In real life, I'm 23 years old.
Yes I'm 23 and I'm a mother and I'm married and WHAT?
(I know, I get it all. the. time.)
HER: "Wow, you look too young to have a baby!"
ME: "Yeah, I'm, uh, 23."
HER: "Oh. Yeah...well...you are young to have a baby."
Many HERs and HIMs: "Oh my gosh you have a baby? You look like you're 18!"
And then comes the questions: Am I married? When did I get married? Why? Was it an accident? Are you working? Still in school?
The constant interrogation is exhausting. So if I snap at you, ignore you, walk away, know that it's only because I can't keep answering the same questions. I can't keep feeding your curiosity. Over and over and over.
On the other hand, I can understand their reactions. I might have had the same one. We all judge, we all gossip. But to say it? Out loud? To my face?
Maybe I AM 18 and it's a horrible story that I don't want to talk about. Maybe I'm in my 30s with really good skin. You have no idea what my situation is. You have no idea who I am.
And what is my situation?
I'm in a loving relationship — more loving than many long-term marriages! — and I have a degree and a career and family support and — and — and...
Why do I feel the need to explain myself? I've given up on trying — the reaction is always the same: A polite smile and nod, but their skepticism, their pity, is apparent.
So I've started to lie.
Usually I'm 25, sometimes 27, depending on the age of the person asking. (I've found that older individuals have a harder time discerning age.) And that usually shuts them up. Because while 25 is still young, and only two years away, it seems to be a little more accepted. It's not — gasp! — 23!
But while I can lie to strangers, the fact remains that I am still a very young mother. Most of my friends are in grad school, cheating on their boyfriends, getting wasted. I'll have to face future play dates where other moms are 10, even 15 years older than I am. But for me, for us, we're ready and we're happy, despite your upturned nose.
And you know what? When some people in their mid-40s are running after toddlers, shipping their kids off to soccer then dance then piano, kissing boo-boos and checking for monsters, I'll have an empty nest. I'll have alone time with my husband and grandchildren to look forward to. So while I might not have as much money as I would have had in 10 years, and I might not have as much "freedom" as other 20-somethings...
I'll have a decade longer to be with the people I love.