When I was in my teens, people usually guessed my age as older than I was. Back then I thought it was great. But now…actually I really don’t care. My age is like the gray in my hair. I’ve worked hard to earn every inch of it.
But I do think it’s rude to ask a senior citizen how old they are, so when someone does ask I make them work to find out. I’ll tell them I was born in ‘33 and let them do some math to figure it out.
This year I may tell askers that I just turned 36. I really did. When you turn 36 you get 63. This should work until I’m 67. No sense informing them I turned 76, unless they might say, “You certainly look younger than that.”
I don’t think I’ll be that desperate. Besides they might tell me I don’t look a day over 70 — a low blow if you’re 67.
I never get upset when little kids ask how old I am. After all, that’s how adults frequently start a conversation with a little one, so they’re just imitating their elders. I usually ask them how old they think I am. Don’t try this if you are already depressed because their answer could deepen any depression.
Preschool friends have guessed my age as anywhere from 13 to 327. One little girl looked me over and announced judicially. “Well, you’re really pretty old. I bet you’re at least 28.”
I smiled nicely and assured her she was a good age guesser.
Then I asked her how old she thought my husband, Bill, was. She looked him up and down and decided, “Well, he’s older than you! I’ll bet he’s 87. I slipped her another piece of candy.
When my eldest son was 5, he told me, “When I’m grown up I’m going to get married and live with you and Dad!” I refrained from yelling “No way!” and asked, “How old will you be when you are all grown up?”
He calculated for a moment and then decided, “Probably when I’m 7.” Fortunately he managed to wait a bit longer than that.
Sometimes I wonder how I got so old so fast. I look in the mirror and wonder who is the old woman looking back at me. But there is always one consolation. As long as I can see the old lady in the mirror looking back at me, I’m not as old as I’m going to be.
Author’s Note: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on May 28, 1997.