yep, we’re going to start this off with the title of a britney spears song, because, well, because. regardless of those dark federline years, she’s still the best.
anyway, back to my story.
last saturday i hung out with a bunch of sixteen-year-olds. my sister was in town with her sailing team and i drove down to shelter island to spend time with her and my dad. so technically i hung out with some sixteen-year-olds and a few of their older than sixteen-year-old fathers.
i did the math. i was more or less right in between the average age of the so-called “adults” and their teenage offspring. part of me related more with the high school sophomores than i did with their parents, but when the dads introduced themselves with their first names, instead of “mister so-and-so” i realized, wait a minute, i’m an adult, too.
it’s a funny thing, this feeling of being in-between. despite the fact that i’m in my (gulp) final year of my 20’s, i’m the first one to get carded at a bar and when i attempt to wear anything babydoll, i immediately look 12 (or pregnant, which is a different topic entirely). aside from a few crow’s feet forming around the outsides of my eyes and a half-dozen other wrinkles (or as i prefer to call them “smile lines”), my face looks exactly the same as it did in high school (that’s not true, i have much clearer skin now thankyouverymuchaccutane). some days, most days really, i feel like i’m just playing dress up. if i throw on heels and a pencil skirt, people are obligated to take me seriously, right? i’ve been telling myself that for the last seven years at least.
then there’s that whole internal age thing. i was discussing this topic with my good friend the other day. he told me he’ll always feel 15. no matter how old he gets (and let’s just say he’s nowhere near 15), he’ll always see himself as that unassuming high school sophomore. i told him i had never really determined my internal age. i knew that in my mind, my parents would always be 40. so if that was true, correspondingly, i would be 15, too. but i remember what i was like as a 15-year-old, and i sure as hell wouldn’t want to turn back time (cue cher song). so if i had to pick an age, i think it might be 18. adult enough. a high school senior/college freshman. independent. determined. but still very naive in many ways. totally excited to claim her freedom but just as enthused to come home and be taken care of by her parents. not a girl, but not yet a woman.
so if i’m internally 18, it still feels weird to list a steady job, a 401k, and a mortgage on my life resume. when people look to me for authority, my first tendency is to look behind me to see who they must be looking at. oh me? right. because i’m one year shy of 30 and am, in conventional standards, an adult.
i engaged the high schoolers, inquiring about their college plans and life goals (i HATED that question as a teen, but what else do you ask kids that age? how many instagram followers they have?), i advised them that no matter what major they chose, it is always going to be more about who they know over what they know (unless they’re going into some specialized field like medicine) and that boys are stupid, whether they are 16 or 30. i cracked a few self-deprecating jokes which warranted a half dozen giggles (success!) and made sure to do my best not to embarrass my sis. but dad told me that embarrassing her was his job, so i came in with a scapegoat. also i feel super creepy for saying this, but i do not recall 16-year-old boys being that adorable. whatever is in the water these days, drink up, boys.
the other half of the night was spent on the “adult” side of the dinner table. we talked politics, professions, personal experiences. despite being a whole generation younger, i wasn’t seen as my dad’s other daughter, i was a peer. just as much a member of the so-called real world as they.
occasionally i’d glance down to the other side of the table and to our underage dinner crew. hovered over their phones and plates full of pasta, it was only when i juxtaposed them to the parent-half end of the table that i began to find the disconnect. despite how much i looked like i could belong to the group on the right side of me, i had to face the fact that i had more in common with the folks on my left. weird.
but maybe until i check the various items off of societal’s rubric on what it means to experience “adulting” -marriage, babies, mortgage, retirements funds (check & check to the last two), i’m still always going to feel 18. (i’m going to venture to say that i’ll still feel that age even when i’m married and have babies of my own, mostly because i find any opportunity to quote mean girls and/or friends, regardless of whether the situation deems that appropriate).
but if memory serves me well, and as evidenced by the photo below, 18-year-old shawna was pretty awesome, so i think i’m okay with that.