Do you know how, in your own mind, you consider yourself younger than you actually are? I do anyway. In my head, I’m still in my early twenties. Well, today I was hit in the face with the reality that I’m no spring chicken anymore. 

Most Sunday mornings I join my sister, sister-in-law, and at least one niece for what I like to refer to as The Breakfast Club. Ordinarily we meet at 7am mass and then head to Dunkin Donuts for coffee, treats, and some laughs (and this we are a group that needs some laughs). This morning, while shooting the breeze with a club member, a woman came in wearing a Christmas tree pin on her sweater and I remarked how it reminded me of one that my mother wears during the holidays, to which the woman replied, “Well, I bet I’m old enough to be your mother.” 

While she was right, I didn’t fall for that trap. I know how this game is played—I politely said that she was much to young to be my mother, as no one wants to be reminded of their real age—especially in New Canaan. She then pointedly asked me how old I was. Playfully, I responded, “How old do I look?” Now this is a game that should be played two ways but this woman had fewer filters than the pack of Camels my father-in-law would sneak and responded, “Fifty-five,” and smiled self assuredly. She may as well have slapped me in the face and indignantly proclaimed Good Afternoon! 

As of the time of this writing, I am forty-nine years old. Fifty-two I could have smiled off. Forty-six, I’d have bought her a coffee, but when she said fifty-five, I blurted out “Oh fudge!” (Though I didn’t say fudge, much to the chagrin of the young mother with two toddlers snacking on Munchkins behind me).

How could I appear fifty-five? That’s like a forty year gap from my mental age (I’m not good at math). Sure, I’m burned out after a challenging year. Work has been stressful and I slept for a solid five hours last night—maybe that accounts for a couple of years, but fifty-five is still six years north of my current age.

I don’t have many wrinkles, have no need for glasses (I’ll admit to wearing readers occasionally as the print in books has become smaller, no doubt due to cost reductions in the publishing industry). I don’t have a ton of gray hairs, except the ones around my temples which I’m told make me look distinguished. I do get abnormally excited about the prospect of getting a good night’s sleep and enjoy a good, hard caramel candy. And then there’s the fact that I’ve begun walking around the house hunting for lights to turn off. Come to think of it, I was at a restaurant recently with a colleague and innocently asked a colleague,“Why does that music have to be so loud?” Oh now, I’m now remembering that when my daughter was home for Thanksgiving, I asked her,  “Did you get a discount because those jeans have holes in them?” 

Mother fudger, maybe that woman was being kind by stating fifty-five—taking all the above into account, I’m well into my seventies!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on grief and loss this year and one theme that is constant is that things don’t happen to you, they happen for you, so I really shouldn’t hold it against this Christmas Tree pin wearing biddy for her assessment that I’m fifty-five. Instead I have to search for the lesson she taught me. Maybe it’s, if you don’t want to know the answer, then don’t ask the question. Now that is some good advice!