For most of my life, I was the youngest person in the room. Teaching middle school at 21. Attending conferences, writing papers, and presenting ideas to large groups. I often heard, “Oh, you’re just a baby!” or “You don’t seem like you’re 25!”
It was awesome.
I moved on to another school, with a mature staff, and had a pseudo-administrative position before entering my thirties. Still the baby. This all sounds very braggy, and maybe it is a bit. But it’s also the truth–I used to be very good at my job, and I was young.
When I had my babies, I self-selected my friends, and they were all around my age, or a little older. Really, I didn’t notice, because as a certifiable egomaniac, I just assumed everybody was the same age as me.
But over time, references started to creep into conversations. At library storytime, parents would let it slip that they loved Hanson in middle school. I did, too–but I was teaching middle school. A hairline fracture gradually became a crevasse, and one day I found myself on the other side of the Pushing Forty Faultline.
It wasn’t as awesome.
People come up to me discussing menopause, and hairs erupt from my neck–MY NECK! I I notice wrinkles and tags, and turn down bread more often.
I wonder if Spanish, or CrossFit, or standing upright would be easier ten years ago. I wonder if I would feel a little less invisible sometimes.
In Spain, middle aged women wear their hair long, and wear skinny jeans and knee-high boots. They dance and celebrate, and flirt shamelessly. They wear bikinis.
And me? I try to keep the wisdom in check with the dangly earrings and evening tinto de veranos. I try not to let something as petty as a number matter, especially when I’m lucky to have the numbers at all.
And I imagine myself as having slightly more grace, and slightly more poise than I actually do. I picture myself, someday gray-haired, hopefully wearing a bright red scarf and shoes that make me smile.
And someday, I will look in the mirror and see the deep, authentic beauty around my eyes. I will know that I used every bit of my skin, and lived in it, without pausing.