Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Numbers Game, part 1

We live in a society that defines us by numbers. Social security numbers, driver's license numbers, passport numbers, bank account numbers...all assigned to us, giving us a set of unique identifiers. But, there are two number groups that for women stand out above the rest. They define our roles, they place limits on us, attempt to tell us how we should behave. They even try to control our self-worth and definitely impact our self-confidence.

This weekend, the reality of these two sets of numbers smacked me in the face. One number tells me how many years I have lived on this earth, otherwise known as my age. The other number that tells me how well I have been treating or not treating my body, otherwise known as my weight.

Age and weight. At any point in my life I could tell you these numbers without hesitation. My guess the same is true for most women. Age is obvious, although I did have a friend once whose husband convinced her that she was actually a year old than she was. But in my mind, the two were and continue to be inexplicably linked. I always know exactly what they are. Precisely. In fact, my life and all its experiences are wrapped up in those numbers. It is crushing to recognize now how many times my major moments in life have been impacted by what those numbers were whispering to me. And, more poignantly how they continue to weave themselves into how I view myself, what I am allowed to do and how I present myself to the world.

I have been particularly reflective on the large presence of these digits in my life because of how I spent my weekend. I took my stepsister, 15 years my junior and another bridesmaid to the mountains for a pre-wedding girls' getaway. Not quite a bachelorette party, but still a weekend of bonding and sisterhood. Let me extol upon you a little nugget of wisdom I gleaned over the past couple of days...nothing brings the reality of your age more to the forefront than spending a weekend with "girls" who are a generation younger, recently graduated from college with their whole lives in front of them.

What occured on this weekend to have me suddenly face with the fact that the grim reaper's visit might be closer than I think? Well...I spent a good portion of my weekend trying to figure out my new cell phone, only to have to solicit help from the younglings. Just trying to find the ring tone seemed more perplexing than figuring out the shoes selections on the show, "What Not to Wear." Or, if I really want to date myself, more perplexing than solving a Rubik's Cube (pre-solution publishing). After years of being somewhat technical, I realized that technology sped past me a few years ago, leaving me in the dust. I vowed when I was younger to a) never have this happen to me and b) if it did, to know that it was time to move into a rest home which also dates me as they are known now as "long-term care" facilities.

The girls had a conversation about when they received their first cell phone, as in they got their first one when they were 16, though their brother was able to get one at age 10. Hello? They didn't even have cell phones, the internet on a wide-reaching level, laptops, etc. until I was in my mid-20s.

Continuing on the technology junket, I experienced and survived high school and college without the internet, specifically without myspace, facebook and no cell phone. To complete research on a paper, I actually had to step my foot into a building called the library. I learned how to use a card catalogue rather than a search engine on a computer. Did they ever sift through reams of microfiche for back issues of Newsweek or the WSJ? Nope. None of my weekend companions endured that - do they even know what microfiche is?

Later, we went out on the town and the one semi-bright moment was when I was asked for my I.D.. Yes, I know it was out of pity and more of a pack mentality that led to this request, but it was an official "carding." At another night spot, the waiter asked for the id's of the group, but didn't ask for mine. Instead, he actually said out loud, I don't need to see yours, you look old enough. Fine. No tip for you, my friend.

However, the icing on the cake was the discovery that the father of one of the girls in my group was just ONE year old than ME. I could have dated her father...I could have been in classes with him...heck, I could even be her mother! When we were out, did people think I could be their mother?!?! Smacked, slapped and stunned.

Can my perception be that totally skewed to think I have not actually aged in 15 years or so? Well, actually, yes. Of course, I knew that I had aged, but did I consider myself mother hen or a den mother to the college class of 2009? Ummmm, no.

We have all read the articles surmising how your age is all a state of mind. How many gift shops have, "You are only as young as you feel," painted on a piece of chintzy home decor? Not very inspirational. So, for now, I think I'll just continue to flirt with the number 29 while I try to figure out the blue tooth wireless headset my husband gave me tonight.

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