My students often try to guess how old I am. Most of them are a handful of years younger than me, others are closer to my age. I don’t wear khakis or corduroy, nor do I shop at Talbotts, so it’s understandable my age confuses them since their standard reference is Mr. Chang, the information systems instructor whose shoes have buckles and whose flip phone is always clipped to his leather belt.
Not to mention, I, “call me Jessica, not Miss Machado,” am often prone to swearing and bunking the Establishment (college included), which aligns me with the Us team, comprised of working class immigrants and students from the Bronx, versus the Them team, the old authoratative bunch.
Or, most likely, I’m on the Whitey team, a general mishmash of out-of-touch fair-skinned folk.
Nevertheless, as much as I’d like to think my youthful appearance is compromised only by my radiating maturity, I’m slowly realizing that this is not the case. My eyes—the lines, the ballooning sacs, the constant “don’t you even try to get that shit past me” look within them—give me away. I’m afraid the question my students are asking isn’t “how old are you?” but “why does this old person, who should make more money than I do, own the same flouncy shirt from Target that I bought four years ago?”
Then the other day my suspicions were confirmed when a student made an attempt to guess my age. “Thirty-four?” he asked.
Usually, the age discussion doesn’t get past the initial question, as I will shake my head, utter “not saying,” and get back to the lecture on whether Miley Cyrus’ latest Twitter photo is or is not pornography.
Puncturing my ego further, recently, a random group of strangers, single men in a dimly lit bar have you, affirmed the truth. For some reason, my girlfriend decided to survey them on how old we look. One looked me square in the eye. “Thirty-three,” he said.
So I suppose I’m the last to know that I’ve been fooling no one. For the past three years, I thought I was able to pass for a twentysomething without having to deal with the insecure, humorless garbage of actually being twentysomething. Dammit. Now I’m starting to wonder if it was the reverse all along: it wasn’t my appearance that made people question my age, but my behaviors.
I guess this means I’m finally acting like a bona fide real adult. A real adult who won’t just stare at a keyboard full of crumbs left over from her tortilla-chip breakfast, but an adult who’ll clean dust it off as soon as she finishes her blog post.