I was 19 years old when I accompanied my mother to liquor store and watched the cashier, who was probably closer to my age than my mother’s, ask her for ID.
My mother, who had left her ID in the car, became flustered and upset.
I laughed and offered to buy her the booze.
She complained the whole way back to the car, and I giggled. I wondered out loud why she wasn’t flattered instead of angry, and I couldn’t possibly fathom her answer.
“I deserve the respect of a 40 year old.” is what she said to me.
As a 19 year old girl, I didn’t understand. Now here I am, less than a year away from turning 40, and I get it. I fully get it.
Recently age came up in conversation with a coworker, and when I mentioned that next year I would be turning the big 4 - 0, her jaw dropped. “You do not look 40” she exclaimed.
I nodded my head letting her know that I hear that all the time and she continued on asking me if I smoke or if I had a special skin care routine. I don’t smoke, and unless you consider washing sporadically with the classic Clinique facewash a skin care routine, I don’t do anything fancy. This is just how I look.
I know, you’re wondering what’s the big deal? It’s a compliment right?
Sometimes it is a compliment. Sometimes I smile and say thank you and move on. But sometimes I want to be treated as though I’m 40 years old.
I want coworkers to recognize the experience that I have instead of making the assumption that I am fresh out of school. I want to know that when I bring an idea to my manager, they are going to seriously consider it instead of brush it off as if I couldn’t possibly offer up anything of substance. Because truth is, even though I graduated from University over 15 years ago and have demonstrated what I am capable of time and time again, I still have to work harder to prove myself because I am perceived as young.
When travelling for business, I have had to deal with the “hello sweethearts” of condescending older business men who assume that I’m a young girl travelling solo. One man even asked if my mother was worried about me flying all by myself.
I was on my way to lead a client meeting.
I don’t like when people don’t take me seriously as a mother, thinking that I had my children too young. It’s opened my eyes to just how much we, as a society, discriminate based on age.
I have been blessed with good genes. My own mother experiences the same shock when people realize she is close to retirement. Truth is it’s not all bad. There are times when I’m asked for ID at the liquor store and it makes me feel a little better. Those are the days when life is bringing me down and the look of surprise on the cashier’s face makes me smile.
I’m starting to see the age in my face; the bags underneath my eyes show my exhaustion, the fine lines around my eyes remind me how much I smile, the slight sag to my skin makes sure I know that I’m not 20 anymore and the grey hairs are a bold, in your face, sign that I’m getting older.
But aging doesn’t bother me. I live a good, happy life filled with fun, laughter, sun and wonderful food. I’m okay if that shows in my face.
In the end I know it’s not going to be about how I look but how I lived.
I can only hope to be blessed with many years of happiness that show themselves across my weathered face.