Friday, December 4, 2009


“It takes a long time to become young.” – Pablo Picasso

Late yesterday afternoon, I dropped the kids off at Taekwondo, and hustled on foot to the post office to pick up two packages that were a failed attempted delivery to my house the previous day. When the postal worker retrieved them from the mailroom, I almost said, “Never mind,” because they were larger than I expected, and I was parked about five blocks away. Why does Amazon ship in boxes much larger than its contents, wasting most of the space with perforated bubble bricks? I found a way to hold my unwieldy cargo, open two doors, and descend the stairs without stumbling and/or dropping the packages.

As I made my way down Massachusetts Avenue (known as Mass. Ave to those of us who use it), I was able to see over my boxes without much trouble, since they just reached my chin. A block down, a homeless man, sitting in front of Seven-Eleven asked, “You need help with those?” “No, I’m fine. Thank you,” I replied, doubting that this person should stand, let alone gallantly carry my boxes. Still, a nice offer. With the attention I was receiving, I began to feel like the protagonist in a book called, Sixteen by Beverly Cleary. The teenage girl decided to buy flowers for her boyfriend, but the bouquet was much larger than she expected, so she could barely see where she’s going. The girl was mortified with the attention as much as she was to deliver the flowers to her boyfriend.

Next, I passed a white-haired gentleman, perhaps in his sixties, who said, “Such a big package for such a small girl,” which made me feel as if I was seven-years-old, like my daughter. I couldn’t recall the last time anyone referred to me as a “small girl”. I guess in comparison to his age, I am a “girl", and barely five-foot-three (but that’s what I’m saying on my driver’s license), I am on the small side.

When I was subbing middle school Science last year, the teacher who about to go on a field trip with another class, seemed anxious about me taking over his classes. The school had a reputation for difficult kids (As they should, since one of my most challenging students transferred there). Some of the first period seventh-graders tried to misbehave during a documentary.* After I sent one student to the time-out room to write about how he’d misbehaved, they behaved after that, so I wondered what the Science teacher was worried about. The next period was small a small group, and I played music while they worked on a packet.

“One female sixth-grader said, “I don’t know if this is rude, but can I aks (sic) you something?”

Refraining from correcting her pronunciation and grammar, I said, “Sure.”

“How old are you?”

That reminded me of the times students asked me where I was from, when they could clearly tell from my Noo Yawk accent. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, when I found out we had a sub this morning, before he left I aksed (sic) the teacher how old you were, and he said you were probably twenty-two.”

I laughed. “I’m older than twenty-two.”

Students are never fooled by my age. To them, I’m just “old”. And compared with them, I am. I could be a mother to a twelfth-grader, if I had begun a family at a young age. VERY young (Okay, not that young). But sometimes I fool people around my age. A quick glance, with my size and round face, I could pass for younger. I don’t see it when I look in the mirror – every year I witness the changes** to my face. I know what I looked like at twenty, twenty-five, thirty, and my face is not the same. But after some makeup, it’s certainly improved.

I am uncomfortable with compliments I receive about anything, but especially my appearance. It’s terrible, but I don’t believe kind words, because I see it as just that – being kind. A mercy compliment. And I don’t know why, since I don’t compliment others unless I mean it. Either I think I'm less likely to lie or it’s something else. Then I think about some relatives who constantly say how young they look. They know this because of compliments they say they’ve received. They love to mention how people are shocked when they reveal their age. I would think those strangers would be shocked over how old they look for their age, and they’re covering up. When I see these relatives, I wonder if I'm peering into my future mirror.

I’m aware of my vanity, and have even been brave*** enough to share it here. When I was a teenager, people often thought I was two to four years younger than my actual age, which (foolishly) I hated. But at some point I realized I wasn’t the young one anymore. Maybe that’s why I see teenagers as “cute”, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. There are enough years between us that they’re small boys and girls to me. Time marches on. One day I will look back at the age I am now, and miss the days when I was a nearly wrinkle-free, slightly sagging “small girl”. It’s all relative.

“If youth knew; if age could.” – Henri Estienne

* Condition of the classroom is mentioned in this post:




  1. Most compliments are sincere and come from the heart. You look very young in your blog picture. When you finally are old, looking young doesn't mean as much as being healthy.

  2. Thanks, Sheila. You're right, good health is the most important. But I'm sure I'll still be vain when I'm old, like my paternal grandmother.

  3. Ha! I'm always getting weird looks from staff who don't know me because I do look younger than my real age. High schoolers are often fooled too and I've been hit on more than once when my badge wasn't visible. I'll just be sad when people STOP asking for my hall pass!

  4. That happened to me a couple of times at my old school by a teacher and a student, just after I straightened my hair. It happens where I sub here and there, but less as I get older. Some of the schools do tags in Cambridge, which is a big giveaway.
    I'll be sad when I stop getting carded. I know they're supposed to check anyone who looks up to age thirty, but still.... .

  5. Nodnod I totally agree with you on the subject of compliments.

    I tend not make compliments, I just report the facts as I see them. Sometimes the context makes it so that the person is pleased and takes it as a compliment, sometimes not and they react as if I had insulted them... I getting better with the years at determining people with similar view points.
    Those who can take a "I think you need to rework that paragraph". ; j

    As for being mistaken for younger... Try being half asian! ; j Also not subscribing to the accessories modern first worlders use to identify people (cell phones, cigarettes, booze, wristwatches, cars, (sun)glasses).

    During my last trip several people were baffled by the combination (and the language thing). They just couldn't place us... An open door for playing silly buggers. : j

    At one point during the trip, we were in black neighborhood in Albany looking for a motel a 11pm. Wes topped in an ancient looking gas station, and the guy behind the counter spoke a beautifully flowing musical English.

    At first we thought he was speaking another language, the patterns were different, and word usage was different too. It took us a few seconds to adjust. Then I wondered if he was putting us on... But no, that's the way he spoke. I've heard dialects of languages that were less removed from the original than this guys speech. We went two other gas stations to see if we could reproduce the experience... The second was run by a bearded debonair Hindu with perfect British English... Nice, but no fun. The third had a lady decked in the height of local fashion (I'm guessing) who had the accent I was looking for but to a lesser extent. The rythm was a lot like sixties jive talk... But without the whine and much more mellifluous... Too bad I didn't get to record of it.

    Oh hey, did you read localized-for-the-US or the original version of the Harry Potter series? That just popped to mind from seeing the HP reference in the previous post...

  6. I forgot about this post. It happened 11 months ago today, just before Taekwondo, and I'm at Taekwondo now.

    I wish you had gotten to record that accent. It's amazing how many accents I can hear in English. And then there are all the differences between American and British English.

    I'm sure being half-Asian in France is pretty different. In Cambridge, MA, many children are some combination, giving them unique looks. It's nice not to be pinpointed, I think. I'm "white", but I can be taken for many different ethnicities.

  7. LoL being Asian (or half) in any mostly Caucasian country often leads to people underestimating one's age.

    Asian faces age differently so people get fooled. The hands never lie though. : j

    I love halfies... But then I've always been a sucker for difference.

  8. Ha - hands and necks.

    Having a round face has been pretty good for me. And the Italian side seems to wrinkle less, which has also been good for me.