Ask Amy: Age Discrimination Is No Laughing Matter

By Amy Dickinson | April 21st, 2021

She may be more seasoned than her fellow coworkers, but she still has feelings

Senior doctor facing age discrimination Image

Dear Amy: I’m a woman working in a very woman-dominated profession, as a registered nurse.

Above all, I enjoy nursing and working with my patients. I work mostly with other women — some of whom are support staff.

Some of these women are immature (to say the least). Their ages range from 30 to late 40s. I am older.

I generally focus on my job and have been successful at ignoring their rude and sometimes judgmental comments.

The other day I heard them commenting about my appearance; they referred to me as “the lunch lady.”

I was extremely hurt and humiliated. I haven’t mentioned this to anyone else at work. Now I am feeling resentful, especially toward these two particular women.

How can I just let go of this and not act bitterly toward them?

I just started back in therapy. Normally, I really don’t care about the unwelcome comments. Nor do I care what my co-workers think of me on a personal level, but this recent comment hurt me deeply.

I am already sensitive about my age.

Your advice?

– Upset and Embarrassed

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Dear Upset: First, a word about “lunch ladies.” Using this phrase as a mocking insult demeans other working women, who are (also) deserving of respect.

I hope you will address this issue with your therapist, your supervisor at work, and these immature middle-age “mean girls,” who definitely need a course correction.

You interpret their remark as discriminatory, age-related bullying (I do, too).

So, on behalf of hard-working and “seasoned” professional women everywhere, I hope you will find appropriate ways to respond, both in the moment and also on up the professional chain at work.

They should be called out.

You say that YOU are “upset and embarrassed,” where a more useful emotional response might be: “I am mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

A response you might rehearse that will telegraph your own ire, but reflect your own professionalism is: “Ladies, no. I suggest you get back to providing care for our patients.” And then document the episode and report it to your/their supervisor.

They might deride this as a very “lunch lady” way to behave, to which you should think to yourself: “Yes! And you’ve been served.”

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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