“How old are you, Miss?”
“44.” It’s a fact, not an embarrassment, there’s no reason to hide the number. Besides, any kid with a phone can Google me.
“Forty-four?” she said. “I always thought you were in your 30’s, but when I found out you wrote a book, I knew you were in your 40’s. You look young, though.” I teach correlation and causation. Books are an odd fact to define “old.”
“Why do I have to be in my 40’s because I write? Because I should be on YouTube?”
Most kids are on YouTube. Because of this, I want to master video, audio, broadcasting, and other types of media students consume–it’s important to be ahead of the game. Years ago, I started blogging and stopped using textbooks. It was cutting-edge then. Not so much now.
Now I’m as old as the CRT monitors and Windows XP that still plague public education. My kids are budding YouTubers and I have to catch up. I hire them as consultants. Rule one of marketing–and education is marketing even if we’re in denial–always be where your people are. My people are on YouTube, Tumblr, and WattPad.
“No, Miss, you don’t have to be on YouTube. You can write. It’s because you wrote a book. Books are a product of midlife crisis. So I knew you had to be older.”
Is it true?
Do I write because life’s over and I’m fighting it? I’m in denial?
I’m getting old?
Are books my substitute for gambling away my house at the casino, buying a sports car, or running away to Bali?
Am I indeed mid-life? I don’t feel old. I feel ageless. Teaching high school keeps me young. I have five gray hairs I keep for street credibility so students will know I’m old enough to have taken my lumps. They’ll listen. I’m tired of going to car lots and having salesmen tell me “Honey, come back with your father,” or talking to my husband who promptly says, “It’s her car, she knows all about them.” A little gray puts me right where I want to be.
But have I gotten too old–solidified myself as a mid-lifer by writing books?
There are some indicators.
I say “in my day” a lot. That’s a very bad sign.
I’m no longer tortured listening to teen music I don’t like. I can stream my music. I remember the days I had to camp by the radio and wait for my favorite songs to cycle through the payola playlist–then make a mixed cassette tape. My students don’t know what a cassette is. They don’t wait for anything. It’s all right there at their fingertips. Mine, too. I can rock the 80’s and 90’s on Pandora on demand.
That might be a sign of “old.”
I try to pick up the tab in restaurants–a definite sign of old. While the young split it up to the last 50 cents and argue about the tip, old people say “I got this,” and try to get the check first.
I don’t really care if my clothes are last season. Every once in a while, I go shopping when it’s 40% off the 40% off, but I can’t tell this season’s colors. I do draw the line at teacher clothes. One day a kid said, “You look great today, Miss. Not like a teacher.” So, I guess I dress old.
I wouldn’t know a Kardashian if she sat next to me on a plane. I played Trivia Crack with my kids. I kicked their butts with science, math, geography, art and lost when I got “Who is in this picture?” It was Taylor Swift. Definitely a sign of old.
I have the OG-retro 12’s in two colors. I sold the rest. But they’re the OG 12’s because they actually come from the 90’s. I was old enough to have the cash to buy them even before my students were born.
My student is right–I’m a mid-lifer. Students usually are right about the deeper things, it’s just we brush them off so we can teach them the way we want instead of the way they like to learn. Another sign of “old.”
I hope old means wise, though. Mid-life means crazy. Or half-way to dead. I’m not sure which.
Today, I’m going to fix this. I’ll blast some Daft Punk and Pitbull and study all my Kardashians. I’m going to put something up on YouTube even if it doesn’t look very good. And I won’t say “in my day” even once. I’ll leave my shirt untucked and I won’t match my socks.
It’s a start.
Then, they won’t think I’m halfway to dead or going crazy and they’ll listen in my class.
Then I’ll listen to hair bands all the way home.