I Think It's the Way I Dress...

because really, I don't look that young.

Here's the deal: The school where I teach functions on a funky schedule for the first two days of classes each fall term. We have Wednesday classes on Thursday and Thursday classes on Friday. Plus, the classes on Thursday (Wednesday’s classes) meet at different times (and for shorter periods) than usual due to an opening convocation that takes place Thursday morning.

So, I teach a Wednesday night class. A week and a half ago, before the first day of classes, I stopped by the Dean’s office to ask the secretaries whether or not the shortened schedule on Thursday would affect night classes. The first secretary looked up at me and said, “You should check with your professor.” Then she turned to the other secretary, who was standing behind her, and the second secretary nodded and agreed. “That’s probably something you should ask your professor about.”

I had dealings with each of these women last year, and they are both very knowledgeable and very kind people. So I paused a second, trying hard not to embarrass them, and then I told them that that’s why I needed to know: because I’m an instructor whom students may be asking.

The school I teach at is pretty small, and the second secretary realized who I was right away. She said, “You’re Chad!” I told her I was. They laughed, and I laughed, and they apologized, and I said it was fine, no big deal, and then they said they’d check with the Dean and get back to me via email.

A part of me ended up figuring, however stupidly, well, these women are a little older than I am, so maybe everyone between the ages of twenty and thirty looks kind of similar to them. And then this afternoon I was checking my campus mail. Afterwards, I decided to head from the mail room to the snack bar on my way to a department meeting, and as I headed to the door that leads from the mail room area to the student center-y part of the building, there was a young woman in front of me, all dressed up, holding two boxes filled with bottles of iced tea. I waited for her to pass through the door and then followed her. Once we were in the hall, she glanced over her shoulder at me and smiled, and I politely smiled back. Then she turned back again. The boxes she held swung in my direction.

“So…are a freshman?” she asked.

I paused again this time, too, but only briefly, not all that worried that my answer would embarrass her.

“Um, no," I said. "I teach actually."

She let out this little high-pitched “Hmm!” then said, “I guess you must feel pretty good then.”

It's true, it doesn't feel bad at all for people to think I look younger than I am. But rather than cause me to feel youthful, what it does more than anything is make me wonder if anyone actually looks at anybody else.

When I was a kid, eight or so, I was pretty cute. Or, rather, many of the girls I went to school with thought I was cute. And what I used to do, when I was eight and nine and ten years old, in response to other people telling me I was cute, was look in the mirror. I would stare at my face and wonder, "Is this the same face other people see? Is this me?"

I'm not talking about self-image issues here; rather, I actually had the idea when I was a kid that a group of people could look at the same person and see something totally different. And what I wanted then was to be able to see exactly what it was other people were seeing when they looked at me. So I would stare in the mirror several times a day, and pretend to be somebody else, and then see if that changed in any way the appearance of the kid in the mirror looking back at me.


Southern Writer said...

Oh yeah, you all look alike to me. j/k

Why is it in the first half of our lives we try everything to look older, and in the second half, we try anything to look younger? I have a friend who swears she's okay with wrinkles and gray hair because she earned every damn one of them. I, on the other hand, intend to fight it every inch of the way.

You shouldn't worry. You're still pretty cute, imho.

Lisa said...

I'm a woman who's "a little older" than you are and I wear multifocal contacts that mess up my distance vision, but even so, here's the deal: You do look that young!

Chad Simpson said...

Thanks, Lisa and Lesia. I don't know that you're being wholly honest, but I appreciate it anyway.