Saturday, August 4, 2012

On Being Young

You know how they say that age is just a number? For some reason, I have hard time accepting this. I admit it: I have age roadblocks. Blinders. Goggles. I feel self conscious about both being too young, and appearing even younger. And this has never been truer than now - as a mom.

One of my silly fears about Luke's upcoming preschool experience is that I'm going to be the youngest mom there, and I'll once again get appraised by every mom in the room, wondering if I was a teen mom or not (I wasn't).

I have a complex. I think that no one that's older than, say, my husband - who is 4 years older than me - will take me seriously. About life in general, but especially about being a mom. I guess part of my issue comes from hearing people say "but she's so young" in reference to our move to Charlotte eight years ago. And maybe also that, Matt's family seems to be a lot older than mine (having kids later in life and such). I was raised differently - programmed to not waste time having babies. My family was always of the, "life is too short to risk your fertility, and children are life's greatest blessing, so don't mess around", persuasion. I never thought I had any other option - nor did I want one. I got exactly what I wanted, in the end - by 24, I was married and already a mother. And I became a mom of two at 26. This sounds extremely reasonable to me, almost conservative, actually (as most first-time mothers in my family had their start around 20 or 21).

But it seems like everyone around me had a completely different mindset about motherhood. Many people I know believe that having your first child is an endeavor best left for your 30's (and, to each their own, but may I point out - peak fertility (resulting in the healthiest pregnancies) is 3 years in the past by the time you hit the big 3-0). Society has certainly changed the way we women do things - at least, for many women - but our biology is still following old fashioned standards. And I've been more than happy to oblige. In fact, I want 1-2 more baby/babies, and I'm panicking about the fact that I'll be 28 this month. Suddenly, I'll go from being the young mom to my oldest, to the old mom to my youngest. I guess I'll get to play all the roles, in the end. But for now - I'm almost always the youngest.

I recently had an experience that really showed me exactly how the world seems to view me. That is to say - not an adult. No, seriously.

I went to see a movie with a couple of my friends about a month ago. One of them brought a few extra guests. There were five of us in the end - aged 29, 27 (me), and three that were somewhere in the ballpark of 23-24. We went to see Magic Mike (hellooo Channing Tatum, I swear I am old enough to have a crush on you) naturally, it was rated R. All five of us bought our tickets separately, from the same guy, and ONLY I GOT ID'ED. FOR A MOVIE. THAT YOU HAVE TO BE 17 YEARS OLD TO SEE.

Do you remember being 16 and going to see an R rated movie, hoping they wouldn't ask you for an ID, or that they'd believe your "I forgot my license" story when they did? Or even convincing your parents that "come on, it's not that bad"...and asking them to buy a ticket for you? Let me tell you how much more humiliating it is to be nearing your 28th birthday, and be told (in no uncertain terms) that you do not even pass for a legal adult - apparently, by a year or two. It had to have been slightly embarrassing for the ticket attendant to see my 1984 birth year, after expecting one somewhere around 1996. All I could think about during this moment was my 3.5 year old sitting at home with his dad. If I was 16, that would have meant he was born when I was 12.5.

Maybe some people would consider this a compliment - I know many women love being carded at a bar. But being mistaken for 20 is a completely different ball game than being confused for a 16 year old! Not only do I already have an age-complex, but when I think of 16 year old me, the predominant emotion I feel is "utter embarrassment", and to be compared to or mistaken for that version of me is insulting to the nearly 12 years of maturing I've done. And so naturally, my age-complex has been amplified. Is this how the world sees me? Do they watch me driving my mini van with my two sons, carting them to the grocery store and gym class, and think "she must be the babysitter"? Recently - I took my boys in to visit my mom at her job, and her co-workers thought I was her 19 year old daughter, bringing in my two little brothers to see their mom. SERIOUSLY?

(Apparently that's a testament to how my mom looks, also. She's 49, if you're wondering.)

I will give the world this. I do look young. I attribute this to a few physical facts.

1. Freckles. I have them. A lot of them. They cover my face, shoulders, arms, knees, and parts of my chest. Freckles make you look younger, I know. I'm not sure why, exactly, but I know that's true. It's bizarre, really - I'm the only one in my immediate family that is absolutely covered in them. My Dad has some, but not enough that you'd ever think of him and say "he has freckles". You'd have to know him well enough to be close enough to his face to see them. You won't miss them on me. Especially after a day in the sun. I don't tan, I freckle.

2. Round cheeks. Okay, don't get pervy on me. What I mean is - I have those, little kid, almost-chubby, apple cheeks. My husband always says he loves this about me, especially the way they bunch up under my eyes when I smile. I didn't realize I had these until he started pointing out "how cute" they were, because he says both of the boys have inherited them from me. Personally, I think they both just have their baby fat, but even when I'm at my skinniest, I've got those youthful puppy-fat-looking cheeks. My average weight (when I'm not preggo) is 125, so it's kind of an odd genetic thing - contributing further to my young appearance.

3. Ponytails. I live in them. I only get a haircut 1-2 times a year, because...I don't know, I'm a mom, and I usually care more that my kids' hair is getting ridiculous looking than my own. It's funny, I always say that when I put my hair in a pony tail at least 6 days of the week, it's time for a haircut. That's my subconscious indicator that I officially can't stand my hair and hate styling it. My haircut usually happens in the fall/early winter, meaning that in the summer - it's at it's lowest point, and I'm okay with that, because I'd rather be in a pony tail in the hot weather, anyway. But ponytails are, again, youthful. Have you ever seen a 40 or 50 year old woman, outside of hollywood, with a ponytail? At least when they're out of the house? Probably not. (Please let me go on record now, and say that when I hit that "older woman" stage of my life, I will not succumb to the boy haircut.)

Another contributing factor may be that - I like to follow trends. I'm young at heart, and I've got a thing for bright colors. I'm totally obsessive about this summer's neon love, and I'm almost always in something nearly fluorescent these days. It probably didn't help my case that I showed up to see Magic Mike in a neon tank top and a pony tail, fresh freckles smattering my apple cheeks from being in the sun that weekend. I guess I asked for it. I would have been completely on board if I'd been ID'ed for a margarita, but I refuse to believe that I don't look old enough to vote or buy a lottery ticket.

I wish I didn't care about my age so much, because - 10 or 20 years from now, I'll wish my biggest worry was being mistaken for being 11 or 12 years younger than I actually am. But for now, at this point of my life, I want to be considered a competent mother more than anything in the world. And because of the rest of the world's maternal decisions, I feel like that's not happening. I don't need everyone's approval, don't get me wrong. The only thing that really matters in the end, is what my children and my husband think of me as a mom. But it would be nice to be taken seriously.

Do you have any qualms about your age? Does it get in your way at times?

1 comment:

  1. I think that being married and have a first child at 24 is the perfect age. That is how old I want to be when I'm both of those things. I disagree with the 30 year old mothers who look down on another mother. At the end of the day you both share a special bond -- motherhood. And I agree on the boy hair cut on older women...
    I bet those women wish they could appear as youthful and free spirited as you are.

    Amanda Rose