Hollywood always wanted me to be pretty. But I fought for realism.
– Bette Davis
Why is it that when employers are handed the job applicant menu they find mature-age jobseekers about as appetising as a braised sea cucumber in custard?
Job hunting for the over-50s now resembles a poorly scripted French farce with recruiters telling us to look young and hip and to erase our age and neutralise our appearance. What’s the problem? Are we too expensive? Are we hopelessly overqualified?
While these reasons may be partly responsible for the mature-age job apocalypse, it’s more likely we’re not scary enough. If that’s the case, it’s time to get tough and let ageist employers know we’re as mad as hell and not going to take rejection any more.
When faced with a dispiriting situation, one needs inspiration and the best place for this is history and the movies. Both are full of formidable characters who no employer would dare reject on the basis of age.
In this instance, as a female of the species, I’ve chosen a bunch of outspoken women from film and yesteryear who embody the warrior spirit. These are the firebrands to channel as we walk briskly into the interview room, look an employer in the eye and say, “When do I start?”
Five kickass women
M (played by Judi Dench)
“M” is the hyper-smart septuagenarian boss of Britain’s MI6 spy agency in the James Bond franchise. She’s as sharp as a tiger’s tooth and she needs to be. Her job description includes overseeing international espionage, managing homeland security and keeping tabs on her 007 pitbull. She wears her (non-erased) age with dignity and grace while she steals every scene with her classy voice, unwavering gaze and mesmerizing presence. She’s a woman comfortable in her own un-neutralised skin. Who in their right mind would neglect to shortlist someone who fixes James Bond in the eye and says:
“If you don’t think I have the balls to send a man out to die, then your instincts are dead wrong.”
Captain Kathryn Janeway (played by Kate Milgrew from 1995 to 2001)
“You know, I’m real easy to get along with most of the time. But I don’t like bullies, I don’t like threats, and I don’t like you.”
Captain Kathryn Janeway is the 24th century boss of the Federation starship USS Voyager. Her ship gets stranded on the far side of the galaxy and she must get her crew safely home. The journey is long and frequently derailed by loopy aliens, temporal fluxes, warp-core meltdowns and crew hissy-fits, but she finally makes it. She protects her interstellar squad with perfect diction, a stash of photon torpedos and a fearsome caffeine addiction. Ask her to erase her age and she’ll throw you in the brig with a Tilithian Tooth-Spider.
Bette Davis: “I’m the nicest goddam dame that ever lived.”
Yeah, sure Bette.
Bette Davis was a Hollywood actress in a league of her own. She relished diabolical roles and one of her most memorable turns was as the deranged former child star in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? In a gothic house of horrors, she torments her disabled sister Blanche with callous disregard. At one stage, she serves Blanche her beloved parakeet on a bed of tomatoes — for lunch. Forthright and unafraid to make enemies, Ms Davis (and her Baby Jane alter-ego) is not someone you would advise to neutralise anything.
Parakeet salad anyone?
Alex Forrest (played by Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987)
“I’m not trying to hurt you Dan, I love you!”
This fearsome book editor and bunny boiler does not take kindly to rejection. She insinuates herself into the life of a married man and refuses to leave. She cooks him great spaghetti and takes his dog to the park when the going’s good, but stews his daughter’s pet rabbit and trashes his car when things go bad. Erase this woman from the payroll at your peril.
“Hey, honey, have you seen Fido?”
Queen Elizabeth 1 of England: “God forgive you, but I never can.”
Some historians consider this woman to be England’s greatest monarch. She ruled with intelligence and charisma from 1558 until her death in 1603. Her reign coincided with a creative renaissance and William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe enjoyed her patronage. Sir Francis Drake, with all his testosterone-laced, swashbuckling verve, also fared well under this capable queen. Make this woman redundant if you will, but she has a memory like an elephant, a short fuse and a cosy tower.
Captain Janeway, take us out
So there you have it. Mature-age jobseekers, you now know how to deal with recruiters who ask you to do impossibly ridiculous things like negate yourself out of existence.
Captain Janeway, you have the last word:
“Attention all ageist employers, this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. Any threat to this crew or ship will be met by the deadliest force. Is that clear?”