Hold on, how old do you think I am?

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Aaliyah’s song “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” is a constant theme in my nightlife experience, one that can make for some brutally awkward moments.

I completely understand how older women can assume I’m their age. I’ve had a full beard since 19, gray hairs sprouting up since I was even younger and a voice that could pass for someone’s dad. I get it. But what I don’t always get is how some women, who may or may not be old enough to have been in my parents’ yearbook, don’t seem to care.

There was the woman who stared me down at Alley Cat. “I’m looking at you, silly!” she yelled out when I tried to sidestep her gaze. She proceeded to tell me she moved to Charlotte 17 years ago for a job. Everything else she said afterward was white noise because all I could think was, “Damn, I was 6!”

Then there was the woman who made it her mission to get me to dance at Luna Lounge, going as far as taking my Blackberry from me. I half-heartedly complied, but about midway through the blaring ’90s hip-hop and my non-committal two-step, it struck me how this one song held completely different places in our psyches. She was excited like they played this at her prom (granted, they probably did). I only heard this song around my older cousins.

Those examples aren’t to say I’m against the idea of an older woman. It’s just always been this way.

I was 17 years old the first time I ever went to a club. I got in with my college ID because it didn’t have my age on it and was immediately accosted by a woman who was every bit of 35, trying to buy me drinks and insisting, “Chill next to me, baby.” I only stayed about five minutes.

I’ve learned the real keys to pulling off these scenarios seem to be laughing at their jokes — that may be generationally irrelevant (I didn’t grow up on Good Times, sorry) — letting them get away with comparing me to bearded stars who’ve passed away like Teddy Pendergrass or Gerald Levert, or, my personal favorite, just shutting the fuck up, smiling and nodding.

By the end of the night when others are sealing the deal, I’m usually admitting I was born in 1986 and either being laughed at, followed by an abrupt exit or, the weirder of the two, only endearing myself more to these potential cougs.

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