Last night, I automatically showed my ID as the cashier reached for a cheap bottle of Shiraz. I didn't even much think about it, since, even though I'm 27, I'm regularly asked to provide proof of my booze-buying legality. This particular cashier, upon seeing my ID, gushed, "Are you freaking serious? There's no way you're that old!" I tried to laugh politely but it was tougher to maintain poise as she continued, "Well, I guess I have to accept your fake ID as real!" she said. I'm still not sure if she was joking or not. I mean, I was buying a stupid $11 bottle of wine on a Wednesday night among a menagerie of other depressing items like frozen spinach and eggs. I clearly wasn't in the midst of hatching a diabolical plan to perpetrate some underage party rage. But this wasn't an unfamiliar position for me to end up in — as a person who apparently looks younger than I actually am, I get to routinely defend my age.
Sure, I know that, on a long enough timeline, this situation will warp into some weird blessing. My mom definitely doesn't look her age. She's a super young-looking fox-babe. This is why I'm psycho about applying sunscreen, among other paranoias. I look forward to that future, the one in which looking younger is a positive thing. In the meantime, I'm learning how to navigate these waters I never asked to be tossed into. It can make for some awkward situations, but hey, I'm still afloat. Anyone else who looks younger than they are will definitely know what I'm talking about.
Dating someone who looks your actual age or older
It doesn't help that I'm also vertically challenged. Young looking and short = literal child in the eyes of most people. This can be annoying for a lot of reasons, but none quite so awkward as those involving my love life. How do I put this delicately? People look at the completely age-appropriate men I date as pervy predators. I dated someone my same age for years but since he had a beard and stood a good foot taller than me, we intercepted a lot of judgmental looks. "Haha! Did you have to sign her out of school early?" a stranger helpfully offered once. Cool, thanks.
Dating someone who is actually older
I have a date with something that is 9 years older than me this week. I don't think that age difference, while admittedly not nothing, is that big of a deal after a certain age. If I were 16? Ew. In my late-20s? Not such a huge situation. He knew how old I was before asking me out (thanks for the clarification, Tinder) so it was fine. However, when older dudes approach me in real life, with zero knowledge of my actual age and presumably thinking I'm much younger, it can get a little creepy for sure.
Way younger people hitting on you
"Oh! You don't teach at Georgia Tech... you go there... kaaaaay, gotta run bye!" Not that I'm not allowed to date younger — I know that I am — but the look of bona fide alarm in the young whippersnapper's face when I'm all, "LOL no, I'm almost 30, please no. You're a baby. I just look like one."
Overcompensating for a young appearance with grown-up style
Lots of my peers think it's adorable to wear pink sweatshirts with kitten unicorns, and it totally is. But I can't do that. Because I'll look like an actual little kid. That struggle is hard enough without me opting for any fashion/beauty choices that can be described as "adorable" or anything in the adorable family. Instead, I stick with mostly black and limit animal print/appearances in my clothing and accessories just to one black cat clutch. It's a lot more boring, yeah.
Wearing uncomfortable shoes
A tiny heel goes a long way in upping the adult ante. I usually resort to wearing something with a little heel most days. Sure, I'd like to rock my Vans every day, but it isn't conducive to looking — oh, I don't know — old enough to legally purchase cigarettes? Not that I want to purchase cigarettes, but dammit, it would be nice to be able to without getting interrogated about my age. Footwear has the power to help make or break how someone sees you upon first meeting, and as much as it's not the most comfortable option, opting for heels means their first impression isn't "where is your mother, little girl?"
You have to work harder for respect at work
First impressions are tough with new colleagues. Especially when they earnestly ask how you're enjoying your internship. Nice try, bud. I'm one of your bosses.
Booking a hotel room gets problematic
One time, I got too zonked to continue a long overnight drive, so I stopped at a cheap hotel in the middle of nowhere. The front desk employee essentially asked me to empty my entire wallet to prove I was old enough to book solo and not a poorly disguised runaway. Nobody will let you do completely boring adult things without a great deal of grief when you look so young.
Traveling alone is weird
Similar to the hotel room struggle, although this sometimes works in your favor. If fellow passengers assume you're off to see what college options the Bay Area offers (instead of what you're really doing: visiting friends from college for a five-year graduation reunion), they're more likely to surrender the window seat or extra pretzels. Whatever, yeah, totally, I'm super young! I need taking care of! Can I have your peanuts and extra pillow too? IT'S FOR THE CHILDREN.
You always have your ID ready to go
Often my friends will misplace their IDs in the wrong purse, jacket pocket, whatever. Not me — ever. As soon as we reach about a block from the bar, I'm unzipping my wallet for its retrieval if it isn't already in an easily-grabbable pocket in my coat.
Judgmental old ladies glaring at your tattoos
I was waiting for the G train once, sharing a bench with a woman who definitely hated me: "Why?" she asked, pointing first to my right wrist then to my left upper arm. She didn't speak English very well, and I had an even looser grasp on Polish. She gestured at her own face then mine and shouted, "TOO YOUNG NO." Sorry, lady.
People are so condescending
Weird how a baby face necessitates an equally immature nickname in some peoples' heads. Even weirder when you're the only one in a group of friends who gets awarded "sweetie" while everyone else is "ma'am." No. Sorry, but just because biology gave me a forever kid-face doesn't mean you get to assign condescending monikers to further demean my adult status. When you look young, people are constantly underestimating you anyway — not fun when they employ language that undercuts your authority even more.
People think playful physical contact is totally fine
Yeah, if I don't know you, don't touch me. (Even if I do know you, probably still refrain.) I don't understand how looking like a teenager makes a stranger feel more comfortable in cupping your shoulder or roughing up your hair. Nope, I'm still an adult human with bodily autonomy who deserves a respectful amount of space and from whom you should get express consent before engaging in physical contact with. Actually, you should be doing that with kids and teenagers too, so just, like, check your life, Touchy McToucherson.
When people ask for you to guess their age
As I attempted escape from the same cashier I mentioned earlier, she stopped me: "Wait wait wait!" I looked to see if I forgot a depressing bouquet of asparagus or something. "How old do you think I am?" she asked. What? Why do I care at all?! I don't. No, thanks.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy (13)