I have a skewed perception of aging. My dad didn’t start working out until he was 65. He got his ear pierced around the same time–about 20 years after ear piercing fell out of fashion. Then he bought a Harley-Davidson. It had been about four decades since he last owned one but he figured that if his 87-year-old buddy Gene could ride, then so could he. Every time they’d set out together, I’d expect a call from my mom saying that Dad and Gene collided while trying to park their bikes at the IHOP where they ordered Senior Rooty-Tooty Breakfasts, harassed the waitress and tried to figure out whose hearing aid kept ringing.
But the call never came. Once Gene slid his bike off a country road and into a three-foot ditch, but Dad never noticed. A few miles later he realized Gene wasn’t trailing him. He retraced their route and found Gene nearly drowning in 10-inches of water. The bike was lying next to him, still running, sucking up a dairy farm’s run-off like a dehydrated kid with a Slurpee. Gene would’ve shut his hog down, if he could’ve heard it.
Deafness aside, you wouldn’t know my dad is 78. He can’t sit still. Without a project he goes stir crazy. He’ll break something just to fix it. And he doesn’t drink Ensure or munch on prunes. His youthful nature has gotten me into trouble; it’s skewed my perspective. When the ultra-fit grey-haired guy at the YMCA proudly asked, “How old do you think I am?” and I guessed sixty-eight, I could tell by the look of horror on his face that was not the right answer. I had meant it as a compliment because in my world, 68 seems young. You haven’t even had your mid-life crises yet. Get a diamond stud the size of a flea and go snorkeling in a ditch with your Harley and then we’ll talk.
My mom’s not much different. At 67 Mom wears a bikini. Sure, she complains about her body the whole time, grabbing and shaking the bit of flesh on her sides as sifting for gold, but girlfriend can still rock it.
This all makes me–at 33–a downright baby. Or so I think.
Some friends met up with my husband and me the other night for some drinks at our house. They we’re heading downtown for some St. Patrick’s Day revelry and I managed to invite myself along. Did I mention that these friends are 23? No, of course not. Because that didn’t occur to me. At least not until it was much too late.
My husband–commonly referred to as the “Boy-in-the-Bubble” for his unwillingness to ever leave our house–stayed home with our daughter while I hit the town. At 2:30 AM I was sitting in bar overrun with sloppy drunks looking for a ride home or the love of their lives (most likely a combination of the two). It’s like the planet had been tilted- the drunks were side-winding their way to the dance floor, bar and back. My friend, Claire, decided to hit the dance floor and drop it like it’s hot. Or, given Claire’s ability to dance, drop it like a chimpanzee wildly gesticulating for food. Granted, she’s a pretty girl. So her primate moves still attracted the eye of one Jersey Shore extra we’ll call “Creeper.” Creeper was short, built and a little bit cross-eyed. I figured him to be about 30. There was something smeared across his upper lip like he’d lingered a little too long on a chocolate milkshake. When Claire returned to our table, he sidled up to her.
My friend Emily immediately pointed out the smudge on his lip and asked, “What exactly is going on there?”
The thing about pretty young girls like Emily is that they can say whatever the hell they want.
“That’s my attempt to grow a mustache,” he said, unaware that he had just been emasculated.
“What are you, like, twenty?” she asked.
Yikes. I can pick out a runner’s body in plain clothes and my gay-dar is finely calibrated, but when it comes to age, I’m useless.
Then began The Inquisition. I’m used to people inquiring about where my child falls on the pediatrician’s growth chart or what’s the going rate for the Tooth Fairy. But who goes around playing the age game with strangers? That should’ve been my first clue that Creeper grew up on “Dora the Explorer” instead of “He-Man.”
I lied and said I was 29.
“Whoa. That’s ancient.”
I waited for him to laugh. To nudge me. To brush that anorexic caterpillar off his upper lip. But he just stared at what I imagined was my tired, porous, 33-year-old face.
“It’s time to go,” I said.
Actually, it was time to go about 10 years ago, I just never got the memo. Even after birthing a child, choosing under-eye concealer over teeth brushing when pressed for time and plucking a spidery 2” hair from my chest, I never really considered myself as “old.” Had Mom and Dad been in town, they would’ve been right there with me and my 23-year-old friends having a grand old time. My friends would’ve been entertained by Mom dancing the Macarena to a Lady Gaga song and Dad’s telling a story about how a Hell’s Angel once pulled a knife on him. Creeper, on the other hand, would’ve mistaken us for a table of mummies. It’s all about perspective. People like Creeper see age. But other people–like my friends–see people.
Who cares what Creeper thinks anyway? This is a guy who probably thinks Ed Hardy T-shirts are cool. Besides, while feeling young doesn’t actually make me young, it makes me, well, feel young.
My mom wouldn’t be caught dead dining in Denny’s as part of a Red-Hat Club social. And the only way you’d find Dad playing BINGO at the retirement home is if he was already dead. Like them, I’m going to fight the relentless pull of my pear-shaped and cat-sweatshirt wearing destiny as long as I can. Like, forever. And if that means some kid at a bar thinks I’m sad and pathetic, then so be it. Besides, most women my age can grow a better mustache than him any day.