I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this happens to everyone. Almost everyone, at least. That feeling of “wow! I’m an adult now? When did that happen?”
One of the instances of that feeling accosting me occurred last weekend. I was at my sister’s place and was out for an evening walk with my sister and my 6 month-old niece when three 10-year-ish-looking girls ran towards us, all giggly. I smiled back politely and maybe encouraged by that they proceeded to tell me the story of how they saw “3 frogs.. no wait, there were 4 frogs – 3 big and 1 small.” The long story was told, debates on the size of frogs were made and they ended the story with “Don’t go there Aunty!”
When they said that, I immediately looked at my sister, because in my head, it makes sense for her to be called “aunty”. ‘Coz, you know, she has a kid and stuff. Only catch – they were clearly talking to me. (Unless all three had crooked eyes. That is a possibility, yeah?) Then I convinced myself that they called me “aunty” ‘coz I was holding the baby – can’t blame the kids for being politically correct, can I? It took me a few more minutes to accept the reality that I am (and I look) old enough to be included in the ‘aunty’ category, especially from a 10-year-olds eye.
As we were walking back, my sister and I ended up talking about the whole ‘oh-man-she-called-me-an-aunty’. (Dear reader, I can sense you rolling your eyes at me now. I’ll stop in a bit. Thank you for your patience!) When we were talking it dawned on us that there is no equivalent term in English for the Malayalam word ‘chechi’. Technically, it means sister, but colloquially, it is used to address all women who appear to be older than you but is no old-old, geddit? You can’t ask people ‘sister, could you help me get an auto?’ whereas ‘chechi, can you help me get an auto?’ is completely acceptable. The vagaries of languages. Sigh.
As for the growing old part, I feel that there is a huge difference between growing up and feeling grown up, though I am still on the fence about the importance of the latter. All this hungama (which I am causing. Yes, I’m aware of that) is reminding me of a conversation from the movie ‘Liberal Arts’ (it’s one of my favourite movies. Go watch it if you haven’t. It’s super amazing.) which goes as follows:
Prof. Peter Hoberg: You know how old I am?
Jesse Fisher: No, how old are you?
Prof. Peter Hoberg: It’s none of your goddamn business. Do you know how old I feel like I am?
Jesse Fisher: [shrugs]
Prof. Peter Hoberg: 19. Since I was 19, I have never felt not 19. But I shave my face, and I look in the mirror, and I’m forced to say, “This is not a 19-year-old staring back at me.”
Prof. Peter Hoberg: Teaching here all these years, I’ve had to be very clear with myself, that even when I’m surrounded by 19-year-olds, and I may have felt 19, I’m not 19 anymore. You follow me?
Jesse Fisher: Yeah.
Prof. Peter Hoberg: Nobody feels like an adult. It’s the world’s dirty secret.
And now you have in on the dirty secret too. You can thank me in the comments. Or send me Bournville – the super dark one, not the raisins one. That works too.