I was hanging out with my colleagues at work when the subject of our boss came up. He had just joined Twitter and they were dissing him for his past reluctance. Although we had pointed out that it would be great for business, he heretofore dragged his feet. “It’s an age thing,” said one of my co-workers. “Old people just don’t get social media.”
Did I mention that my boss and I share the same birth year? And that I am old enough to be the mother of some of the people I work with? And not in a "Gilmore Girls" I-got-pregnant-in-high-school kind of way either.
Of course, my colleagues know that I am older than they are, but not by how much. They assume that because I speak their language — we listen to the same music, go to the same restaurants, use the same slang, chat on Twitter and share pictures on Instagram — that I am also fairly close to them in age.
Although I look young, I never set out to hide how old I am. It was overhearing that particular conversation (and others like it) that made me feel that it might be a good idea to keep that particular fact about myself hidden. I suppose I could’ve shared my age — while teaching them a lesson on prejudice at the same time — but I didn’t. I’m not ready to be the one-man band for ageism. Plus, I remember myself at that age, when fifty seemed like a whole lifetime away and I felt certain that people who held menus at arm’s length were similarly removed from what was going on in the world.
Of course, as I find myself dancing perilously close to the half-century mark, I’ve learned the truth: While the outside collapses, the inside stays pretty much the same. Age, as the saying goes, is nothing but a number.
Plenty of my contemporaries are still fervently curious about the world. I also know an equal number of people who, though they might not yet be eligible to run for President, are already weary of what life has to offer. The ironic thing about that conversation with my colleagues? I’d been on Twitter before any of them, the same way I jumped on Facebook in its early days and quickly embraced Instagram. The techno-geek that I was at twenty is still alive and kicking.
Other things about me have also stayed the same: I’m still nervous on first dates, tongue-tied at parties, chatty with waiters and shop owners, eager to try anything and everything. The friends I’ve known since forever have also kept their defining traits: Alice is still a sucker for obscure movies. Olivia still prefers sneakers and political arguments to high heels and cocktail conversation. Lisa still has the uncanny ability to absorb a language within minutes of landing in a foreign country. Sure, they don’t move as fast as they used to, many of them wear glasses, and most of them dye their hair, but the things that make them who they are still shine brightly.
I didn’t know my boss when he was in his twenties or even thirties, but I’ll bet you my place in line for the latest iPhone that he was never an early adopter. Youth doesn’t hold the cards on the curiosity to try new things just as it doesn’t have a monopoly on intelligence or creativity.
Of course, some things do change, the by-products of wisdom and experience and changing priorities. I may know that cropped sweaters are trending, but I also know that, given my soft midsection, I’m better off buying them for my niece than for myself (though I entertain the idea that they might be an option if I did sit-ups and gave up carbs). I remember my father at my age, telling me how surprised he sometimes was when he looked in the mirror. How could he feel so young inside and look so old outside? I didn’t understand him then. I do now.
I know that I can’t keep up this deception forever. As my world grows increasingly interconnected and people from the different parts of my life meet, I know that one day, the truth will be revealed (particularly if they read this) and my friends from work will find out how old I really am. I’m hoping that by the time that happens, it won’t matter any more, that who I am will have transcended how old I am. Perhaps, by then, my work friends will be old, too.