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November 10, 2005 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Nothin’ but a Number

I get two birthdays in a row. Today is the Marine Corps 230th birthday, and tomorrow is my 28th.

All these birthdays are making me do a little random reflection on age. Someone famous once said Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. Not everyone is convinced of this. By now most people have heard of age discrimination. Age discrimination happens when someone is fired or not hired due to being too old and rickety. This is bad, especially considering how much experience and knowledge an older person brings to the workplace. I am here to tell you that there is reverse age discrimination, when people look down on another person because they are too young.

In a culture that seems to worship youth, being young should be seen as a Very Good Thing. But when do you make the transition from young to middle age to old? Are there different types of young? Is everything relative?

When I first started my current job five years ago, I didn’t think twice about my age. Until I started getting introduced to some of my fellow coworkers, that is. My office mate “Yardley” took me around and introduced me to several people on the floor. One of them was introduced to me as “Kyle. He is 26. He’s the baby around here.” Kyle turned red and told Yardley to “shut up” and was only half joking. I didn’t say anything. I was 23. Then one of the gals I met asked me how old I was. I told her “thirty”. They didn’t really believe me, which I guess is good, but I blamed healthy eating and good genes.

I hid my youth from others like it was a giant secret. We hired other young people, and they too were scrutinized from the more “senior” people. This very thought is ridiculous, as the “senior people were all of thirty.

Perhaps it was the competitive corporate environment. Perhaps employees instinctively practice for their senior years when they will have to be skilled at fending off young tigers trying to kick them off the ladder.

Eventually the crowd discovered I was NOT thirty. They gasped. Knowing the number honestly made some people treat me differently. Apparently in some people’s mindsets, since I was no longer “thirty” I was a pop music fan who never paid attention to the news and all I was interested in was finding a trendy apartment where I could sit back and watch TRL. Some people did not feel this way, but to others I was written off as a person who did not know who she was.

Flash forward a couple of years. I live in a mountain town with lots of fun people. I participate in a book club, and also my friend Denise has converted me into a scrapbooker. I find myself wanting to try new recipes with things like capers and leeks. While I am doing my best to embrace this domestic diva side of my personality, it can be difficult. For I am too young for some of my “older” friends. How can anyone who knows what a caper is be “too young?”

I have associated with people older than me for many years. All of them, actually (years, not people). I find that I have more in common with people a few years older, as if somehow there was a fold in time and I am stuck ahead a few years. I have to say now that I am on the tail end of my twenties, this is starting to fade. Perhaps I will soon have earned my stripes and no one will call me a kid anymore. There is nothing more ludicrous to me than being called a kid. After all these years of responsibility…sheesh!

I will always be young to someone, and someone will always be young to me. It’s all relative. Sort of like in the movies where an eighty year old man is telling his forty year old nephew he needs to grow up. To those older than us, maybe we never truly grow up.

I think that I may be worrying about this too much. One hour of television will display about three anti-wrinkle cream commercials, one commercial for vitamins, and another few for makeup to hide the wrinkles that the anti-wrinkle cream does not fend off. Perhaps I should just enjoy my last few years before I take an interest in such potions.

If this did not make much sense, forgive me. My back medication is kicking in.

Tomorrow I will be twenty eight. I am thrilled. I was sure it would all be over by nineteen. I can’t wait to be thirty. And fifty…what will that be like? How much more will I have done, or know, or think? Will I be a Democrat? (God, please not!) Will I have a new allergy? Will I be in a wheelchair? Will I be a professional tap dancer? I can’t wait to find out the answers to these questions. Only time will tell.

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