[PSA for the Day: Last day to register to vote!!]
I have always been taken for younger than I am. Often, considerably younger than I am. I mentioned my pregnancy as unplanned to one of my neighbors and she nodded knowingly, "Sure, I mean, otherwise this might not have been something you started thinking about for another ten years or so." How old does she imagine me? I smile-grimaced, waved, got in my car and drove away. People tell me I should be happy – that I'll look so young when I'm older. But it doesn't make me happy. It irks. And often, it's downright demeaning.
Some time back, I was working on an editing job for the radio. One day, I accompanied my colleague to the home of one of the writers who was contributing to the show in order to go over his story. The writer and my colleague had an established relationship, having worked together several times in the past. My colleague introduced me to his writer friend in a very flattering way, praising my work and saying how happy he was to have me on board with this project. The writer jerked his head in that half-nod, the kind that only goes up, and with his nose raised to a level above mine folded his arms in front of him and asked, "And what do you want to be when you grow up?" Slayer of Assholes. Bring me my cape!
Any time I take a teaching job at a new school I have to fight for things like faculty IDs, and endure dirty looks in the staff parking lot, since I'm invariably taken for a student. It's a sensitive subject for me, this looking younger thing. But lately, I've discovered that the troubling mis-assumption even comes with its own catch phrase: "Good for you!"
I was having a different trivial conversation with a different neighbor than mentioned above when she asked me something about classes at the local junior college as if I would surely know. Puzzled when I didn't, she inquired, "But don't you go there? I saw the parking pass on your car." I teach there. I told her. Teach there. "Oh!" she said in complete surprise, "good for you!" If she could have reached, I wonder if she would have patted my head. Good for me. How very quaint, she seemed to be saying, so young and yet dabbling in a career. Maybe she even has an advanced degree…nah, probably not, everyone knows how short on teachers California is. Musta just squeezed her in on an emergency basis. Am I overreacting? Sure am. A touch insecure? You bet.
I walked around the rest of the day praising the cats with my new-found back-handed compliment. Why, you've managed to knock all the candles off the window sill again, you little angels? Good for you! What's that? Just up from another nap? Good for you!
Not two days later I was speaking to an older man in a writing workshop. We were exchanging personal info and pleasantries. We eventually came around to what kind of work I might do. I teach. ESL. To adults. Currently, at a junior college. "Good for you!" he said immediately. A little later he revealed that he had been a teacher as well. Biology. High school. In that moment I imagined responding, "Good for you!" The absurdity of it hung like a huge, bulky umbrella over both of us – larger even than my resentment.
Less than 24 hours after the incident with the biology teacher, I was interviewing a novelist for the radio station. She's a great writer. Rather well-known, in fact, in circles of folk who choose to pay attention to novelists. I was excited that I'd won the negotiations with my colleagues to be able to speak with her on her west coast tour. Upon meeting her, I discovered she was as easy-going and charming as I'd imagined she'd be. We sat across from each other in the studio chit chatting before I started recording. At one point, she asked me what I did – since interviewing authors once a month for a locally-produced public radio show was clearly (sadly) not my main profession. I told her. Guess what she said?
I quickly dropped my gaze to the sound board and started fiddling with microphone levels so as not to lose it. She'd said it in a quieter, smoother way than the other two. Her voice was demure rather than cheerleading. Had the first two encounters with the dreaded phrase not been so recent and already stirring in my head, I might have missed it. In our context it seemed so unnecessary. There should have been so many other conversational bridges she could have chosen, but she didn't.
Maybe those other people are right and at some point I'll regret my youthful foolishness in wanting to appear, god forbid, my age. Once I have a baby on my hip will people start assuming differently about my age? Will I start showing my age more?? Or could my fate me to be gawked at and assumed a teenager who "got in trouble"? Despite some of the more obvious disadvantages, a few mentioned here, I'm not 100% clear on why it bothers me quite so much. Cuz lemme tell ya, it bothers me a whole darn lot. I'd really like to know why. I take it as a challenge to try to work toward better understanding the root of my insecurities and objections on this point.
My mother was wrong. This time is not all about the baby. This time IS all about me. Frankly, I am heartened that I can do more for my baby right now than avoid too much caffeine. I can continue to find out who I am.
[PS - Aw, look Red Sox, you won a game against the Yankees? … Good for you! heh heh heh.]
Monday, October 18, 2004
[PSA for the Day: Last day to register to vote!!]