I’ve always been told that I look young for my age. Mostly, I hated this compliment, as it started when I was 7 and looked 4, and continued full force when I was 15 but looked 10, you know, those ages when the last thing you want is to look younger. In my late 20s I dated a man who was 11 years older, and having people look at us as if he were dating someone 20 years younger didn’t flatter me one bit, it just annoyed me, the judgment I felt as they looked us over.
But now that I’m in my mid (okay, almost late) 30s, I can see the flattery of the comment. I spend a lot of time at Starbucks. Not because I think they make the best coffee (for that, try Nefeli Café in Berkeley), but because it’s close to my house (a few blocks away—so that I get to maximize my short kid-free outings, not wasting any of it on travel time to a more exotic location), I get free Internet there, and for some reason I’m able to tune out the bustle of customers and hum of blenders to focus on writing, unlike at home where I’m constantly distracted by kids, a dog needing his nails trimmed, the mail piling up on the kitchen counter.
But one thing (sometimes good, sometimes bad) about being out in public, even totally focused on a laptop, is people will come up and talk to you. I’m shy by nature, so having people approach me is probably the only way I’ll ever interact with anyone new, so I’m not complaining. Much. Occasionally, it’ll be an annoying person who keeps talking even after I’ve told them I’m working on a deadline and need to focus. But sometimes, like yesterday, it’ll be a sweet older lady who wants to know if I’m here in the café doing my homework, and what subject I’m studying. Since I graduated from college 16 years ago, this feels like a terrific compliment. Because I know I only got 5 hours of sleep last night (the toddler is having nightmares about bugs in her bed) and think I look like hell with my dark circles under my eyes, I feel even more flattered. This is the third time I’ve had an elderly person approach me at a Starbucks and assume I’m a college student. True, they were all so much older that they probably don’t have the eyesight they used to, but I’ll take the compliment anyway.