MORE's Over-40 Intern Diaries: I'm In Over My Head

Ruth Morganto, 49, wanted to explore a new career but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Read what happens on Day 1 when she joins the MORE team to assist on an upcoming issue

by Ruth Morganto • Midlife Intern
ruth morganto image
Photograph: Ari Michelson

The first day at More begins with rain. Does anyone have a good hair day when it’s raining? First impressions matter, even when it’s only at a two-week internship. Surely a bit of sunshine isn’t too much to ask, but since I’m clearly not getting any, I drag out the waterproof boots, spritz an extra dose of hairspray and head for the train that will take me from my friend’s suburban neighborhood to More’s Manhattan offices.
 
New York City has always overwhelmed me. Too many people, too much traffic, endless noise. My grandparents lived here, my parents met here and I was born here, but I never lived in the city. Last year this same week, my daughter started an internship in Manhattan, and visits with her increased my comfort level. Still, I’m a suburbanite at heart, albeit one who’s up for this adventure.  
 
In spite of the rain, my commute runs smoothly. The train and subway arrive on time and my seatmates are quiet, allowing me to knit in peace. My famously poor sense of direction improves dramatically in New York, leading me to wonder if being born in a Manhattan hospital means I have an inner GPS that’s set for this city. As I proceed down Third Avenue toward the midtown building that houses More, even the walk lights turn green at my approach. If I only had a hat (and that missing sunshine), I’d cue the Mary Tyler Moore music.
 
When I took this internship, I was terrified that I didn’t have the right wardrobe, the right style, even the right body type. I rarely do my nails because I use them as tools and destroy them, and my habit of chewing off my lipstick quickly ruins my makeup. Yes, I lost nearly 30 pounds last year (thank you, Weight Watchers), but I’m 5 foot 2 and curvy. I considered starving myself to drop a few more pounds before I arrived, but realized that I couldn’t afford new clothes if I succeeded.

 

Bottom line: I’m nervous. My wardrobe is dominated by the three T’s: Talbots, Ann Taylor, Target. It’s more than a little intimidating to walk into the office of a magazine that markets itself for Women of Style and Substance when your daughter has threatened to submit you for the show “What Not To Wear,” but I breathe deep and move forward.
 
After countless email and phone conversations, I’m delighted to meet Laura Sinberg, the features editor who owns me for the next two weeks. I’ll admit, I had Googled her prior to my arrival, so I knew that she was young (31), but I was expecting taller, more makeup, more “New York.”  Her outfit is stylish but not high fashion. And she doesn’t have that hardened, stereotypical city look. She’s just cute. A quick tour of the office proves this is nothing like The Devil Wears Prada. Where are the super-tall, super-skinny women with perfect hair and makeup? Why is everybody so warm and welcoming? Isn’t this New York?  Aren’t those folks supposed to be over-caffeinated, underfed and dangerously stressed out? I realize that I’m going to be OK here.  
 
The day was off to too good a start, so I wasn’t surprised when my computer log-on didn’t work. I secretly wonder if hiring me was all some big mistake. I know that I’m here as part of an upcoming “stunt” issue of the magazine—one devoted to doing new things and stepping out of your comfort zone. Maybe part of the stunt is to bring me here and then admit that it is all a joke. I shush the negative voices in my head.
 
While the IT department deals with my computer problems, I settle in with a pile of books being considered for review. As a book-aholic, there’s very little that I would rather be doing than reading. Do people really do this for a living? I’m positive I chose the wrong career.
 
Alas, a staff meeting interrupts my bliss. While editors are firing off ideas for new blog posts and cheeky slideshows faster than I can process, I find myself scanning the room, picking the staff members I’d love to have in my book club. Would it be presumptuous to invite executive editor Judy Coyne to lunch to discuss books? These women remind me of my friends. They are funny.
 
Since I am horrible with names, I keep a list on my desk of the people who stop by to introduce themselves. It quickly fills up with editorial staff inviting me to lunch. They’re not only friendly and funny—they eat!     
 
By midafternoon, my computer identity crisis is resolved. “Why don’t you write a blog post about your experience today?” Laura says. Doesn’t she realize most people can’t just write on command? I’m sweating already. But, like any good 49-year-old intern, I start typing. Soon, I’m handing over my first blog for review. Flashing back to college English classes, I await my grade. But Laura’s feedback is kind and more concerned with focus than grammar. I think I’m getting the hang of this.

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First Published Mon, 2013-03-04 18:05

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http://www.more.com/reinvention-money/careers/mores-over-40-intern-diaries-im-over-my-head