I’ve always looked young for my age. Poor me! I didn’t realize this until age would come up in conversation and people would be surprised I was 20, 30, 40 . . . So, I’m youthful. A baby. A spring chicken.
Except for this one incident during my sophomore year in high school. Señor Villani, my Spanish teacher, was out one day (“Me duele mi estómago,” he’d make us say if we had been absent), so we were all waiting for the sub. The sub! What could be better? I was by the classroom door, eager with anticipation, when an administrator walked in.
“Are you the sub?” she said to me, handing me a pile of papers.
Cut to me, speechless. To be fair, it was the late 80s and I may have been wearing a blazer with giant shoulder pads. Still. I was 16. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look like an adult. I skulked back to my chair, hoping Señor Villani would feel better soon.
That was the first and only time I’ve been mistaken for someone older. When I first started working at a college in my late twenties I was routinely mistaken for a student. That’s right, school administrator: a student. This year I turned forty, and, still working at the college, was having a friendly chat with one of the instructors last week. He told me to text him if I had questions about something.
“Yeah, I don’t text,” I said.
“Me neither,” he admitted, then showed me a rare text, enlarged using the accessibility feature.
“We’re not old,” I said.
“No, you don’t look a day over forty,” he said.
“Uh, that’s not how that saying works,” I said. “I’m not a day over forty. Twenty. You should have said twenty.”