Gosh, I’ve had a really depressing experience the other day! I actually discovered my first grey hair! And that at the age of … nooo, not gonna tell! Or do you already know? Have I accidentally mentioned my age? Or have you guessed already by connecting references of the 80s and 90s? I can’t say it out loud, though, neither can I write it down … maybe one day my big crisis won’t be so big anymore and I will be able to face my first early midlife crisis. Up until then … I’ll just try to cope with it the best I can. As with my first grey hairs … that was a BIG crisis with capital letters and the first thing I did was grabbing my tweezers and pulling them out … who wouldn’t!? The thing is, men just look more handsome and distinguished with greying hair, women just look old. And obviously I’m already heading there even though I still feel like in my 20s, with my real life just having started … having missed out on so much, fearing I will never experience the “normal stuff” … and it’s not getting easier the older I get.
This whole question of “Am I old?” reminds me of something that happened to me when I still was at university. Which requires some explanations for those who are not familiar with non-English languages and customs. Several European countries have a special expression to address adults or strangers politely. Your only means to address someone is “YOU”, in other countries you call someone “you” if it’s a child or your friend. In all the other cases – your boss, the shop assistant, your teacher – you address them with a “Sie”, “Lei”, “Vous” – just to give you an idea. Basically it’s similar to the way the British address royalty or judges. As in “your royal highness” or “your honor” – there’s no other way to be more polite, don’t you think? In the 18th and 19th century it was common in Austria’s high society to address even one’s parents in that manner. Can you imagine calling your Dad in the way you would a judge? “Father, can your highness/honor/ … pass me the milk?” Weird, isn’t it? (Even though you wouldn’t have said that cause there were servants to pass you the milk …) But that was actually the case in Austria when we still had an emperor!
Back to MY story since you now know the difference between you and YOU! And the day I felt OLD for the first time!
I had to attend a lecture – in Austria, at my university – and there were so many fellow students that I had to stand in the back. Nothing unusual there! Until one of the 19-year-old girls actually asked me if I wanted to sit down. In originally that tone you would ask an 80-year-old woman on the bus. Of course with this polite Austrian expression we use instead of “YOU”. Imagine my surprise! Sure, I was roughly ten years their senior at that time! I was so stunned that I didn’t quite know how to react! Should I laugh out loud and tell her that I’m not THAT old? Or become angry – well, more like pissed off – and tell her to screw herself? My reply was a mixture of both: a raised eyebrow combined with a dignified “No, thanks!”
So, I was wondering … did I look THAT old at the age of 30? Maybe I dressed classier than the barely out of school students, but I was neither wearing shift dresses nor pearl necklaces at that time … On the other hand, the woman from the vegetable stall in the town’s main place regularly treated me like a ten-year-old at the same time.
And the question still is, years later: Am I old?