A few months ago I got glasses. My eyesight has been bad since high school, but I haven’t worn glasses since the early 2010s. (As I recall, I switched to contacts mainly because a brunette with glasses didn’t feel wise when Sarah Palin had recently become a household name.) Glasses at 30 seemed like a good idea, though. Mostly because I would like, for once, to look my age.
No one has ever guessed my age and gotten it right. Once in a while, people mistake me for older, because I “have a low voice” or “have strong features” or “am fifteen and in an adult aerobics class meant mostly for people over 40” (yes, really. It’s in my book.) Mostly, though, they think I’m much younger. This has led to a lot of weird, and often condescending, encounters with strangers.
Last year while visiting New York, I had to make a stop on Long Island before heading to JFK. It is true I was not wearing glasses. It is true that my suitcase was more than half as big as I am (5’0.5”, 154cm). It is true that I was wearing bright pink pants. It is true that I was also wearing a necklace with a charm cast from a Gummy Bear (made by my friend Julia!) But I was not expecting a man twenty years older across the aisle to look me up and down, smirk, and ask me “Are you running away?”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been indignant, but I was. It felt insulting, belittling. People tell me I should feel lucky that I don’t look my age. “That way you’ll look young when you’re older,” they always say, like it’s some great boon. I’ve always wondered why looking your age is a bad thing. Yes, it’s true that Western society is ageist, and it’s especially cruel to aging women. But it’s not as if I was a particularly attractive teenager or young twenty-something, so there’s not much to miss. If anything, I think I look better in my thirties, but ultimately I don’t think it really matters. You’re only as old you feel and act, anyway, right? And I have never felt young.
“I’m thirty years old,” I told the man. “I’m not running away from anything.”
Then I moved to a different part of the train and started eating my peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Stuff I Did This Week: I did a LOT in London with Okay to Say! I talked with HuffPost UK about mental illness, social media, and my worry ring; spoke with the Evening Standard about World Mental Health Day, Matilda, and more; and I did a lovely interview with The Independent, who called me a “true wordsmith”!
Fake BBC Show Title of the Week: Quite a Loud Business Luncheon (Credit for this one goes to my publicist Heidi. Based on a true story!)