I’m not a good judge of age at any time. In fact I’m so bad that I have to restrain myself whenever the question of someone’s age comes up. I usually try to stay silent until another topic comes along. Maybe it is through kindness or a generous spirit (I hope so), but I have a tendency to grossly underestimate another person’s age. Of course, everyone likes to hear that they look younger than they are. I know I certainly do. The problem is that people often think, because of my ineptitude, I am falsely flattering them.
This problem is exaggerated for me in Peru. I am terrible at figuring out the age of the Peruvians I know. I am invariably way too low. Usually, they look much younger to me than they actually are. For example, a young lady who looks to be about fifteen years old turns out to be twenty six. A distinguished gentleman I know seems to me to be about forty years old, with not a grey hair on his head, or a wrinkle on his forehead. He recently told me that he is hitting sixty. Well, I was only wrong by twenty years!
I was discussing this phenomena with my wife (Peruvian) the other day. She explained:
“Of course we look younger. It is because we have to keep responding to the changes in our lives. Nothing ever stays the same. We have to be young and flexible in order to live and deal with the stress in Lima.”
I’m a little skeptical of this explanation. If it were true, why wouldn’t the residents of New York City, one of the most stressful cities I know, show this effect of appearing younger than they are. I don’t think that they do.
However, it is a good description of life in Lima. Certainly in the fifteen years that I have lived here, I have experienced Lima as a caldron bubbling with change. When I look back at my life in California, where I thought that we experienced many changes, I now realize that our lives were dull, weighed down with a predictable routine. Most of the time, it was the same thing over and over. How boring.
On the other hand, I find living in Lima it to be a roller coaster experience. There is a surprise around every corner. It could be good or it could be bad.
I think it has something to do with the pace of the city. I see it accelerating. For example, try getting onto the Metropolitano (Lima’s mass transit system) at rush hour.
It also has to do with the demands of living with an extended family— someone is always sick, having a baby, getting married, or dying. With more people, there are more life events.
Dealing with a government bureaucracy that is always throwing curves at you also adds to the spice of life. Just when you think that everything is going ok, wham another change.
So I don’t know if all this makes you look younger, but if you want to ride on this roller coaster it certainly makes your spirit younger.