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I Was Mistaken For The Mother Of A 45 Year Old, Here’s My Reaction

Kuel Life Featured Images February 2023

Ageism Rebel: Dara Goldberg

So, this happened…

“I joined the crowd, feeling happy and excited to be doing my friend a favor..”

School Commitments:

My dear friend, Emily, called me in a dither. It was Grandparents Day at her five-year-old daughter’s school and her parents couldn’t attend, nor could she. 

Emily asked if I could go and play the role of auntie for her dear Penelope, and I didn’t hesitate before saying yes. 

Fast forward to that morning and picture this: 

All of the grandparents (or parental figures) stood in line waiting to be greeted, one by one, by the Head of the School. I joined the crowd, feeling happy and excited to be doing my friend a favor and more importantly, showing up for Penelope. 

Meet And Greet:

Finally, I got to the head of the line and was greeted by the Head of School. 

“‘Hi, I’m here for Penelope Bryan, Emily Bryan’s daughter,” I said.

And, what does this super gracious gentleman say in response? 

“Ohhhh! You must be Emily’s mother. So nice to meet you!”

I froze. On the outside, I kept smiling. On the inside…

Ummm…What???!!! I’m close to deaf in one ear, so clearly I just misheard him. He didn’t really just ask if I am my 45-year-old friend’s mother…did he?! ”

Mistaken For The Mother Of A 45-Year-Old:

The sweet man just stood there smiling, unaware of the explosion in my mind.

“No,” I said, finally managing to find my voice, “I’m just a close friend. Emily and her parents couldn’t make it, and Penelope really wanted someone to visit her on Grandparents’ Day, so I’m playing auntie for the day.”

He nodded and directed me forward. As I walked through the school hall, I kept reliving what just happened.

Was I taken aback? Absolutely! 

Was I rendered speechless? Almost!

Was I mortified? No frickin’ way!

What I WASN’T feeling in that moment was the most surprising to me:

I wasn’t embarrassed. 

I wasn’t offended (ok, well, just a little bit at first).

My eyes didn’t fill with hot tears. 

I didn’t feel ashamed or bad about myself for being mistaken for the mother of a 45-year-old.

Someone’s Mistake Is Just An Honest Mistake:

Sometimes someone’s mistake about our age is nothing more than an honest mistake.

“I didn’t need her to convince me that I don’t ‘look’ old enough to be her mom.”

After the event, I called Emily to share what had gone down. I found myself laughing–like, deep-belly, can’t-talk-cause-I’m-laughing-so-hard laughing–as I repeated verbatim what the Head of School had said to me.

Emily felt awful and kept saying how sorry she was that I had had that experience. She couldn’t stand that my good deed had turned out to be a deeply insulting and upsetting event.

But, here’s the brilliant and most powerful thing about this experience: I didn’t need Emily’s empathy. I didn’t need her to convince me that I don’t ‘look’ old enough to be her mom. I didn’t want her to view my experience as upsetting and insulting…because it wasn’t.

Did I go home and look at myself in the mirror and question whether I ‘look’ old enough (whatever that means) to be my 45-year-old friend’s mother? Sure, I did. (I mean, wouldn’t you? )

Lovin’ Midlife Me:

But, then, I didn’t spiral. An earlier version of me would have. I would have felt the pain and hung onto their words for weeks. But this current version of me – the 56-year-old, lovin’ midlife me – just plain didn’t care. In fact, I found myself laughing again, and again. It was a hilarious event – and oh my goodness – how awesome is it that I have such a funny story to share with anyone and everyone?

Odd as this may sound to some, this experience just further reinforces my love of being a woman in midlife. I love feeling unembarrassable. That I find it funny when someone unintentionally skews my age. I love that I don’t take it personally nor take it as a statement about my worth or beauty. I even love that this experience would not have happened if I wasn’t in midlife (or older). 

Getting older can be so joyous–and wondrously hilarious–in ways we’d never expect and at the oddest times.

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Dara Goldberg

About the Author:

Dara Goldberg is a change-maker, entrepreneur, speaker, and the founder of the Lovin’ Midlife Movement. She’s known for her love of Spanish wine, and her undying passion to make the world recognize women in midlife are invincible–not invisible.

After 15 happy years advising and raising millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations as a founding partner in a consulting firm, she woke up one morning and realized something was off. This was the pivotal moment–as society told her she was crazy for wanting to leave a perfect job–where she realized there needed to be a change.

Now she advocates for and brings together women in midlife to change the way society looks at, listens to, and understands them. Appearing weekly on Clubhouse, she has sparked a community of like-minded women who are fiercely proud to call themselves women in midlife. You can follow Dara on IG.

2 thoughts on “I Was Mistaken For The Mother Of A 45 Year Old, Here’s My Reaction

  1. Dawn says:

    Dara, your response to the Head of School was perfect! Any other would have been quite awkward for both of you. My daughter was born 5 days before my 41st birthday and I find it kind of funny when younger moms’ jaws drop upon learning my age.

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