I had an interesting experience the other day, and I can’t decide whether it makes me feel old or young.
Last week I had to go to the dentist for my 6-month cleaning and checkup. There are very few things that cause me greater discomfort than getting my teeth cleaned. (Pretty much all that’s coming to mind right now is anything involving snakes and creatures that sting.) You know that feeling you can get if someone scrapes their fingernails down a chalkboard? That is exactly how I feel when they are scraping my teeth. (Interestingly enough, I also get that feeling whenever I have to touch any kind of fabric with a nap-velvet, silk, suede, velour, etc. But I digress).
So as I was sitting in the chair, enduring, my dental hygienist said, “Today is my anniversary.” Always ready to celebrate longevity in marriage, and always ready to put off more teeth scraping, I was about to ask her how long she’d been married when she said, “Thirty-three years ago today I came to work here.”
Now, leaving aside for the moment the question of why anyone would want to choose a career that involved dealing with people’s insides, much less stay in that same career for thirty-three years, here was my quandary: next month I will be turning thirty-three years old, and so, as I told her, “You came to work here the same year that I was born.” So, should this fact make me feel really old, or really young?
It certainly made her feel old, and while that wasn’t my intention, it was a nice role reversal from the conversations I usually have with my new tutoring clients.
Me: “So, what year were you born?”
Tutoring Client: “1990.” (and sometimes even later than that).
Me: “Hm. That’s the year I graduated from high school.”
Me: “Wow, I’m old.”
Tutoring Client: (silently, to themselves) Wow! You’re old!
And what I want to know is, just how did this happen?! I became an adult in the 1990’s, and the ’90’s were on the leading edge of everything. We were the ones with advanced technology. We were the ones with advanced degrees. We were the ones who elected the president who would take us into the 21st century. We were on the cusp of everything.
And now the cusp has passed me by, and it is time for my 15-year high school reunion.
So now as I sit in the suburbs, writing the check to pay the mortgage, listening to the music of the 80’s and 90’s being referred to as “oldies” or “classics”, watching shows like “Veronica Mars” satirize every single aspect of my high school experience, and seeing my tutoring students show up in their flip-flops, and their pants with the waistband down at their knees, and their backwards-turned tennis visors, and their attitude of complete self-assured coolness, I hold onto this hope: one day, someone will be laughing at them, too. Possibly even today, if I have anything to say about it.