I may be geeky, but you can’t tell by looking at me.
I live in a resoundingly conservative area. A few years ago, I painted galaxies on my shoes, thinking I could get away with wearing them at work. After all, only a few star clusters showed at the hem of my pants. My boss almost passed out. That’s just one of the reasons I mostly live under the radar. As much as I’d like to create an art car spackled with oddities, I drive a car so boring it’s hard to find in parking lots. (I console myself by covering my visor with pins like, “Get out, I need to go to my mind palace” and “Why not ask a cephalopod?”). And as much as I’d like a yard adorned with robots made out of junk, so far I’m sticking to a single large mosaic I made out of broken dishes. (Although even that inspired my mail carrier to ask if we were devil worshippers.) Instead of a geeky tee, I’m more likely to wear a necklace made of up-cycled electronic components or a steampunk locket by GeekMom artist Brigid Ashwood.
But I’m considering pink locks, even though I haven’t seen anyone with non-standard hair in our small town, passing through or otherwise. Action may be necessary after what happened the other day.
I was shopping alone, wearing what’s too often a uniform for me: black sweater, jeans, clunky boots. I heard a stranger, at some distance, call out to someone.
Using the logic bestowed on most members of our species, I ignored her. I assumed she was hailing another person in the store. A moment later, that stranger hurried up behind me and as I turned she said, “Oh, I thought you were my mom.”
I’m a warm and motherly person, true. But I was not that stranger’s mother. Worse, she was in my approximate age group. Which means her own mother either looks like someone who gave birth as a kindergartner or I look really old.
The stranger muttered something like, “Sorry, she has blonde hair too.”
Raised to be polite at all costs, I smiled reassuringly at her. Wouldn’t want this stranger to feel badly about herself would I? (Fist shake at my Nice Girl upbringing).
Wait, it gets worse.
I saw her join a woman one aisle over. I witnessed her call this woman “mom.” Her mother was clearly 20 years old than I. Wearing stretch jeans. With tennis shoes. And a quilted handbag.
Alas, I see I’ve fallen right into the basement of People Who Make Superficial Comments, despite my regular attempts to be my Better Self.
I’m not mocking my elders; hell, I’m looking forward to being a rowdy old lady myself (which is how I’ll finally outgrow that Nice Girl upbringing). Yes, keeping my more unusual side under wraps in Small Town America is one thing. But I’m finding the chronological escalator a bit too relentless.
When I was younger, I took a constantly functional body and seemingly unlimited time ahead for granted. Now, I realize I may not be able to fit all my enthusiasm into an ordinary lifespan. Sometimes I walk by store windows, noticing a short woman in the reflection. Who is she, I wonder? Why is she carrying my purse? It takes a moment to sink in. That’s me. I may feel like a 14-year-old sneaking out of the house in a halter top, but instead I’m some middle-aged lady wearing a scarf.
I was raised to use everything up. To smack the bottle till it was empty, then add a little water and shake it to get out the last lingering drops. I fully intend to do that with my life, too. I’ll be using up every single bit. But if I get any more reminders about being old before my time, you may see me with pink hair. Or at least pink streaks. My quietly rebellious 14-year-old self would be proud. And the rowdy old lady I hope to become will understand.