The Home Team: Learning the hard way, an age-old tale
A lot of guys I know are not very good at judging a woman’s age. This can sometimes be problematical.
A friend of mine at the gym told me he’d been checking out two women in bikinis who were strolling past him on their beach exercise walk. Just before they faded from sight, he heard someone call out to them. Turned out to be their mother. The “women” were 15 and 14. This friend has a daughter who’s 15. The experience made him feel just a wee bit uncomfortable.
He may be bad at judging age. I’m horrendous.
Every summer I teach a creative writing course for middle schoolers at Norwalk Community College. The coordinator of the Kids College, as the program is called, is a young woman. She’s had this job for the last few years, and has always been extremely helpful to me.
She came into my classroom one Thursday in July, as she often does, but she didn’t seem to be her usual smiling, out-going self. She told me she wasn’t having a good day. “We’ll go out for a beer after class,” I suggested, to lift her spirits.
“Um,” she answered, “I’m not of age.”
Turns out she would be turning 21 at the end of the month. My youngest son will be 22 in less than two weeks, but this woman seemed to me to be at least a decade more mature.
“How old did you think I was?” she asked.
“I figured you were about the same age as my older sons. Maybe 30?” I answered. She was happy to hear that. I got away with one that time — but it doesn’t always work out that way. The question is: At what age does a woman stop feeling good that she looks older than she actually is? This is a slippery slope, and I’ve learned the hard way to never ask about age, and to never, ever assume. Because you know what they say about assuming.
I was once sitting at a table in Barnes & Noble doing a book-signing after reading from “Accept My Kid, Please! A Dad’s Descent Into College Application Hell.” Two women, having bought the book, approached me so I could inscribe their copies. I thought they had a strong facial resemblance.
“Mother and daughter?” I asked, pleasantly.
They turned to each other, one smiling, the other looking a little bit miffed. “No, we’re just friends,” said the younger-looking one, whom I’d assumed was the daughter. She seemed flattered. Her friend? Not so much.
I don’t remember exactly how I tried to squirm out of that one, but I’m sure I didn’t do it gracefully. Because there is no graceful way out of that particular foot-in-mouth maneuver.
But if asking, or making an unflattering assumption, about a woman’s age is a bad idea, there’s one that’s way, way worse. I know this, too, from personal experience.
Here’s the situation: You’re jogging on the side of the road, and a woman is walking toward you in the opposite direction. She looks like she’s in good shape — except that she’s got quite a pronounced belly. You immediately assume she’s pregnant. You’re tempted to wish her well. You really want to ask when the baby’s due.
But no matter how curious you are ... don’t do it!
Trust me on this.
“The Home Team” appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman, on the Westport News website. To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank