When I was 16, I was pulled over by a Peachtree City cop for driving a golf cart underage. Oh, OK, I’ll back up: A little-known fact about me is that I’m from Peachtree City, GA, a bucolic planned suburb of Atlanta where solidly middle-class families have an annual household income of $80K, where the majority of inhabitants are employed by Delta Airlines, which conveniently enables jet-setting and BMWs as 16th birthday presents. Kids are entitled and on drugs, adults are blissfully unaware, and everyone gets around in the aforementioned Beamers, Yukons, or golf carts. There are, as the promotional materials say, “90 miles of serene paved golf cart paths throughout the city” for each family to use with their little electric carts. And suffice to say, my family was middle-class, I didn’t get a car until I graduated from high school and helped pay for it myself, I was unpopular and jaded, and though I knew probably too much lingo and specifics about weed and crack, the most hardcore thing to enter my system was Arizona green tea. But I totally drove a golf cart now and then. And when I was pulled over by PTC’s Finest, I was a 16-year-old licensed driver. But I appeared to be about 11, and I didn’t have my license with me (not required on carts), which set off a whole process of running my name and verifying my age and pristine record in whatever system and dumb banter from the cop about how I shouldn’t be nervous. I was nervous and I was 16 and could I please stop looking like a child?

I don’t look 11 anymore, but I don’t look 27, either. I thought I gained some maturity and credibility when I cut my hair, especially since the age comments subsided with the cut. But then, there were the clients who would interrupt me in the middle of a counseling session to ask how old I am and to imply that I couldn’t possibly be experienced enough. The other day, a woman didn’t ask me, but she called me, “mija”–the Spanish term of endearment meaning, “My child.” She was less than 10 years older than I was.

And then there was my neighbor who insisted on playing the silly Guess Your Age game, which might be fun if you’re 50 years old and all excited about the Mary Kay age reversal treatment you just tried, and you just know that the person is going to guess that you’re 35 and you’re magically validated. It’s less fun if you’re 27 and the neighbor guesses that you’re “22 or 23,” and then suddenly shifts into treating you like a tiny bit more of a person. He’s only 2 years older than me, but I could tell that he had me pegged as a kid fresh out of college who was out on her own for the first time.

Just last week, another client guessed that I was Mexican (If you’ve ever seen me, I don’t look Mexican. I could be Argentinean, if we’re going by my mad Spanish skillz and looks, but not so much Mexican. In any event, I’ll take the compliment.) and “about 18.” At least I look semi-legal (I was also bolstered by the fact that the night before, I wasn’t carded when I ordered beer), but I think I’d like to have people acknowledge about 9 years of experience I’ve had.

I’ve had 27 years of experience, and not 18, 23, or even 25. I read enough of the “O” magazine (Yes, I do.) to know that wrinkles should count as badges of honor for living a full life. I don’t have wrinkles, of course, because if I did, maybe people would take me for at least 24, but I’m proud of my 27 years and I like who I am, and honestly, I don’t like being treated like a kid. it doesn’t help that I’m short and I’m thin and I don’t like dressing up. Maybe some heels would mature me, but I want to be able to wear my sneakers and also be respected. Ad even if I were 18, I would want to be respected.

And I know, I know; “I’ll appreciate it when I’m older.” My mom is 57 and she looks about 47, so I know I’ll continue on this track. But I don’t appreciate it now, and maybe I won’t appreciate it then because I’m sure as hell not one of those people who’s afraid of aging.

Reading over this rant, I know I sound pretty bitter, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Do I sound like a bitter old hag? If so, guess my age. On the internet, you can be anyone, and maybe today, I’ll be 70.

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