"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" ~Satchel Paige
My age was an issue the very moment I sat down at that table in front of the community and powers-that-be (or had been). Questions flittered through the crowd and behind the closed doors. How can someone my age do the job of a seasoned and experienced person? How can a 24 year-old girl make the salary of a 45 year-old man? How can someone so young have so much control over such an important, influential, and powerful group of people? (My italics imply extreme sarcasm.) The truth was I had no real power, what I had was knowledge, intelligence, honesty, and a mouth! I saw what I wanted and nothing and no one would keep me from it. I never thought twice about my age as I made my way up that ladder three rungs at a time. It was only when I proved to myself I could and reached the top that I realized how young I was.
I was reminded every single day that I shouldn't be there. Not because I couldn't do the job and do it better than anyone else, but because I was "a baby", "a child", and "a little girl". I didn't have the years of schlepping through the muck of politics, tripping others, and face-kicking my competition. I hadn’t earned my stripes like those who were content to be passively promoted through the ranks over a course of years. I had the education, the drive, the dedication, the passion, and the brains to do it and that's how I got there. Once I was there (once THEY had put me there) they suddenly realized what had been done and the situation had to be rectified. They couldn't have a "kid" telling them the rights and wrongs and the ins and outs of their job. And so, like that, I was out.
Where was I going with this? Oh, right! Age!
So, before I connect these dots I'm laying down let me tell you that I've made the choice to try and avoid the reviews of my book, Venus in Love. Not because I don't care about what readers are saying about my work, but because it can be a little overwhelming, not to mention disheartening (again, another topic) to read a bare-knuckled critique of something so precious to me. Of course, I know they are out there and it's nearly impossible to resist their siren call... right into the rocky shores of death. (Okay, it's not always that bad.) So, with a smile and grain of salt, I occasionally allow myself read my reviews (except for one, because he was simply too harsh to get through).
Today, I got another wonderful review. It was an excellent 5/5-star review and it had my insides smiling with joy, there it was, that damned recurring issue with age. Although in these reviews it is not my age, but with my characters. Thankfully unlike some others, she had seen their age for what it was meant to be.
Yes, they are young(ish). While I never give them an actual age, my plot mathematics put them in their mid to late 20's. They are smart, driven, dedicated, and successful. They are struggling to prove themselves in a world where supposed knowledge and success can only come with advanced age- just as I once did. I purposely gave this battle to my characters, Ainsley and Morgan, because it is real. It is something that smart young people deal with every day and some (like me) determinedly overcome. Granted it may seem rare, but it is not a myth, it happens! Yet for some reason it is the most "unbelievable" part of my story and something that really seems to crawl under the reader’s skin.
It is possible. I've done it! And so have many others, so why is it so difficult to believe that these two characters have defied the stereotypical odds and conquered age discrimination? I would think it would be the opposite. To read a story of two women so focused and determined to succeed that age means nothing should be an inspiration, not a fictional suspension of reality. Could they have done it on their own? Sure. I most definitely believe they could have. My ladies are smart chicks! Is it convenient that they have each other to lift and support them on their climb? Sure. Twice the struggle, twice the reward. We all wish for that one person to give us a chance. Should we continue to see age as a determining factor of believability and success in both fiction and in fact? Hell no!
Discrimination is real! Sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and ageism! Age is not a reason to believe someone can or cannot do something. Had this story been about two 85 year-old women I'm sure the sex scenes would've been called into question, as well as, their ability to hold such youthful and creative positions in the ever-evolving art world. What happened to all of the hopeful, bright-eyed, and determined youngin's that we used to be? Had someone told you at 24 that you couldn’t be a ___fill-in-the-blank____ you would’ve told them to suck a log and done it just to prove them wrong. I think it's so important that we not forget how stubborn and driven we used to be in our 20's and how it IS possible to get want you want in real life, as well as in fiction.
Age is only a number,
Tina Michele XOXO
"As soon as a woman gets to be an age where she has opinions and she's vital and she's strong, she's systematically shamed into hiding under a rock."