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Rocking at 40

If you are in your golden years and have decided to step into the brave new world once again, be prepared for surprises, some of which can be pleasant, writes PANKAJA SRINIVASAN



A NEW WORLD BECKONS Take it cool

They worry about pimples, while she is out shopping for anti-wrinkle cream. They can't decide between the black forest and the tiramisu while she chews on ragi rotti. Excitement for them means tattoos and tank tops while she still hasn't got over the joy of finding a tiffin box that is spill-proof. While they moan about how their waistlines have increased by an inch to 25 inches, she is at a point in her life when age and vital statistics all read the same.

What happens when a woman suddenly finds herself with time on her hands as her children have flown the coop or are simply just too busy with their own lives?

If wiser counsel prevails and she has some qualification (recycling dosai mavu does not count as one) she will find herself a job.

If you are the average Indian woman who has married at the right time and has had two kids at the recommended intervals, then you should be ripe for a change of career (from cooking, cleaning and doing homework) around your mid-40s.

This is easier said than done. For starters, do you remember where the certificates from your high school and college are? Well, hunt them down. Your future employers will want to see them.

Get tech savvy

While you were gone, several things happened at the work place. Technology is light years ahead of you, people and machines have become frighteningly efficient and `slow and steady' are words that belong to the last century. It is a whole new language people speak out there. It may as well be parsletongue for all you know. As you stand there, bewildered, straining your ears and trying to make sense of directions being given to you, it begins to sink in that you may have bitten off more than you can chew.

It is not about your colleagues. They are perfectly nice. It is you. You are years older, you find yourself beginning sentences with "In my time... ". Naturally, with your entry the average age of your department has touched giddy heights. You are of Binaca Geetmala vintage. They are the MTV generation. You have to constantly stop yourself from instructing young male colleagues that they need a haircut or female ones that they need to eat healthy. It is like being a mom all over again, only in a strange environment where your "kids" work for a living and you don't have to feed them. Demi Moore is probably feeling this very same thing now as she deals with Ashton Kutcher.

The positive side

But despite what you may be thinking, there is an upside to getting back to work so late. You begin to take great pleasure in little things, like the cup of hot coffee you get twice a day. It helps that you have not made it, someone else has. You have a table all your own that is not run over with your children's unfinished assignments, old bus tickets and phone bills. You can have lunch without being forced to judge who burps the loudest in your family. And best of all you get to dress up which is so nice.

Rest assured, in no time you'll get used to those working with you referring respectfully to you as `Ma'am'; youngsters will hastily cut short risqué jokes and conversations in deference to your twilight years; there will be those who will helpfully tell you where their mothers and aunts shop for clothes; some might speak a little more loudly, slowly or clearly so that you have no trouble hearing and understanding them. You will also be inured to well-meant compliments like, "You look nice for your age... ". But no matter what this is an experience you will cherish.

If you are a woman over 40, getting back to work should be gloriously liberating. There is a whole new world out there waiting for you to discover. You are no longer just a wife, mother or hostess. You are an individual with your own user id and password. Now if that isn't cool, what is?

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