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Aging with humor and grace | Reporter's Notebook
Whether I'm covering a prep game or volunteering as a youth sports coach, I often find myself involved in a case of mistaken identity. The problem is one I'm sure at least a few of our readers who like myself, are of Asian descent, have encountered as well.
It reached an apex this past weekend when I joined my dad at the signups for the local youth football program's upcoming season.
"No, he's 26," I overheard him say several times as I tossed around a football with a teen who also mistook me for one of his peers.
Time and again, my father was left explaining his son wasn't the newest eighth-grade athletic sensation to hit the Snoqualmie Valley, but a 26-year-old living in an adolescent body.
Even the local prep coach had a gleam in his eye when we were introduced. I could see the wheels in his head turning as he was thinking to himself, "With a little more physical development, that middle-schooler could be a decent player…"
Unfortunately for both of us, the window for that development has already been slammed shut, leaving behind only a youthful mirage.
The first may be a great case study on the masses, but my dietary staples of red meat (always served bleeding, if not breathing), fructose-infused beverages and plenty of other cholesterol-laden, deep-fried favorites leave its credibility struggling harder than my colon.
Various theories on aging and its relation to ethnicity have been suggested and studied – diet and other environmental factors, facial structure and even simply another case of a break between our subjective perception and an objective reality are all common.
A more rounded face and the spacing between the brow and nose have led some to believe it is Western perception that has created the myth that Asians age more gracefully than our Caucasian counterparts. When the average Westerner looks at the average Asian mug, they see a facial structure that lends comparisons more to a Caucasian infant than adult.
But those traits are far from unanimous in various Asian lineages and even those faces with a more angular appearance often appear to have staved-off Father Time and his arsenal of eye circles, lip sagging or the dreaded laughing lines.
I'm sure someday it will be members at the local Elks Club or Eagles meetings that assume my age precludes me from entrance, just as movie ushers at PG-13 flicks do now.
Regardless of the science or psychology behind it, I'm trying to find the positives in my predicament, and would encourage others in my position to do the same.
The grand finale is a plan to relocate to another state, enroll in high school under an assumed name and make one final run at a spot on the all-state football team.
Most of the details are solidified in my head, but I'm still taking my time with the decision. After all, if history is any indicator, I'm going to look like this for at least a few more years.
Josh Suman, pictured above, age 13, 17 and 25.