coworker won’t stop talking about how young I am, how to ask if meetings will provide food, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker won’t stop talking about how young I am

I’m 27 and working at an international nonprofit (very touchy-feely) that’s fully remote. I’ve been here three years and I think I do fairly good work. I was recently visiting a city where one of my coworkers lives (she’s 42) and she kindly showed me around and we got a few meals and drinks together. We’re in the same position and work very closely together and talk pretty much every day over Slack, so it would have been odd if we didn’t get together. She’s lovely but also a lot.

On our weekly calls, she unabashedly shares a lot of personal info and often disparages people in their 20s. I’ve kept silent during these rants. I normally try to keep pretty strong boundaries at work and don’t share much about myself, so no one knew how old I was or much about my personal life. When I visited her, she asked about my age and I couldn’t outright lie so I told her. Most of my friends are in their 30s–50s+ and I can confidently say she talks about age more than anyone I’ve ever met! Over the three days I was there, she brought up my age numerous times and made comments about how I’m a “baby” and can’t understand things because I don’t have enough life experience. At one point, I was at lunch with her and her friend (who has volunteered for our company a few times), and she announced I was a “spy among us” because I’m in my 20s.

Ugh. I get that there is wisdom that comes with age, but this is exactly the reason I had not mentioned my age to anyone at work. I’m feeling incredibly anxious now. I know the solution is just to keep performing highly and keep my head down but do you have any advice for how to assuage my anxiety or get her to tone it down? Is this normal coworker banter? I know I can’t put the cat back in the bag but I’m regretting the trip and worried it will affect my credibility at work with the rest of the staff if she starts making these comments in meetings.

No, this isn’t normal. This is your coworker being obnoxiously hung up on age. But even if she makes comments like that around other people, it’s not likely to affect your credibility; these people have already worked with you for years and formed opinions abou your work. That’s not likely to suddenly be undone because she reveals your age or calls you a “baby” (WTF).

That said, if she keeps harping on it — and especially if she comments on it in front of anyone else — you’d be on solid ground in saying to her one-on-one, “Could you please stop commenting on my age? I know you don’t mean harm by it, but comments like that undermine me professionally. I want people to know me for my work, not dwell on my age.” If you want to mix it up, there’s also: “You seem really focused on my age. It’s getting weird — can we drop it?”

But you definitely don’t need to be anxious about this. She’s the one who looks bad, not you. (Also, 27 … is not an age you need to feel weird about. It’s not an “OMG, she’s brand new to the work world and will need to guided through everything” age. People will assume competence unless you give them a reason not to.)

how should I handle questions about my age at work?

2. How to ask if off-site meetings will provide food and coffee

Is it unprofessional to ask if lunch will be provided at an off-site event or training happening over lunchtime? Same question for events happening first thing in the morning and asking about breakfast/coffee.

When I’ve asked this question in the past, my coworkers and manager have chuckled, like I’m focusing on the wrong things. I definitely do NOT want colleagues or external contacts to think I care more about free food than about the work! But I’m someone who likes to plan ahead. I’d rather not show up having already eaten if I’m expected to eat with everyone, or packing my own food that will have to go bad in my backpack. Or, having assumed coffee would be available at an 8 am event and wind up not being my sharpest because I didn’t buy my own somewhere else and bring it. If it is acceptable to ask, is there phrasing you recommend?

It’s not unprofessional to ask! That said, while it should be fine to say “given the hour, do we know if they’re providing lunch?” I can see why it feels weird if you’re always the only one who asks and people are chuckling.

Does your organization ever provide meals or coffee at these events? If the answer is never or almost never, you’re better off just assuming that will continue to be the case, or that they’ll mention it if they’re going to (since it would be a change).

But if it’s a crapshoot, it’s reasonable to address that pattern — so you’re not asking before each individual event, but instead are saying something like, “It’s hard to predict when events and trainings are going to provide breakfast or lunch and I’m always eating beforehand when I shouldn’t or going hungry over lunchtime when there’s no food. Could we start letting everyone know ahead of time when food will or won’t be provided so we can bring our own if we need to?”

And if they’re not reliably providing coffee for off-site morning meetings, just always plan to bring your own (and feel free to suggest that they rethink that).

3. Hiring manager told me to “harass the hell out of him” for another interview

I’ve been interviewing at a place I really like. During the second interview, the hiring manager said he wants to schedule me for a third interview with the manager of my sector, who is the person I would interact with the most on a day-to-day basis should I get an offer. He gave me his personal number and told me that he is trying to manage various interviews with different departments all across the company. He said, “I’d like to promise I’ll remember to call you next week, but with all I have going on, there’s a chance I won’t, so please call and text. Harass the hell out of me because I really do want you back in for a third interview.”

What does that mean? How often should I call or text in this situation? I know he said to harass him but I don’t want to run the risk of harassing him too much and losing out on the job opportunity. At the same time, I don’t want to sit back and risk being forgotten about.

He’s just saying that you shouldn’t be shy about following up if you don’t hear back from him. If we’re in “next week” now and you haven’t heard from him yet, call or text today. If two more days go by with nothing, follow up again (and change the way you do it; if you first called, then text this time, and vice versa). If you don’t hear from him at all this week, try again on Tuesday. After that I’d wait for a full week to go by before trying again … and at that point I’d stop because that would be a level of disorganization that I wouldn’t be eager to take on as his team member.

Crucial note: This would be too much follow-up in most situations! I’m advising it here only because he asked you to.

4. I mixed up Passover dates

After a long job search, I finally had an interview in a field I really want to get back into. It went pretty well and I have reason to be hopeful. However, there is something that is making me anxious. I had just bought a new planner and fully expected it to contain Passover since it had the daylight savings changes of three different countries. So when they asked about upcoming days I would need off, I flicked through to check but it wasn’t there so I told them from memory and I got it a bit off in a way that I worry will be hard to explain to non-Jews.

I said April 22 … which is not exactly right. It starts at sundown on the 22nd … and I would want that day to cook and such but, I don’t exactly need it. The 23rd is the holiday, plus it will have been a late night. It doesn’t help that my “level” of religiosity means I wouldn’t feel terrible about being flexible around it but would prefer not to.

I am anxious about looking disorganized and being an inconvenience before my first day, especially as I am likely to ask for religious accommodations again. Also, there are very few Jews where I live, and I don’t expect there will be any others on the team.

Is there a script I can use to deal with it elegantly? Am I entirely overthinking this? Should I just be glad I have the day to cook and go to work given that I otherwise would have probably decided I was too tired to spend the next day in shul anyway?

You are indeed overthinking it! If they make you an offer, as part of that conversation you can simply say, “When we talked about upcoming days off, I realize I told you I’d need April 22 off but it’s actually April 23 — will that work?” You don’t need to get into Passover at all; this is the relevant info they need. If they push back for some reason, at that point you could say, “Unfortunately I don’t have flexibility with the date since it’s for religious observance.” That’s it! (And the idea here isn’t that you’re deliberating hiding anything; they just don’t need many details to get this handled.)

5. Joint retirement party

Employee #1 (of 34 years) decides to retire. Employee #2 (of 15 years) (who is back-up to #1) decides to retire at the same time because he doesn’t want to fill #1’s role. #2’s wife, who works in the same company and knows employee #1, has offered to plan a party for both, which no one asked or wants her to do. Should the party be joint or separate? Employee #1 has external vendors who he’s worked with for many years and who want to make it special for him (but not #2).

Do employees #1 and #2 both want retirement parties? And if so, do they have any feelings on whether they’re joint or separate? Does the company? Ultimately this should be driven by what the employees and the company want to do, not what one person’s wife is willing to plan. Moreover, it might be smart to take her out of the planning regardless; it’s presumably not her job and there’s someone else whose role makes them the more logical choice. As for the external vendors, that needs to be the company’s call too and should depend on what “making it special” means. If it means one person gets a lavish event with pony rides while the other person gets cookies in the break room, that’s not something you should permit. If it means they give the guy they worked with for 34 years a special award, that’s fine.

But right now it sounds like all of this is being completely driven by people who don’t have the standing to be driving it. The company needs to step up and take some control.

{ 325 comments… read them below }

  1. Rara Avis*

    I was 21 when I started my first teaching job — and one of the students I was dorm parenting turned 18 before my 22nd birthday. My age did become a bit of a thing — mostly kindly meant by older teachers who kept telling me that they wished their 20-something kids were working full time. I didn’t have the language Alison suggests (and probably would not have had the confidence to call them out) so I gritted my teeth and just kept proving my professionalism.

    1. katydid*

      I was coming here to say something almost identical. I started teaching when I was 22. I’ve always looked a little young for my age, so I got comments like this for at least the first five or six years of my teaching career. It bothered me so much! But now that I’m in my 40s myself, I realize how utterly weird it is and how insecure it seems. At the time I was embarrassed by it, but it really should not have been *me* who was embarrassed!

    2. Wallace*

      My third grader’s teacher is fresh out of college and small in stature generally. I have absolutely mistaken her for a child while dropping something off at school. That said, I a) find her to be an exceptional teacher (and not “just for her age”) and b) would never say anything to anyone but my spouse about her youth. I also look young (regularly mistaken for a college student in my upper 30s) and spent my 20s defending myself from comments like the OP is talking about. It’s exhausting.

    3. Rebecca*

      I started teaching at 22 as well, and regularly got mistaken for a student when I was in high schools.

      I was also frustrated by people’s comments on my age, but now that I am nearly 40 and have been teaching for 18 years, I can see that some of it was founded, if tactless and clumsy. I was an excellent and professional teacher, but I was also often unwilling to listen to experience, sometimes to my detriment. I now sometimes work with new teachers who are 22 and don’t want to listen to my experience, and I’m a lot more careful to make sure I am focusing on experience and best practice rather than age, but I know they sometimes bristle the way I did.

      1. Observer*

        but I was also often unwilling to listen to experience, sometimes to my detriment. I now sometimes work with new teachers who are 22 and don’t want to listen to my experience, and I’m a lot more careful to make sure I am focusing on experience and best practice rather than age, but I know they sometimes bristle the way I did

        Shrug. If it’s an experience and best practices thing, and you are focusing on that, then your younger colleagues should not be bristling. And it may not be an age thing. (But at least there is some logic.) On the other hand, when people bring up age in this kind of context, it’s not the best way to do it but it *can* make sense. Not necessarily, but sometimes.

        The thing for the LW is that this is clearly not what’s going on. Because not only is it coming up too often despite the fact that the LW has clearly been doing good work, CW is bringing it up in contexts that have nothing to do with necessary / useful information. Bringing it up in social type situations is just rude. Especially when she starts in with “jokes” like saying that the LW is a “spy”. Iow, not “possibly founded but poorly delivered feedback”. Clearly “someone being weird in a not good way.”

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I think there’s an unfortunate habit in the media (not to mention some teacher training programs) to portray experienced teachers as old fuddy-duddies who reject the new (read effective) ways and don’t care about their jobs or the kids. And while I’m not saying that those teachers don’t exist, it’s far more common for the experienced crew to realize that this is the 3rd rebranding of an approach that never worked and setting boundaries makes you a better teacher, not a worse one.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Nah, my husband sounded like a fuddy-duddy, but that was because he recognized “Brand! New! Teaching Methods!” which he’d seen ten years before and wasn’t shy about saying so.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I feel like, with OP1, if age hasn’t been a thing with your other coworkers before, then having them know the exact number of years you’ve been on this planet won’t make an iota of difference now. They know you’re young and new-ish to the workforce, presumably, because they can see your face and know a little bit about your past employment history and stuff like that. This one coworker is way out of line in bringing age into it and I think you should just keep telling her it’s weird that she’s focusing on her age (because it is!) and not mention to her that you think it’s undermining your credibility with others at your job (don’t give her a reason to believe her weirdness is undermining you, that’ll just add to her belief that your being young is a problem). Good luck, OP!

      And now for a fun story: I, like the other commenters here, was in my early 20s when I started teaching and I have always looked young for my age. I was filling in as a long-term sub for a music teacher who taught grades 4-12 and when I went to the high school cafeteria to buy lunch, the lunch lady asked me if I was a teacher or a student. (Note: I specifically wore very professional clothes so as to help establish my authority as an adult.) I asked her why it mattered and she said that students get a discount on lunch. So I said, yup, I’m a student. (I’m pretty sure she knew I wasn’t, but it was nice of her to ask.) Now, do I feel badly that I stiffed the cafeteria out of a total of maybe $10 the entire three months I was teaching there, on the occasions that I actually bought my food? Nope, not one bit. I was just out of music school and trying to stitch together a career and was totally broke. Plus my purse was stolen once at the school and I lost $40 – maybe that was karma? – even though I did get the purse back.

      1. MrsPookie*

        I used to get asked for hall passes on my free periods while substitute teaching from other teachers. The lunch the teachers ate was the exact same food – and about $2 more…. so I bought it in the student line and sat with students- they loved that.

    5. don'tbeadork*

      I was 26 when I started teaching and looked 16. Security, other teachers, heck, once even an assistant principal asked me for my hall pass or would try to block me from going into the hall at lunch time. The second year was better because others knew me more then, but still, I’d substitute taught on that campus for a semester before being hired — I wasn’t a total stranger!

      I tried very hard not to do that kind of thing to my younger colleagues as I got more experience (and gray hairs). It was a little hard, though, when my formal pupils would get hired and I’d have to make the mental switch from “student/teacher” to “colleagues”.

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        Still cringing over the people who assumed my boss was my mom when I was in my early 20’s and she was in her early 30’s. She was NOT amused and it was so uncomfortable.

    6. Earthtomatilda*

      I’ve always looked really young, and have been mistaken for a student well into my thirties.

      The absolute worst time ever was once trying to get a free sample at Costco. The sample lady snatched a piece of bread right out my hand and sternly asked me, “Where is your adult?” I was shocked and stared at her for a few moments before I told her I was 27. She apologized but I was not in the mood for bread anymore.

      1. strawberry milk charlotte*

        I have nothing constructive to contribute except wow! @Earthtomatilda I thought I was the only one. Went to Costco, asked for a sample, and the woman said “Sure, but where’s your mom, sweetie?” To which I replied “I’m 20… don’t you only have to ask that for under 12s?”

        The shock and “Take it as a compliment!” back-pedalling was hilarious. (It’s always “Take it as a compliment/you’ll appreciate it when you’re older!” Which, yes my mom also looks young so I lucked out on the genes, but being accused of looking 25 at 40 vs 10 at 20 is not the same thing!) I’m always mistaken for younger; most recently a pharmacist guessed 17 a week after my 25th birthday, but I think being 20 and taken for a preteen was the biggest gap to date.

        1. Avery*

          I still get carded regularly for alcohol, entering casinos, or even lottery tickets… I’m in my early 30s. I’ve also been asked if I was a minor over the phone a year or two ago when calling the police non-emergency line. And back when I student taught at around 20, I got asked repeatedly if I was a new student when observing a middle school classroom…

        2. not owen wilson*

          The first time I bought a case of beer for my family the cashier told me, “You’re going to get carded for a very, very long time.”

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          A few years back, a very polite young lady in my neighborhood asked me, while I was out on a walk, if I was interested in an invitation to her church high school youth group. “Sorry?” I said, thinking I must have misheard.

          “I don’t think I’ve seen you at school yet,” she says. “Would you like to come check it out? The group welcomes people age 13 to graduation.”

          I blinked for a moment and said, very carefully, “I appreciate the invitation, that’s very nice of you. But uh, I’m 36.” She also blinked for a moment, and allowed as how maybe that would explain why she hadn’t seen me at the local high school yet. I went home and collapsed, absolutely HOWLING with laughter, on my living room couch.

      2. datamuse*

        I was mistaken for a student more than once when I started working at a university. I was in my mid-30s.

        Conversely, I realized that I’d hit middle age the day *I* mistook a new faculty member for an undergraduate–not out loud, thankfully!

        (Though age is increasingly not a sure indicator, especially in graduate programs. I had students from time to time who were old enough to be my parents.)

      3. Goldenrod*

        “The sample lady snatched a piece of bread right out my hand and sternly asked me, “Where is your adult?””

        Holy cow! Was she like 300 years old??

        1. Just Another Cog*

          Yeah, and how very rude anyway…even if she was only ten. Shouldn’t be a sample person, in my opinion.

    7. not owen wilson*

      So much empathy for you and LW. I started my first professional engineering job at 21 and was the only one on the team without a PhD. I got so, so many comments about my age and the worst ones were from the postdocs, honestly. I’m 25 and in a new job now, but I’m routinely mistaken for an undergraduate student. Last week I even had someone that was 30 pull the “older and wiser” schtick. It sucks, and there isn’t a good way to defuse it when the problem is the other person’s insecurity. Just keep carrying yourself like you belong, OP, because you do. It’s not our fault that being a woman in this world is so hard.

      1. Goldenrod*

        ” Last week I even had someone that was 30 pull the “older and wiser” schtick.”

        As someone who is well into middle-age – that is utter nonsense. There are plenty of young people who are perfectly wise…and PLENTY of older people who are idiots.

    8. Reluctant Mezzo*

      When I was in the Air Force, I was too afraid to ask if my nickname was Lt. Thin Mints or Lt. Samoas since a gate guard sometimes challenged me for looking too young (and occasionally overheard comments of ‘Gawd, they’re making them young these days’ from older NCO’s as they passed by my cube). So I hear you.

  2. Heidi*

    I’d rather have cookies than a pony ride, personally. The vendors seem to be adding a weird twist to the issue. Do they only work with Employee 1 and that’s why they want to make that party special? Or do they work with both and just don’t like Employee 2 so much? Maybe the vendors can take Employee 1 out to a fancy lunch separate from whatever celebration happens within the company.

    1. MK*

      If these people have been working with 1 for decades, it makes sense that they would want to honor his retirement in a way they wouldn’t be willing to for someone who has been a backup for a much shorter time. Also, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to have a much fancier celebration for someone who worked for the company for 34 years vs. someone who was only there for 15. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to combine the parties.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I can see “fancier celebration for someone who has been there 10+ years vs 2-5 years”, but I think once you’re over the decade marker it’s much of a muchness! How much fancier are we talking?

        1. Snow Globe*

          I worked for a company that had a formal policy around that – the company would allow $X party budget for someone who had worked there 10-14 years $Y for someone who worked there 15-25 years and $Z for someone who worked there 25+ years. Occasionally when people in the same department retired around the same time, they (the employees) would combine the parties because they’d have a much larger budget to work with.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Actually it makes more sense to me as a an official policy with money attached than an informal one! If you really want to incentivise longevity, then it makes sense to attach $ amounts to it. The soft idea that 34 years earns you more than 15 years is what seems weird to me.

    2. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah if the vendors want to celebrate it seems like that can be done without the company being involved. The vendors can take the employee out to lunch or dinner and spend whatever they want on that, the company can have a company party or whatever size they want and invite or not invite the vendors depending on what the employee wants/if vendors are invited.

      I’ve been to holiday celebrations where outside vendors were welcomed and others where it was clearly just for employees, but I don’t think the company should plan a party based on what the vendors want, unless they are really close partners and the vendors want to contribute to the cost.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yeah, the employee may be free from corporate “gifting” policies now. (At least, I would say they are exempt if they have they have a leave date that isn’t going to extend.) So the vendor could do something like invite the employee to their box at the local sports venue or out golfing at big Country Club.

        1. Stipes*

          I think gifting is still potentially a problem. As an extreme example, say it was well known that loyal customers of X vendor eventually receive generous cash gifts when they retire… that could definitely influence some decisions in a less-than-ethical way!

          (It’s similar to how the revolving door between industry and government careers is a problem, and should probably be restricted more than it is. Fine for an ex-industry expert to bring that experience to government, but you shouldn’t be able to go the other way and work a cushy job for a company you previously directed a lot of public money towards.)

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Oh, I know about that revolving-door policy! We had an NCO who retired one year and represented the company he’d worked with on our side the year before (purchasing and contracting).

    3. Earlk*

      I know we’re not meant to speculate on information not provided in the letters themselves but I would love to know the lw’s position in the company because the tone is very much implying that employee #2 is stealing employee #1s thunder and other than their direct supervisor being annoyed they have to replace two people instead of one- why does it matter?

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I’m not reading that tone at all! I’m reading it as someone who recognizes that two employees might not want to share a retirement party but isn’t sure how to approach it, especially given the complication with the vendors.

        1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

          The letter is almost dripping with contempt for #2, who “nobody asked for” a party for, and for whom not one the vendors would like to make it special.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Is it? I’m not seeing that at all. I’m seeing someone recognizing the issues that could arise from trying to shoehorn two retirement parties into one. And the “no one asked” quote is that no one asked her to plan a party for either of them, not that no one asked her to plan a party for #2. You seem to be projecting a bit here.

          2. DisgruntledPelican*

            For all of you wondering why people like the boss in the other letter write with so much over the top enthusiasm, it’s because of basic, matter of fact language being taken as “dripping with contempt.”

      2. Smithy*

        I think that this is perhaps where it would be helpful for the company to step in and actually control what’s happening?

        Letting these vendors celebrate a long-time contact retiring may ultimately be a desire for the company. Essentially, partially a celebration for the coworker retiring and partially as a cultivation touch point with those vendors. I can see that with a number of external facing positions where you might want to almost be celebrating the longstanding relationship between the vendor/client and the company as much as someone retiring.

        However, that’s still a company leadership/business decision. Because I also know people who have retired and their long time contacts take them out for a special dinner to acknowledge that time one on one.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I definitely see a risk if you let them combine the party, but the more-senior person gets a lot more hullabaloo at the “shared” event. As others have said, a 15 year tenure is also significant and doesn’t deserve to feel slighted at their own party because a bigger fish is also retiring (although at least the second person did realize they were retiring at the same time). I actually think that might be more hurtful than having two parties of different intensity, TBH! The comparison would be much more in-your-face.

    4. Phony Genius*

      I agree on the cookies thing. (In fact, I’d like less than that.) So what to do if one employee wants the fancy event and the other wants cookies? Especially if it’s the longer-term employee who wants a minimalist party? I’d say if they each want something different, then give them each what they want, as long as each knows that the other is having a different type of party at their request. They could be fine with it.

      One of my relatives retired some years ago and wanted no party (which is usually a fancy lunch there). The office insisted on one, and it turned into a long argument. When the dust settled, they had a breakfast as a “compromise.”

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      If both employees want a party — check first! — I think the parties will need to be separate unless we’re talking a very simple celebration, like a shared cake in the breakroom and group cards.

      Employee #2, with 15 years of service, is already getting pushed to the background on multiple fronts, both by Employee #1’s wife and the vendors. Even if the company steps up and controls the situation, which they need to, I think at this point any shared celebration is destined to come across as “Fergus’s Party, also featuring Bob!”

  3. JSPA*

    #2, not unprofessional to ask, but I can’t be the only person who for a couple of weeks at a time (for years) carried the same just-in-case small canned coffee and food bar (granola or Clif or later, NuGo) around, just in case. ( My mother carried a little bag of nuts and coffee candy. I’m sure there are a thousand variants which probably don’t need to be listed out here as that will be derailing.)

    When they start to get a little shabby, you make them an intentional breakfast or mid morning snack, and start a new set.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Happily, continental breakfast and lunch were provided for almost all of the events like this I can recall, but some people need to fuel up between set mealtimes. I’m one of them, so I also carried a large stash of Kind or granola bars and would pointedly open a packet when people began to fidget and I heard stomachs growling. The presenter/organizer usually got the hint and called for a break, and I handed out my stash as needed.

      The next meetings included breaks with snacks, problem solved.

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        Oh wow, I just remembered a situation that my parents and I were involved in, some time in the 1990s. We were all members of a province-wide organization attending a meeting. The people running the meeting had only scheduled half a day for discussion of some new thing that we didn’t agree with (my parents and I were on local boards in different parts of the province.) The meeting runners seemed to be hoping that people would stop asking questions and making objections because it was time to adjourn, eat separate lunches, and/or drive home. They were refusing to take a lunch break and continue afterwards. So after a whispered consultation about our physical needs, I slipped out to the hotel restaurant, asked for the fastest lunch they could make, and then walked back in to the meeting with three fruit salads on a tray.

        I have no memory of what the issue was, that we were united against, but the fruit salad filibuster is still a fond memory.

    2. metadata minion*

      I definitely do that, but I’d much rather have actual breakfast/lunch than try to get by on slightly squashed granola bars.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        We all would, but if we’re not the ones making that decision at least we have backup.

    3. kalli*

      I just keep a few 600mL bottles of mineral water and grab one on the way out. If I get super stuck, well, that’s what vending machines are for and I don’t even live in Japan where you could actually get a can of coffee from a vending machine.

      Derailed far enough? Because I don’t think a company off-site is going to be handing out cans of coffee and granola bars, nor is that the point.

    4. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      I once had the experience where was told not to bring my lunch because the office was getting lunch. That day rolled around, I didn’t bring lunch, and it was absolute crickets- no lunch, no mention that lunch was ever going to be provided, etc. I was too embarrassed/shy to ask about it, so I ate a can of peanuts I kept as a snack in my drawer. Ever since (over 10 years ago), I always bring food to whatever situation- lunches, meetings, etc. and just keep it in my lunch box, fridge, or purse, etc. Then, when I went vegetarian, things got dicier if there was something I could eat, so it became especially important.

      Not that you have to be super-sneaky about it- you can keep something in your bag and just not produce it if food is provided (and really, if you make a PB&J or bring some Pop-Tarts, they won’t go back in your purse after one day; you can always eat them for breakfast the next day). Also, no one’s going to bat an eye if you bring a travel mug of your favorite caffeine in the morning and then scope out the drink situation later on.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Similarly, in my first professional job, there was one day when our regularly-scheduled team lunch was cancelled the day of, and I had not brought lunch because it was supposed to be provided. While I could *technically* afford to buy my own lunch, money was pretty tight and I was not enthused to be eating the cost of a restaurant meal because the company wasn’t organized enough to know when I did or did not need to bring lunch. I (very politely) requested to my supervisor that if we were going to cancel a provided lunch, we do it with at least a day of notice, and he paid for my lunch (on the company card, I’m pretty sure, but he still didn’t have to do that). He was not a great boss in many ways, but I very much appreciated that.

        1. Smithy*

          I do think a big part around why it’s not necessarily viewed as a professional norm is because when people have more money, it’s less of a hardship to buy food ad hoc in addition to having more experience about when food will/won’t be provided. Or when it is provided but the selection isn’t super desirable.

          At this point in life, even if they say breakfast will be available – as someone who does not find a pastry or a small yogurt breakfast – I always eat before or bring my own. And if lunch is provided and I don’t like it or there isn’t any, I’m ok buying a snack or lunch afterwards. Going in with that bias, I no longer ask, because I’m more so predisposed to assume a meeting going from 11-2pm will just mean a late lunch and a surprise if otherwise.

          I think a lot of people who’ve been working longer have their own approaches to this. Whether bringing snacks, skipping meals, eating early/late, etc. And it can be a big blind spot that more junior colleagues are both not making as much as putting them in a spot to eat out unexpectedly can be an unplanned expense they’d just rather not have, and also have less experience so are less familiar with who will and won’t cater.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            This is a good point. When I was early career, my budget was so tight that unexpected expenses like a restaurant lunch meant I would need to decide which bills to pay late or short. It’s unkind to assume everyone has large discretionary budgets.

            It seems reasonable AND kind to tell attendees that lunch will/won’t be served and please plan accordingly. But I’d still bring my granola bars, just in case.

          2. Bitte Meddler*

            Ooh, yeah, the Continental Breakfast, aka “Carbs and Sugars – Good Luck Staying Awake Past 10:00 AM Breakfast”.

            Those are one of the main reasons I started packing my own calories.

            I would cry for joy if I showed up to a conference and they had cheese and meat trays set out alongside the carbs. Or even hard-boiled eggs. Something, anything, besides wheat flour and sugar.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              On Day 1 of a 3 day offsite meeting, the hotel set up our midafternoon snack. It was a mashed potato bar with whipped and smashed potatoes. The toppings I can remember are sour cream and butter, chives, cheese sauce, shredded cheese, bacon bits, taco meat, salsa, and turkey gravy with dressing. It was glorious.

              After all the carbo-loading, I don’t think any of us were fully awake for the rest of the afternoon. The next day they served fruit salad and water, a safer choice.

      2. I Need A Tea*

        Whenever I send out meeting requests and agendas for meetings I will always note that either refreshments or a meal (or both) will be provided so people know. I also always ask about dietary restrictions so no one is left out. It’s too bad the person organizing the meeting doesn’t arrange this, but like Alison suggested maybe the organization just doesn’t do that, which is unfortunate and in my experience, also unusual.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      I consistently bring snacks in my work bag and always bring a water bottle. On my first day at a new job (or first day in a new location or at an off-site with no insight into the plans), I just always bring a peanut butter sandwich and some chips. For new job, I don’t know if we’ll be going out to lunch or if someone will bring something in. And then for the other options – I don’t know what the breakroom situation is like. Is there a fridge? Does it actually have space?

    6. Bitte Meddler*

      Mine is a bottle of caffeine pills (one tablet = one 8 oz cup of coffee), Kind bars, protein bars, and a bottle of water.

      I also buy cheese sticks from Sam’s Club — so, a HUGE package — and throw a couple in my backpack before leaving for the day. If I don’t eat them and they get funky from not being refrigerated, no big deal.

  4. Hmmmmm*

    OP#2 – Is there an EA or office manager that orders the food or sets it up? Can you ask them instead?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      It’s so weird that a company would have an offsite event/meeting over lunchtime or early in the morning and not even mention anything about coffee or food. Like, if the company is NOT providing it, they should say that. Why are they making employees guess if they are or not? OP, it absolutely is NOT unprofessional to ask, it’s actually unprofessional for them to not tell you. Are the rest of them all robots who do not ever need to eat anything?

      Another way of wording your question that might seem more “professional” to your coworkers/manager could be, “Given the hour, should I bring my own lunch?” That way, it doesn’t sound as much like you’re asking about free food but more like you just need to make sure you will actually have something to eat.

      But please rest assured, they’re the weird ones, not you.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        The chuckling is what really gets me. That’s such a normal question. Especially coffee – I would be asking so many questions about coffee.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          I think it’s the fact it’s always OP that asks about it. I think that other people aren’t asking about it because they know OP always will and are chuckling because their prediction is correct.

          I’m imagining a situation where an offsite meeting is being discussed and people are asking other logistical or content questions and OP asks about food because no one else thought to. Then, something similar happens for another offsite meeting where OP is the first to ask about the refreshments. And then again. From there on, OP is the designated “meal confirm-er” to the delight of their peers.

          I’d say OP should embrace it. Then, one day when talking about another offsite meeting, don’t. People will lose their minds.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Mm, if OP is the only one who asks, and asks almost every time, and if that is the only question they ever ask, I can see why more-senior people might chuckle a bit. Especially if the answer is often no but they keep asking. “Hope springs eternal, eh OP?”

        3. Heidi*

          It might the context of the conversation. Like how in Clueless, the teacher is talking about something serious like the Pismo beach disaster and Elton says, “Can I use the hall pass?” or “I can’t find my Cranberries CD!” But I agree it shouldn’t be a big deal to ask. Maybe just phrase it like, “Will there be places to buy coffee/lunch nearby?” so it shows that you’re totally okay with providing for yourself. For me, I usually don’t ask, but I check out the neighboring area on Google Maps to see if there are food options. If there aren’t, I bring snacks even if I think there will be food.

        4. JustaTech*

          I wouldn’t have thought that I would need to ask questions about coffee until my first professional conference where I discovered that they *took away* the coffee during the speaker sessions, so if you didn’t know to bring an insulated cup and wanted to warm up your ice cold coffee (because all conference presentation rooms are set to “arctic”), well, you were SOL and just had to keep pinching your arm to stay awake while the speakers droned on.

          Now when people comment on my travel mug (usually “oh, that was smart”) I say “I learned at a Keystone where they took away the coffee.” The look of horror on people’s faces!

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, my job just had a big meeting that started at 10, and they made a point to let us know that coffee would be provided, but NOT breakfast (which seems 100% reasonable to me).

        I just think some people care more/have more needs around food than others, so there can be a little bit of friction there, but there doesn’t need to be.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          yeah, 10 am is between normal mealtimes and I think most of us would already have eaten. But coffee is always a nice perk.

    2. linger*

      At a former org, one committee had the job of producing a vital series of documents at the behest of one particular department. The contents were so confidential that all editing had to be performed in-person, at a series of meetings that regularly involved the entire committee — of about a dozen specialists seconded from a range of other departments (with different work schedules) — for hours on end, which always spanned lunch as that was when most members could be available. The department had a small budget for lunch, which the department provided to the meeting since there were no fast reliable food options near the department’s location.
      As time went by, the members found ways to increase the efficiency of document production. Now the bulk of the editing was devolved to a subcommittee of 3-4 members (though still meeting for hours, including lunch). Meanwhile, writing was performed by other subcommittees that could meet for shorter periods at other times. Quality improved. All of this despite the department requiring more and more content, to more exacting conditions, each year.
      The department’s response to the decreased take-up of lunches … was to discontinue the lunch budget entirely.
      With the consequence that the committee was effectively killed off, since it was no longer possible to get a quorum of skilled editors together in one place.

  5. Dina*

    #1 – I’ve dealt with this throughout my career (and continue to, despite being old as your colleague, because I look young and work in social media…). In my experience, it’s usually a power thing and it’s really gross.

    The best thing you can do is to keep doing your awesome work. Alison’s scripts are good, but you can also grey rock (aka stare blankly at them and then change the subject) if you prefer (or if they don’t work).

    1. coffee*

      Agreed on the power thing. :(

      You can always lampshade it – “Oh, you talk more about my age than people did at my last birthday party!”

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          It usually refers to when a fictional narrative has a glaring issue or plot hole that they explicit refer to in order to divert criticism of it. The idea is that hanging a lampshade on something that is obviously not a lamp draws attention to the fact that the object doesn’t belong but diverts the discussion to the poorness of the disguise rather than the object itself. In screenwriting it’s also known as spotlighting or red flagging.

        2. Mongrel*

          From TV Tropes
          “Lampshade Hanging (or, more informally, “Lampshading”) is the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that seems too dubious to take at face value, whether a very implausible plot development or a particularly blatant use of a trope, by calling attention to it and simply moving on.”

    2. honeygrim*

      The only other time I’ve seen this is when the older person feels defensive about their “advanced” age (not that 42 is advanced, I say as someone who is rapidly approaching 50 despite my best efforts). It makes them feel better to frame their life as “it’s not that I’m old, it’s just that everyone around me is so young!”

      In the case of OP #1’s coworker, it doesn’t really matter about her motivations. She’s being gross, and needs to stop it. And since coffee mentioned “lampshading,” her constant references to your age are only drawing attention to her obsessive focus on your age. No one reasonable is going to think anything other than “wow, Coworker is being weird.”

      1. HotSauce*

        Yes, and you just know if OP#1 made a comment about how OLD she was, she would have a fit.

      2. Karen Filipelli*

        This was actually my first thought. The comments are less about LW and more likely linked to the coworker’s own insecurity about their age in the workforce. I am a 49-y.o. woman in a large corporate environment and my company did a series of layoffs a few months back. I was not impacted, but I have learned that none of my laid-off contemporaries have found new positions yet, whereas all of the younger folks have. While this is likely more related to the smaller number of senior positions available in the market, it does get into your head sometimes. Regardless, this coworker need to stop – they are doing themselves no favors with their team and actively making people feel bad – ugh.

    3. Earlk*

      Yeah some people get really weird if they’re working at the same level as someone much younger than them, even if they’ve chosen to stay at the level and not progress further. I had a direct report that was so blatantly annoyed that I was closer to her son in age than her and repeatedly turned down opportunities to progress because she was comfortable where she was.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I think this nails it. It isn’t about the age, it’s them having personal issues and feelings about their own career, because someone 20 years younger is on the same level or higher.

      2. ferrina*

        I once supervised someone who refused to listen to me because she had a granddaughter my age. I was in my early-20s, and at that point was regularly supervising people older than me. This particular woman decided that my age meant she didn’t need to listen to me….even though I had been specifically transferred to her team with a change mandate (that team had been violating contracts left and right and was about to lose us our biggest client- literally that whole team and others would have been laid off if I hadn’t made the necessary changes). Yes, I was young, but I also had unique qualifications and this was an industry where years of experience wasn’t a big distinguisher for most people.

        1. MassMatt*

          “ I get that there is wisdom that comes with age…”

          Yes, this is sometimes the case, but sadly does not seem to be the case with the coworker in the letter.

          She has a bee in her bonnet about age, it’s weird she mentions it so often, and also is so adversarial about it. She calls her a “spy” from “the other side”? I’m surprised she’s not stockpiling weapons for the coming generation gap war.

          1. Petty Betty*

            Sure there’s wisdom with age. A lot of it is historical context or lived experiences. Some of it is true wisdom. Sometimes that wisdom overlaps intelligence (logical and emotional). Unfortunately, for a lot of us – we’re just electrical meat sacks with mashed potatoes for brains. And I do count myself among that group. Any wisdom or intelligence I have is purely accidental.

        2. Observer*

          This particular woman decided that my age meant she didn’t need to listen to me….even though I had been specifically transferred to her team with a change mandate


          that team had been violating contracts left and right and was about to lose us our biggest client-

          Those two are probably related. I mean how does someone get the idea that they just don’t have to listen to a manager for any reason? It sounds like this team had been managed by someone who would not enforce any sort of rule or behavior expectation. “I don’t wanna” seems to have been enough of a reason for anyone to opt out of anything, it seems to me.

    4. JustAnotherCommenter*

      Yea, my first thought was that OPs colleague is probably insecure that someone 15 years younger than her is in the same role with lots of success.
      I remember encountering a similar situation early in my career, I was 22/23 and my coworker was in his early to mid 40s. He adored me when I was junior and asking for guidance, but when I got promoted into the same role as him and was doing just as well as him (if not better) he really struggled. To his credit, he did eventually realize he was being unreasonable and put some effort into working through his feelings instead of just being resentful, but not until after he had an incredibly awkward temper tantrum.

    5. PrincessAnastasia*

      I’m betting in this case, it’s because the Coworker is feeling insecure about her own age/career advancement. As in, she’s obsessing over there being someone in the exact same position as her, in the exact same organization, who’s 15 years younger, 15 years less experienced, and it’s making her feel like she hasn’t accomplished as much as she’d hoped she would by this stage in her life.
      As someone who’s had a very odd career path (long story), I sometimes feel this way – the age of my colleagues sometimes makes me feel like my position is pathetically ‘junior’ given my age. I just don’t verbalize those thoughts to my coworkers!

    6. PhD survivor*

      I also look very young. In my early 30s, I worked at a company as a post-doc after finishing my PhD (I had other jobs before I decided to pursue a doctoral degree). Given my appearance combined with being in a fellowship position, I was assumed to be in my early 20s with no work experience and people treated me bizarrely. I got all manner of weird comments including someone asking if I had kids and immediately following up with of course I must be too young to have kids (I was 34). It actually really hurt me professionally, I wasn’t given appropriate post-doc responsibilities because of this age bias and it ended up not being a good fellowship experience at all. I’m now at a different company where people are judged based on performance and not age which has made a world of difference. But definitely agree that focusing on age is a weird power move that can harm employees when it becomes part of the company culture. At least for OP it’s only one coworker which is annoying but shouldn’t hurt her professionally.

  6. JSPA*

    #4, “I gave you the date for passover eve, when I have a variety of responsibilities before and during the ceremony, rather than for the first full passover day. Ideally, I would [put preference here*], but just the 22nd would also work. I didn’t want to sew confusion if another jewish employee needs only the 23rd off, as practices and responsibilities can differ.”

    *For example you might prefer a half-day (afternoon off) on the 22nd and morning off on the 23rd.

    P.S. Using “eve” is intentional. If the people there are default Christian (or several other religions depending on your country) they should recognize the concept of a holiday having both an eve and a day. And even that some subgroups will celebrate the eve more (or exclusively) while others celebrate the day more.

    P.P.S. So is referring to the eve duties as “practice” or “ceremony” (or “seder”) rather than “meal.”

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Yeah, I think unless OP has any trouble getting that day off, the level of detail needed is just “sorry, I realised afterwards that I said 22nd and it is actually the 23rd”.

      2. Phryne*

        ‘I got my dates mixed up and have a prior engagement the 23rd, can we push it back one day?’

      3. MassMatt*

        This is WAY too much to get into unless the letter writer is at a department of religious studies, in which case they should be aware of Passover practices anyway.

    1. Fikly*

      Don’t tell them why you need the day off, just that you need it off.

      Just like with a sick day. You need it off, you need it off. No more info given. All employers should always be on an information diet.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I work in the legal industry. It does not actually shut down for the Jewish holidays, but it surely does slow down a lot. Being coy about this would seem really weird. Just say “I got the day of Passover wrong” and that would be fully satisfactory. Christians have the same issue with Easter (April 20, next year, for the Western church). Dancing around that it is Passover you are talking about would be far weirder than just saying it. Other industries could well be different. If yours finds Jews exotic at best, I can see the point of discretion.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I agree. I think that just saying you got the date of Passover wrong would be absolutely fine, unless for some reason you don’t think they’d take kindly to that (which of course is illegal). Plenty of people mix up dates all the time, they’ll definitely understand (and if they don’t, that might not be a place you’d like to work, unfortunately). And I think it actually would be totally fine to take both days off, or at least a day and a half, unless you don’t want to.

          1. Grandma*

            Given that Jews are few and far between in this company, it might be helpful to add on, “Like Easter, the dates of Passover change every year.” This is a concise way to convey (without explicitly explaining) why you might have been off by a day. Anyone who celebrates Easter or who lives where others celebrate it, knows about the date variability even if they don’t know that Easter falls on the 1st Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. IOW, you’ve got to look it up on a calendar to find the right Sunday for this and every year.

            1. JSPA*

              That educational component was part of the motivation for the detail.

              But I also have seen people get weird or suspicious because “person A and person B are nominally the same overarching faith that I know little about, so why are they requesting different days off?”

              Thus a bit of extra TMI.

              You’re making it easier for the (hypothetical) two other Jews who are each essential for the minyan at their separate small temples, and who will 100% be taking the day off. But they don’t do any of the cooking or planning or preparation for the Seder, and don’t have any reason to leave early or take the day off, the day before.

            2. Modesty Poncho*

              Also it’s incredibly common to just mix up dates because you were looking at last month’s calendar or had last year’s date stuck in your head. I’ve said stuff like “Monday the 12th” when Monday is the 10th more times than I can count, it just happens. Explaining it doesn’t have to involve the reason at all. “Whoops, I said the 12th but I meant the 10th.” or “I said Monday the 12th, I was thinking of Wednesday.”

      2. ecnaseener*

        In this case, where LW might not have any vacation days yet as a new employee, they might need to say that it’s for a religious holiday. They don’t have to lead with that, but it might be necessary to frame it as a religious accommodation.

    2. nnn*

      Way too much detail and also incorrect. It’s not Passover eve. It’s Passover. It just starts at sundown.

      1. Roland*

        I agree it’s too much detail, but it’s not incorrect. Passover will start at sundown.on the 22nd and thus the 22nd is often referred to as Passover Eve; there’s no contradiction. April 22nd isn’t (the first day of) Passover and neither is the 23rd, the actual date is Nissan 15, so any common shorthand we use to convey the relationship between the 2 calendars is fine.

        1. Erin the Brit*

          Does this relate to the term “Erev”? Just out of interest, I remember it came up on West Wing that the day before Yom Kippur was Erev Yom Kippur…

          1. Calico Tabby*

            Yes, “Erev” means “Eve.” For some holidays, Erev is important logistically, e.g. on Erev Yom Kippur I need to get home early enough to shower and eat before the fast begins (often around 6 p.m.) and on Erev Pesach, there is a lot of cooking and preparation to do, especially if you’re hosting a seder in the evening.

          2. Astor*

            Yes, Erev means evening! But in your example it doesn’t mean the day before Yom Kippur, it means the evening of Yom Kippur. This is because Jewish days run (essentially) sundown to sundown.

            I’m clarifying this mostly because it helps some people understand why our holidays have a different rhythm from Christian and other holidays.

      2. Alright Alright Alright*

        No, the eve of a Jewish holiday is the day it begins (on the English calendar). April 22nd this year is Erev Pesach, and it is also the first day of Pesach, as of sundown.

    3. Awkwardness*

      Too much detail, the manager does not need to know why exactly OP needs a day off.
      It’s the same with sick days.

      1. Bast*

        It may be necessary to frame it as a religious accommodation if there is pushback, particularly if this is a job where you either have to accrue your time off or you don’t start out with any PTO your first few months/year (which is sadly all too common). Hopefully the employer will be understanding about getting the date mixed up and a detailed explanation won’t be needed, but it really depends on the company.

    4. coffee*

      For me, I would get a bit confused with what date exactly they wanted off, or if they want both off, or they want half a day, or quite what.

      LW should just ask for the day/s she wants off. Either “Actually the date I need off is the 23rd, not the 22nd” or “Actually I need the 23rd off as well as the 22nd.”

      LW, once you’re in the role and have established yourself, it is always easier to ask for time off (not least because you’ll be able to arrange it further in advance). So that will make future religious holiday leave easier (and leave in general).

      1. Smithy*

        I agree with this.

        I think if someone asks follow up questions and it’s easier to make a comparison to Christian holidays, I think that sharing the context of Christmas Eve and Christmas can work without going into incredible detail. Essentially relate to it in the sense that having the 23rd (in this metaphor, Christmas Day) off is the most important, and if possible having the 22nd (i.e. Christmas Eve) off as well would be greatly appreciated.

        I had only one job where I was the only Jew, and while the questions about Jewish practice usually came from a friendly enough place – I was so young/junior that it was a bit intimidating and uncomfortable. I found that relating their questions to PTO requests in relation to Christian holidays always the simplest. So instead of explaining Hanukkah or Sukkot, just saying they were similar to Lent and could be celebrated without taking PTO (though obviously some people might). As I mentioned, they were friendly and had good intentions – and just giving them insight that they weren’t being unsupportive coworkers when I had to work on Hanukkah.

    5. CrowQueen*

      Nope. This is an unnecessary level of detail, over the top, and confusing. Alison’s wording was perfectly fine. Yours would make OP seem disorganised, put unwarranted emphasis on the religious nature of the date, and would still be unclear – OP needs to just state the actual date or dates they need, not hedge like this.

    6. bureaucratte*

      I am very observant and forgot to ask for a holiday off before my boss teased me in a friendly way (I had been working there for years) but didn’t give me hassle. “I realized I needed to take the 23rd off” is totally sufficient! (I just told someone else Passover is on the 22nd! It starts on the 22nd at night. This (asking for the date you need) is absolutely not a big deal. When I saw the title I thought it was gonna be that the OP asked for a week off and asked for the wrong week. A day is fine!

    7. Nancy*

      Way too much detail and it’s confusing which date is being requested. Just say ‘I actually need X off, not Y.’ No explanation needed and definitely don’t throw in other dates with explanations about other employees.

      People make mistakes, it happens.

    8. Leenie*

      Nah, I hired someone a couple of years ago, right before autumn and several Jewish holidays. She was pretty observant, and wanted to make sure she could take the dates that she needed off. I didn’t actually ask for specific dates, just made arrangements with payroll for a general accommodation. But had I requested dates, all she would have needed to do was tell me that she should have said the 23rd and not the 22nd. That’s it. No further explanation needed. People get dates wrong all the time for all types of reasons (reasons that I virtually never need to know).

    9. Prof*

      except the entire point is that not getting the 23rd off is NOT ok. That’s the main day of the holiday.

    10. Dancing Otter*

      Regarding Eve versus Day of holiday, I was fortunate my in-laws celebrated Christmas Eve and my parents Christmas Day. Saved a lot of arguments.

    11. Sam I Am*

      Nah, way too much information, and weirdly pandering? No one would call the seder a “ceremony,” and I don’t need HR to scrutinize my religious practices and understand it in the framework of their own; I just need my PTO approved. “Sorry, I gave you the wrong date. I’ll be out April 23, not April 22.” The end.

      LW said she’s the only Jew, so the possible confusion with what other people are doing is not an issue, and even if there were other Jews taking off different days, it’s still not her responsibility to make that make sense for someone else. I’ve worked at places where I was the only Jew who took off for holidays, or other people took off one day and I took off two. I never offered an explanation and it’s never been a problem. If someone was truly curious, they could ask me or use Google.

  7. nnn*

    A script that can sometimes be useful in situations like #2 is “Is this the kind of meeting where they provide lunch? Or is it the kind of meeting where we should bring our own lunch? Or is it the kind of meeting where we should plan to eat before or after?”

    The “is this the kind of…” wording can move it away from being perceived as entitlement or being perceived as asking for something, and more in the direction of asking the lay of the land.

    1. Awkwardness*

      I am not sure if it is about (perceived) entitlement but some weird power flex, smokers living by their cigarettes instead of pasta or some attempt of temporary fasting. I honestly do not know.
      But I could easily see myself being OP and colleagues chuckling. When I try to clarify if this was a strange question or if they do not eat lunch regularly, everybody tells me it was not.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think it really is about how forward-thinking you are about visualising your day and how important planning meals is to you. Some people will just hear “off-site meeting, Tuesday in three weeks’ time”, add it to their calendar, and not really think about it until Monday in three weeks’ time. Some people will make it concrete in their heads immediately, and mentally note how they’re going to travel there, what time they’ll leaving their house, and for some people (me) that goes immediately to “is it catered or am I getting one of those nice sandwiches from the kiosk near the station?”

        So I don’t think it’s a weird question at all, but if the majority of your team are still in the “blurry day in late April, will think about whether we need a slide deck week after next” and you’re someone who goes straight to the concrete and starts gathering the information you need to figure out food, and you ALWAYS do that, it does start to become a thing people notice. Whether they’re kind or weird about that is a choice, though.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          When OP said off-site, I assumed it was more than just wanting to know exactly what the plan was; I assumed that there may be nowhere to get food nearby, or they could struggle to get food that meets their requirements. Some people have easily met requirements, or are genuinely fine not eating all day, and other people still think it’s the eighties and lunch is for wimps. Whether it’s just benign ignorance, or not understanding what it is to need a plan, or they’re flexing not caring about lunch.. they’re being jerks. If someone enquires about a physical need, or something important to their comfort, you take it seriously and give them the information without chuckling. If it were me, I’d say “It’s actually quite important because it’s important to me medically that I know what and when I’m going to eat.” but that doesn’t sound like it applies to OP so I’d consider sincerely enquiring, with no tone at all: “Is it odd that I’m asking, because you’re chuckling?” and let them tell me exactly what their thinking is so I can address it. Or, if OP is picking up on “free food” amusement a way to phrase it might be to query if the self payment option is possible at the same time: “Could you let me know if this is catered, or if there is anywhere nearby to purchase lunch? I’ve been caught out in the past”.

          1. bamcheeks*

            That’s what I mean about it being a timing thing. I think it’s a completely normal thing to ask, BUT I also think that if you’re the person who always asks it, and you ask it more or less as soon as it goes in the diary or shortly afterwards, people will notice that. I think whether they are noticing in a friendly way or a mean and stigmatising way is the key thing.

            I also think this is absolutely a positive trait you can lean into in some roles– if you’re someone who arranges meetings or training or has any kind of office-manager type role, then being the person who says, “what about food / drink / comfort breaks / travel?” is a super important organisational skill. If you’re not in a role where that’s a key skill, you can still be the person in the team who says that stuff and own that role, just like someone else is unofficially the sustainability person and someone else will always ask how this affects remote workers and so on. In a non-dysfunctional team, there’s usually room for a bit of gentle, “Ah, of course Jane is reminding me to talk about the food! I think it’s probably catered, but I’ll check with OtherJane at head office and confirm.”

          2. Awkwardness*

            If it were me, I’d say “It’s actually quite important because it’s important to me medically that I know what and when I’m going to eat.”

            Exactly. I kindly clarify that lunch is a meal I cannot skip, that I am happy to bring my own lunch but that I need that information for planning.

            I do not especially care anymore if somebody thinks it is amusing or that grown-ups should be able to go for a day without food. It’s my body and I need to take care of it accordingly.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              My understanding is that skipping meals is not good for anyone and can have health consequences over the long term. But some people tolerate it better than others.
              I can’t skip meals.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                It’s absolutely not good for anyone’s health, but I agree with Coverage Associate downthread that it’s a thing in some cultures were unhealthy attitudes and poor judgement have been allowed to take root. Whenever I’ve been in a situation where people seem oblivious to toilet breaks, or the need for food, there’s usually something weird behind it. Sometimes it’s because it’s a profession with a superhuman god complex, or it’s just plain obliviousness, and other times it’s a person who’s been so overworked and not-seen-as-a-human that they have developed poor coping mechanisms. I’m thinking of the very nice, very driven, never-take-a-break boss I once had who kept getting sick, who shared this: “Apparently the doctor says it’s because I’m getting most of my calories from alcohol!” Yeah, … lol.

                1. Nina*

                  I do significantly better with concentration and not having a stomachache and keeping my weight in the band I want it to be and energy levels and like, life in general, when I only eat after 4 pm, so while you’re welcome to do what you like, keeping your sweeping statements to yourself would be appreciated.

        2. Awkwardness*

          I think it really is about how forward-thinking you are about visualising your day and how important planning meals is to you.

          That is a good point.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yeah I rarely plan for lunch on a normal workday I just go with the flow. Sometimes I eat sometimes I don’t. But that’s me. Everyone should have the ability to plan for their comfort.

    2. Hannah*

      I think this is really great wording. I know its not fair or right, but in my workplace, always asking this question would definitely label you as someone more interested in food than the actual meeting, and because the people are chuckling I feel like this is the atmosphere in the OPs workplace too. But its very cultural, as in my workplace they’ve phased out paying for lunch and its definitely seen as a ‘treat’ or being ‘spoiled’ (and yes, this is not a great attitude either)

  8. Coverage Associate*

    I feel for LW2. My first job after law school would put me in meetings for 10 hours straight with no opportunity for food. Ever since, it’s been a practicality I look out for, for myself and witnesses and clients. I have been both criticized and thanked for doing so. (I think the criticism comes from old attitudes about professionals needing to present as god-like and beyond trivialities like food.)

    As I have moved into more prestigious jobs, there have honestly been more catered meetings and free snacks. It helps to be in Silicon Valley, though a friend who works in my building, but for a Chicago-based firm, recently dealt with a no-snacks policy. The free food is partly about the jobs being plush in other ways too, but it’s also about industries realizing the work gets done better if people aren’t scrambling for food.

    Meanwhile, my sister works for the government in a remote/rural area. Her office has had some legal meetings this year, and I always ask what they’re doing for food, because those types of meetings at a private business would be catered, and the visitors need to eat regardless. When she visits my office, she marvels at the snacks and free coffee.

    1. Lady Lessa*

      I’m lucky where I work. We’re small, but whenever we have visitors that get lunch brought in, they always get enough for everyone. So, this week, I will only need to brownbag my lunch twice. (and the food is varied, like Panera and a very good local chicken place)

    2. Antilles*

      The free food is partly about the jobs being plush in other ways too, but it’s also about industries realizing the work gets done better if people aren’t scrambling for food.
      Providing lunch if your meeting is over lunch isn’t out of the pure goodness of your heart, it’s because it makes the meeting more effective. If you don’t, there are absolutely going to be people who get hangry or unfocused or want to rush through the end of the meeting. Or a couple people will bring in their own lunch, which inevitably ends up *more* distracting for everyone, as everybody else either (a) starts thinking of their own lunch or (b) has to overhear the sounds of one person unwrapping the foil burrito, opening a soda can, etc.

      1. Bast*

        I had a boss who when scheduling meetings frequently wanted them around noon, when people started taking lunch. When pointed out that a lot of people eat lunch at that time, she’d state it would just be a “quick meeting.” If it were actually a “quick meeting” it wouldn’t be a problem, but something that she stated would take “half an hour at the most” would easily turn into two hours. There was no such thing as a “quick meeting” at that office. She didn’t seem to get why people seemed distracted and kept looking at the clock, and after the meeting she’d complain that everyone wanted to rush to lunch at the same time. You just hijacked lunch time and everyone is starving!! What did you expect? She usually didn’t eat lunch herself, or she’d have a granola bar and state that it was all she needed, all she had time for, etc.

        1. JustaTech*

          Oh that’s so not cool. I once had an emergency meeting (actual emergency) at lunch with two colleagues who *needed* to eat on time, so we just all brought our lunches into the meeting (we didn’t have good lunch options near the office so we usually packed lunch). Unfortunately for everyone else I had packed a delicious liverwurst and onion sandwich that day. (At least I didn’t heat it up!)

          It only takes one sandwich like that for most people to be a little bit more considerate of other people’s lunch time!

      2. Coverage Associate*

        In the mediations that were the most frequent example for me, there’s lots of downtime, so if lunch weren’t catered, sub-groups would be told to go get a quick lunch while the convener met with another sub-group. Of course, once anyone left, it raised all sorts of issues about their return. What if service was strangely slow at the restaurant?(Lawyers are just not going to suggest fast food with a client). What if they ran into traffic? What if they just lost track of time?

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      There’s a thing in court where being seen as willing to work through lunch in order to get the case done that day is considered a positive thing. Except that means the court clerks also miss lunch.

      I have started pushing back on this by being very blunt — I have a medical condition that if I don’t eat, I will pass out. It’s true too. But I have built up enough cred that I don’t get push back. The judges don’t try to talk me out of it because I said the magic words — medical condition. I know the clerks appreciate it because they’ve told me.

  9. Viette*

    OP#1 – 27 is potentially years into a career. This coworker is just being super weird. As AAM says, comment on it or let it pass, but definitely don’t let it worry you.

    In fairness to your weird coworker, almost everyone does have an age that they think is so young, and it gets older as we get older — 40 years old is to 70 as 20 is to 50. Most people just don’t say it out loud all the time at work.

    Anyway, she can grapple with her own rapidly-passing lifetime off the clock, not at you.

    1. Mangled Metaphor*

      I’m 43. One of my coworkers is 22. The only comment? “You’re old enough to be my mum!”
      We made a joke out of it for the rest of the day and then it was dropped and hasn’t come up since. She was 18 when she started working with us. I didn’t see the need to mention her age then, and she was then one to start the joke about *my* age.
      (For the record, when we were having the chat, everyone else thought I was only about 37, so I was very pleased. Until she did the mum calculation)

      1. Elle by the sea*

        And to be honest, 42, 43, etc. is still pretty young! :) Yes, there are some age group differences but people shouldn’t obsess over those!

      2. londonedit*

        Yep, I’m also 42 and I have definitely had the odd ‘Christ, I’m old enough to be their mother’ or ‘Bloody hell, they don’t even remember [event] and I was just about to graduate from uni when that happened’ thought when it comes to younger colleagues. I think that’s perfectly normal. But while I think it’s fine to have thoughts about it, and maybe make the odd ‘Ah, so young!’ or ‘Oof, that makes me feel old!’ joke, it’s not fine to constantly go on and on about it like this person is doing. 27 isn’t even all that young (I still feel like I’m in my late twenties) and it’s patronising to keep banging on about how young someone is. They deserve respect in their work and they should be able to get on with their job without someone constantly reminding them how ‘young’ they are.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Someone explained the Enron crash to me to me the other week as a historical event they’d learned about in uni that I obviously wouldn’t know about, not being a finance and accounting person.

          1. londonedit*

            I had a colleague who explained that they’d learnt about the death of Princess Diana in school, as a historical event.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Cries in *doing study abroad semester that year and was in Paris when she died and our dorm was near Kensington Palace*.

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              That came up on my Leaving Cert. Irish paper. This was June 1998 so just under a year after she died and an article on it, in Irish was on our exam.

              1. bamcheeks*

                I’m impressed the exam was so current! I think it generally took ~5 years for a “current” affairs event to make it onto our exam papers.

            3. Petty Betty*

              I’m 40. My four kids are between the ages of 15 and 24. They love to tell me I’m from “the 1900’s”.
              One kid is into D&D. When he first told me about it, he said “it’s called ‘tabletop’, you wouldn’t know anything about it, it wasn’t around back in your day”. Oh sweet summer child, I was playing D&D way before you were born…
              I have laughingly explained that three of them were born before YouTube, much to their horror.
              Anytime they tell me about something they learned from “the 1900’s”, it’s usually something I lived through and can remember, or my mom can remember.

              One kid now collects both vinyl and VHS. I can remember my mom throwing all of her VHS away because it took up too much room.

        2. Phryne*

          It does not even need a lot of age difference to not remember something, some major (international) stuff just does not really make an impact at various ages and no one remembers even the biggest world event that happened when the are five, but an eight year old might.
          One of my earliest memories of a world event was the fall of the Berlin wall. I was 8, my parents put me in front of the telly to watch the people dance on the wall. It took me at least a decade to understand the enormous impact it must have made on the adults at the time. One of my best friends is 3 years younger, she does not remember anything and it is only a story she heard.
          In my first week as a history student, 9-11 happened. I am not in the US, so this impacted me way more indirectly than someone in the US, but is was still a history changing moment even across an ocean. Now I have co-workers who have no memory of that event either.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I lived in the former East Germany in 1998, when I was 19, and I just remembered the Berlin wall coming down, with the same experience as you of my parents pulling me into the room to show me people dancing on the wall but not really understanding what it meant. At the time, I felt like it was a Historical Event, and obviously nearly ten years had passed since the actual re-unification so obviously it wasn’t East Germany any more, lots had changed. Now I look back and think, wow, there was less time between when I lived there and the wall coming down than there is between now and the Brexit vote, never mind between when I lived there and actual formal reunification. For anyone older than 40 it was barely any time at all.

            1. Lexi Vipond*

              I really don’t have memories of the Berlin wall from the time – Lockerbie (which was relatively local) and Hillsborough are my big memories.

              But I might just have still been 5 when Halley’s comet was in the news, and I do remember that – I was REALLY interested in space back then, though.

              1. Phryne*

                Lockerbie was big internationally, but I think Hillsborough is a good example of something that made the news internationally but made a way bigger impact nationally than internationally.
                Just out of curiosity, if you are British, do you remember the Bijlmer disaster in 1992? An El Al plane crashed on top of an Amsterdam apartment flat?

            2. Phryne*

              I lived in Berlin in 2004 for a couple of months as a student, also in the former east, and the split between east and west was still so very visible. The US embassy had not been rebuilt yet, there was an open space next to Brandenburger Tor, he old Palast der Republik was still up if completely stripped, and the new Central Station was just an enormous hole in the ground. Just a few years later I went back and so much had changed already. I have no right to be nostalgic to what was a traumatic experience for a nation, but so much of the old east in 2004 was so very interesting, and I am scared to go back and find it just another bland big city.

              1. In the provinces*

                Just in Berlin recently. I can assure you that the differences between the former East and the former West are still quite apparent.

              2. Bumblebee*

                I was there as a college senior in 1997 and then again last summer, and the difference was astounding! First of all, there was a fast train from Munich, not to mention the Central Station. I don’t think it was just another big bland city, though; the Holocaust memorial efforts if nothing else really set it apart for me. Strangely, I don’t remember a big open space next to the Brandenburger Tor from 1997, but I did notice last year that it was, in general, more built up and the plaza had been renamed! The biggest thing I noticed was the amount of ostalgie that seems to be going on. We really enjoyed the DDR museum, for example, but it’s definitely a “fun” spin on the old East Germany. I don’t think I’ll go back, but I’ll be interested to hear others’ reflections in another 20 years.

                1. Phryne*

                  ‘I don’t remember a big open space next to the Brandenburger Tor from 1997’
                  I think have pictures of me and a friend standing there ‘look, we are in the US’ as technically the plot of land still belonged to the US. :)

                  The ‘temporary’ US embassy in Berlin at the time shared a party wall with one of the uni buildings I had my German lessons in, and while I was there the terrorist attacks in Madrid happened. There was a massive security response and we had to find our way in to our lessons though barbed wire and anti-tank obstacles.

                2. Phryne*

                  ‘The biggest thing I noticed was the amount of ostalgie that seems to be going on.’
                  Yeah, and that is kind of the thing. When I was there, it was not a tourist attraction, it was just what the city was. Like I said, I studied history, so the real thing was so interesting to me, the whole atmosphere of the place, east and west just slowly starting to get used to each other again and still so fundamentally different in all the big and small ways. Now it is probably all a bit tourist trap-y.

          2. amoeba*

            Yup. My boyfriend is 5.5 years (not 6, I insist on the half year!) younger than me, and, yeah, there are quite a few of those “oh, I was in kindergarten then” moments that make me feel old!

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              The only moment I had to stop and think about the age of a younger friend of mine was when she commented about being in 1st grade when 9/11 happened and I was a junior in college. Otherwise, it never comes up.

          3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            I have a coworker who was born AFTER 9/11 and I was in college then and excuse me, it’s so hard to type with all this mummy wrapping on my fingers…

            1. Mangled Metaphor*

              My husband is 46. His coworker is two months *younger* than him and is already a grandfather. That makes him feel **old**.

              My “work daughter” has occasionally asked about 9/11 since it happened before she was born too. During the joke day I also had to explain rewinding cassette tapes with a pencil, and what the save icon was based on.

            2. Petty Betty*

              I work with an attorney who is the same age as my oldest son. I’ve worked federal contracts with my 2nd son (and my mother… boy does it get weird when 3 generations are working the same job site).

              Sometimes, we’re doing just fine until something just smacks us in the face with very obvious “YOUTH” written all over it, then we have a mini-existentialist crisis, like my tech director who just realized that three of my kids are 20+ and she remembers them all as gangly 12 year olds who are shorter than her, not 6’+ men. And yes, she sees them every year, and works with one of them. It still hits her that her mental image of them has not changed.

          4. nnn*

            When I was a preteen, there was a notorious serial killer operating in our area. It was on our mind every time we left the house, and the investigation and subsequent trial were in the news every single day.

            My sister, who is 3 years younger than me, doesn’t remember it at all. To me, it was a formative life experience. To her, it’s a historical event.

        3. SarahKay*

          My dad taught at the same school for 38 years. Towards the end of his career one of his pupils came in and said “Sir, my gran says you used to teach her when she was at school here.”
          He said that was definitely an ‘Oof, now I really feel old’ moment!

        4. Irish Teacher.*

          Yeah, I’m 43 and I’d consider somebody of 27 as “more or less in my age group.” Not so much if I’d known them for a number of years, but if I just met them at 27, they’d be mentally placed as a bit younger than me but still in the same generally “younger to middle aged adult” category as opposed to “young professional starting out on their career”.

          And laughing at the comments below, I was recently talking to a fellow English and History teacher who mentioned the Troubles in Northern Ireland and I was like “oh gosh, that actually is history to you, whereas to me, yeah, it’s part of the history course but it’s really something I consider current affairs” and he told me he was born after the 1998 Peace Agreement, so I told him about waiting for the news and how Charlie Bird, the reporter was outside Stormont, trying to keep talking and find different ways of saying, “we are still waiting for news. Oh, is somebody coming out now? Oh no, false alarm, they must still be inside trying to finalise the agreement” and that my sister was going mad because all the TV schedule was off and she was afraid she’d miss a TV show she wanted to watch (Keeping Up Appearances).

          I also had to explain to a couple of younger colleagues why our then principal, who was about my age wanted to go back in time to Italia ’90 (we were asked as a sort of icebreaker thing what concert or sports event you would most like to attend), not that that is something that can be explained to anybody born after the mid-80s because it wasn’t just the event itself (Ireland getting to the quarter-finals of the World Cup). It was doing so in an era when Ireland had been independent for less than 70 years and when many of the supporters had…well, in the words of one of the many songs about it “never been away from home before.” An era when foreign travel wasn’t the yearly event it is now and when most people had no access to the internet and no TV channels other than the Irish ones, so the world was not as familiar to people.

        5. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, I’m just 43 and several of my coworkers are in their late 20s, and it’s really not a thing most of the time, but I do occasionally joke with a few of them (who are my actual friends) about how they’re just babies or how I was in middle school when they were born. And to their credit, they frequently tell me I don’t “seem that old” hahaha (I know 43 is not that old)

          1. KateM*

            Ha, maybe OP should answer “you don’t seem that old yourself” when she is called a baby. :)

          2. Goldenrod*

            Some people get really weirdly hung up on age – and of course, this is just a reflection of their own issues and insecurities.

            I have longtime close friends who are 13 years younger. It’s not a big deal. We met when they were in their early 20s and I was in my late 30s, and we just clicked. Of course we laugh about our different cultural references or memories when it comes up…but I would never suggest that I am “wiser” than they are, that would be strange and rude.

            Especially by age 27, that person is an adult, and in a professional setting, it’s weird to suggest otherwise.

        6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Every time I go to the local blowout salon, the young ladies running the shop (there’s a new batch of them every time, I think they start out there fresh out of school because the salon doesn’t do cuts, just styles, and then as they get experience they move on, anyway) ask me how long I’ve been growing my hair out. I say “My last real haircut was probably before you were born.” I’ve not been wrong yet. :P

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        My wife teaches high school, in the same area where she grew up. There is a recognized series of benchmarks. The first is when you realize that you went to high school with this kid’s parents. The second is when you find yourself teaching the kids of your former students. Each of these benchmarks is a bit startling the first time, but you get used to it.

        1. Nightengale*

          I am waiting for the first time one of my patients brings me their child as a patient. (Pediatrician) I’ve been in my geographical area for about a decade so I am really expecting this any day now.

      4. anon24*

        I’m in my early 30s. One of the guys I recently volunteered with was 19 when I started there. One day we were talking and he cheerfully pointed out “if you were only a few years older, you could technically be my mom!” I definitely didn’t walk around for the next week in a bit of a daze :)

        1. londonedit*

          It’s one of those rites of passage, isn’t it – I’m a football fan and I’ve gone through the stages where the England players were all way older than me and seemed like proper adults, then being the same age as the England captain, and now I’m definitely old enough to be half the squad’s mother :D

        2. ferrina*

          I have a sibling that is young enough that I could be their mom. That always struck me as deeply weird, but it also gave me more perspective that age isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

          I’ve also never presented myself as the age I am. People always put me quite a bit older or younger than I actually am. I look younger, but carry myself as older and tend to make references that are usually used by an older demographic (I guess). When people try to make assumptions based on what age I am/they think I am, they’re more likely to be wrong than right.

      5. Slow Gin Lizz*

        We had a funny age-related moment at the beginning of our weekly all-staff Zoom call. CEO used the usual “Oh, here’s the Brady bunch” comment in reference to the squares of heads we all know and (maybe don’t?) love, then said, “I need a new thing to say instead of Brady bunch.” So I said, “Muppet Show! Like the opening when they’re all in those arches?” And he said he’d NEVER HEARD OF THE MUPPET SHOW!!!!! (WUT?????) Said he’s not really up on all the new shows around these days. I told him it was from the 1970s and asked how old his kids are (he’s definitely in his 60s) and he said his oldest was only a couple of years younger than me, so how in the world did he did he make it through parenting in the 80s without knowing about the Muppet Show???? I said that maybe his kids were just too to have ever seen it but a coworker a few years younger than his oldest said she’d seen it as a kid, so what gives??? I’m absolutely mystified.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          I told my dad, who is 76, that I cried at the Mr. Rogers documentary and he asked, very seriously, “Was Mr. Rogers that important?” He had seen it a few times with me if he happened to be off of work for vacation, but he didn’t watch it on a daily basis, so he had no idea.

        2. Nightengale*

          I grew up in the 80s and was always told Sesame Street was for kids and the Muppet Show was for adults, so I had heard of the Muppet Show but didn’t know anything about it beyond Kermit the Frog being on both.

        3. Goldenrod*

          Okay that is WEIRD. Someone in their 60s should DEFINITELY know about The Muppet Show!!

    2. JSPA*

      Or her generational presumptions and biases. (She presumably became uncomfortably aware about her comments on young folks these days having been made to a younger person, without her awareness, and is not figuring out a good path out of the resulting discomfort.)

    3. Emdee*

      There’s also just way too many articles, videos, opeds about generational nonsense. Usually accompanied by a comments section full of people who can’t get over themselves enough to realize the year in which you were born is not relevant to much beyond maybe your favorite movies, music, books and which things make you feel nostalgic/which historical events made a big impact. I hate how tribal people get over it, but the worst is how utterly condescending they can be. It’s so unchic.

    4. Busy Middle Manager*

      This is one of my pet peeves, I’ve worked with people who almost seem to WANT to be on the other side of those comments. Had one who insisted she was old enough to be my grandma. She was between my parents and grandparents age but way closer to my mom’s age and it made me look defensive when I pushed back, but it was weird because I didn’t get how she can be so bad at math! Or was she insinuating I came from a family with teen pregnancies? I never understood what she was trying to say. At the time most of my grandparents and people of their generation were dead!

      To the OP – 42 isn’t old enough to “back in my day” to a 27 year old. Don’t get why people love pretending these small age differences are huge. I’m late X and had that when I was younger (still sometimes now!), late boomers and early X acting like I couldn’t possibly have understood the ancient history which was actually when I was a kid? Point being half the comments didn’t even make sense. I promised to not do it to younger people when I got older

      1. not owen wilson*

        Lol, I’m 25 and had a 30 year old act like she was SO much older and wiser than me last week. Some people just love to grasp at anything to feel like the wisest one in the room, and usually tell on themselves in the process.

    5. Observer*

      In fairness to your weird coworker, almost everyone does have an age that they think is so young, and it gets older as we get older

      So? The problem here is not what she considers young. It’s how she is *behaving* about it.

      At best, she’s being weird. At worst, she’s being rude and adversarial with someone who needs to work with her.

  10. mollyontherocks*

    OP4 lots of religious holidays vary like that: Ramadan, Easter (orthodox and catholic), Passover etc. You should be fine to just clarify the dates :)

    1. tg33*

      FWIW, Easter is linked to Passover, but calculated slightly differently, so some years they coincide, some years they don’t but they are within a month of each other roughly.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Linked to Passover originally, yes. But the church delinked it pretty early on, because Jews. The Council of Nicaea in 325 made this official. How precisely to determine its date was not clearly laid out, opening the topic for a series of lively exchanges of cultural views that carries on to this day. (This makes me wonder if Ukraine celebrated it last Sunday, or are holding off until May 5, the Western calendar having gained popularity there in recent years.) So yes, Easter and Passover both occur in the spring, but they are not linked more strongly than that.

      2. Casey*

        How is Easter linked to Passover? They’re two different holidays for different religions.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday) is explicitly Jesus and his disciples celebrating Passover. It’s not calculated the same way any more, but that’s why it’s roughly this time of year.

        2. SarahKay*

          I understand Christianity says that Jesus was crucified on the second day of Passover and so the Council of Nicaea (took place in 325) wanted to set Easter at the same point in the astronomical cycle.
          So it’s a historical link, rather than the modern day calculations being directly linked to each other.

        3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Christians don’t celebrate Passover, but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant. Jesus was supposedly in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover before he was crucified. Hence, the timing is related, but the Christians are focused on a Sunday resurrection and calculate the date taking that into account (first Sunday after the first full moon of spring), whereas Pesach/Passover is always the 15th of Nisan(a full moon in spring), so the dates don’t always coincide.

          Pesach happens in spring, but because lunar months/years are shorter than the solar calendar, there is sometimes a “leap month” added to keep it in spring(that’s the simplified explanation, you can do your own deep dive into Metonic cycles if you want); when that happens, Passover can end up on the second full moon of the spring instead of the first, and Easter will precede it by roughly a month.

          And because this wasn’t complicated enough already, the Easter coinciding with Passover thing is only a Western Christian thing; it never coincides with the Eastern Christian calendar, which is calculated based on a different liturgical calendar, plus they actually move Easter to the following Sunday if Easter and Passover would fall together.

        4. Bear in the Sky*

          In addition to the link between the crucifixion story taking place at Passover, the way the dates are determined today usually makes them align. Easter (Catholic and Protestant Easter) is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. In the Jewish calendar, all months begin at a new moon, making the full moon the 15th of the month. Passover begins on the 15th of Nisan. That makes it a full moon holiday.

          More often than not, the 15th of Nisan is the first full moon after the spring equinox. That makes Easter fall during Passover. It’s also possible, though less common, for the 15th of Nisan to be the second full moon after the spring equinox. In that case, Passover comes about a month later than Easter.

    2. ecnaseener*

      To be fair to LW, just because Easter’s date is variable, that doesn’t mean Christians in a majority-Christian area would have ever seen a calendar that didn’t have Easter printed on it. They’re concerned about seeming disorganized for getting the date wrong, not concerned that the interviewers will be unfamiliar with the concept of a holiday not pegged to a fixed Gregorian calendar date.

      1. kalli*

        IDK, I’ve seen calendars with the wrong Easter on them, and I’ve seen some actually carry over the last year’s date instead of just getting mixed up with Orthodox.

        If it’s a religious holiday I look on my religious calendar I get from the mission for a $10 ‘donation’ every year. If it’s a school holiday I look on the education department website. If it’s Ash Wednesday I ask which one. These things happen – and things also change. If I was asked four weeks ago when I needed off in April I would have had to say something different to what I need now and it has nothing to do with religion – it’s because my specialist visits once every three months and I didn’t have my appointment date then, just what week they were coming and I would have needed to cover the whole period, now I could just ask for that morning. These things happen and it is not a big deal. But in LW’s situation I would be asking for both days because the preparation is important to the observance, for me.

      2. tg33*

        Yes, but every year (if you are planning around Easter) you have to look up when Easter happens, because it’s different every time. It’s easy to make a mistake.

    3. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Yep. Thanks, LW #4, you made me feel a bit better about not realizing a variable holiday is coming up until I see it mentioned in the grocery ad.

    4. AthenaC*

      “Oh whoops, when’s Easter again?”

      So very common. No one will bat an eye at “Oh whoops, Passover is day Y instead of day X. Thanks for flexing.”

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (manager tells you to keep reminding him about your interview) – if you haven’t already, it would make sense in the 3rd interview to ask some questions about general workload etc, is it always so frantic.

    It wasn’t clear whether he’s busy with all sorts of stuff, or just with interviews specifically. Why are they on a hiring spree – might be worth digging into that. (e.g. expansion is good but expanding too fast / on the basis of projects that are not confirmed yet is bad – or is it related to a lot of turnover – is it always like this or is there something specific now about recruiting so many people, etc.)

    1. JayNay*

      Yeah for sure! If you have to badger someone to the point of them jokingly saying „harass me“ for a completely normal business process, that’s a tad bit odd. I’d keep an eye on whether the interview process in general gives off a disorganized vibe (e.g. are the people in interviews the ones you were told about beforehand, do interviews start on time, does the link they send you work).
      I personally loathe disorganization but people have different levels of tolerance for it.

  12. Allonge*

    LW2 – you know better if this makes sense, but I would ask if there is a possibility to get / heat up food on location.

    I know there will be lots of places where the answer is an obvious no, but my point is that if you ask that way, it’s clear that you are not looking to be fed, you are asking about logistics.

    Second tip: try to find one person to ask, not the whole group. Who is responsible for this stuff? Who sets up the schedule, etc?

  13. Adam*

    LW#1, this is super not normal. I think this coworker is just obsessed with her own age and that’s leaking out. I work with a team of people ranging from 23 to 50s and aside from discussing historical events (eg, comparing the first news story you remember) age never comes up.

    1. Support Project Nettie*

      I wish I worked in that environment. I look a lot younger than I am and it takes a fair amount of effort to be taken seriously. When I first started at work, I was referred to as “Young Alex” and there wasn’t even an older or other Alex to differentiate from. The term has stuck years later. Colleagues far more junior than me both age and position wise continued calling me Young Alex and acted as though they’re the senior in some cases. It’s taken an amount of assertiveness I am uncomfortable with to put a stop to it. But what definitely does work is pulling them out of the knots they tie themselves up in when it comes to the more technical aspects of the job. “How did you know how to do that?”. “I’ve been working here for X years and I’m the senior technical manager who wrote all the tech manuals that you’ve obviously ignored, that’s how.”. Seems to work.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Oh God. I need to figure out a plausible answer to that one. I hate getting asked about my age at work in these sneaky underhanded ways. (For me it’s “you’re so OLD” for being in my mid-40s. Which in my industry is way worse.)

    3. AngryOctopus*

      I find it comes up where I work a lot, but we have quite a cadre of staff every year who are going to grad school in the fall, so I find myself qualifying my grad school experience with “well, it was 15+ years ago, so some things about some programs I know may be different”. It’s still useful for them to hear about, but the exact details are going to be different for them.

    4. Dek*

      We have student workers, so it does come up sometimes, but usually more because it’s like kind of wild to see some of the superficial differences. (One of the more telling ones that’s funny is what people know Billy Ray Cyrus from)

      1. Metadata Janktress*

        My favorite thing to do is to ask my student workers what was the first computer operating system they learned how to use as a kid. It’s eye opening now that it’s Windows ME.

  14. Elle by the sea*

    The age obsession sounds irritating. I have the opposite problem everywhere. I started grad school at 27 and people never stopped commenting on how old I was (when they found out) and asking what went wrong in my life so much that I was starting so late. (I had been working from my early 20s onwards and then decided to go back to studying. I’d call grad school work as well but I know that many people here don’t agree with that.) After graduation, I changed my career and started working in the industry at the age of 32. Since then, people have been commenting on how old I was and looking scandalised at me skipping happy hours when someone from my family was sick. Luckily my current job has diverse age groups and I don’t count as old, but in some of my previous jobs almost everyone was in their 20s.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Is that even weird? Grad school is full of people in their 30s. I have three separate people I just wrote LOR for who are in their late 20s-early 30s.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I did my Higher Diploma in Education at the age of 22-23 and thought I’d be on the older side since I took a year off between my undergrad and the Higher Diploma. Not a bit of it. I was among the youngest. Most were 24-35

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I finished my MBA at around 30 and I was definitely in the middle, age-wise. Some classes skewed younger I guess but not whole degree programs.

      2. Patty*

        Yeah, definitely not weird in my sector- I went to grad school pretty much immediately after finishing my undergrad and I was the minority. The other students in my cohort regularly called me the “baby” of the year which I felt was silly and a bit annoying but whatever. I would say the average age in my cohort was more like 30-35, with some in their late 30s or early 40s.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        It wouldn’t even register with me as odd. My master’s program had people that ranged from fresh from undergrad to their 40s, and I just wrote a letter of recommendation for a colleague who is starting their master’s at 30.

        Unless you work in a field where a master’s is required for entry-level roles, I actually think it’s smarter to get some work experience first.

      4. Avery*

        It doesn’t even need to be “regular” grad school for this to apply. I went to paralegal school at a community college–either a certificate program or an associate’s degree program, depending. I was in my mid-to-late 20s and was a little concerned initially about being older than most of the students there… only to find, when I actually started my paralegal classes, that I was usually the YOUNGEST one there. (I guess new graduates don’t think of it as an initial career choice nearly as often as people switching careers do…)

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I started grad school at 50 and was older than all but one of my professors.
      Got LOTS of comments. Didn’t care.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        It is weird! But in my programme most people started at 21 or 22. I was the oldest one. Most of them skipped years in undergrad. (It was probably the most famous institution for engineering/tech.)

  15. ceiswyn*

    In the case of LW2, I would just like to add that this is kind of a disability/mental health issue as well; uncertainty around food is like the #1 thing not to do to anyone with an eating disorder.

    Food is a physical human need, so why are companies often so unwilling to be clear about it?

    1. Attractive Nuisance*

      Yes, there are so many legitimate reasons people want to know! Anyone who is diabetic needs to know, and people with dietary restrictions or food allergies will want to know who to contact for accommodation or so they can plan accordingly.
      LW2 could chat with an individual teammate or their manager and explain that they want to plan accordingly for food and drink because they don’t want to be distracted by feeling hungry, or feeling rude because they ate beforehand. Maybe the team is chuckling because they’ve been trying to get catering for years to no avail and if LW2 is newer to the team they couldn’t know that.

  16. Elsa*

    LW1, the comments about your age are obnoxious and frankly quite immature. If there is a baby in the room, it is not you.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      Well said. Although, as another 42-year-old, I’ll add that such immature behavior is (paradoxically) also a great way to prematurely “age” oneself.

      I have a peer colleague about OP’s age who is gracious and wise, and a joy to work with. I might occasionally thank him for humoring my dated pop-culture references, but I can’t imagine implying that working at my level makes him somehow wet-behind-the-ears. Quite the opposite, I should think!

  17. DJ Abbott*

    #4, my wall calendar this year does not have the daylight time changes. Apparently we can’t count on calendar makers anymore. Let’s all make a mental note we have to mark the days that are important to us.
    For the holidays that aren’t always on the same date, we’ll have to google them.

    1. sagwhiz*

      Or, search “add calendar holidays” along with your device—iPhone or Android, iPad or tablet, Outlook, etc. I am not Jewish but have those dates shown to be aware for colleagues’ and friends’ schedules.

    2. Lucy P*

      My paper calendar has Daylight Savings Time, Passover, Eid al-Fitr, Palm Sunday, etc. My digital calendars only have St. Patrick’s day.

  18. Old Fart*

    Ahhhhh #1 . I have been there! When I started my job (at the same org I still work at), I was a new hire at a place that hadn’t had a new hire in a long time. I was the baby for a long time. I was so grateful when the next batch of youngins got hired to focus their attention on. I am now, ironically, 42. I will say that there have been moments where I “feel old” amongst the big group of new hires that are fresh out of undergrad or graduate school (several that are my own reports). I wonder if being a relatively new 40-something year old is making the coworker feel extra insecure about herself? Either way, it sounds like she’s taking it way overboard (especially since 27 isn’t that young!). I am the type the usual deflects with a smart-a** comment to get my point across when I’m sick and tired of people harping on something.

    1. TPS Reporter*

      I’m almost 42 and several direct reports are in their late 20s. I honestly don’t feel the age gap much when we talk and don’t really bring it up. if anything I try not to highlight the things I can do now with my salary and stage of life because I hear a lot of financial woes from the younger staff. their college loan amounts are bigger than what I started with, inflation adds to the already high cost of living, getting into the housing market is tougher than ever, not to mention COVID ruined their 20s. I fortunately have a partner also in their 40s that can help alleviate cost of living issues and my higher ed costed less back in the day. basically it’s all relative, some good and some not so good things come with age so why not focus on other things?

  19. Global Cat Herder*

    LW5, a few months ago I was at a joint retirement party. They had treated it like two separate retirement parties – announcements went to the people who worked / previously worked with Person A, and announcements went to people who worked / previously worked with Person B – so almost everyone was surprised to find out that it was ALSO a retirement party for another person. Could have maybe been fine but then I wouldn’t be telling you about it.

    They had invited immediate family members, not just colleagues. Manager said a few words, then Person A got up and started speechifying, and brought up guests who speechified about him, and had some sort of quiz show for what he was going to do after retirement. At one point someone tried to be a little more inclusive and asked Person B what they were going to do afterwards, and Person B said “look for a job” since he wasn’t voluntarily retiring, he was “offered early retirement” (laid off) and his family still needed health insurance.

    Person B and their family ended up leaving right after that, because it was pretty clear he was just a spectator at the celebration of someone else’s career.

    It sounds like the same thing could happen at your workplace. One person has been there longer than another, and the volunteer party planner would lean very very heavily toward that one person. The shorter-termed person has decided they don’t want THAT job, but they may not actually be “retiring”, and may need to get a job somewhere else.

    Be respectful to each one of them and have individual retirement parties to celebrate each one of them. Or don’t have retirement parties at all. But don’t have a joint one, it’ll be Person B standing in the corner as Person A is celebrated.

    1. WellRed*

      Except that in the letter the volunteer is party planner is the wife of person B. I could see it going wrong in another direction. I honestly don’t know why this wasn’t immediately shut down (maybe it was?).

      1. doreen*

        I think wife B being the party planner is a bit odd even if B was the only person retiring. I’ve been to two types of retirement parties. One is planned by coworkers and may be for multiple honorees who are retiring from approximately the same location at around the same time and the other is planned by the retiree’s family. It’s entirely possible that some people had one of each and I only knew about one – because everything about them is completely different, from who is invited to who is paying.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ve also been to retirement parties paid for by the company that are for one person and includes a lot of personal friends, and parties planned for and paid for by the family that have coworkers invited. There’s a lot of variations.

  20. OrdinaryJoe*

    Re #2 – I’m a planner too so I can sympathize but I think the chuckling and your feelings about being out of synch with the norms also makes it seem that you’re uncomfortable with it. I’d drop the question about food until the day before and then ask along with other questions … carpooling, end time, agenda, etc. I think you need to have faith that it will be worked out.

    I admit, there’s a woman in my office that seems very focused on food and if *free* food is going to be provided and when it is, she orders the most expensive thing all the time. It has really started to stand out as being out of synch.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I used to work with a guy who was very focused on food, but openly and blunty so; like he’d say that free food made meetings or pulling a late night bearable, would wax lyrical about certain types of food and he would pile up his plate to a comical degree. So, he did get some jokes his way but only because he was clearly and openly participating in the joke. I honestly can’t imagine actually laughing at anyone in any other type of circumstance. I really struggle to apply the mutual chuckles from that situation to OP’s where they are simply asking about the arrangements… it’s just food! It’s really not all that funny in either sense of the word. I do agree that if people are freeloading or taking more than their share, that’s different, but it’s an odd assumption to jump to.

  21. John*

    Most companies have standard retirement party practices ensure fairness, consistency and budgetary sanity.

    1. KarenK*

      Yes, that’s what we do at my hospital. Nothing too elaborate – cake and snacks, and speeches. If you’ve been here a particularly long time, they invite some former coworkers and bosses.

    2. Peon*

      You would think. Ours offers a standard budget for buying a cake and drinks, but the problem comes in the application. Each department hosts the party for their people, and some departments go whole hog into doing a full potluck party with decorations and everything. And others just don’t.

  22. 34avemovieguy*

    LW2 (food at offsite meetings)

    I think in general there’s a hesitation to ask about food, perhaps especially in a professional setting. My theory is that people are afraid of perceptions of gluttony, or only caring about food. So I think people keep quiet and just deal with it. And the “chuckling” reaction (wherever on the spectrum of benign or malicious it might be) is what people are afraid of. I don’t think LW2 is the only one wondering but they’re the only one saying it.

    1. HonorBox*

      That’s a very keen observation. The reaction sucks to be sure. But there is research that shows that for every complaint a business receives, something like 26 others have had the experience and haven’t bothered to say something. I’d assume that others (maybe not 26, but some) have the same questions because it is normal to want to know and be prepared.

      For an off site meeting, people aren’t going to have the same sort of access to their snack stash in their drawer. They won’t have the opportunity to run and grab a sandwich across the street if there isn’t lunch provided. It would be great if the people sending out the information about the meeting picked up on the repeated question and actually were proactive in sharing what to expect from the meeting, because it isn’t just LW wondering. It is just LW asking.

    2. kiki*

      I think asking about food, especially if it’s your only question, can come across as, “what I’m thinking about most is breakfast, not work.” But I think most people do want or need to know! Honestly, it’s really something folks shouldn’t have to ask. Workers are human beings who have human needs like food, water, bathrooms, etc.

    3. I'm just here for the cats!*

      yes you’re probably right, especially if there is no consistency of when their is an is not food provided.

      I think instead of asking “is their food?” she should say something like “In order to plan ahead will lunch be provided or will their be time to go get something before/after the meeting.” If it’s an all day meeting she should ask what the agenda is and break schedule, and what is being done for food

      1. Elsajeni*

        I like this phrasing — I think “will there be lunch provided?” is a totally normal question and fine to ask, but if you’re concerned about coming off as weirdly focused on food or obsessed with trying to get lunch for free or something like that, phrasing it as an either/or can make it more clear that this is a planning question. “Will there be lunch provided, or should I plan to eat afterwards?” “Do they provide breakfast, or should I grab a coffee on the way in?”

    4. Bast*

      It really does suck that LW doesn’t feel they can be open about it. Pre-Covid, I went to some truly awful training courses on the new HUD that between the subject matter itself and the unenthused, droning presenter, would have put anyone to sleep. The ONLY bright side of that training was the cheap pastries and crappy coffee. We all made jokes about how we were only going back for the pastries.

    5. Distractinator*

      Yes there’s a difference between the food-driven mindset of “ooh! a meeting, will there be danishes?!” (which also comes off as somewhat wide-eyed and young) vs the sarcastic “ugh another training, they’d better at least give us cookies for this one” and what OP is actually going for which is “Ok 8:30 am start, can do… planning ahead, does anybody know if they’ll have continental or if I’ll need to get my coffee on the way over?”

  23. Guest*

    Age – I was 23 when I got my job and am on the petite side, so ugh, do I feel your pain. One of my coworkers just loved to say s$&t like “Many’s here – better check the child labor laws! Har dee har har har!” I gritted my teeth for a long time before I was able to say “stop that”, which had no effect; only escalating to ” if you make one more reference to my age, I am going to HR. This stops NOW and forever” worked. Don’t sugar coat your response next time this happens; be professional, but clear and direct.

  24. Ari*

    #1 – I had a boss who used to do similar things to me on team calls (and I was in my 40s). Make references to old tv shows and then say, “Ari won’t understand that.” It was irritating.

  25. Constance Lloyd*

    #1: I had a coworker who insisted on calling me Little Baby Bird and told anyone who would listen she was “basically [my] mom.” I was 30, she was 40, and we were not remotely close. For a week straight I rotated the phrases:
    -I prefer Constance
    -I have a mother and I quite like her
    -I’m 30 and I pay my own bills

    The last one apparently offended her, because she lived with her parents. She complained, and my manager told her she was in the wrong and needed to start using my name. She decided “Birdie” was an appropriate compromise and I stopped responding to anything other than Constance. I feel your pain, please feel empowered to push back firmly with your age obsessed coworker!

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      What! The! Flip! I am 43 and cannot imagine declaring myself “basically the mom” of somebody only ten years younger than me.

      And complaining about you saying you pay your own bills?! Yikes. Bit of projection going on there!

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah I’m 42 and I would not dream of telling a 30-year-old I was ‘basically their mum’. That’s just bizarre (and definitely says more about her than about you, Constance, as I suspect is the case with the colleague in LW1’s situation!)

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          She was definitely an outlier! I hope she’s doing well and I’m thrilled to have not kept in touch.

        2. Observer*

          I can’t imagine telling ANYONE at work that I’m basically their mom, or say that about anyone at work! Regardless of the age. And I work with quite a few people who are younger than my kids.

          Bizarre is really a good description.

  26. Lily Potter*

    #5 – has anyone asked the two soon to be retirees their opinion on the matter? When I resigned from one of my jobs (had been there 11 years) there was another employee in the department, leaving at the same time. Neither one of us really wanted a going away party (both of us were sick of internal politics and were leaving for better opportunities) but we knew we weren’t going to be able to get out of somehow being the guest of honor. We decided to take the bull by the horns and had the department admin book the deck of a local bar for a “going away open house”. Both of us invited “our” vendors and “our” colleagues and the admin invited the 80% of people we knew in common. It was great – neither of us had to be 100% in the spotlight. We got to say goodbye in a forum WE wanted – no speeches or formalized anything. Had one of us wanted the “glory” of a solo shindig, it would have been terrible. Point is – has anyone bothered to consult with the soon-to-be retirees on the matter? Their preferences may be a surprise to everyone!

  27. Art of the Spiel*

    In a former role, I was on the team planning large events. At one such early-morning event, our director refused to allow expenses for coffee or breakfast items. This wasn’t standard – in fact, I’ll bet she seldom had to purchase her own lunch as their level often planned their own meetings over lunch in order to expense the food – and it was definitely unexpected by a good number of attendees.

    On the anonymous “what did you get out of this meeting” survey, I berated *my own planning group* for not offering coffee. I sat there innocently while they pondered which of several suspected grouches had made the strongly-worded comment. And when the next one rolled around, I reminded them by saying “maybe we should at least offer coffee” and it was never left out of the budget again.

    10/10 would do it again.

  28. HonorBox*

    OP1 – When I took on a leadership role in an organization, I was 28. I started attending a regular meeting of an associated organization whose director was LONG into her tenure. There were regular comments from her about how young I was. It felt like a slight and I absolutely hated it. In fact, I’m willing to say now with more years under my belt that it really affected my feeling about that person and the organization. I didn’t say anything, though I wish I had.

    That said, I’ve tried very hard over the last many years to model the behavior I’d have hoped for from her. I’ve made mistakes, but have limited my comments about the age of coworkers because it doesn’t matter. Sometimes it comes up in conversation, like someone saying they weren’t born when a movie came out or that their parents are my age. But I think modeling the behavior you’d like to see as you move forward in your career is the best bet. That, and saying something to your coworker in this case.

  29. Tracy*

    I used to work with a lot of early career 20-somethings and never thought twice about it as long as they were halfway professional. It was so nice to see enthusiasm and energy for something I had been doing for years at that point. Really the only issues I had were professionalism issues that management wouldn’t deal with like the 21 year old who showed up hungover and whining about it every Monday morning or the 27 year old who literally threw tantrums when she didn’t get her way. Management called the 27 year old “a child” and chuckled at her refusal to do her job which was absurd (he also clearly had a thing for her) and the 21 year old’s manager for some reason didn’t think it was a big deal if she wore sunglasses and had her head down half the morning instead of doing her assistant work.

    Both of those were just management/bad employee in general issues. Almost all the other young people I worked with were amazing and I never even thought about their ages.

  30. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    OP2, definitely look for patterns on event types and locations. There’s a lot of regulations surrounding food depending on what industry you’re in, or just the culture is such that food isn’t normally provided. As a federal government contractor, normally the norm is coffee and water, and on you’re own for food. If you go to a fancy off-site contractor meeting, you may get food. I have a feeling that they chuckled more because you have more of the meetings I’m part of, where it’s scheduled for the whole day, and at some point during the meeting someone in leadership will finally decide we should take a break for lunch, and everyone has 30minutes to go grab something from the local cafeteria and bring it back so we can keep working. But they definitely should warn you about that!!! I bring my lunch for those, normally it ends up being two to five people in the conference room eating while 40 to 50 people are getting food and coming back in stages.

    My tip is to always bring coffee and water with you, at least one cup! And initially until you get the pattern down, bring non-perishables and/or fruit like an apple or an orange that won’t necessarily go bad if you end up going out to eat with the group or lunch is provided.

  31. Unsociable Mantis*

    Oh, LW1, I’ve been there. She was obnoxious to work with in so many other ways, too, but the constant age-related comments were perhaps the first sign that this was going to be an ordeal. At one point she told me that because I was so young I lacked the emotional depth to truly understand grief (my grandmother, who I was close with, had just died), and afterwards several other coworkers told me they were very impressed in my restraint at just walking away and not actually tearing her a new one. I said she lacked the emotional depth to understand why she’d be torn a new one. Trust me, everyone’s going to be judging her for being weird about it, and you’ll look good if you don’t pick up her weird ball and run with it.

    And at least in my case, years down the line, sitting there thinking you never have to work with this person again makes your day instantly better. (I’m having a great morning now!)

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      Ohhh this is making my blood boil! I had someone pull a similar comment with me. I’m generally timid but can be very blunt when responding to rude people, and I just deadpanned, “Well I watched my little brother die of brain cancer when I was 5, so unfortunately I understand tragedy much better than you assumed.”

    2. Pita Chips*

      I’m impressed with your restraint too. That’s one of the most vile insensitive comments I’ve ever heard.

      So glad you’re doing better and having a great morning.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      WTF?! So when my boyfriend was murdered at the age of 22 I didn’t fully understand it?! I absolutely would have torn her face off. Disagree that you wouldn’t “look good” for responding appropriately to her hatefulness. It’s okay to be offended by offensiveness and to show that.

  32. Not Alison*

    #1 – My younger coworker {Y} was in her 20s like you and an older coworker {O} did the same thing as your older coworker. Anytime O said something about her age or about 20 somethings, Y would just say “my grandmother always says the same things as you” – or words to that effect. It didn’t take too many of those “grandmother” comments for O to stop making comments about Y’s younger age.

  33. Toros*

    Lw2, asking about food seem pretty normal to me. But – if your coworkers, who are more familiar with your exact situation, are regularly chuckling when you ask, then something weird is happening. Either your coworkers are just all collectively very weird about food in the same way or there’s something strange about the way you’re going about this that didn’t make it into your letter. I’m wondering if you’re doing things like regularly asking if there will be breakfast at a weekly half-hour check-in meeting, and doing this so often that you’re starting to sound a little lost.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think it might be more on the coworkers than the OP. Like maybe there have been other people in that role or similar who ALWAYS asked about food. Or maybe their is something else that has happened in the past that makes them chuckle when someone asks about food. Like a former employee having a meltdown and refusing to come without food being provided.

      I also wonder how new the OP is to to this company and if they are younger and/or lower paid. I can totally see some coworkers rolling their eyes and chuckling at a new grad who asks about food because “that’s such a college kid thing to do” or that they think it’s funny that the company doesn’t pay their new employees enough to eat. And so the equate asking about logistics about food with someone who doesn’t care about the reason of the meeting and only will come because of free food.

      1. Toros*

        There are certainly many imaginable reasons this could be happening. I’d venture it’s far more likely that the LW is doing something unusual that they didn’t mention in the letter than that their coworkers are laughing at how underpaid they are.

  34. Bosslady*

    When I was a new nurse, almost every day, someone would say, “Are you my nurse? You look 12!!” I always thought, “Well, you look about one hundred!” Of course, I never said that; instead, I just smiled and said, “Aw, bless your heart.”

    This was annoying, but what was genuinely terrible was when patients STOPPED saying this regularly!

    1. Bast*

      It’s like when your ID stops being checked buying alcohol. It used to be annoying to get asked, but I recently hit that milestone where for around the last year no one has asked for ID. Inwardly, I’m despairing do I really look THAT old? (I’m in my early 30s). On the other hand, going in to see a new GYN and as she’s poking around says, “I can’t believe you’re married with children. You look about 16.” She was somewhere in her 60s, so I’m guessing anyone under a certain age looks 16 to her, but I’m also wondering if I age significantly at the liquor store. I go from looking 16 to 46 depending on location I guess.

      1. Nina*

        I got carded regularly from 18 to 23 (college), abruptly stopped being carded from 23-26 (first job, it was in aerospace, it was a dumpster fire, I loved it but it was killing me, I left with a total of 12 weeks’ leave paid out), and started getting carded again when I left that job. Stress really does a number on your perceived age!

    2. Synaptically Unique*

      I was always vaguely aggravated to be carded for alcoholic beverage purchases, but it felt way worse when they quit asking. I get it! LOL

      I still look younger than I am, but not young enough that there’s any concern I might be under 21.

  35. Lacey*

    LW1 – I’m 40. Your coworker is being incredibly odd and people will notice that SHE is being weird. It won’t reflect badly on you.

    My work is fully remote, so I often don’t realize how old or young people are for quite a while.
    I don’t generally know anyone’s age exactly, but sometimes I see someone on zoom & think, “Oh, they’re much newer to the workforce than I thought – that explains some things”

    But that’s the extent of it. Commenting on it would be absurd.

  36. Pretty as a Princess*

    Oh LW1 I feel your pain. My very first job was at a software company that did ground-breaking stuff for a traditional male dominated industry, and most of my clients were men old enough to be my dad or my grandpa. And then I came to my current employer when I was in my late 20s and got so much heat about being one of the youngest people in a whole division, but about 2 decades. I admit in some of my less finer moments to rude colleagues I may have said things like “Yeah well I wasn’t alive then, so I really don’t get the reference.”

    As a vent: as women we are never the “correct” age it seems. If a man is in a big important meeting and he looks really young, all the older white dudes assume he’s some kind of wunderkind. But if a WOMAN looks young, she’s obviously too young and inexperienced to be there. But then as we age, a man later in his career at the same meeting is hailed as one of the experienced wise old greybeards. A WOMAN later in her career doesn’t get that same respect and the more obviously she ages she gets seen as outdated and irrelevant. I could write you an ESSAY about how I battle that nonsense and hold people accountable to it. (And the people whose feet I have held to the fire in my own workplace.)

    I think your coworker is projecting on you that she is uncomfortable having a well-perfoming colleague who is so much younger, and this is all about her insecurity about where she feels she is in her career. I like Allison’s advice about calling it out as both weird and undermining. You could even add to that “Imagine how you would have felt at this stage in your career if someone had constantly told everyone you were an inexperienced baby.” And I bet that will give her hard pause… because someone probably DID do that and she probably HATED it.

  37. MrsPookie*

    you are a bit off the mark on the Passover issue. “will that work’? shouldnt be asked. It should just be stated- ” I mixed up the day I needed off as Passover celebrations for my family is the next day. Ill be taking that day off unless there is a conflict you would like me to be aware of.
    Just my two cents

    1. Ali + Nino*

      Agree. I personally wouldn’t add the “unless there’s a conflict,” but that’s because it’s not an option for me – Im not coming on or working from home on Passover!

    2. SarahKay*

      I think “will that work” is just there as a bit of polite ‘softening’ language. Alison does go on to say that if there’s pushback then OP would use the ‘Sorry, but it’s not negotiable’ option.
      But if OP can get what they need while still sounding flexible and helpful, then why not try that route first?

  38. Alan*

    People used to tell me how long I looked. “You’ve been here how long? That can’t be. You’re much too young!” More recently someone saw me at work and said “Alan! You’re still here! Good for you.”

  39. a clockwork lemon*

    OP 4 – half my office is Jewish in varying degrees of observance and we ALL constantly get the holidays mixed up. It happens all the time! Personally I would be up-front about it being Passover because I would want to know if this was the kind of office where accommodating religious holidays may be a Problem.

    But for what it’s worth I had to remind my boss a few days ago that Passover was coming up and he needed to reschedule an all-hands meeting because he (and I, and several others) would be out…as we were discussing his kid’s b’nai mitzvah

    1. Ali + Nino*

      That’s fun y. Fwiw I’ve found it helpful to pin the Chabad webpage listing all upcoming holiday dates for easy access.

  40. RagingADHD*

    #2, if you really want to de-emphasize the idea that you might be focusing on a free meal, you can ask “do we know whether there will be breakfast / lunch available on site?” After all, if there’s a coffee shop in the lobby of the building that is a lot more convenient than making a separate stop or packing something from home.

    It’s a perfectly reasonable ask, and when I was an EA I used to be the one asking on behalf of C-Suite bosses. They don’t want to be hangry any more than you do.

    1. Synaptically Unique*

      LW3 – I can see saying something similar to a particularly impressive candidate just because my ADHD sometimes interferes with optimal follow-up tasks. If I said that, I’d mean it and the people who work best with me all understand that if I don’t get back to them quickly on something or at least have a firm appointment to deal with on my calendar, they probably need to initiate contact. I don’t do it on purpose, but between being understaffed in general (and I never get to hire unless I have evidence that I’m understaffed) and the sheer number of tasks I have to manage in a week, it’s easy for multi-step processes (like arranging a meeting time around multiple busy people’s schedules) to get pushed aside one too many times.

      Unless working for someone with my brand of ADHD would drive you insane, I wouldn’t see that as a red flag. It’s way more likely a good sign for your candidacy. Good luck!

  41. HSE Compliance*

    LW1 – I had a boss that would constantly do this to me. I was in my late 20s and she would tell me (and everyone else in the office) just how *young* and *fresh* I was, tell me constantly that I would understand either when I was older or when I had children (surprise! physically can’t!), etc. etc. My go-to was “What an odd thing to say” or grey-rock it. There were a couple others in the office that eventually got annoyed enough with it and (after asking me if I wanted them to step in) got blunt with her and told her how weird it was she was so fixated on my age. Did it stop? Not really, but she toned it down a bit.

    LW2 – I *detest* when meetings or trainings are scheduled over lunch. I’m happy to move my lunch by a hour or two, but a meeting going 10AM -2PM? Feed me. I will absolutely be that person that packs a lunch and eats in the middle. Food is a basic need, and if you really want decent participation you can’t not allow people to eat. Once I got the authority to order lunch if we had to have a lunch meeting (or training, or audit), you betcha I made sure lunch was included. It’s an easy morale thing as well. The cost is honestly *minimal* to the benefit.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      So you were fresh, does that make her stale?

      I like, “What an odd thing to say,” in response to strange comments like that.

      1. HSE Compliance*

        I never quite knew what she was trying to say with “fresh”. I had worked in the public/gov’t sphere for nearly 8 years and was at that point working in septic and well compliance/permitting. “Fresh” was not really an adjective I would use to describe myself…

        1. doreen*

          How old would she be now? To people of a certain age , to be “fresh” is to be impolite or disrespectful. But I’m 60 and I only know one person my age who uses it that way – it’s more my mother’s generation ( so 80 ish)

          1. HSE Compliance*

            Late 50s maybe. I was…. 27? and she would have been early 50s at the time. It definitely wasn’t in the context of “getting fresh” with her or being rude, it was generally more “fresh-faced” or similar.

  42. AnotherOne*

    OP4, can we just forgive ourselves for the fact that sometimes we all get holiday dates wrong?

    my aunt used to have a job where she organized trainings. she scheduled one on Yom Kippur- she just totally missed that it was the same day. obviously there was no way that she could be there.

    it happens and is no big deal when it does.

    1. CM*

      I think it’s totally reasonable for OP4 to be worried as a religious minority in a new job where they will need to regularly request days off that others in their group may not recognize. I’d be worried too! But it sounds like so far at least, it hasn’t been an issue, so just saying, “I got that date wrong, it’s the 23rd,” should be fine. And they agreed once, so that sets a precedent for OP4 to assume it won’t be a problem in the future, and just say something like, “Over the next few months, I’ll need the following days off for religious observation.”

  43. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Re Meeting food. Coffee and breakfast treats are nice for a first thing in the morning meeting, especially if people typically grab a cup of coffee from the break room at some point in that first hour or two of the morning anyway. It keeps everyone in the same room and on the same schedule and is less disruptive to the flow.

    I typically would try to bring my coffee to an offsite if they didn’t mention it in the planning, but would tend to expect some sort of coffee arrangement for a meeting of some size.

    Lunch, however, is an important issue to know about ahead of time. If it’s being offered, if you’re being expected to actually work while eating, etc. If it’s an offsite during lunch hour, and there’s going to be a break for eating but no food provided, your whole meeting will collapse when everyone has to scramble to figure out how to find and acquire lunch.

    Watch your labor laws too. I worked on a partner site that loved to do lunchtime all staff meetings. However, the rule is that if you work for 6 or more hours, you need a 30 minute, uninterrupted break time. My team successfully leaned on that to have a break before the meeting rather than dash directly to it.

    1. HonorBox*

      The breakfast part, even coffee is less concerning. I’ve been to several morning meetings where there is a note that some refreshments will be provided. That’s a nice touch so people can plan accordingly.

      The lunch portion is a big thing that needs to be spelled out very specifically. Whether lunch is provided or not, people need to know so they can either scope out options or plan to bring something. It is unkind to not prepare people with all of the details they need.

  44. Salty Caramel*

    I would be so tempted to say, “I’m really 72, I just have this really good moisturizer,” to the woman who keeps harping on age.

  45. Sled dog mama*

    #2- I’m extremely picky about my caffeine source (I only drink tea and I’m picky about what kind). I always bring my own caffeine to meetings and if anyone says anything I tell them I’m picky. I’m that person who always has extra tea bags in their bag (or coat) and whips them out at refreshment time.
    It’s not strange to bring your own caffeine source to a meeting and scope out the options provided.

  46. Artifical morning person*

    OP1, yeah, that’s weird and obnoxious. Like, I’m also 42, and in terms of specifics, I don’t think 27 is even that young (like, not young enough to comment on). In general terms, no matter the relative ages, it’s annoying.

    I did have a coworker once who would tell people that I could have been his daughter. I put up with it for a little while, but he kept doing it. So I finally asked him to stop. And he did! Because he’s a normal person, and when I told him I’d rather he didn’t say that, he respected it. We don’t work together anymore, but we’re still friends.

    OP2, “Should I plan on bringing lunch?” is a super normal question about offsite logistics.

  47. Cinnabomb*

    Food LW: I think they may be chuckling because it’s either a pattern with you or because they find your need to plan down to the details amusing. Neither is wrong, but it seems to be causing you a lot of stress; that anxiety is probably obvious to your peers. For me, I’ve found that managing my own needs and then arriving to find food available is far preferable to the alternative. So, eat and have coffee before you get there. If there’s food, you can pick at something or just have coffee while they eat. No one cares whether you’re eating or not; you’re there for the meeting, not the food. Same with lunch: bring something in a cooler bag that you’ll be happy to eat and that won’t be gross before you can get it home. If they serve food, you’ll have a snack later or you can eat your lunch for dinner.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      A bit preachy and not compassionate at all. There’s nothing wrong with OP asking.

      The people in the wrong are the ones who don’t specify whether some kind of refreshment is being served and the ones chuckling at the OP. It’s rude to laugh at someone’s legitimate concern.

      and an offsite meeting first thing should have coffee, tea, and juice at the very least.

    2. RagingADHD*

      This is way over the top. Wanting to know whether a meeting that stretched over the noon hour includes lunch is not “planning down to details” or a manifestation of anxiety. It’s a totally normal question, and I assure you that the people who are running these companies would expect to be informed.

    3. Coverage Associate*

      Some people really care about how many bags people are carrying, especially women. Just this summer, I got interview instructions to only bring a purse or briefcase and maybe a folio. Women lugging around a bunch of stuff and digging in bags was actually a big issue the original power suit people addressed. Believe me, in certain professional circles, not much has changed.

      So I would be reluctant to bring a second bag to a meeting. Just where to put it could be an issue if LW isn’t driving their own car.

      I know that supposed lunch coolers big enough for a whole family picnic are popular. I don’t know why.

      1. nnn*

        That’s what I was thinking reading the comments today.

        My life experience has been that, in situations where people are judgmental, they are judgmental about my having more than one bag, or having a bag that they consider “large”. (The threshold for “large” seems to be room for my wallet, glasses case, phone, and water bottle.)

        So I’m surprised that multiple people here today seem to think that bringing a lunch in a cooler bag is a solution that would spare people from judgment in a judgey environment.

        (And, to be clear, IRL I think we should normalize bringing whatever you need for the day in whatever container works for you. It’s just that my experience has been that attracts judgment from judgey people.)

    4. Observer*

      because they find your need to plan down to the details amusing.

      Well, that’s a real problem. Because this is not just some minor detail. It’s a potentially big issue.

      Also, eating in advance is not always a great option for a lot of reasons, and if the meeting is going to be long, it can go to just not helpful. Same for bringing food. It’s not always a great option, and it’s not over-planing or looking minute details to ask about this.

  48. cosmicgorilla*

    The thing that struck me about the LW questioning food logistics was the thought “if I bring food in my bag and I don’t need it, it will go bad!”

    You are overthinking this so much.

    If you’re concerned over food not being provided, pack food that won’t go bad. Pack protein bars. Pack cheese and fruit. Pack a sandwich, no mayo. Pack pretzels.

    Pack something more perishable, but with ice packs.

    They’re not going to make people go all day without food. Either food will be provided, or the opportunity to get food will be provided.

    Heck, plan as if you might not like the food they provide and pack some non-perishables.

    1. Observer*

      You are overthinking this so much.

      No, they are not. Most of your suggestions are really bad for “just in case” situations. It’s just not a reasonable expectation. (Especially if you are not driving your own car to work.)

      They’re not going to make people go all day without food. Either food will be provided, or the opportunity to get food will be provided.

      That’s actually not the case. People who don’t bother to let attendees know what the situation will be may just not be planning for it, which is why they haven’t said anything. And if they are going to allow people to “get food” that’s an important piece of information, as well.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      “They’re not going to make people go all day without food”… I love it when people don’t know that this happens.

      1. I Have RBF*


        “Oh, we’ll have a half hour break for lunch.” – said at a place 15 minutes from anywhere to eat that wasn’t a swanky sit-down. Cue several people late back from lunch.

      2. Student*

        My industry is TERRIBLE about this.

        I am positively aggressive about asking questions when scant or no details are provided about food. Generally, my fellow co-workers are grateful about it so it offsets any mild annoyance from organizers. I will pressure people for reasonable breaks in long meetings or work periods, too.

        Once had a colleague start showing serious symptoms of a hypoglycemic (diabetic) coma while I was working with him. He was too shy to tell people about his diabetic food needs. We were in a place where that was extremely dangerous – standard medical care was several hours away and we were in a lab full of health hazards where passing out is ill advised. That experience cured me of any lingering embarrassment or shyness about discussing that humans periodically need to eat! If you’re hungry, somebody else in the room is, too.

    3. NaoNao*

      Actually, not to sound sassy, but I’ve had plenty of crappy bosses or big-bosses that act astounded that me or my coworkers want to use the bathroom, let alone eat food at any point, including during grueling multi-hour meetings, “Tiger Team sessions”, war-room meetings, conferences, etc. It’s something I try to tactfully ask about in interviews, I’ve encountered this odd “iron man” attitude in the corporate world.
      It’s something I 100% would not tolerate now, but it’s very hard when your boss is someone who fasts all day for IF or is just proving some irritating point about how above it all they are subsiding on coffee and gall or whatever all day long, to bring up “Hey, I’m hungry and can’t concentrate” as someone junior or new to the working world.

  49. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    LW1: This definitely has more to do with the coworker’s hangups and insecurities than anything else. I (early 40s) had a coworker (early 50s, exactly 11 years older than me) who would not stop with the age references — referring to herself as old, me as a baby, etc. And I’m in the range that most people would consider middle-aged.

    That said, it sounds like LW1’s coworker is actively undermining her and actually casting aspersions on her, which goes beyond “oh, this person has hangups about her own age” and into creating a hostile environment. I wonder if these weekly calls are ever attended by a higher-ranking person who can address the frequent stereotyping of twentysomethings (either when it happens or afterward).

  50. New Senior Mgr*

    When I retire, I’m requesting a lavish event with pony rides. Wheeeee!

    Just came here to say that.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Pony rides!
      I remember exactly two of my father’s company events from my childhood.
      One featured pony rides and pinhole “viewers” for a solar eclipse. (I could probably figure out the year from that.)
      At the other, the company glassblower branched out from beakers and retorts to demonstrate fancy glass-blowing. The adults were just as fascinated as the kids.

  51. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    “Could you please stop commenting on my age? I know you don’t mean harm by it, but comments like that undermine me professionally.”

    She DOES mean harm because undermining you professionally IS harm. She is specifically trying to hurt your current standing and preclude future advancement.

    After you follow Alison’s script, I would speak with a superior.

    1. Observer*

      She DOES mean harm because undermining you professionally IS harm. She is specifically trying to hurt your current standing and preclude future advancement.

      Yes, but it does make some sense to pretend that there is good faith involved. At least to start with. Of course, if it doesn’t stop at that point (where you have given them a chance to save face), that pretense can go away.

    2. Dido*

      yeah, she knows what she’s doing. clearly this comes from a place of jealousy and that’s why she feels the need to undermine the LW.


    LW1, I can commiserate. I’m a 23-year-old woman, and after my 34-year-old colleague found out my age last year, she would not shut up about it. Every day for weeks, I got a baby-voiced comment about how little I was, or an incredulous question about whether I had even been alive for some fashion trend or world event. It was demoralizing, and made me feel like I wasn’t equal to the rest of my team (and for no good reason – this is my second professional workplace and I had recently been promoted).

    One night after a work happy hour, we rode public transit home together and I called her out on it. We were a little tipsy, and I kept my tone casual but firm. She apologized and agreed to stop commenting on my age, and then a few days later, she told me a story about her first office job which she had started at age 19. Turns out, she spent years as the hot young thing, and reading through the lines, I could tell that my presence made her feel ‘dethroned.’

    Now, I make a conscious effort to engage with her like a fellow youthful peer (which we are! we are 10 years apart working for a bunch of 70+ year old bosses!). We trade dating war stories and tips on buying jeans. It seems to have quelled her anxiety about no longer being the youngest one in the room, since she still gets to feel like “one of the young ones,” and now any references she makes to my age are more matter-of-fact than they are belittling. I hope your conversation with your colleague goes just as well!

  53. AK*

    #1 – I had someone who kept commenting on my age in a workplace, but what was even weirder is she was 32 and I was 27 at the time. Things like: If a tamagotchi came up in group conversation, she’d turn to me and say “Oh, do YOU know what those are? You’re so young.” I think it just comes from some form of insecurity.

  54. goddessoftransitory*

    LW1, I would gaze straight at them the next time they go off this way and say “and I will ALWAYS look this young because…I died ten years ago THIS VERY NIGHT.”

    We’re all older than we were when we were younger, lady! Geez!

  55. A woman never gets a break*

    Pro tip – bring your own coffee/drink, breakfast, lunch, whatever meal. A sandwich/fruit/something not requiring prep or refrigeration is perfect. Quit asking about it altogether. Sometimes, it’s necessary to be a grown up, bring your own provisions, and be delightfully surprised if you don’t need them for that particular meal.

  56. Ellis Bell*

    I’m sure this is necessary for some people (and I’m one of them thanks to unforgiving food intolerances), so I’m always packing prepackaged sad things and various everlasting snacks. It’s super great. I’m also sure it’s necessary for some work cultures because of the horror of seeming like a glutton and like some human who you know, eats stuff . But honestly, you shouldn’t need to pack food and lug around an extra bag when you can be equally “grown up” and prepared by just …. asking a question about what the arrangements are. It’s really not any different than asking about parking, or travel arrangements, or the itinerary. If people want to make out that it’s weird to ask about food, it’s far more likely to be a them thing.

  57. RebeccaNoraBunch*

    LW1, your coworker seems…short-sighted. I wonder if she knows that ageism starts at 40? Technically, a 42 year old is actually a Millennial (/Xennial) and I think 27 is considered a Zennial/young Millennial, right? It’s not like she’s 70 or something. It’s weird.

    I am 41 and the coworker I work most closely with is 29. We have the same title but she’s a level up from me (thank you chronic illness that set in at 38 and derailed my decade of hard work and ambition, gotta love it) and you best believe I want us to be considered equals. I do NOT want to seem a ton older than she is. Why would I? I’m going to be working for 30 more years; I don’t want someone who is in the prime of their career looking any different from me or like I am old in any way. Wtf.

  58. Dido*

    I think it’s normal to ask about food for lunchtime meetings since you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what you normally do for lunch during that time. I would not ask about breakfast/coffee for morning meetings, since presumably most people normally eat breakfast before they go to work and the meeting isn’t preventing you from doing that.

  59. Just Thinkin' Here*

    OP#5 – Separate retirement parties and depends on what each one wants. Some folks like to ride off into the sunset without fanfare. Others like seeing their long-term colleagues for a final get-together. These aren’t twins graduating high school in the same year, they are distinctly different people. Treat them as such.

  60. hungry boi*

    #2- I am the one who always asks about meals at my job. Sometimes people chuckle, but honestly I don’t think they really mean anything by it. I think it’s the kind of question that seems awkward to some people, or like “well, it’s important information, but I’m supposed to pretend it isn’t important compared to the business details,” so it’s a chuckle in response to the perceived awkwardness of the topic. Sometimes I lampshade this and say, “Oh, I actually have a really important question, will lunch be provided?” But ultimately I know that if I didn’t have the boldness to ask, then I would be sitting there wondering when my growling stomach would be ameliorated by a dry sandwich tray with a mayo packet on the side, rather than focusing on the task at hand, and I have to assume that others also want to know. I also see it as doing a service to remind organizers in a matter of fact way that yes, people do need basic biological amenities like food, bathroom/leg stretching breaks, etc, if you want this to be an effective meeting/conference/etc.

    I will note that I am a fairly straight-sized male without any food sensitivities, so I recognize that the optics of being the “lunch asker” could be much more fraught for someone else who has their size/appearance/food choices/etc subject to more scrutiny. Maybe all the more reason to keep being the lunch asker myself!

  61. The Rafters*

    OP3, I’m finding this guy a bit off. One is that the hiring manager is so busy that you have to harass him. Is it always this hectic? Will that rain down to you so that you end up with no home life? He’s giving out his personal #, so we already know he has very blurred lines. And not to be weird, but he’s giving his personal # to someone he hasn’t even yet hired. There are just so many creeps out there, I wouldn’t give my # to an applicant, though obviously I would give it to the hiring manager/interviewer. Not sure if I’m explaining well enough why I’m so bothered by this.

  62. DJ*

    LW#2 I think it’s a reasonable question to ask if nothing has been indicated. Not sure why the chuckles rather than pure answers.
    You could preface it by saying “so I know whether I need to bring my lunch will food be served?”. But Alison’s advice to raise it as a suggestion they advise either way so staff can plan is the way to go

  63. Brevity*

    LW #2:

    First, F*CK “gluttony”. Normal people eat.

    More importantly, some people have chronic illnesses for which they must eat regularly. Those chronic illnesses are covered by the ADA, and that’s how I would frame it: the meeting planners must either provide some kind of meal, or enough time away from the meeting such that people can get lunch or whatever, or risk violating federal law.

    To HELL with people who think questions about basic sustenance are stupid.

  64. Mango Freak*

    Hi LW1! I’m also 42 working at a fully-remote nonprofit. I’m guessing half my coworkers are in their 20s??? Not even because I’ve looked around and noticed people’s ages–nonprofits just tend to skew a little young (in non-senior positions, which is most of them) because they pay less. Right?

    27 isn’t young in the workplace. And no one at my job makes me feel old. Especially at a nonprofit this is so weird.

    Also why would a 20-something ever want to “spy” on a gaggle of 40-somethings? I’ve felt like a spy amongst younger people I guess but no adult under 30 is trying to infiltrate the ranks of the middle aged.

  65. Coverage Associate*

    The more I think about LW2, the more I want to encourage LW to not get discouraged asking about such practicalities. This workplace seems weird about the issue, and there totally are people who remain weird about pausing work to eat being weak or something, but I think things are changing for the better, and the weird people were always mostly in the minority.

    Remember especially when you get to the stage of your career where you are planning and announcing events to address the issues. There will always be people who don’t mind skipping meals, and some of them will always be executives who forget not everyone is like them.

  66. Fernie*

    LW#1, we recently had a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion workshop on Age Discrimination at my workplace, and in our discussion groups were surprised that most of us had been guilty of making comments about young people’s age, teasing them and pointing out the difference in just the ways you describe (You’re just a baby! You don’t know about the world!” etc.) There’s an assumption that anything typically considered good by society (youth, height, thinness) is fair game, but I think all of us became more aware of how damaging these comments can be. It’s never okay to point out and make a big deal of someone’s difference from the group at work, in what ever way.

    In the past I had a colleague about your age (I found out her Mom was a few weeks younger than me, which came as a bit of a shock!), and the way she handled it was in a one-to-one talk where she very firmly and seriously said to me that she didn’t like comments about her youth and that it had been a problem in the past. I got the message, and was better about it with her, but really should remember to be better about it with everyone.

  67. Lauren*

    Ugh, the age thing. I’ve been in my career for just over 10 years now, started in my early 20s and I STILL attract the “oh you’re just a baby” comments. Even 10 years later I’m almost always one of the youngest people in a team, and without fail the youngest person at my level in every team I’ve been in. Drives me nuts and makes it hard to be taken seriously.

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