Don’t be duped by the fairy-boy behind you!
Last Thursday I leapt over another fence on my wild race to being treated like a real adult. I turned the exhilarating age of 21 — now part of me is squirming because I have one more thing to spend too much money on. In some ways I feel seasoned, refined, and deserving of such a precious numeral.
On Saturday for instance, I saw an old music teacher that I hadn’t spoken with since last year, and when he saw me he exclaimed, “My God, you’re a woman now!” (As my mom said, somehow that’s more meaningful coming from a Frenchman.) A day later, I was driving for the first time in a couple of months. Trying to back out of my driveway, I spent a good three minutes reversing and pulling up, attempting to avoid that cruelly placed tree that has always stood in cold mockery of my license to drive. Muttering in annoyance under my breath, I was reminded of that humiliating day years ago when I crunched my mom’s side-mirror into a fist-shaped blob on that same blasted tree. I suppose we are only as old and savvy as we let ourselves be.
But sometimes it’s out of our hands, not because we can’t control how old we are, (even though this is more or less true) but because others dump their goofy logic on us. I am thinking of the countless times people have recently thought I was in high school, or I was younger than my seventeen-year-old sister, or even that I was twelve (this was just a couple months ago). When I say, “No, I’m in fact my sister’s senior by three-and-a-half years,” they chuckle and say, “Oh, well, you know … you’re short.” Really? I didn’t notice. In all seriousness, I realize that this is part and parcel of being five feet tall. I have to deal with it graciously. But there are times when I’m tempted to point out to these greenhorns that in the name of all things petite, age and height are not proportionally related.
Sometimes I snap at people. Many times I don’t make my bed. But every so often, I write a sentence I never would have thought of when I was fifteen, or I am able to comfort a friend who’s hurting, or I even make a turn that is as smooth as any professional NASCAR driver’s.
Growing up is not, I hope, a whittling down of all silliness and awkward bulginess into a smooth, sleek self. That’s a myth. But I do think it’s about becoming more of who you were born to be — more kind, more patient, more full of delight. You face what’s difficult, and you accept the fact that you can’t live on cinnamon toast anymore. It doesn’t always come naturally. But I hope I can always look down and see that I’m a few inches taller than I was last year — metaphorically speaking, of course.