At age 28, I sat with my left arm extended, waiting for a lab technician to draw my blood. She walked in, checked the chart, took a look at me, looked back at the chart…and then scolded me like I’d never been scolded before.
“YOU. A. BABY. “
“You. A. Little. Tiny. Baby. “
“YOU A BABY! YOU A LITTLE TINY BABY!”
My accuser was not young looking. She appeared to be in her late 60’s. Her dark skin was heavily wrinkled, her shiny black hair was pulled into a high, rigid bun. She was incredibly thin, which made her look a bit mean. She must have said it eight times, each time, her volume increasing…as she scolded, scolded, scolded me. For being a little tiny baby. She shook her head in shock and cleaned out my vein. She looked back to the chart and confirmed my age verbally. Then she negated the truth, telling me there was no way, since her son was 27 and…‘my face!!!‘…and…
I stood up and walked out, oddly delighted at how very mad she’d been…because she’d given me such a great story to tell.
This summer, I stayed with a young woman my age in Ireland. A friend and I arrived in her home, got to asking the general round of questions, my answers seemingly telling her I was a little bit older than my face had said. So she just came out and asked, point-blank.
She: “Um — how old are you?”
She draws back and spats: “FUCK YOU!!”
[she pauses, and then:]
“WHAT DO YOU EAT?????!!???”
The funny thing is, I steal a lot of food from kids. I’ve stolen food from babies, kids, all my life. (My time as a nanny aided me greatly.) I’m not sure whether I was hungry for the item or just hungry for the love it represented, but I’ve eaten individually or mother-packed sweets too many times to count. I’ve told myself they’ll never miss those gummi bunnies; no one counts baby biscuits on their way back into the pantry. Besides, the shit’s delicious. Who could blame me?
This face has done so much for me. It has annoyed me, for sure. When I’m ignored at the deli counter. Or when young girls call me ‘hon’. But it has worked to my advantage, too. Free entrance into events, the reduced-fare youth bus card. And then there are the smiles I’ve been granted, because of this baby face. You know how nice people are to kids? They are often that nice to me, too. They see innocence in me, naturally. I get patted on the hand and gently guided where I need to go. I must look prompt for mothering.
I am grateful for it all. I needed it. I needed the baby food, the congratulations (for ‘looking young’!), the sweetness. I’ve enjoyed being the adult at the party that the kids wanted to play with, even if it was because they thought I was their comrade. I have had A LOT of fun.
In my experience, your age is equal to those around you, and what they believe it to be. Though I wanted to be an old lady from the time I hit 15, and though I’m roughly 75 inside, the whole world has treated me as its child, and it has been a wonderful ride.