Growing up, my mom loved the fact I was small for my age and appeared younger than my years. She used to get me in for the lesser price. If not, I remember crouching down below the ticket booth so the ticket person couldn't see me and Mom would not have to pay for me. I don't remember how well that really worked, but she was happy. As I look back on it, it was dishonest and we likely could have afforded the cost of three girls and one adult.
As I grew up, no one questioned my age until I was much older and in college. Those who knew me knew I was near their age. Once I started looking for work, I was faced with the question of, "You aren't who you say are. How old are you, really?"
Those around me treated me like I was kid pretending to be an adult. "Why don't you be happy with the age you are? You'll get old sooner enough and you will wish you were young again."
Or, there was, "Isn't nice to look twenty years younger than you are?"
No, I don't think so.
My teenage son and I attend the movies together on the weekends. I noticed over the last year or so, some of the cashiers behind the concession stand offer us one large drink and two straws. One young man even winked at me while he smiled slyly at me. I gave him a strange look, wanting to say, "You know, I'm old enough to be your mother. Would you smile and wink at you mother like that?"
I refused the one large drink, saying, "Two drinks." They were rather confused untilI started carrying my Aarp card a few months ago. Once I even said, "I need to ask my son what he wants" and the cashier said, "Your son?" I affirmed that.
This past weekend my son and I were at a local craft fair selling my books and some other items we put together. Towards the end of the day, two different women came up within ten minutes of each other. The first gave me a condescending smile wanted to know how long I've been writing and I told her. She chose her words carefully and asked about my education. I went into more detail than I normally would. She smiled dismissively and then said, "You know, there's nothing wrong with going back to college as an adult learner." And she left.
The second lady wanted to know about my last name. I told her it was Dutch. She then remarked, "You're awfully short for being Dutch. Most of the Dutch people I know are real tall." I said my husband was Dutch and he is tall. My son came into the room. Her eyes twinkled as she watched him walk up to the table, "Is that your husband?"
I smiled, "That is my son. He's only 18." I looked her in the eyes, head cocked to make a point, "I'm a lot older than he is." She face fell and she left with no more words.
So many individuals are want to look young. Forever young, the song says. Why can't we aspire to look our ages? And why do we feel that one's young appearance is equal to not being knowledgeable?
I tend to get defensive when others write me off as too young to know what I'm talking about or being experienced in a certain field. I am what I am and I do believe I am good at it. Look beyond one's appearance and judge others on their level of work. Or learn to accept someone without labels.