A little over a year ago, some ladies from church invited me to join their book club. The first meeting I attended was held at a member’s house that I had not previously met. I’d chosen my outfit for the evening with care; something that nicely accentuated my new baby bump in a way that made it readily apparent that I was indeed pregnant. When I parked my car in front of the address I’d jotted down, it didn’t look like many people had arrived yet and I approached the door with the slight worry that I was at the wrong house. Armed with the month’s literary selection, I knocked on the door. The apprehensive face of the woman who answered did little to reassure me that I’d found the right address.
“Hi, I’m here for book club.” I held up the book the way detectives hold up their badges in crime shows.
“Oh? Oh!” The woman’s apprehension turned to puzzlement which she quickly tried to hide. “I don’t think I’ve met you before . . . ”
“Pam invited me.” I offered in an effort to lend myself some credibility.
“And how do you know Pam?” At this point I still hadn’t been invited inside and the questions felt less like small talk and more like an interrogation, albeit a kind one. Did they regularly have unwanted people try to sneak into their book club? Perhaps this was all more elite than I had thought.
“Um, I know her from church. She lent me her book.” I held up the book again.
“Right, right come in.” She finally motioned me inside but continued questioning. “I haven’t been to church in a while, are you new?”
“Fairly. My husband and I just bought a house here a few months ago.” At this point the woman started laughing.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “When you came to the door I thought you were a high school student trying to earn money for a booster club or something. I was all prepared to tell you I didn’t want any cookies. You just look so young.”
I’ve spent the last fifteen years having people think I’m anywhere between five to ten years younger than I actually am. These type of encounters have always made me irrationally self-concious and have led me to defensively do silly things like consistently round up my age. (As if saying I’m 27 instead of 26 makes that big of a difference.) When we first moved to Colorado my age based insecurity peaked. In Utah, based on my actual age I was in the normal age range to be a mom, but in Colorado I’m at least ten years younger based on actual age and an alarming 20+ years younger according to my falsely perceived age. Generally, if I see a young woman about my age at the park with a bunch of kids she ends up being the nanny. Initially, I tried really hard to seem mature, but it just translated into a boring wardrobe and undoubtedly standoffish conversations. I didn’t really have any friends and even worse it didn’t seem to make any difference on how old people thought I was. When I was put in charge of teaching the twelve-year-old girls at church one of the other women, who was only five years older than me mind you, even said, “Oh that’s perfect. You’re just a baby and were pretty much one of them just yesterday, so I’m sure you can relate really well.” Her words stung and I wasn’t sure whether to punch her in the face or start crying. That first year that we lived here was a rough one.
One of the common things people tell me when they’re trying to apologize after grossly mistaking my age is, “You’ll enjoy it when you’re older.” When we bought our house and thus switched to a different neighborhood and congregation I viewed our move as a new start. I decided I was tired of being boring and wasn’t going to wait till I was old to enjoy my “youthfulness.” I brought my flirty skirts out of hiding and adopted a good sense of humor. I decided I’d rather be fun than mature. This new change in attitude has been quite enjoyable. When I was pregnant with Ellen I had myself a good chuckle every time I got to use one of my calculated quips when someone at Target mistook me for a pregnant teen working on number two. And instead of feeling depressed when high school security officers mistake me for a student, I get a kick out of how their jaws drop when I tell them I’m flattered they could mistake me for a high schooler after I’ve had two kids.
Since I’ve quit being so uptight my age seems to be less of an issue and my circle of friends now ranges from women in their twenties to their nineties. Dare I say my new attitude about my age has made me more mature? Maybe . . . well, until you see me on the playground at the park with all the toddlers or dancing in the aisles at the grocery store anyway. But, at least I’m young enough to be able to do that 🙂