While visiting my family in Pennsylvania, a high school kid came to the door doing some kind of survey, and he asked the question he ought not to have asked:
“Are you the mom of the house?”
Lasers shot out of my eyes and vaporized him on the spot.
I was mean, instead!
“No.” I said with the same ferocity that my dad used when we were in high school and asked for something expensive and superfluous.
“…Do you know when she’ll be home?” he faltered.
“No. Go away.”
And he backed away a few steps before turning and going on to the next house to insult another 20-something.
Granted, I had had a 12 hour drive the day before, and I wasn’t looking my best, and I also know that most people my age from my hometown have 3-5 kids already, but do I really look that old?
I’ve never thought of myself as someone who looks my age, and I’ve repeatedly been mistaken for much younger—asked for a hall pass when I came in two days a week to teach voice at a high school when I was in graduate school, asked “Honey, are you lost?” while familiarizing myself with the campus where I was a new professor—this tends to happen more often than not.
On one occasion, I was asked if Michael was my son, I went completely nuts on both him and the checkout clerk who’d asked the question in the first place.
Why do I get so upset at getting older?
Michael asks this all the time—he assures me I’m beautiful, but I still get together with my friends from college and we lament the fact that we now have pockets of fat and aren’t pencil-thin anymore—no more 00 Petite for us, we’re now WAY up to 2 or 4 Petite.
I know some of my readers want to smack me for this, but I can’t help it.
I don’t read magazines, I don’t have cable, and only watch tv on hulu.com or via Netflix. I only browse through magazines when I’m bored in an airport and killing time at Hudson News.
So I don’t see the ads and the “articles” which are really ads but in prose that tell me that I’m not pretty or thin or young enough…and yet, I don’t think I am.
My family told me when I was a child that a woman ought to age gracefully. I still don’t know what that means—given some of the aging techniques of my family, I think it probably means that I should be as frank and brassy as I feel like being. My grandmothers are excellent examples of the older generation saying whatever they feel like and getting away with it.
I guess that’s really the key to aging “gracefully”—completely abandoning the nonsense that comes with “acting like a well-behaved young lady.”
[Expletive deleted] that princess crap, I’ll do what I feel like doing!
Two days after the “mom of the house” incident, I was helping some college friends at an arts festival—we volunteered at a booth where kids could come and make their own jewelry. A heavily made up girl came and sat down—she must have been 16 or 17 under all the goopy eyeliner, designed to make her look older, haha, and she asked us if we went to school here in town.
“Oh, no,” we said, “we graduated…a while ago.”
And gleeful, we all smiled the smiles of older women mistaken for ten years younger.
Lesson learned: Slightly reckless abandon while playing with shiny objects and proximity to younger people = appearance of youth.