Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with chronological age. When I am interacting in everyday life, I always feel somewhere around 25. Even when I talk about my children who are getting older, I seem to forget that means I am getting older, too. I spend each day trying to experience it as myself, but the self I perceive and the self that others see is vastly different.
Example #1: During Spirit Week, each day has a different theme. Wednesday’s theme was Cleveland’s sports. The entire student body and staff were encouraged to wear Cleveland gear– Indians, Browns, Cavs, or Monsters– and unify as a school. I decided to wear a Justin Masterson jersey I got for free at a game over the summer. (Actually, I have five– they gave them to anyone entering the stadium– if you want one, let me know. You can have it!) I walked into my first period class of seniors at 7:30. One of my favorite students walked through the door right after I did and saw what I was wearing. He said, “Oh my gosh, I almost wore the same thing today,” pointing at my jersey.
I felt immediate elation. I felt we had found a bond. We were at the same game over the summer; we shared a common interest in the Tribe; he is a bright kid excelling in my class.
“You should have worn it; we could have been twins,” I said, probably with a bit too much zeal, mind you.
He smiled at me awkwardly and took his seat. I heard him say to the girl who sits next to him. “Thank God I didn’t wear it. If I would have been wearing it, I would have wanted to take it off.”
Example #2: We were at the Monsters game this past Friday with our girls. Two rows in front of us was a group of twenty-something men. They reminded me of what we used to be: fun-loving, slightly obnoxious, but always out to have a good time. Jokingly, one the guys started to cheer for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Every time they scored, he would hoot and holler. It was all fun and games while the Monsters were up 3-0, but as the Griffins inched their way back into the game, it became less and less fun.
At one point, the Griffins almost scored and the entire section booed are new-found enemy. He turned around playfully and looked at us all, “What? What?”
I found him slightly cute, and I enjoyed his lively demeanor. I yelled to him, “You’re lucky; that was close. If they score, you have to buy a beer for every adult in the section.”
He looked at me and then said to the crowd, “Oh, that’s right, make the young guy buy the beer.”
In each example I provide I have to admit my ego was deflated. My student would be embarrassed to wear the same jersey as I? At the game, the boy and I were practically the same age. Yet, in each circumstance, I was perceived as old. If I tell you I was okay with it, I would be lying. I was angry in both circumstances.
I was angry because:
- the wrinkles around my eyes just mean I laugh a lot.
- I witnessed the Challenger explode and that makes me knowledgeable, not old.
- I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers before any of my students were born, and that makes me cool!
- I laugh when someone says “Danger, Danger Will Robinson,” and that just means I watched quality T.V.
- I remember the World Series of ’95 and ’97. Because I still feel slighted, it proves I am a true Cleveland fan.
- I landed my first real job when the majority of my students were in diapers, but that just makes me seasoned.
I am not old. I do not know what you think of my appearance, but I promise, if you spend a couple of hours with me, you will forget my chronological age. Someday, those of you who judge people only by the way they look will realize you missed out on some awesome friendships because you chose to judge a book by the cover instead of dusting off the jacket and reading a page or two!