It has come to my attention that I'm old.
I don't feel old. I'll be thirty on my next birthday; it has never bothered me until now.
For some years, I've been perched on the precipice between uniquely sophisticated and ecclectic and out of style. I prefer Louis Armstrong to American Idol and an evening of quilting to drinks with my peeps. I have grown up taste, but I've never felt old before.
In the span of four days, three separate events made me keenly aware that, to a large group of people, I am old.
The First Event
Last Friday night, I witnessed a high school version of The Dating Game. It was cute, especially since I knew most of the participants. But then, they asked the question that shall be burned into my brain forever:
If you girlfriend could go on a date with a celebrity hunk, would she choose…
I'm a high school teacher. I keep up with celebrity news. I was expecting Mel Gibson, the cute kid from Troy, and maybe a singer like Usher.
The emcee rattled off Leonardo DiCapprio's name, along with three names I'd never heard of. Not ever. I looked at my friend, Jeff, and said, “Did you know any of those names?”
“You're old.” he replied.
“What?!?!” I asked, totally unable to comprehend the words.
“We're old. We don't know any of those names because we're old. It's passed us.”
The Second Event
When my students take a test, I usually give a few bonus questions. The questions always come from a book I have that lists events from history for each day of the year. It's a fun way for me to tie history and culture and sports trivia in with my science content.
The first bonus question I asked on April 29 was “What famous tennis player has a birthday today? He was once married to a popular Calvin Klien model, and he's considered a great in the sport. His initials are A.A.”
I thought it was a gimme.
After they handed in their tests, we discussed the bonus questions and their answers.
My students didn't know who the famous model was. Brooke Shields, the most famous clothing model of my childhood.
After I talked about her a bit, one of them said, “Oh, I know! Isn't she the mother who talks about being depressed?”
Yes, dear. Brooke Shields has always been a middle-aged woman who talks about post partum depression.
The Third Event
On the same day, in another class, I asked a bonus question about George Washington. He was inaugurated for the first time on April 30, 1789. Only a few of my students knew that the answer to what I thought was another obvious question.
Shocked, I reminded them about the big bicentennial celebration that was held in July of 1989.
“You know! It was the 200th birthday of our country!” I said.
One of them raised a hand. “Mrs. Z? I wasn't born until 1993. I don't know anything about the 200th birthday thing.” Heads nodded around the room.
D'oh! It would be hard to remember something that happened before they were born.
I've been out of college for almost ten years. That's hard to fathom; I still dream about being in college.
And yet, I consider myself a young person. I'm going to be 30. Thirty is young.
My parents, my grandparents, and the retirees I know consider me a young person, too, and in thirty years, I will probably look back on this as part of my youth.
Are high school students a fair litmus test for defining young and old? I doubt it. But if I am what I feel, I may indeed have grown up and gotten old.
© 2009 – 2017, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.