Earlier today (for the first time ever) I almost lied about my age to a stranger. I was in line at my grocery store, catching up with my favorite cashier – a late-teen refugee from the Ivory Coast whom I’ve taken under my wing. She often calls me “mami/mommy,” and today she introduced me to another nearby customer as her mommy. He looked back and forth from me to her in wide-eyed astonishment.
I don’t like when she calls me that, and I especially don’t like when she refers to me as such in front of other people. I’ve been thinking about asking her to cut it out or come up with some other term of endearment (preferably one of my own choosing). If she wants to stick with the immediate-family-member theme, why can’t she call me sister (or some variation of it)? I’m too young to be her mommy, and I faux-jokingly came out and said so during this afternoon’s irksome little exchange. The nearby customer in question confrontationally stared me down and asked me how old I was. I turned into a deer in the headlights. It was as if everyone in the store had stopped talking to wait for my answer. During a long pause, I was struck by an unfamiliar impulse to make something up – 25, 27, 29 – anything under 30. But I ultimately couldn’t (and didn’t) stoop to that level. “I'm 31,” I self-consciously said. And Nearby Customer smirked and nodded, as though it was what he had expected all along.
What the hell is it to him how old I am? As cheeky as I am, I would never ask a random passerby something that intrusive.
I learned something about myself today – I’m now officially cagey about my age. It just sneaks up on you like a bitchy little thief in the night. In spirit, I’m still about 19 - 21 tops. I sometimes forget that, chronologically, I’m actually no longer a part of that age bracket. That ship has passed without my blessing. My new bracket kinda sucks - I’m interested in renouncing it. With 31 comes a lit o’ bit of baggage. 31 is not-so-loosely affiliated with the specter that I’m now supposed to be something and be someone that I’m still so not.