Just in Case I Was Feeling Narcissistic …

I don’t consider myself to be a vain woman.

I have little patience for make-up, and rarely wear much unless I have a formal performance.  My complexion is on the pale side of English rose, and thousand-watt stage lights take me straight through ghostly and well into consumptive unless I’ve touched things up a bit.  I don’t wear all that much, even then – the palest foundation and powder I can find without having to resort to clown whiteface, a little blush, enough mascara and eyeliner to make it apparent from past the first three rows that I even have eyes, and (my one weakness, reserved for concert nights) Jezebel-red lipstick.

I appreciate cute shoes, but live quite happily in Converse sneakers and my good black boots.  I’d be entirely content to wear nothing on my feet except a nice pedicure from May through September.

I cover the silver in my hair, but I just can’t get bothered about anything approaching a high-maintenance hairstyle.  It is about a half-inch shy of waistlength (one of my goals is to get that last healthy half-inch, mentioned here in my 101 Things blog), not because I am so enamored with long hair, but because it is so much easier. I can braid it, twist it into a bun, stab it with a few hairpins, and ta-daaaa – it looks impressive, it only took me 2.5 minutes, and I didn’t even have to dry it first!

The rest of me … well, I’ve had an hourglass figure for almost as long as I’ve HAD a figure.  This is somewhat less than a picnic in the eighth grade.  Even as an adult, it sounds great on paper but it is a royal pain in the butt when you’re trying to find jeans shaped like the bottom half of an hourglass instead of the bottom half of an old-fashioned clothespin.  I still have the hourglass figure, but unfortunately the middle number is about what the top and bottom number would ideally be, and you can do the math on the rest.  So for the most part, I keep the hourglass under wraps, wear a lot of black, and call it good.

My one feminine weakness about my appearance is simple:  I do not look my age.  Or at least so I’m told – see what you think.

I am 35 in this picture …

… 36 in this one …

… and this was taken three months ago:

So, OK, maybe I’m not as young as I used to be.  But at least once a year a near-sighted granny at one of the university music recitals mistakes me for a college senior, and it completely makes my day, every time.  I got carded well into my thirties.  I have good genes and use sunscreen.  Given that I don’t care for my nose (does anyone?), my eyes are no particular color, and I find my forehead reminiscent of 1960’s-era big-headed aliens, I allow myself this one small vanity.

Pride, as they say, goeth before the fall, and the fall was funny enough that I’ll just let it speak for itself.  I play the piano at a local university, and last semester I was assigned to a beginning voice class.  The teacher and I had engaged the class in a discussion about challenges they may face as beginning teachers who sometimes look barely older than their students.  We talked about the importance of confidence, dressing professionally, and never, ever telling high school students your age.

I mentioned my own difficulties with this phenomenon in my early years of teaching piano, such as the incident when a student’s father approached me before my students’ class recital and asked if I knew when the teacher was going to show up.  (I was 25 at the time.)  I mentioned the two-or-three-times-a-year conversation when visitors to the college ask me when my own senior recital will be.  I quipped to the voice class, “So I tell them politely, ‘Oh, I’ve already had it, but thank you for being interested!’ and then I think to myself, ‘Umm, yeah, in 1995!‘ ”  The students chuckled, and the conversation continued.

Ten minutes pass.  We’ve finished the conversation and returned to the vocal exercises.  As the teacher pauses to give me instructions for the next part of the class, one of the boys (who has been talking to his neighbor under cover of the music for the last few minutes) hesitantly raises his hand.  “Um … we had a question?”

“Yes, go ahead,” I said.

“Um … how old ARE you?”

I laughed and said, “Thirty-seven, why?”

He goggled at me for a moment and said in a shocked tone, “Dude … we totally thought you were, like, twenty-six!”

I smile, immensely pleased, and then he adds:

“You’re old enough to be my MOM!”


POP! goes the ego.

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6 Responses to Just in Case I Was Feeling Narcissistic …

  1. behnnie says:

    Ego popped? Sure. Fine. But twenty-six?! SWEET!! *air high five*

    And I wish some of my college classmates in the education dept had had someone like you to tell them how important professional dress, etc. is. There was enough epic cleavage sent out from our education program to feed an entire generation of school teacher fantasies. *sigh* Flaunting it while they had it? Ah, who knows!!

    • Bee says:

      I know! I don’t get that! When I was in college, we might have worn skirts that were too short to wear with control-top pantyhose (which of course says something right there since nobody wears pantyhose any more), but cleavage was pretty well off-limits unless you were married and in your bedroom. But now, cleavage is apparently the new black. Or crisply sunburned pink, depending on the time of year.

  2. hemlock1981 says:

    Love the story. Don’t ever stop being thankful for your “predicament.”

    • Bee says:

      I’ll try not to … I’m just afraid that some morning I’m going to wake up, look like I’m fifty, and discover that I’ve skipped the whole getting-older-gradually process entirely.

  3. That’s awesome. It is so bizarre to see college-aged kids, yet still feel college-aged in many ways. They are so young, and so naive. When I meet people who are my age, I am always struck by how *old* they look, and how old I must appear. And I haven’t been carded since I turned 21, so I stick my tongue out in your general direction.

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