I have an issue, one of many, about my looks and my age. See, from I don’t know when people have always thought I was older. From that time in 8th grade when someone mistook me for a substitute teacher, to the battles in high school to convince the cafeteria staff that I did not pay the teacher rate (I finally just brought my lunch, it was easier), to sneaking into R movies (oh how risqué), ordering drinks as a teen and later explaining to a guy from work (who was older) why I would be offended by getting an AARP invitation (he genuinely didn’t get it). I’ve frequently been mistaken as my friend Kendra’s mother (she’s 4 years younger) and I’ve never been legitimately carded – ever. For my 21st birthday, when Mom and my Aunt Jen took me out for margaritas my Mom had to tell the staff to card me, which they did just to make her happy. Back in the day, I’d go into a club with a nod at the doorman and a “you don’t need to see my ID do you?” and they’d always shake their heads. It wasn’t a Jedi mind trick, it’s that I suffer from some mild form of that disease where you look elderly when you’re really only 3 (apparently, it’s not Crohn’s Disease, but I now consider myself a subject matter expert after an unsuccessful visit to WebMD) – I’m convinced! Don’t listen to my friends or family – they’re just trying to be kind. Ask any stranger on the street, they’ll give you an honest opinion. Needless to say, I’m hypersensitive about the subject.
So, in comes Saturday and we’re sitting at Mom’s estate sale watching people pick through her things and make comments while I quietly recite my mantra “hitting adults could land you in jail”. A “customer” comes up and says “I heard the lady that lived here died.” I nodded and thought “hitting adults could land you in jail” but instead said “that was my mother.” “Oh! Was she in a nursing home?” Most people recognize this as a yes or no type of question. Not me. What I heard was, “Oh! YOUR mom? She must have been ancient and spent her dying moments wrapped in a blanket after her eyes failed and her arthritis prevented her from knitting, but you’ve got to love that octogenarian spirit!”
Yes or no. That’s all I had to say, but crazy was going off in my head. She just accused me of being what? 60? I think she’s being flip about Mom’s death! I wonder if I tighten my face and stare at her hard enough she’ll just fall over and die in front of me – that’s not like hitting an adult – that’s like destiny – it was meant to happen – no forensic teams could possibly find proof of a death glare. Since she wasn’t combusting, I realized I was obligated to answer her yes or no question. “Was your mother in a nursing home when she died?” And crazy forced out of me a bitter, “no, she died of a heart attack.” This gave the woman pause as she tried to remember if she asked if the nursing home killed my Mom, so she blinked at me a few seconds. She finally recovered and offered, “I work in a nursing home – we have lots of heart attacks.” …and still she didn’t combust. I finally resigned myself to sitting quietly and feeling insulted.
For the record, my Mom wasn’t old enough to be in a nursing home. I know you were all thinking that. And that reunion I went to last year, it wasn’t my 40th. I know you were all wondering that, too. Oh, and one more thing, I’m still not old enough to join AARP – if you think I am, keep that to yourself.