DEAR MISS MANNERS: I’m a woman in my 50s with decades of professional experience working for high-profile individuals. I’m more international than many diplomats, as well as trendy and attractive, and apparently I can pass for five to 10 years younger. Nevertheless, I am overwhelmed with how ageism and sexism are affecting me.
In the last decade, my family dumped a gravely ill family member on me, I went through an atrocious divorce that left me penniless, and I raised my children with zero outside support. One of my children has been very ill for years, so we’ve been more on welfare than off, leaving me with an illness myself. I haven’t had a boyfriend in eight years, due to exhaustion and disinterest.
It’s become apparent that my expertise is no longer needed in a workplace as I can’t even get interviews, so I became a tech entrepreneur. I’ve never been so happy, and I’m thriving more than ever, but it’s early days and I’m still broke.
I try to be patient until people “get” me. However, I am delirious with rage at the number of ultra-arrogant men between 20 and 35 who try to dominate me at work. Younger women do it, too, but catch on faster, and I can handle the older men. It’s the young men with three to 10 years of experience under their belts (often composed entirely of fluff) who are mind-bogglingly condescending. I have quite literally no time to sit around listening to their bragging and bravado.
Life may have made me overly sensitive, but I have a fantastic therapist and work intensively on managing my emotions. I’m known for being very friendly, polite and fair -- so maybe these guys are taking me for an idiot?
I told one, whom I knew pretty well, “You are mansplaining, and it’s annoying.” He cried and we couldn’t work together anymore. I want to nip this in the bud as early as possible so we can get down to business. Got anything for me?
GENTLE READER: Yes: sympathy. But only with the caveat that, as irritating as these young men may be, you still have to be polite to them. Telling someone that they are annoying or making generalizations about their demographic is neither friendly, polite nor fair -- traits for which you claim to be known.
“Yes, I believe I just said that” is a way to show displeasure at “mansplaining.” Or a reminder that self-promotion, unless it is on behalf of (credited) shared victories is unseemly: “I believe that Marla was also involved on that project,” or “Oh, that was your golf score? I’m sorry, but I thought you were talking about business matters. Let us stick to that while we are at work.”
The business world is having a moment right now wherein it is addressing the historically dominant voices that have previously prevailed. Miss Manners hopes that your office will take advantage of the restructuring. If not, perhaps you can suggest it.