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May 6, 2009

Too Soon, Anna Quindlen

It has been a rough couple of days. A jam-packed week and then weekend and then a long Monday in NYC left me with an impossible to-do list and an over-crowded email box. To make matters worse, I woke up on Tuesday morning with a shooting pain in my neck that has left me pathetic for the last two days. (Most likely the pain was caused by splendidly face-planting in bed, exhausted, on Monday night and neglecting to move for 6 hours.) Still, on Tuesday, I was buoyed by the prospect of working from home and catching up on my reading. Then I got my latest issue of Newsweek in the mail. “Anna Quindlen’s Farewell” glared from the cover in bold letters. Crap. Not this. Not now.

For years I have privately consulted Anna Quindlen’s essays for pretty much anything that mattered. Social issues, politics, matters of policy and etiquette, and of course for issues of feminism and social equality. Her books have served as references for current events that came before me, and I regularly await her column to confer about the issues of today. (The time from Sarah Palin’s nomination to the time my next Anna Quindlen-penned Newsweek arrived seemed like eternity - Can You Say Sexist?.) I have long said that she is the one famous person I would choose to have dinner with if given the opportunity. As a younger woman who is stuck in the midst of GenY and GenX, Anna has been a critical source of wisdom for me. Her focus is always appropriately urgent, her tone measured, her perspective compassionate and insightful. Reading her pieces consistently leaves me feeling both confirmed and challenged.

So, magazine in hand, I quickly headed to my favorite chair to get the scoop. I skimmed the two page article, entitled "Stepping Aside", reading the first sentence in each paragraph and absorbing key words: Boomers, GenY, technology, step aside. This rationale’s skeleton annoyed me. The last thing I need is more GenY voices, and tech buzz, and self-centeredness. Who would be the voice of reason? Who would bring the relevant history to the critical issues of today? Would I respond to someone else’s call for action? Would anyone make them? Or would she just be replaced by another source of cheap political banter? Why do Boomers think that my generation doesn’t need them? (We do!).

I refused to be cut off. With a stroke of genius I decided to find her blog. She must have one, right? I have looked before so I knew that the answer was no. Or at least it had been. But now, surely, she will continue with a blog, right? Nope. Nothing. Nada. And what’s more, I was SHOCKED to learn that Anna Quindlen doesn’t even own annaquindlen.com (though it is a tribute site). As far as I could tell, no fan page, no my space, no blog, no website, no pipeline. Anna, where are you?

I spent the rest of the day thinking that it seemed unfair that at a time like this that such a positive voice and force was being taken away. There is so much turmoil and so much room for guidance. There is still need for Anna Quindlen. Why step aside? For who? I complained to my business partner and others who are close to me. Devastated was the word I used.

I’d say that my pouting has lasted the last two days (as has my neck pain by the way). But tonight I picked up the well- and frequently- skimmed article again and read it for real - slowly and thoughtfully, like it was written. And, of course, I was swayed. I don’t want Anna to be right, but she is with a message that is ever graceful and thoughtful.

She is right that her generation is “fighting aging to the death. Literally.” And she is right that my generation has created the online outlets where the action is, and not because anyone stepped aside for us, but because we made the space ourselves. And she is right that we are in a time of change and people need to consider what that means for them. And she is right that my generation holds a lot of very thoughtful, conscientious and wonderful people. And she is right that she has been speaking to readers for 40 years.

I hear her points, and she is convincing. Am I really surprised? I guess not. Bitter and disappointed, but I understand. And I am reluctantly up for the challenge of finding some new resonant voices. However, while I understand the significance of senior generations stepping aside, I believe that I have much to be gain from the women who have more experience than me, and so I am pretty sure that some of those new resonant voices will be Boomers all the same.

posted by Adelaide


VibrantNation said...

At VibrantNation.com we don't think making room for young talent means that women 50+ have to silence themselves or retire (which is just what the marketplace has been telling us for years). We're so interested in what vibrant women like Anna Quindlen have to offer that we've offered her a job ... read more at http://www.vibrantnation.com/stephen-reily-flash-forward/2009/05/14/anna-quindlen-too-old-for-newsweek-but-not-for-vibrant-nation/

In Good Company WorkPlaces said...

Thank you Vibrant Nation for your comment and your letter to Anna. I agree with your sentiments and hope that she accepts the position with you - I would love to have a pipeline to her work again!

Anonymous said...

Adelaide, your comments about Anna Quindlen are so poignant and thought-provoking, because you and Amy are exactly the people she wants to make mre room for. We Boomers have unfortunately left the next generation with a total mess to clean up--economic, environmental, etc., etc.--and not giving you the platform or power to do it seems like adding insult to injury.

I read her article with sadness, but also with admiration for her perceptiveness, her ability to step aside (hopefully not out of the picture!) at the top of her game, and perhaps most of all, her foresight in creating a situation where she CAN "retire" if she chooses.

So even in this, she's a very good model.