Putting a face to a voice — or not.

noface   My business is highly unusual, even among other free agent writers I know, in that I rarely meet my clients face to face. I’ve worked with people for years and yet know them only by their voice on the phone, their e-mail demeanor, their project savvy (or lack thereof).

I had the rare opportunity last Friday to meet one of my favorite clients for the first time. This is a national company I’ve worked with for 8 years or so, with offices all over the U.S., but I only started working with the Pittsburgh office a couple years ago. Elicia and I met for lunch downtown, and it was great to be able to put a face to the voice on the phone and hear about the company firsthand.

She is every bit as vibrant and intelligent in person as she is on the phone and in e-mail. What struck me most, though, is that I have a good 10-12 years on her. Funny thing about voices — unless someone is quite old or quite young, it’s hard to judge age. But yet, there I was — the older woman. Less hip. More hips.

I distinctly remember being one of the youngest at work — if not a wunderkind then at least a kind. Now I can be characterized as “that nice middle-age woman who writes for us.”

I still work with and have stayed friends with coworkers from 20 years ago. We all stumbled into middle age together, so it was hard to notice. But it happened. In fact, when Mike and I met a couple of dear friends for brunch today, our first five minutes were spent excitedly talking about new bifocals, cholesterol test results, and the merits of flaxseed and fish oil. Until we caught ourselves, had a good laugh about our collective geezerhood, and moved on to fresher topics.

So, is my age a help or a hindrance? Does it scream “experience” or “expiration,” especially considering that I work in marketing, where people create buzzes, gain mindshare, crave sticky Web pages, know what’s hot, and disdain what’s not. I honestly don’t know, and I’m not at that place where I can ask my client, “So, were you shocked at my age?”

What I do know:

  • Hair coloring is my friend (even though my mysteriously thinning hair is not).
  • I’m grateful for the visual anonymity of phone and e-mail (and not only because I can work in my bathrobe).
  • I’ve earned these smile lines, but the wonders of “aesthetic enhancement” are sounding better and better. As the commercial says, “Everyone will notice but no one will know.” Now that’s the work of a brilliant marketing writer, at any age.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
~ Satchel Paige

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