Any time I’ve complained about looking young for my age, the general response has been *record scratch* Bish, Please! Yes, that’s right, being mistaken for at least 10 years younger than my age, on average, is perceived as a major plus by society. It’s not a surprising reaction, considering how the media constantly inundates women with anti-aging products, in the hopes that we part ways with our dollars in pursuit of the intangible fountain of youth. However, the more I describe my woes, the more I realize that people are confusing looking youthful with looking childish. To be mistaken for a 12-14 year old…when you’re in your twenties is not a compliment. Here are 10 reasons why looking like a child actually sucks.:
1. You get disrespected
I’ve never truly understood how little society thinks of teens/tweens until I’ve been mistaken for one. People act like they’re stuck in “annoyed” mode and barely look you in the eye. When they find out my real age, there’s a sudden shift in their disposition and you can tell they’re embarrassed about being an a**hole
2. You’re the only one that gets carded in front of your peers
One the most embarrassing things that’s ever happened to me is when I went to see the spider-man movie with my cousins in Disney World. It was my 17th birthday and as I was paying for my ticket, the agent said “you know this is a pg-13 movie, right? Can I see your ID?” Needless to say, I was beyond embarrassed. You can NOT get more pg-13 than Disney World and Spider Man! My cousins were silent for the rest of the evening because they were that embarrassed for me.
3. Truancy cops stop you because they think you’re skipping school
I had one encounter with a cop that thought I was running away at a bus station, but most of the time I’ve had other adults warn me to get my ass back in school before the truancy cops “get” me. My response has always been the death stare, then keeping it moving. And, I’ve never gotten caught by any truancy cops…..yet.
4. You get followed around in stores
This happens to be a double whammy for me, because a) I’m black (see Barney’s, Macy’s) and b) I look like a teen. I’ve even had fellow black and young-ish looking security guards follow me around stores. I’m always like, son, are you kidding me? There are several times I’ve walked out of stores after all that stalking.
5. Men your age don’t desire you
Ugh! This has been the bane of my existence for quite sometime. Luckily, it hasn’t been as much of a problem lately since I’m presumably looking more my age, but I’ve been passed over by numerous men because they thought I was a kid. Even if they knew I was old enough, they’d still feel weird even dating someone who looks childish.
6. You get called sweetie/sweetheart/young lady
I always find it interesting that any term someone uses to address me is one of or a combination of the phrases above. The day I get called a “woman” or “lady”, I don’t know if I’d be mad or glad…
7. You don’t get taken seriously in your profession/lower wages
As someone who is going into a professional career field, this scares the crap out of me! In my profession, looking younger than 40 or 50 is a problem, so imagine someone who looks 10! In the workforce, perception is everything and unfortunately, looking like a kid will probably have a negative impact on my bottom line.
8. You’re embarrassed to do anything that limits your age to 21 and older (even though you’re at least 25)
Going back to that Disney moment is the last thing I want to do in life. I avoid conversations about my age like the plague, but sometimes it’s inevitable. Going into any bar, ordering drinks at dinner, renting a car–these are all things in which the potential for embarrassing conversations about how young I look always crop up. There have been many times that I wouldn’t walk into a liquor store or go to a happy hour to avoid the awkward feeling of wanting to enjoy myself, but knowing others are staring and thinking: How old is she?
9. Young boys desire you
Even though men my age would pass my by, I’d get hit on by teenagers all.the.time. Once, when I told this 15 year old kid my real age, he replied: Oh, you’re old! ….Talk about a lose/lose situation.
10. People treat you the age they perceive you as, despite knowing your real age
In general, your real age tends not to matter when you look young. People don’t want to do the mental work of reminding themselves “she’s grown” when they see you and automatically think “child”. Ultimately, you have to live and deal in a world that will discriminate against you, and hope that one day are treated the age that you feel inside.
As I get older, these things are not as prevalent anymore, but they’re still jarring when they happen. So, if you know someone who looks really young for their age, please don’t tell him/her “you’ll appreciate it when your older!.” It’s dismissive, and besides, if you won’t dare tell someone they look old as hell cuz you know it’s taboo, the same rules apply for your young-looking friends.
Do you look young for your age? If so, how do you deal with it?