Are you old enough to be respected?

If you asked me this question a year ago, I would’ve responded with a no. I was 28 (but I looked around 25 or 26), I didn’t dress in clothes from Ann Taylor Loft, if you catch my drift, and I’m mature, but bubbly, which many people mistake for general stupidity.

It’s not that I didn’t think I should’ve been respected, it’s that I didn’t think other people recognized yet that it was my time.

Let me back up just a touch. All people should be respected, young and old, of course; from newborns to the very elderly. I’m not talking about the sort of basic human respect that is supposed to come with being a part of the human race. What I’m talking about is the variety of respect that adults get in everyday life; the kind with minimal traces of condescension, down-talking, and general head-pattery. I understand this still occurs among adults, but it’s a little easier to spot.

I realized that I am old enough to be respected like this just a few days ago. I ran into a fella I used to know, only about four or five years younger than myself. I was the authority in the relationship previously, but not anymore. We were merely drifters through our late twenties now.

I spoke to him normally, like myself (which means I shared minimal details with a sprinkle of self deprecation to keep it light). It was a quick transaction, and I was the patron and he the employee, so maybe that messed up the dynamic a bit, but I sensed this aura of nervousness. For once, it wasn’t coming from me. He was a tad nervous talking to me. ME! I can literally think of no one less threatening than myself, expect perhaps a newborn kitten because it has soft claws.

I could tell he was choosing his words carefully before speaking them and he treaded lightly with our chit chat. It felt really good. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t boost me up a little, made me feel like I had the upper hand. This doesn’t happen to me often, but perhaps it is time. I am almost thirty, I’m a full adult with a husband and a house and, oh yeah, I’m pregnant and soon to be responsible for another human life. So maybe I have earned that adult respect. Maybe, people look at me and don’t automatically think “kid” anymore. Maybe they think “young woman,” or just plain “adult,” or, you know “stunning, electrifying, writer-goddess,” whatever they see, you know?

I walked away almost laughing. Someone thinks I am in more control? That I could judge them? I liked the automatic respect. I liked not working so hard to earn it.

It would’ve been easy for me to act superior, or put him down in a passive-aggressive way. (Oh, just wait until you’re my age, THEN you’ll see! You don’t know the struggle, kiddo) The kind of comments that seem innocent but when the conversation is over, are actually quite nasty (I fall for those all the time). ┬áNow that I know I might have this power, I refuse to use it. Younger people are just that: younger. And I was that a year ago. I am still like that in many ways.

It felt good to walk away from a conversation not worrying in the least what someone thought of me or going over every small detail in my head afterwards. Thank you, fella from my past, for that. Perhaps I am old enough.