|Its like a Where’s Wally. But with Alex and a pointy sculpture.|
“You remind me of my aunt.”
“Is that a compliment?”
The woman looks at me.
It obviously isn’t. I take another sip of champagne and go and find someone else to talk to.
I’m standing in a crowed white gallery in central Sydney. There’s a large pointy looking sculpture in the centre of the room which I’ve spent most of the evening eyeing suspiciously. I once brained myself on a sculpture. It really hurt. I plan to avoid ever doing it again.
I’m here for the launch of a new magazine. Despite the excellent champagne and equally nice company I feel rather out of place.
I’ve been asked a few times this year whether people assume I’m older or younger than I really am. The answer, inevitably, is older but I don’t really think that’s because I look like someone’s aunt (not that it can hurt). I think it’s the situations in which I find myself. Take this one for example. I appear to be the only person here who isn’t writing a thesis or has just finished one.
Someone does, eventually, ask me how old I am.
“Nineteen,” I say “Almost twenty.”
I want to go and beat my head against that sculpture. Its such an awfully juvenile way to respond. I almost always answer questions about my age in this way. Its as though being one year older might make people respect me more. It might make me feel more at home in these foreign situations. It might make me appear more grown-up.
Later that night, staring at a dark, strange ceiling I find myself wondering when I’ll stop being ‘almost‘. It occurres to me, quiet suddenly, that maybe that age is twenty.
I’d been quiet terrified of turning twenty. Its such an awfully big number. Twenty, as people inevitably pointed out to me, is old. Its half of forty. That is old Alex. Do you know that you are old now?
The funny thing about birthdays is that, in reality, they don’t mean a lot. Basically you have all the same problems you did the day before. The same nice bits and the same bad bits. Its just that suddenly your age is a different number. And, when you think about it like that, twenty happens to be a rather nice number.
I’ve spent a lot of my life being almost something else. I’ve decided that this is the age I’m going to stop doing that.
Now I’m twenty. Just twenty. Pleased to meet you.