How Old Are You?

posted in: Day In The Life 12
“Reverie,” also known as “The Days of Sappho,” by John William Godward, c. 1903. Image: Wikipedia.


I was always “young for my age” in relation to school.

This is because I turned five years old just a few weeks before kindergarten was to start. My Uncle Dave — who, fun fact, is my mother’s fraternal twin — had come to visit our family in Iowa that summer and likes to tell a story about how nervous I was about starting kindergarten. I guess I was talking to him about it.

“Well, kindergarten is a big deal,” he said. “Do you know how to count to ten?”

My uncle says that I counted past ten all the way up to 30 before he cut me off.

“That’s good. Can you sing your ABCs?” he asked.

I promptly sang my ABCs for him and like, did a twirl. He rolled his eyes.

“You’ll be fine, kiddo.”

So throughout my grammar school and high school years, I was among the youngest in my class. Then, once high school was over, I went straight into college at the University of Iowa, which meant I was one of youngest in that class, too. And I grew to like it. There was something satisfying about being the youngest in the group, though now that I’m writing about it, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the reasons why I felt that satisfaction. Did I think being younger than everyone else gave me some advantage? What kind of advantage? And if I was winning something, who was losing? Weird.

Well, whatever it was, it’s definitely over. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned this on the ol’ PG or not, but 90 percent of the people I engage with at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) are younger than I am. Sometimes by kind of a lot. Whether it’s my cohort in the MFA Writing department, the other students in my elective seminars, or the gang at the school paper, the average age of these folks is probably 27, tops. For sure tops.

Which means I’m roughly ten years older than the majority of the folks in my peer group. Most of the time I don’t think about it, but sometimes I do think about it and when I do, either of these thoughts come to mind, depending on the day I’m having:

  • We are all basically the exact same age.
  • I am literally a different species than these people.

I mean, we’re all using Snapchat now, sure, but I got my first cell phone in college and these people had them in fourth grade. It’s pretty weird. I just keep wondering what will happen if there’s a party and I start dancing. Will I make a fool of myself? You can really tell age differences with the dancing.

Maybe this has come up for me more lately because I met an interesting young man. I’ve been spending a little time with him.

This young man is not quite as young as this young man, who, by the way, moved back to Miami some months ago. I never said too terribly much about the end of all that but I can tell you that though I grew to care for him a great deal and will always care for him a great deal, things ran their course. (Someday I’ll tell you more about all that when you and I get a margarita. It’s a great story that you could only read part of for a number of reasons. Maybe I should start a second blog: PaperGirl AFTER DARK!)

Anyhow, this newly-met young man definitely had a cell phone in fourth grade, you know? There’s a difference between me and him in terms of life experience and perspectives and all, and it’s way too soon to tell if this will be a barrier or a boon. All I know is that I have been going on some really lousy dates lately and then pizow! Here’s this great person and I like to talk to him and stuff.

So we’ve been talking. And I’ve been wondering how old anyone ever really is, in the end.