In my mind, I feel about 25 – a little more confident than I was at 20, able to legally buy booze, past the point of being rated negatively because of my age by my car insurer.
But I look in the mirror and realize that I need to use a nighttime moisturizer with Retinol, that if I move my head to the right or left the wrinkles show on my neck, that there’s a ginormous about of gray underneath the top layer of my brown hair.
Still, if I keep to my own kind – and by that I mean mostly 40-somethings and older, I can feel pretty good about myself. In my zumba class, for example, I’m on the young side and feel downright lithe.
But two days a week, I’m in my graduate classes. This year I’m surrounded heavily by folks in their 20s, some not even a full year out of undergrad. And it’s rough, I tell you.
One day, another middle-aged classmate and I were walking to our cars after class with a young woman in our cohort. We both went to the University of Missouri in the 1980s, so we were comparing years. He was there from 1984 to 1987.
“Aw, we just missed each other,” I said. “I was a freshman in fall 1987.”
And then our young friend piped up. “I was just 2 in 1987,” she said.
Pow. Like a punch to the gut.
“Gee,” I said, “I guess I could be your mother if I had been a teen mom.”
“Yep,” she said happily. “Guess so.”
Now, when I was her age, I didn’t like to point out to my older coworkers that in fact I was not born at the time of the assassinations of JFK, Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. I didn’t want to remind anyone of my youth.
These days, though, I guess youngsters don’t mind everyone knowing they’re, well, young. Also these days, I use terms like, “Now, when I was your age…” and words like, “youngsters,” all the time.
This same younger classmate and I worked on a group assignment during our first semester of the social work program. We were assigned to put together a presentation on the treatment of the LGBTQI community in the United States. During our planning session, I brought up the case of Brandon Teena and the film, “Boys Don’t Cry.” I was going on and on about it when I realized my friend had a look of confusion on her face.
“That sounds interesting,” she said, before asking how to spell Brandon Teena’s name.
“You remember the movie, right? Hilary Swank was in it…” my voice trailed off as I realized she had no idea what I was talking about.
“What year was that?” she asked.
I said it was in the late 1990s. “Oh, that explains it,” she said. “I was probably about 13 or 14.”
And I was a mother of two when that movie came out.
Hey, people can’t help when they’re born. I know that. And I never want to be the person who considers it a character flaw if a coworker or what have you isn’t as old as I am and thus hasn’t lived through the world events that I have. You all know some older person who constantly reminds you that you didn’t know how bad it was during the Depression, etc.
Still, I just feel this kind of thing – me trying to relate something from my life to someone much younger who has no clue what I’m talking about – happens more and more.
In another class this spring, we ended up having a discussion of the Affordable Care Act and birth control pills and mandates and what have you. And one particularly impassioned classmate said she was just so tired of all the fuss about birth control. “I mean, it’s been around since the ‘70s,” she said.
“Actually,” I said, “it was the 1960s when birth control pills became available.”
“Well, whatever,” she said. “It was a long time ago.”
Yeah, I guess it does seem like a long time ago when you were born in 1990.
So I think, like many older people, I will just start keeping my mouth shut lest I sound irrelevant. Like the afternoon that I was struggling with a statistics assignment on Excel and I blurted out, “Geez, I haven’t taken statistics since 1988.”
And I looked around and realized, yup. No other student in my class was even born in 1988.