Age has to do with development or length of existence, according to Webster’s. It refers to how long you’ve been around and your capacity to act like it. Like when people say, “That guy’s 20 years old, but he acts like a 15-year-old.”
My cousins and I went to the pool today. I had to get a guest pass since I’m not part of their homeowner’s association, so we went over to the Member Services desk. Hailey gave her card to prove that she’s a legitimate member.
Then the lady behind the desk asked me how old I am.
I was surprised because that’s not something people ask much anymore. I guess I’m getting old enough that people abide by the “never ask a lady her age” maxim. They’ll usually just say something like, “Oh are you in college now? Those are the best years of your life!” (a rather depressing sentiment that I’m planning to prove untrue).
“21.” I replied, sure it was just a field they had to fill in for the pass. Or maybe wanting to know how much to charge me. I’ve been signing forms without a parent/guardian signature, filling out my own health records, and being my own spokesperson for a few years now, so I hardly thought she wanted to know to make sure I wasn’t a minor.
She looked like she thought she hadn’t heard me right, so I repeated the number, a little louder. I swallow syllables sometimes.
She shook her head. “I thought you were just a tall 16-year-old. You probably get that a lot.”
NO, NO, MA’AM, I DO NOT GET THAT A LOT. I’M AN ADULT.
I small-laughed (you know, like you do when you’d rather not laugh but feel like it’s the most socially appropriate response to the situation). “It’s probably because I’m not wearing makeup.”
I thought about it later, the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt and jean shorts and carrying a pink crossbody bag. That was probably it. I usually want to read into things like that, to assign motive. You just don’t want to take me seriously. Or I’m not wearing club attire, so you assume I’m juvenile? My mom is typically that one to back me down from that. “She’s just a bad judge of age,” she’d say. “It’s a compliment. You’ll be glad to look younger than you are when you’re 40.”
It took me a few minutes to shake that off (watch this to see what happens in my mind while I do that). Am I gangly? Is that it? You’re just an overgrown teenager. No, I’m not. She just doesn’t know. She doesn’t know me. We didn’t have a conversation. She’s not demeaning my intelligence. She just thinks I look younger. That’s all.
But eventually, I got there. I filed it away in the “Things You Will Appreciate Later” file and made a mental note to keep moisturizing well.