Friday, March 07, 2008


It's Friday, I've had a busy week, and I'm on the road, so today's post is Not Very Serious.

At a dinner party with several colleagues tonight, the talk turned at one point to how young my husband looks compared to most men his age (late 40's). I was very amused by this because for so long I was the one who looked younger than my age.

Now the youthful appearance of the MSP in the family is a frequent topic of conversation when he encounters friends from various stages of his life/career or even when he is talking to someone he doesn't know and they realize how old he is.

Friends now ask him "What's your secret?". I think this would be a great opportunity for him to mention something about how living with me keeps him young, but instead he typically says something about how his youthful outward appearance is compensated by how much his brain has deteriorated. Another idea of mine that he has thus far ignored is for him to concoct a substance in his lab and sell it on the internet as a Transformative Youth Tonic, thereby supplementing his grants with additional funds (note use of the T-word now so beloved by NSF).

It is cosmically unfair that my husband's youthful appearance is envied and in fact impresses people who think he's accomplished a lot for someone so 'young' when my (former) youthful appearance was mostly a problem for me.

It may be that his youthful appearance has some negative consequences, though. Our department chair was recently puzzled when my husband was passed over for an award because he was 'too young' and his turn for this award will come 'later'. I looked at the list of those getting the award this year, and there are other people of similar age to my husband on that list.

That ambiguous example aside, however, at the moment the situation is more entertaining than anything else, as long as he doesn't start looking younger than I am.


revintraining said...

I look younger than my actual age too; but I'm in my early 20s, so at this point in my life it's not really fun to be considered younger than my actually age. Hopefully, by the time I'm you and your husband's age, I would have maintained my youthful appearance.

chemcat said...

the "too young for award" comment is just obnoxious. Either somebody deserves an award, or they don't.

They used to say that for Nobel prize too, then poor Don Wiley died unexpectedly in his mid-50s. The next few years have seen a bunch of younger guys getting it (Agre, McKinnon, Fire etc) for truly revolutionary accomplishments. Incidentally, I was about to say "people" then realized that except for Linda Buck they were indeed guys...

Of course leaving this world is not the only way of losing one's turn, what if he changes careers....

SaraJ said...

Just last night at a dept. dinner, my dept. head asks me: "how did you find such a nice, good-looking, quiet guy? you two are such a contrast!"

I could've chop-sticked him right there.

It could be worse, people could think your MSP walks on holy water...

Ms.PhD said...

I have a friend with a similar problem. Luckily for him, he was able to grow a beard. Now everyone thinks he's very Professorly!

Unfortunately I can't grow a beard. I have seriously considered going artificially gray, but postdoc stress might do the trick...

Anonymous said...

As a postdoc, I got that compliment quite often. Now two years on the tenure "ozone hole" (bald spot ..attempt at humor) has grown, plus I am so tired...some mornings I stand in front of the mirror and try to smile...amused at myself...because this is exactly what I've worked toward..all these years.

Hopefully, with the summer approaching (is it?) and my CAREER proposal in the works, I'll take some time off and get young.

I think your husband should've gotten that award.

butterflywings said...

Ageism is wrong. Whether against older or younger people.
Annoyingly, in academia it seems more to be directed at younger people.

Can sympathise, charlotte - I am now in mid/late 20s but look more like about 22, people always assume I am fresh from college.

Particularly being of short (hate the word petite, eurgh) and (relatively) feminine appearance...I never get taken seriously...I mean I don't go around wearing pink, I don't wear inappropriately high heels, I don't wear a lot of make-up, I don't see what more I can do to appear older/ more professional! Oooh that turned into a rant.

Of course, it will be an advantage as I have only just made the career decision to return to university, and plan apply for a PhD...if interviewers think I am only 22-23, they won't be thinking I'm about to leave and have kids! Which they would if they knew my actual age. (Grrrr discrimination sucks).

(Yes I know they can figure out applicants' age within a year or 2 from the dates of graduation, etc...but some things are more on an unconscious level).

Well that turned into a rant!

Anonymous said...

At least he doesn't have to worry about being considered "deadwood" for a few more years.

Anonymous said...

I also look younger. I'm an adjunct professor (on top of my postdoc- 3rd year) and just today I had students ask me my age... at the beginning of class! I've been mistaken for a high school intern at my postdoc job. I'm blond and apparently look younger than 22 (I'm actually a few months away from 30).

I dress professionally when I teach, so I don't know what other than my looks gets me this reaction! I'm cursed to not go grey until I'm 50+ (thanks mom and dad!) and I've never smoked/don't drink so my wrinkles aren't here yet.

While some people may be reading this and think it's whiny, I think it is a serious problem. I've had to work very hard to get the baseline respect that I deserve in my field at my postdoc because I'm ~20-30 yrs younger than everyone else here. And most days, I feel like it's not worth it and want to just leave science completely. When I meet people in my field, I have to talk to them at length about my research before I even START getting any respect. (Before I open my mouth, I get the look of "oh how cute, she thinks she's a scientist!" look). grr.

If people are going to be that judgemental, why bother? I've gone from the "this-disrespect-is-motivating-me-to-prove-myself" to "I'm-just-fed-up-and-demotivated".

Now THAT is a rant. In all seriousness, I hope it helps someone else to know that there are others going through this reverse age discrimination thing. I fortunately do have a job, and I am sticking with it, but I don't know for how much longer.