“Age is nothing but a number.” “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” “Age is matter of feeling, not years.” “Age doesn’t matter, unless you’re cheese.”
These are all quotes about age that I’m sure you have heard at some point in your life. Everyone seems to think that your age does not matter very much. People use this excuse to support romantic relationships between two people who have a significant difference in age. People say that age and experience should matter when it comes to getting a job. People say that your age should not define who you are.
But what if you did not know your age? Wouldn’t you feel like something was missing? As much as people try not to make a big deal out age, it is a big deal.
Frederick Douglass had no idea of his real age. The best idea he had of even his birth year came when he overheard one of his masters mention that Douglass was around seventeen years old. Since the year was 1835, Douglass began adding to seventeen from then on to keep up with his general age. Douglass also knew of an older man, Barney, who did not know his own age; in Douglass’s narrative he states that Barney was estimated anywhere between fifty and sixty.
In today’s day and age it is impossible to go anywhere without someone asking your age. You get asked by distant family members at holidays, who then act shocked at “how much you have grown” as if a year must be a different amount of time to them than it is to you. You get asked by the cashier at Walmart when you are sick as a dog with a cold and just want to buy some NyQuil, but since you are so sick and do not have any makeup on, the cashier assumes that you are far from being eighteen years old. You get asked by the bartender when you order that fruity cocktail or frothy beer (of course, this would not refer to any SWU students #eamSWU). You get asked by the DMV worker, and even have to prove your age, when you go to get your permit, license, or license renewal. You get asked about million times by the doctor whether you are there for a check-up or a sore throat.
I am currently sitting in the hospital room with my Poppy, waiting to get answers from a doctor for the third day in a row with no hope of receiving any news until tomorrow. Every time a doctor or nurse comes in to help him with something or take him downstairs for another test, the same question comes out of their mouth, “What is your name and birth date?” Of course they are not asking in order to know his age, they need to make sure they are taking the right person to the right place, but it is just another example of how important knowing when you were brought into this world is.
Am I the only one who would always flip to my birthday when I got a new calendar? It was almost as if I was afraid they forget that day. I had to make sure that they did not forget Becca Day. Some of my favorite memories are from my childhood birthday parties: being petrified by Chuck-E-Cheese, sucking at skating at Frye’s Roller Rink, and going to the opening night of “The Hobbit: Part 2” at the local Gem Theater because it came out on Becca Day.
Douglass, Barney, and many other slaves did not get the pleasure of having their own day. It seems like such a small thing, but it really defines so many things that we do. Age is not “just a number:” it is a part of who we are.