I look young. I’ve always looked young. I’m the gal that got carded for an R-rated movie, after I graduated University. I consistently get carded for alcohol, sometimes in countries where the drinking age is 18. At 33, I usually greet these incidents with a smile. Like my parents told me growing up, someday you are going to love looking young.
Unfortunately, where it hasn’t been as fun of a ride to look young is in the workplace. I’ve played with clothes, with my hair, with wearing too much makeup, all with the pursuit of looking older. In the end, I just look weird and I don’t feel like myself, so I act weird.Looking young has backfired in two ways:

1. I look too young to be capable.

Folks inadvertently subtract years off my actual age, making it seem like I can’t possibly be qualified to do the job. They tend to toss me into a younger demographic and then chalk up my enthusiasm to “being young” (vs. thinking, wow, she has a new viewpoint that we haven’t considered.)
I find that transparency in this situation works the best. “Oh, yes, I look much younger than I am. I am ‘x’ age. This is why I know ‘y’ about the topic. Let me tell you ‘z’ my thoughts on the situation.” At least it gets perceptions cleared up quickly, and if they want to discount me, then they can do so because they don’t like my opinions or expertise.

2. I’m not a child prodigy.

This one happens less frequently, and it’s more of a bummer to dispel. This has usually happened when someone sees my resume and then subtracts 5-7 years off my age. They think I’m a genius.
I had an HR professional introduce me to a new co-worker lauding all my accomplishments and then commenting on how I was only 22. I was 27 at the time.
I had a former colleague offer to nominate me for a ‘something under 30’ award and I was 32.
I’m sometimes less transparent when this happens. Why burst their bubble and tell them I’m just a regular average gal? The child prodigy persona is a pretty fun one to hold on to while I can, and pretty soon they’ll figure out my real age. (Damn you mathematics!)
I don’t know if I’d rather look older than I am. I certainly remember the girls who looked older in high school and I envied them immensely. I know youth won’t last forever, and I’m grateful that I get to drag it out. Still, I do wonder how enthusiastic I’ll be when I’m 50 explaining that folks need to start listening to me now…because I’m not a child.

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