I’m probably alone in this sentiment, but I’m not ready to start hiding my age yet. And, up until a few days ago, I didn’t feel like I had to. My entire life I have been mistaken for being younger than I am. My first day of high school, I stepped onto my bus just to have the driver inform me that I had gotten on the wrong bus. She turned in her seat, squatted down and put her hands in her lap, the way everyone does when they address a small child; except, I was fourteen.
“Oh, sweetie,” she said, patronizing me with her sing-song tone. “I’m sorry. This is the route for the high school. The elementary school bus will be by later.”
This issue has followed me for years. When I turned twenty-one, I had an ongoing feud with the bouncers at the local bars thinking that my driver’s license was a fake ID.
“No, sir,” I’d say. “I promise you this is a real driver’s license. Now let me into the frigging bar.”
Then there was the time my third year in law school that I got carded to see an R rated movie by a pimply faced teenager whose voice had yet to change. I was twenty-four.
When I was younger, times like this really used to really piss me off. They don’t irk me as much anymore. In fact, I have decided to embrace these moments, realizing that, at my age, people telling me that I look younger than I am is definitely a compliment.
Because of these experiences, I have always searched for ways to look older, reasoning that, if I looked or sounded older, people would take me seriously. When I first started as an attorney, I used to wear a fake engagement ring so that jurors would think I was older than I appeared. I hardly ever wear make-up, but I would wear it to court because I thought it made me look older. I continued this practice until a victim’s family member asked me who the actual attorney prosecuting their case was, explaining that I didn’t look old enough to try a case. After that, I stopped trying to look older, accepting the fact that I was always going to look and sound like a teenager.
That is, until my recent visit to the World of Coke.
I went to the World of Coke a couple of weekends ago with my best friend from law school and my husband. Neither one of them had been before, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to be advertised to for an afternoon while drinking as much Coke as we could stand. As we waited in line, a lady tapped my friend on the shoulder and pointed at me.
“How old is she?” the woman asked, as if I wasn’t standing right there. My friend arched her eyebrow and pointed at me as well.
“You mean my friend,” she responded, making sure to put extra emphasis on the word friend. We were both expecting the woman to say that I looked like I could be my friend’s daughter, even though I’m only two years younger than her. Instead, the woman launched into a story about her son that didn’t quite make sense, then she rudely pointed to the random strands of gray hair on my head and compared them to the patches of gray hair on her son’s head.
At first I thought I didn’t hear her right, so I just said, “oh that’s such a sad story,” and kept walking. But when my friend confirmed the woman’s statements, I was dumbstruck. Apparently I had fooled myself into thinking that my age would never be noticeable. That I would continue to be the girl who was carded for R rated movies for years to come. While I am well aware that some of my hair had started to turn gray, I never thought it was that big of a deal, especially since it was only a few random white strands floating in a sea of black. Moreover, I never thought they would be pointed out to me in such a public manner.
When we’re younger, we feel invincible, like we can do anything, try anything, eat anything and never get hurt, never gain weight…never feel the consequences of our age. That is because, at that time, there were none. We could bounce back from anything. I still feel invincible most of the time. Then there are the times when my left knee tweaks with pain when I reach the end of my five flight trek up the stairs to my office, or my jeans are just a little harder to button after a night of pizza and beer, and I am quickly brought back to reality.
Where is this going? I don’t know. I do know that I still don’t feel old enough to have gray hairs, or to have to hide them for that matter. Yet, apparently I need to add a little color to my next haircut appointment.