JJ Vincent hopes that 40 will be the magical number that helps youthful men like himself be treated like adults.
I can’t wait to be 40.
Yes, you read that right.
I cannot wait to be 40. I have 6 months left. I’m almost there.
I can’t wait to be 40. Well, sort of….
I’ve been blessed with some sort of eternal youth. Right now, on a long, tired day, I look 30-ish. On most days, shave a few years off of that. Usually, I get taken for about 24, 25. The older-looking the people around me are, the younger I look. The fact that I’m barely 5’4″ helps. You should have seen the heads turn with I was dating a 6’2″ red-headed woman 10 years my senior who refused to slouch or wear flats.
I’ve been cursed with some sort of eternal youth. Right now, on a long, tired day, I look 30-ish. On most days, shave a few years off of that. Usually, I get taken for someone pretty freshly out of college. The older-looking the people around me are, the less experienced I’m assumed to be. The fact that I’m barely 5’4″ hurts. A shirt and tie don’t do much to age me. You should see heads turn when I’m in a room full of my business peers. I look like some of their kids.
I take a few small joys in this. I love making people do brain-twisting math. “Let’s see, I grew up in _____, moved to ____ for college and stayed for 11 years, and I’ve been here for 8 years.” “Jobs? Let’s see, I guess the 3 years I spent as a VP of Media and Marketing was the “best” job, but certainly not my favorite.” I’ll do the same thing with pop culture. “This song reminds me of those horrible Jr. High School dances.” “Bill Cosby called…he wants his sweaters back.” In each case, I can see the math in people’s heads as they try to reconcile what they are hearing with what they see.
40 will make this even more fun. They’ll be even more confused.
I have more than a few small problems with this. It’s hard to be taken seriously as a grown man when you look like someone’s big brother or oldest child. I try to insert my age early into an introduction as I can, because it’s easier than trying to keep my cool while being patronized or smiled at indulgently before being dismissed out of hand. Youthful appearance and lack of bulk and stature are sadly equated with inexperience and naivete. More than once, I’ve been at an event where I’m a senior member, by experience or longevity, but I’m disregarded because I don’t look like someone who’s been doing this for 13+ years. I can see the polite nods and smiles as people ignore what they hear and only listen to what they see.
40 may be the secret solution for this.
Visible aging is a fact of life for most men. It’s even a badge of honor for some and viewed as sexy by many women.
For those of use who aren’t aging, it’s doubly hard being a young-looking man, because while we’ve probably taken on the responsibilities of other gents our age, we still too often find ourselves at the kids’ table.
Given the world that we live in, where younger and younger people are the bearers and keepers of knowledge, technology, and access to information, you’d think that here would be a some movement towards respect of the young, or at least not a judgement of ability based on perceived age. While they are widely thought of as whiny, entitled moochers, they’re the people that a lot of us turn to to fix our remotes and iPods and computers and phones. They are the ones that are seeing beyond gay-straight-male-female-able-disabled labels to who a person is and what they can do. I’m not one of them, but I look like it.
Youth is not a danger or a disease or a hindrance or disability. But it’s treated like one, and those of us who look like it suffer for it, whether it’s being disrespected by kids who think we look like their buddies or pulled in ten directions by people who are just trying to be helpful, but are really just telling us things we know, or have been told 800 times before.
Maybe, just maybe, 40 will magically fix this.
But I’d still kind of like to look like a 20-something.
photo courtesy of the author