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On Looking Young

Something interesting occurred to me the other day.

Upon being asked multiple times how old I am, and being talked down to by women (and men) younger than myself, it occurred to me how young I look. I don’t mean this to be a bragging point; quite the opposite. Like my bitching about my bigger breasts, it sucks looking 16 when you’re in your mid-twenties. I am looked down upon (and not just because I’m 5’3”), and people assume I’m far less qualified, experienced, and intelligent than I am. People assume I’m immature, weak, and childish (until they talk to me for a half a second). If I go out with my husband, I’m concerned some concerned concierge might call the cops on us for kissing, thinking he is a sexual predator (since he actually looks his age).

Looking young is considered a blessing, but it really is a pain. When I inform people I’m only a year and a half away from being a quarter-century, they tend to double-take. I’m beginning to find myself feeling like I need to tell everyone how old I am and reassure them I know what I’m talking about and I’m not just some jumped-up high schooler. It’s put me a little on the defensive. It’s also exhausting, having to prove myself every day in such a way. Obviously everyone needs to prove themselves, but I sometimes feel I’m starting from a lower point. People assume so little about me, often they don’t give me the chance to prove myself. So I need to make them.

On the up side, looking younger and being on the defensive has its perks. It’s teaching me to be more assertive. If I’m not assertive with my personality, people try to walk all over me, or maybe worse, they completely overlook me. It makes me try harder, and though it makes people underestimate me, in turn this means they’re impressed when I’m my awesome self. It also assures me that when I’m forty, I’ll look twenty, so that’s kind of awesome.

The perks and drawbacks of being a woman who looks younger than her age also fall under the lines of aesthetic. I’m not fit, particularly, but youth and beauty go hand in hand in this culture. One of the things my mother fears in her job hunt is being antiquated; I may never face that fear because I just naturally look younger than I am. People won’t assume I’m “too old” for a job, because I’ll never look my age. I’m also both more and less likely to get promoted, for various reasons. I’m young and attractive, which works in my favour, but youth does not a leader make.

I like looking the way I look most days. I’m more often called adorable than sexy, and I’m ok with that. Some days, though, it is nice to not get weird looks when I tell people I’m married, and it would be nice to not have to justify myself by stating my age as proof of experience.

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