Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Owning My Identity

In many social circles that I belong to-- the new mommy social circle, the social circle of my neighborhood, my church social circle among many-- my age is something that I feel embarrassed about. The truth is, often times I'm 15-20 years younger than the people whose friendship I appreciate and who value me as an equal. Ben and I generally avoid the topic of age. However, it has this way of always coming up... eventually. People are often circumspect about it, asking questions like, "So... when did you graduate highschool?" or once they learn that Ben and I are highschool sweethearts, "How long does that mean you two have been together?" My guess is that many of them are curious about our age. Neither of us look particularly mature and we both look young enough that us having a toddler is somewhat scandalous. I still remember once in Somerville when I attended mass by myself with Zosia, an older woman came up to me afterwards and congratulated me for being "such a brave girl." I had no idea what she was talking about, and only later realized that she must have assumed I was a teen mother.

Anyway, age is something that I'm very careful about and generally avoid. The reason is that the times that my age has been "outed," I have often felt a shift in the relationship. People stop treating me as an equal, stop confiding in me, start feeling awkward around me. The other day my age was outed to some of our very favorite neighbors, and the embarrassment that it created caused me to do a little reflection. Why is my age something that I'm uncomfortable with? And, will there ever be a time when I'm truly comfortable with my age? I mean, it seems like as soon as one outgrows the "you're just a little baby" stage, they enter the "you're practically retired" stage, where being too old is something they're nervous about.

All this is to say that I have decided to own my age boldly. I may be only 25, and that might mean that I don't have as much life experience as some, but that is just a part of who I am. I guess I'm not used to being marginalized for a part of my identity. In an ideal world, no one would be marginalized for any part of their identity. But in the mean time, I can always challenge people's assumptions about 20-somethings, or possibly gauge their authenticity by how they treat me once they find out the truth. Our neighbors delivered-- they both think it's cute and funny and it's something they tease us about now, but without compromising our friendship.


One and Doll said...

BTW I am very glad that you are back to blogging more frequently.


One and Doll said...

Wow, Adele--this is so right on...I appreciate both you mentioning the shift that can happen in relationships based on age, and the subtle (or not so subtle) attempts made to figure out how old we are! I admire your bold ownership of your age--I'm trying to work on that, especially at work, where people seem to think a 26 year old chaplain is somehow nonsensical...

Anyway--thanks so much for your words! We miss you all so much here--