You underestimate me. Because I am young, closer to your daughter’s or son’s age than your own. Because I am a woman, because I have soft fleshy thighs and sleek hair and I wear little silver earrings in the shape of birds, which my husband gave me on my birthday, a time to take flight. Because I’m successful, and you don’t see why I should be. Because I’m agreeable, because I write e-mails that make my friends in accounting turn to their dictionaries, because sometimes I let you chalk up small victories so that I don’t to navigate the uncomfortable terrain that would come with making you feel slighted.

I am 24. I can’t even claim to have reached the year of the quarter-life crisis; I radiate a sheen of youth, I wear high heels on the subway, and I shyly drop my head when we’re all in the elevator together because I never developed a facility for small talk. I do small work — I fixate, dissect sentences in my head, thumb madly through reference books to find clear extrapolations of arcane rules of splitting infinitives — but I am unhinged, trying to apply the same rigorous logic to our sprawling, messy lives.

I can’t tell if I’m mature or immature. I don’t want to get involved in office politics. I don’t want to think that things as petty as age can divide us. The only time I ever feel real any more is staring out to sea, or listening to ambient fuzz while studying faces on the subway, back and forth, back and forth, bodies pressing together without emitting sparks.