Age

At a Super 8 outside Dayton, Ohio, I once received a vicious insult from a woman too stupid to realize she was being cruel. It was around 11 PM, and I’d just finished the first leg of my four day journey from New Jersey to California, tired, all the blood drained from my face making me look even whiter than usual. The desk clerk gave me a puzzled look when I walked into the motel, a look that deepened when I requested a room. She asked to see my driver’s license – standard procedure – and immediately scanned for the date of birth, muttering some subtraction before coming to the correct figure.

“22? I would have guessed 14 or 15.”

Thanks, lady. That’s exactly what I need to hear one day after striking out on my own for the first time, three days before arriving in a state where I don’t have a job lined up and don’t know a single person.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“44.”

“Really? You look to be 65 at least.”

Instead, in reality, I shrugged at her, didn’t say a word while the credit card machine waited for approval, and hurried off as soon as I had the room key in my hand.

I felt better after I’d been in Los Angeles for two days, because I hit it off with a nice, young Canadian woman at one of the nightly small parties at my hostel. She was 26, but looked younger. When she asked for my age, I side-stepped the question. We were drinking, and there was no need to risk turning her off with the possibility of sex imminent.

Later, she asked again, and I decided it might seem weird to keep evading. I told her the truth, which was probably a stupid idea, but she didn’t seem to mind. She told me I seemed more like 25 or 26. So in four days I went from 14 to 26. This might have excited me, but I was too busy being distracted by an even drunker girl from Oregon who was making eyes at me from across the room. Her name, I soon found out, was Rachel. After learning my name, Rachel from Oregon decided we’d exchanged more than enough information, and she led me back to her room, where she promptly passed out. After briefly trying to revive her, all the while getting images in my head of Lifetime movies about date rape, I got creeped out with myself and headed back to the party to find the Canadian girl. In retrospect, I found her more appealing anyway in all aspects other than that she wasn’t quite so inebriated. When I got back she was in the arms of an Australian, who had a leg up on me in the looks department, and in the “I already have my damn Aussie arms around her” department.

I almost ran up to her to explain I had a rare aging disease and that, at the rate of 12 years every two days, I’d be dead in a week or two, and didn’t she want to grant the wish of a dying man? Instead I chatted with the funny looking Frenchman who’d taken it upon himself to act as DJ.

Within weeks I’d started my background acting career. A few times I played characters who were under 18, which is a common practice for actors in their 20s. A few times I was told by casting directors that I looked too old. The first few times, this thrilled me. Finally, after 20 years of looking a few years younger than I ought, I finally appeared a real adult. But soon it became an annoyance that kept me from getting work, and I cursed myself for not appearing more childish in my headshot.

None of this age wrangling prepared me for what I was told when I called to land the spot of high school student on the show “24.” I’d managed to get just one day of work in the last week and I had the fingers of my non-phone hand crossed hoping the casting director thought I looked young. This is what he said to me:

“Sorry, I can’t use any more Asians.”

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One Response to “Age”

  1. Susan Says:

    Heh, boy have i heard that one a million times

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