Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Failing the real real-age test

January 16, 2014

Every so often, I’ll come across one of those silly tests that tell you how old you really are based on your physical fitness, your mental acuity and your ability to name all the members of the band “One Direction.”

I like those tests because I usually find I’m a little younger than my chronological age. The problem with these tests – in fact, any test in a woman’s magazine (Are you a good kisser? Do your friends find you annoying? Will you die lonely and broke? Are you as cool as you think you are? Do those pants make you look fat?) – is that it’s easy to lie. Everyone ends up feeling better about themselves.

Based on the real-age test I took last week, I am 39, a chronological milestone I passed many moons ago. (Hint: “Titanic” won the Oscar the year I turned 39.) That puts me in the same boat with Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore and Tobey Maguire, all of whom will turn 39 this year.

It would be nice to actually feel like I did at 39. This morning I woke up feeling 78 – twice as old as that test told me I am.

Yesterday, I started teaching a new semester at a university. I’ve done this for years, and found it energizing and fairly easy. But this time will be more challenging; Wednesday, I teach back-to-back classes, each three hours long.

Which means once every week, I must stand up and talk for six hours straight.

When I got my new schedule, I devised a plan: drink water, eat energizing snacks and wear comfortable shoes. By the end of the first class, my throat was dry from talking and itchy from chalk dust. My hair, so carefully styled that morning, looked like strands of string cheese. I went to the ladies room with plans to restore myself to my morning splendor, but it was hopeless. I brushed my teeth, patted my face with a wet paper towel, reapplied lipstick and went to the next classroom to do battle. I took attendance and then reassured the students that I am usually much cuter than this.

Ninety minutes into the class, I was melting into my clogs and my shirt was untucked. Isn’t this what a passionate professor looks like? Caring not for how she looks but storming around the classroom getting students excited about words, words, words! When I finally dismissed the class for the night, the students were perky and fresh, and I was haggard and froggy.

I arrived home at 9:15, staggered up to my bedroom and told myself that famous lie: I would rest my head for just one minute and then go undress and brush my teeth.

At 4:30, the dog woke me. I was in the exact position I collapsed into seven hours earlier, fully dressed and perched on the edge of the bed like a toppled statue. All the lights were on. Oh, and one of my clogs fell off. I got up, brushed my teeth, put on pajamas and went back to bed until 7.

I suspect Wednesdays will get easier as I adjust during the semester. But the first time out, all that teaching and talking reminded me I may not have the stamina I once had. That day of work was a test – and my score showed me I’m not 39 any more.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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