Friday, February 13, 2009

Ageism in the Suburbs

"A woman's age is like the speedometer on a used car - we both know they've been set back, we just don't know how far."  Something I once saw typed on an old typewriter in my Grandpa's antique shop.  

I coordinated my son's classroom Valentine party today.  It is the last classroom party of the year.  It went well, though I always feel like I could've done a better job after these things are over.  Perfectionism sucks.  

As the official "Coordinator", I performed the due diligence of the role by calling each of the other mothers who had signed up to help, reminded them of the date and time of the party and solicited ideas from them.  We were a small but diverse group.  I, myself, had two handwritten legal-pad sheets of paper filled with ideas gleaned off the internet.  One other mother insisted that she do the food/snack station.  One mother told me that she would help with whatever I wanted to do.  One mother told me she had scheduled a family vacation the day of the party and couldn't make it.  (Um, yeah, her kid was in school today.)  The last mother didn't return my call.  I ran into this Mom at our school's "Wendy's night", and she told me that she would talk to me later.  The next day, I ran into her at Target.  (It's a small town we live in.)  We discussed the party, and then she said she had to go get a friend a baby shower gift.  Then she said, "This friend of mine is 37 years old and having her first baby.  Can you imagine just starting to raise kids at our age?"  I smiled.  I started to have children at the ripe old age of 36.  So, I volunteered the fact that I am also an "elderly Mom", and that it isn't the end of the world.  There are, in fact, quite a few of us out there now.  

The other Mom said, "You're not over FORTY, are you?"  I smiled again.  

And then she said, "Wow, you don't look THAT old."  I smiled again, but my teeth were clenching.  

I could see her examining my face - most likely for telltale age signs:  crow's feet, age spots, dentures . . . 

"Wow . . . " she said, and then there was an awkward silence.  

"Yeah, wow." I said getting thoroughly annoyed.  

At today's party, she offered to help me carry some boxes into the classroom.  She helped me carry stuff back out to my van after the party.  I could see her giving me sideways glances all afternoon.  

I'm going to make myself feel better by telling myself that I just look so damn good that she couldn't believe that I was over the dreaded age of 40.  I'm going to tell myself this until I actually believe it.  

"I guess what I be saying is there ain't no better reason, To rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons.  It's what we aim to do, our name is our virtue."  Lyrics from "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz

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