A rant sparked by a recent incident at the grocery store. Here’s how it went:
The checkout clerk, a gray-haired gentleman with a no-nonsense look of competence about him, asked me for my ID when I got to the front of the line. My brain was already well out the door, plotting the next errand, but that request pulled me back to the present.
I blurted out my bafflement without filtering first. “What? Why?”
“Alcohol purchase,” he said after a hesitation. His eyes went to the three bottles of wine on the belt.
I qualify for AARP discounts. My befuddlement increased, but I grabbed the card from my wallet and handed it over. The clerk checked the date and offered the ID back, only to snatch it away again for a second inspection before it reached my fingers.
Then came the upward glance. Down again. Up.
This is a dance I know by heart. I’ve seen it a hundred thousand times. See, after the initial verification, the clerk did maths in his head, and his brain said, Does not compute. He turned bright red, grinned, and handed back the card. “Sorry.”
“No worries,” I said, and we completed the transaction without incident.
Let me say again: I qualify for senior discounts. The clerk was no inexperienced kid concerned about being tested by alcohol enforcement sting. Why didn’t he know at first glance that I’m probably within five years of his own age?
Because “I don’t look my age.”
I was regularly stopped by new hall monitors when I worked in high schools. I was in my thirties at the time. The poor volunteers thought I was skipping classes. The mistaken impression had nothing to do with presentation. I wore blazers & skirts or tailored trousers, and I walk with confidence. Their judgment was based on me being short (not petite, thanks) slim, fresh-faced, and short-haired. Default assumption: young.
We all judge books by their covers, whether we know it or not. I never hold a default conclusion against people. Mistakes happen, and as default assumptions go, that one is harmless.
The second-level conclusions are less reasonable, and I do not easily forgive them. More times than not, one of the next three comments follows the revelation that I’m 15-20 years older than the observer expected me to be.
(A) Must be nice to still look so young.
(B) “You’ll miss it, when people stop carding you for alcohol.”
(C) “You’ll be grateful to look ten years younger when you’re older.”
No one would say, “Must be nice to look OLD” so why is it okay to do the opposite? It’s genetic luck, not an accomplishment. (unsaid but always thought: that isn’t a compliment. It’s a jealous, catty, passive-aggressive assault. Stop.)
And why would I miss the bullshit hassle of being implicitly accused of lying? Also, you don’t get to tell me how I get to feel. Keep your predictions to yourself.
And grateful? I confess, I will sometimes ask out loud, for what? The bald question exposes an ugly assumption: that youthful appearance is a more valuable commodity than competence; it’s more important to be seen as young than wise.
Where’s the power in cute? Where’s the appeal in being forced into a box defined by my outsides rather than my entirety? I can’t grok it. I don’t hate looking young any more than I hate having brown eyes or stubby fingers–I am what I am, and I’m comfy with my wholeness–but grateful? No. Being grateful would require I value the youthful façade in the first place. Which I don’t, not as a thing in and of itself, separate from any other facet of my being.
I am not my shiny wrapping. That is all.
Time: 10:20 AM
Tea: Irish Breakfast
Steep: 5 minutes, but I was on a roll and kept writing all the way through watching American Horror Story. My rules. I break them.
Also, I will no longer be watching American Horror Story. Squick threshold massively exceeded.