Hope you’re having a fun summer. I’ve been busy writing things for other people these days. Hope you like this one. It’s scheduled to run in Thursday, June 28 issue of the Alameda Sun.
A Woman of a Certain Age
Does having kids make you younger or older than your actual age? Or, is it just the inevitable advancing of time that makes you feel old? These question pop up because it’s my birthday week and what was once a time of celebration and complete and joyful abandon, has become a time of annoying contemplation and reflection on my age and life. I really don’t want to think about getting older; I just want to have fun.
Last year, wherever we went on my day to have some fun, my three daughters would announce happily that it was my birthday. The very first time, I was pleased—who doesn’t want to be acknowledged on their day? (For those of you who are saying, “Not me!” I don’t believe it.) Until the first woman they told said without pausing: Happy Birthday! How-old-are-you?
It took a minute for the question to register. Was this woman really asking me how old I was? Isn’t that rude when you reach a certain age? But she waited expectantly and then looked at my children for the answer. They shrugged—a bit nonplussed, as well.
I am not good at comebacks. I wanted to say, “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?” but my polite nature kept the words from coming out of my mouth. Now, a full year later and after telling this story countless times, I have a few choice things to say that would put her in her place. Like, I’ll tell you how old I am when you tell me how much you weigh! Or, is that your real hair color?
I wasn’t feeling great about my age last year and was afraid that if I told her the truth, she would nod knowingly and think (or, God forbid, say): “That’s what I thought you were.” So, I did what any polite chicken would do: I lied. I told her I was 56. I still have more than a few years before I reach 56, but I didn’t know what else to say. Now, she was the speechless one. She turned to my daughters, who looked equally confused, for confirmation. They looked helplessly at me and said, um, yeah, we guess so.
Growing up, we were never allowed to know how old my mother was. She hid anything that might refer to her age, like yearbooks, driver’s licenses and any official document that would give us a hint. She was embarrassed because she was four years older than my father, and because she hated the thought of getting old. When she passed away and my father added her birth year to her obituary, my siblings called me in disbelief: “Did you know she was that old?” (I did. Aunt Margaret told me years ago.) I guess I was trained early on to not pay attention to someone’s age—and especially not ask about it.
When accepting that I might really be 56, the woman said: “Wow! You look fabulous! I would have never thought you were 56!” Her answer made me feel so good that for the rest of the day when I was asked how old I was, I answered “56.” (Unbelievably, I was asked four more times that day how old I was.) Each time I replied 56 only to receive a barrage of compliments and extraordinary well wishes. One woman even said: “I hope I look that good when I get to be your age.” Yeah, well, me too.
This year, I am not sure how old I will be. My kids do know how old I am, but after last year, they are sensitive to my fears and trepidations. Age is just a number, right? Happy Birthday to you, whenever it might be and however old you are. You look fabulous.