On Saturday, I took Evan to get a haircut. When he was much, much littler, I did his haircuts myself, but there came a point when he obviously needed more than one length of hair – and it was past my skill level to do. I talked to him a lot beforehand about how the barber would use the “bee” to cut his hair (Evan called clippers “the bee” because of the buzzing sound), and then we’d go get ice cream. That first time, he sat motionless and silent in the chair – which is pretty perfect for giving a toddler a haircut, I imagine. He was so nervous that he wouldn’t answer any questions or even look at the stylist. But, he survived, we got ice cream, and a tradition was born: a trip to the barber is always followed by ice cream.
So this past Saturday, we went to the grocery store after Evan’s haircut. I’d hoped that they’d have an ice cream counter, but it turned out to just be a little soft serve machine, and it was empty. I let Evan pick out a carton of ice cream (he went for plain chocolate, is this really my son?) and some waffle cones to take home. In the checkout, the cashier asked Evan how old he was. She joked that he was older than her, since she was only two. I asked Evan how old he thought she really was, since it’s always interesting to hear his guesses. Instead he asked her how old she was.
While we walked out to the car I tried explaining that in our culture, we don’t ask grownups how old they are. It isn’t considered a nice thing to do. You can ask kids how old they are; Evan is constantly being asked how old he is, so this makes sense to him. But I was coming up short with a reason for our anti-age-disclosure sentiment. I told him that in Korea, it’s important to know how old a person is, because you treat people differently if they’re older than you. In America, we never ask adults their age.
I thought about it on the drive home – is it part of our fear of aging? Is it some mystical sense that giving another person this piece of truth about ourselves will allow them some power over us? Is it a twisted form of modesty or humility? I’ve always assumed it’s meant to avoid embarrassment over being old, or being seen as old, which supports the “fear of aging” theory. Then, of course, I wonder why we’re so set on stopping the aging process, on remaining young and “whole” and all that. Personally, I think age is nothing to be ashamed of. Time goes by for all of us. Why is 20 better than 40? I’m glad to be done with 20, because so many wonderful things have happened in my life since then. I’m excited to be approaching 30. And by 40, I’ll have had years of a lovely marriage and of watching my kids grow up. Right now, I see no reason to be embarrassed by getting older.
But that’s just what I think. What about you?