I’m returning to school at the age of 56, the same year my father retired and moved to a golfing community. You would think that all of the little insecurities that troubled you and held you back in your twenties would be gone. I’m here to tell you, not so much. There are always new and improved anxieties to keep you occupied.
When I was trying to pay for my first class of Graduate school this summer my account was put on hold until I had proof of immunizations. Specifically measles, mumps and rubella. I called the on campus health clinic in a panic.
“I don’t have any proof,” I explained. “I’m old. My last vaccine was at the age of ten!”
This did not deter the maniacally fastidious academic bureaucrat. I could go to a lab for $300.00, she informed me, and have blood drawn to test for titers showing I’d already had either the diseases or the immunizations, or I could go to my local clinic and be immunized again. Until then, my account was on hold, and there was only one spot left for the summer class I had to take and had to sign up for now. I was almost in tears at this point. We hung up and I sat with my head in hands until I remembered that for a previous job I had my blood drawn for just this reason. After several phone calls, emails and faxes I was able to send the results to my University and get the final spot in my mandatory class.
In my first class this summer there were seven 20-something women, one male and me. Our professor had the sharp humor of Tina Fey and the legs of Tina Turner (dating myself), which she showed off prodigiously each day wearing dresses and high heels.
I wore jeans and flowing kind-of hippie tops and flats. Several of my cohort came dressed either for the gym or the beach. After modeling appropriate, professional dress for the first week, our professor had a gentle, sit down talk with us the second week on professional attire.
“We are professionals here, you will be interacting with the faculty and the public, and it’s important that you look more professional than casual.”
One classmate who wore tiny tank tops that barely covered her self-disclosed “breast augmentation” got the message and the next day came dressed with a T-shirt thrown over her tank. Another classmate threw a sweater over her shirt that previously exposed both pierced midriff and excessive cleavage.
Our professor made several memorable observations during our two weeks of class.
“Leggings are not pants.”
“Sports bras are not shirts.”
She referred to Facebook and Snapchat as “The Facebook” and “The Snapchat” as in “my goddaughter was trying to teach me the snapchat.” I’m pretty sure she was joking around. She recalled taking her 21-year old goddaughter to Vegas the previous month for a birthday weekend and after being ignored, treated as an embarrassment and asked for money constantly, she called her own mother to apologize profusely for ever being 21.
I got a shock every time we took a bathroom break and I looked in the mirror while washing my hands. In the classroom, I mentally assumed I mimicked the dewy-faced cohort around me. Then I’d look into the mirror and gasp at the 56-year-old face before me. And the worst part is, it happened every damn time!
I was careful in my conversations not to date myself. I didn’t discuss typewriters, the years before computers, the fact that I was 24 when Mark Zuckerberg was born, white-out, landlines, having a 25 year old son, the Brady Bunch or TVs before remotes. I made a mental note to get my teeth brightened and any skin tags removed before the Fall semester began. No use scaring these immortal youth with obvious signs of aging unless it’s absolutely necessary. I sat with them on the lawn outside at lunch and did not complain once about the stairs that caused even the most pilates-honed body to gasp for breath once at the top.
Our professor was explaining that when we are counseling a client in the future, let the projections and emotions that are coming at you fall away, be like Teflon, let it slip off. She used this metaphor more than once and finally one of my classmates raised her hand.
“Yes?” asked my professor.
“What is Teflon?” she asked.
I thought to myself: “I’ve got this.”
Author: Deborah Coyote
Author Bio: Deborah Coyote has been writing for 35 years. She lives in the Rocky Mountains with her dog Kai and is in graduate school to become a licensed professional counselor.
Link to social media or website: Instagram @Deborah_Coyote