldn’t afford such entitlements, there used to be a quaint tradition of lifetime employment. As the professional classes aged, instead of being fired, the white-collar workers who had become unproductive were nevertheless allowed to stay on the payroll as underutilized “Window sitters.”
Not that Americans haven’t been capable of the same deluded practice. Who can forget those “New York Teachers Paid To Do Nothing” or more recently the so-called “teacher jail” policy in Los Angeles where “Accused LAUSD Teachers Are Paid To Sit Idly.”
But then those examples have little if anything to do with getting old and being led out to pasture. They’re about competence and productivity.
No, what the aging lawyer who becomes invisible at work finds today is instead more consistent with that worn-out joke, “Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.”