You’ve got to be pretty old. You’ve got kids

I was on a ski lift with a group of college students when
one asked me if I had sex in high school. It was a bold question, but it wasn’t
shocking. I knew these students really well. I was 32, a father of three, and
working as a college academic counselor for under represented students.  This was a school trip. The three boys
sitting next to me were between 18 and 19-years-old. Two were Latino, and one
was white. All from low income families. This was their first time ever at a
ski resort.
We were chatting about why I didn’t ever learn how to ski,
and I told them, “I learned to snowboard in high school. It just seemed sexier.
I suppose my goal was to get laid.”
“Did it work?” the white kid asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Did you get laid in high school?”
“Well… Yeah” I said. “But I don’t know if that was a direct
result of snowboarding.”
I don’t think any of them heard the last half of my sentence
because they were all laughing so hard. Long snorty giggles that reminded me of
Beavis & Butt-head sitting on a sofa talking about sex.
I didn’t know just what to make of all this laughter. I
didn’t know if this was a result of them never having sex, or if it was because
me, their college counselor, just admitted to having sex. Perhaps they assumed
that I didn’t have sex. That I never had. Or perhaps it was something they’d rather
not think about. But in the moment, I assumed it was because they saw me as
old. This was not the only sign of my students seeing me as old. When getting
students signed up to go on the ski trip (we only had funding for about 15) I
mentioned that I was going, and nearly all of them gave me a confused,
perplexed look, the kind of scrunched up face one might make when seeing a UFO,
and said, “You snowboard?” One even accused me of lying, as though snowboarding
was too cool, or too hip, or too young for someone like me to do. An old, white,
nerdy, academic type, with thick-framed glasses and collared shirts. At one
point, in all this, I made the mistake of asking one student how old she
thought I was, and she said, “You’ve got to be pretty old. You’ve got kids.”
As invalid as this argument was (people in high school have
kids) it still gave me pause. The problem is I don’t feel that old, but there
is something about working with college students that makes me realize that
time is moving forward.
I looked at the students still laughing on the lift. “Really?”
I said. “I don’t get why this is so funny?”
One of them put up his hand and said, “No. No. It’s not.
It’s just…” then they all looked at each other and laughed again.  And after a moment they started talking about
some fat friend of theirs who gets laid all the time, and how strange that was,
and I wondered how these two conversations were correlated.
I looked at these students on the lift for some time, and I
started to see myself through their eyes. I was, indeed, this representation of
age and stability. Some of these students I’d been meeting with every two weeks
for more than a year. I was a man they came to for answers. I was educated, and
settled, and had a few wrinkles and a little grey in my beard. I thought about
when I was their age, and how I might have seen myself, and not surprisingly,
I’d have had a difficult time understanding that this person with trim cut hair
ever once had long hair, and smoked pot, and had sex, and all that other adolescent
crap that most kids do. I looked at them, and realized that regardless of how
young I felt, how cool I still thought I was, I was now, in the eyes of these
young men, an old man with responsibilities and income and education.
The lift ride seemed forever long, nearly as long as the
journey between my youth and the now. Not that I hadn’t thought about all this
before, but it seemed more apparent as they laughed, and it gave me pause. I’ve
heard people in their 40s and 50s tell me that I’m still young, and I’ve seen a
lot of people in their teens and 20’s imply that I’m getting old, and in so
many ways I’m trying to figure out what this all means. In the grand scheme of
life and progression, the 30s are a strange middle ground, somewhere close to
the top of the hill, but just low enough that I can’t see the other side. Neal
Young said it’s “When you’re old enough to repay. But young enough to sell.” I
never really understood that line until this year. I knew that my back would
hurt after this snowboarding trip, but I also knew that I could out board any
of the students that came along, and thinking about that made the pain worth
it.  How long would that last?
We reached the end of the lift, and when we all got off, and
all three students fell, while I stayed up. I put my hand out, and helped one
of them up. He looked frustrated, and I said, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it
out. Takes time.”
He looked at me for a while, smiled, and said, “Yeah… you’re
right,“ in a tone that seemed confident and cool and believing. As old as I
assumed he saw me, it seemed that he knew I understood. That what I told him
was believable because I’d been there. Perhaps that’s where I am. Still young
enough to understand these student’s struggles, young enough to be believable,
but old enough to know about priorities and sacrifice and make recommendations. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a
charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky
little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father
left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and
husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good
Morning America
, The New York Times,
The
Washington Post
, The
Huffington Post
, Scary
Mommy
, The Good
Men Project
, Fast
Company
, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and
Twitter.   
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