Friday, February 04, 2005

Ain't Nuthin' but a Number

So I did something last night that I'm not too proud of – I lied about my age for the first time. I hadn't planned to – in fact, I made a pledge of sorts some years back (as I approached the feeble old age of 27) to never lie about my age, because that was the truest sign I was turning into a sad old poof. I've never felt the need to fudge my digits before, even though I'm rapidly approaching my mid-30s. Around this time of year (the span between New Year's and my birthday, Feb 25), I usually take a personal inventory and I've been pretty happy with where I am lately: back in school, working at Time Out New York and pursuing my dream of being a magazine journalist. But sometimes things happen in a moment and all your promises go out the window.

When I originally made plans to meet up with my fellow Time Out interns for drinks, I knew it might be awkward. I’ve hung out with a lot of awesome people in their early twenties – heck, my last boyfriend was 23 when we met – but lately, I’ve encountered a few immature youngsters, the kind of people who went to the right schools, were raised the right way and didn’t have to do too much growing up on their own. I had a feeling at least one of my colleagues would fall into this group. And I was right.

We gathered outside Coffee Shop in Union Square around 8pm, but soon headed off to another spot when it was realized they were carding (yes, that’s right – one of my colleagues is all of 19). As our party of six lumbered towards Telephone Bar on Second Avenue, we chit-chatted about the usual mundane subjects that early twentysomethings obsess over. “Where’d you grow up?” “Where’d you go to school?” and the inevitable clincher, “how old are you?” It was the 19-year-old who asked me, and as soon as she did, I could tell she would flip out when I told her I would be 32 at the end of the month. I mean she was already borderline spastic, filled with that youthful frenzy that dissipates shortly after you bounce your third rent check. But I was cornered. If I demurred, she’d press harder. So, as casually as I could, I said “I’m thirty...” And then I stopped. I was going to add the “one,” which would at least be technically correct, if not completely honest. But I didn't – I just let the teee reverberate like an irrepressible fart. I guess I thought it might soften the blow if I was just teetering into my fourth decade, rather than firmly planted in it. I was wrong.

“YOU’RE THIRTY?! GUYS – HE’S OLDER THAN ALL OF YOU!” she whipped around and shrieked to the rest of the gang, who were trailing several feet behind us. I never quite understood what it meant to smote someone, but I swear I wanted to smite her right where she stood. Instead, I grabbed her arm and squeezed verrry tightly as I said, “Calm down – it’s not that big a deal,” an over-friendly smile plastered on my face. Once the shock of my dotage wore off, Miss 19 started to apologize profusely, as if she had accidentally blurted out I was molested by my uncle when I was 11. Again, I smiled and said "it's not a big deal" – with a withering look that made her feel even worse.

To their credit, the other interns -- who range in age from 23 to 26 -- just sort of shrugged and we moved on to other topics. And, I guess, to my credit I didn’t let it ruin the night for me. We arrived at the Telephone Bar and once the alcohol started to flow freely, all generational differences ebbed away. We gossiped about co-workers who weren’t there, shared New York apartment-hunting stories and bonded in the way people who spend 10-20 hours a week together do.

There's no real p.s. to this story. Miss 19 is going back to Oberlin next week (of course she goes to Oberlin. Where else?), so I won’t run into her in the hallway. And even if I did, I would flash her another stupid smile and laugh inside. One of the advantages of being an old fart is that you just don’t give a fuck what other people think.


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