My uncle said, “How old are you?”
I said, “Nine and a half,” and then
My uncle puffed out his chest and said,
“When I was your age . . . I was ten.” – Shel Silverstein
Today as I was walking into the OB/GYN clinic (where I spend 90% of my time these days at work), one of the receptionists started chatting with me. We caught up on a few things, and I told her about some new directions in my life and subsequent dilemmas. She’s divorced and has two kids, and she encouraged me to live it up while I can and pursue all the various dreams that tempt me before saddling myself with responsibilities. You’re so young, she kept saying. But you’re so young, so very young. You’re free as a bird and have your whole life in front of you. She looked so wistful, even envious. I had a feeling that I was older than she realized, so I asked her how old she thought I was, anyway.
Oh, I’d say 22.
22! A veritable babe in arms! That’s how old I was when I moved to Colombia, which seems like an eternity ago. 22! I couldn’t believe it. Not even close.
So then she changed her guess to 20. 20!! I don’t even want to think about what I was doing when I was 20. (I was 20 the first time I went to Colombia.) 20!! Maybe she thought I was offended when she guessed that I was 22. I never care what age people guess, though– old, young, me da lo mismo. In general, people always think I’m younger than I really am, and everyone thinks my 21-year-old sister is older than me. I can’t seem to escape girlhood. I know I look especially young when my hair is long.
When someone asks you how old you are in Spanish, the thing to say to them if you want to be sly is ¿Cuántos años me pones? How old do you think I am? How many years do you put me? (Except that we’d never say that, of course.) When I was in Cali last summer, a young guy answered me by saying Yo te colocaría . . . but it obviously sounded odd enough for me to remember it a year later. I also see that you can say ¿Cuántos años me echas?, ¿Cuántos años me calculas? or ¿Cuántos años me das?
Y tú, ¿cuántos años me pones? No sé, soy muy mala para adivinar edades.
So how old do you think I am? I don’t know; I’m really bad at guessing people’s age.
¿Conque tienes apenas 14? Pues no lo aparentas, yo te hubiera puesto unos 20.
You’re only 14? You don’t look it– I would have guessed around 20.