Sunday, August 15, 2004

the age thing

I got carded the other day.


I'm actually not sure if the guy at Whole Foods was 100% serious, but he asked if I was old enough to be buying the wine in my basket. I looked at him, perplexed. I mean, I'll be 40 in a couple of months, and tho' I look young, it's been awhile since I looked *THAT* young.

Eventually, I just laughed, figuring he was just being funny and nice, but then he said somewhat earnestly, "Well, you fall into that group that is sort of on the line..."

Get. Out.

I took out my license for him. Eyebrow raised nearly above my hairline.

"Really, I just need to check."

"Hey, whatever. TOTALLY fine by me."

It's probably been about 4 or 5 years since I was carded with any real enthusiasm, and quite frankly, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Some of me is a little disappointed that I no longer fall into that "looks like late 20's but let's check just to make sure" range, but another part of me is thinkin', "Hey. I worked damn hard for the wisdom and experience that comes with these almost 40 years, I want them to be acknowledged, dammit!"

But, see, I dress casually, I don't wear makeup, my hair is minimally coiffed (by minimally, I mean, it's long and straight, and if I brush it after I shower, it means I'm going for an interview) and I really just look young. And, at the same time, I don't look old.

I know that sounds like the same thing, but it's not. There's a difference between looking young, and not looking old. See, I don't look like a young 40 year old. I just look like I couldn't possibly be 40.

You're probably thinking, "Shut up with all this complaining about looking young. It's worse than complaining about having a good paying job! Jeez!" But, as esoteric as it seems, it's an actual issue for me. By not looking my age, I don't get the same deference that other 40 year old, made up, highlighted hair, manicured nails, put together women get. Since I don't *act* like a 40 year old, I don't get treated like one. And, usually, that's ok. In fact, usually, that's great. I mean fantastic. Way way way cool. I like being one of the kids, one of the fray, one of the guys, one of the crowd.

But, sometimes it comes and bites me on the ass. I find that without the practice of acting like a 40 year old all the time, the people that I *DO* want to recognize my experience, and treat it with some respect, don't see it either, regardless of how much confidence I carry myself with. The guy at the car dealership (although that could be a "girl" thing), the salesman at the fancy watch store, my bosses... It's a peeve of mine, being treated like, -pat pat pat- aw, isn't she cute?

I know it'll happen when it comes time to buy another house, get another loan, deal with the title agency. They'll all be looking around for my father... Even my similarly aged relatives sometimes forget that I've aged along with them. Like I'm permanently 14, while they've managed to cleverly acquire the wisdom of age. It is so aggravating to be patronized. It makes me want to dye my hair grey and tattoo my birthdate to my forehead.

But, somehow it doesn't make me want to wear skirts and pumps all the time, cut my hair short and spend 45 minutes gelling and styling it in the morning and spending 15 minutes putting on make up.

So, I'm in a quandary. Which do I want more? Low maintenance, or respect?

Honestly? I guess it boils down to the fact that no matter how much it irritates me, if I can't get respect without trying to look my age, then I don't want it. It wouldn't be respect for what *I* offer. It would be respect for the image, and quite frankly, I don't think it deserves the exalted status it's already getting.

I guess I'm just going to continue to be culturally disobedient. Fits in nicely with the whole commune thing, anyway...


Karen said...

Last week I got to give an impromptu What We Do spiel to a group (of middle-plus-aged non-scientists) who came through touring the department's labs. I thought I'd done a pretty good job of being all Clueful and Authoritative and stuff; but when I got to the end, one of them asked me, "What's your major?"

Without rolling my eyes too much (I hope), I told him I'm a post-doc. I did not add, but probably should have, "Can't you tell from my obnoxiously mannered way of speaking?"

It's not quite so bad when it comes from guys my father's age, I suppose. It's when undergraduates mistake me for one of them that I start to wonder whether I shouldn't start, I dunno, carrying a slide-rule or something....

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the mixed feelings. I like looking about 10 years younger than I am, but it's a hassle, too. (Though my looks aren't quite as ageless as yours.) Of course, for me, there's the added qualifications that I'm the only one in my family unmarried and childless. I totally don't fit in any of the usual categories.

Yeah, I was at my mom's this weekend for her 60th birthday, with about two dozen other relatives. Quite a few babies.