September 12, 2004

How I Earned the Label "Older Than Dirt"

I don't recall exactly how the subject came up. Or when it came up. Or why it came up. But it did come up. As such things inevitably do. And my chin hit the floor as I attempted to absorb a little piece of information so contrary to what I had ever conceived of as reality.

I've known my friend Tina peripherally since The Boy started school. She worked at his school. Actually it is more appropriate to call it her school rather than his, because she attended it while growing up and then as an adult returned as a teacher. Full circle of sorts. And while our friendship is no longer of the peripheral variety, we didn't really get to know each other well until our children were in high school together.

Anyway. It's not her school I'm talking about here. Or how we met. Or, as some people found surprising, that she and I became friends at all. It's her age. Chronological age, that is. I'm certain she'll be pleased to have it discussed.

Tina's family is the consumate definition of suburban: husband, wife, four kids, house on a cul-de-sac, minivan in the driveway. I, on the other hand, while in my mind defining myself as suburban, do not have many qualities others would classify as such. My family and Tina's family have little in common on the surface. Other than The Boy being chronologically one year younger than her oldest child and one year older than her next oldest child. And also that our children are into theatre. Those were the thin little threads we have since woven into what is today our warm and cozy friendship.

But back to the dirt. I had always assumed Tina was older than me. She has four children for pete's sake! She drives a mini-van! And despite her tendency to dress in themed attire (another story for another day perhaps), she has an air of maturity about her. (Please don't ask me what I mean by that "maturity" statement. Just accept it as a certainty, okay?) Did I mention she has FOUR children? And her firstborn is older than my firstborn? Therefore logic decreed she must be older than me. Not necessarily too much older, but definitely older.

I was so certain. Certain beyond any doubt (not just a reasonable doubt). Certain to the point I would have bet real money on it. So certain that the certainty became my reality and there was absolutely no possible way it wasn't true. It was as certain as the sun rising in the east. Such a certainty I never entertained any concept other than that one, the one of which I was so certain. It just was: Tina was older than me.

Turns out my logic was invalid. Because one day in the now quite distant past I found out that Tina is actually five months younger than me. I've never gotten over that certainty of mine being shattered in the face of an alternate absolute fact. I've seen her driver's license. It's true. There's no disputing it. I don't think I've ever really accepted it, however. Because I spent so many years believing otherwise.

She thinks it's funny. She has since labeled herself "dirt" and me "older than dirt". She thinks that's funny too. And it is. Hrumph.

I think it's funny that I had stereotypically conceived of her as older based on her life circumstance. Me, the one who battles stereotypes based on my life circumstance on a daily basis. Food for thought, it is. With room for improvement.


Melodee said...

Ah, that is funny. I think I must be pre-dirt, then, since I won't be 40 until January. Does that make me a smudge? Or dust?

Suzanne said...

Hey Mel, if you're not yet 40, you still fall into the "fresh and youthful" category. However, once you step across that threshold, well... that's another story.

However since you have four kids like Tina, maybe we can offer you a special early admittance in to dirthood. But I'm not sure you really want that...

Eyes for Lies said...

Life circumstances do cause you to put an age to people. I always used to look at mothers as older than me.

Just a few weeks ago, I suddenly realized, ut-humm...they're decade!

Ooouch... suddenly that makes me old! At 35, I still felt youthful. At 36, I am starting to feel like I am going "down hill".

Martin said...

That firstborn of hers is my baby!