Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Take That, Claire Danes!

When I was in junior high, Moonlighting was popular on television.  My hair hadn't darkened yet and my peers often called me Cybil Shepard, the lead actress.  Several years ago, I was likened to Claire Danes from her role in "Shopgirl", with Steve Martin.  I can live with that.

I was invited to give a keynote address for a conference in March at Central Washington University. The theme is "Innovation".  I hadn't met anyone on the committee. They asked if I would attend one of the meetings, so this morning, I showed up on time and was the first person there.  As people filtered into the room, I spoke to a few of them.  Nice people; we talked about the campus, life in Ellensburg and assorted other stuff.

Then one of them asked, "So what is your name, then?"
"My name is Mindie."  I use my first name for professional stuff.
A few eyebrows went up.
"Is something wrong?
"No!" said the blonde lady who was apparently the chair of the committee. "We were just, expecting someone....."
I'm thinking rapidly at this point- someone smarter? Someone more academic looking? Someone who doesn't look like a hobo walking in off of the street?
"... much older." 


"Don't get me wrong," said the thin woman to her right, "I'm so pleased to have you as our speaker. It's just that you've done a lot of stuff." She seemed really flustered. There was a murmur from the other people in the room. 
"I'm 40." I'm actually 39, but I'll be 40 in a few months. There was a moment where two of the committee members seemed on the verge of spitting out a denial, a refutation, but at the last moment looked at each other and closed their mouths.
"You look so young!"
"Thank you."

This went on for half a minute. I was beginning to get uncomfortable with the attention.  After all, it's sort of an American thing to equate looks with success. We moved on to other topics- defining innovation, discussing approaches for the workshops and the roundtable I will facilitate- and I told them a few stories.

It's flattering that people sometimes think I am younger than I am.  In this case, it was really awkward.  Ok, flattering *and* awkward.  If I am going to be known for anything in this world, I want to be known for the stories I tell about my family, my students, my friends. I want to be known as a good teacher or friend.  Those are the things that will last. 

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah.

I get to give a keynote address!  At a conference addressing innovative ideas. How hard does that rock?!

And hello! There are worse things than being mistaken for a twenty-something. Take that, Claire Danes!


  1. I get that a lot, too. In social situations, I love it, but in professional situations, I often get that raised eyebrow look whenever I am in a transaction with a client, as if I could never be experienced enough to even be in the same room as they are because I look (and sound) so damn young. It's frustrating.

    I think we should embrace the fact that we are mistaken for being much younger than we look -- as you said, there are far worst things in life!

    1. Ugh. I hear you. I couldn't WAIT to turn 30 so that "people would take me seriously". I learned instead that I have take myself seriously first.

      Thanks for the thought!

  2. Jen E. has that problem as well. Not me though. I've been 40 since I was 18. In looks anyway. In other ways I'm forever 15. Congrats on the speech. It sounds like exactly something you would be doing! Thanks for making the world a better place.