“So, now that you’ve finished school – what are your plans? What’s the next move? What are you studying or going to do in your future?”
“My future is now, lady. I’m in it. This is it.”
Age. It’s a funny thing. And whilst, for the majority of the time it’s not something we pay much attention to as adults, when you look younger than your age you’re probably forced to think about it more than the average person walking down the street. Here I thought I’d share with you some typical age-related stories for you to enjoy, because these are the sorts of things I come across daily.
Now, I’m an honest person. If the man on the bus asks me if I need a child’s or an adults ticket I will tell him I need an adults ticket, because I don’t want to lie about these things. But, if he’s going to assume I’m a child and charge me a child’s price – I’m totally fine with that too. It’d be too much hassle for him to process any other transaction, right?
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I think my favourite thing comes down to good old British politeness. If I meet someone and they don’t know how old I am the conversation might progress enough that they start to wonder. I can see their minds whirring “I’m talking to this 14 year old, but she’s married, and has a proper job, and is talking like an adult – how old is she?” A number of times someone has stopped the conversation and gone “so, how old ARE you?” and this is a pro purely because I must at least sound and act like an adult on occasion. I really enjoy the response which is often “NO WAY!” Yes way. Why would I lie to you?
Do you have any ID on you?
And now we move onto the good old fashioned ID’ing saga. Now, I work in retail and ID people every day. I know how hard it is to judge someone’s age. I also know that if you look young it’s a really good idea to carry ID with you wherever you go because no-one’s going to sell you the alcohol without it. As a retail worker, if this is your job, I have total respect for you and this part of the job. It’s not nice, and it’s usually the start of a barage of abuse from angry customers who didn’t bring their ID. But, please, if you ID someone who looks younger than they are please refrain from looking up and down from the ID several times and going “Wow! You really do look very young.” I know you’re embarrassed you asked me because you feel like you should have known – but feel free to just give it back to me and smile. I don’t need you to mention it. Again. Because someone probably reminded me yesterday.
Are your parents home?
Possibly one of my favourite moments was when one of those really annoying door-to-door salesmen (hereby known as X) paid me a visit one day. I think he was hoping to sell me some double-glazing. I never found out because he realised he was losing from the very moment he first opened his mouth.
X: Hi. Are your parents in?
X: Is there an adult at home?
C: I’m an adult.
X: Oh right, sorry. Can I talk to the homeowner?
C: Yes… That’s me.
X: No, I mean the one who pays the bills.
C: Still me.
X: Really? But you don’t look old enough. Do you own this house?
X: Oh. Wow! That’s amazing. Wow! You look very young…
X: I don’t think I’ve got off to a good start, have I? Should I go?
C: I think that would be best.
Having said that he’s possibly one of my favourite door-to-door salesmen for recognising he’d got it so wrong. Wherever you are X – thank you for leaving so promptly.
Similary I enjoy not being hassled in the street to change my mortgage, discuss my finances or give to charity. I can’t make these decisions without parental consent, so bonus for me! I’ll just wander along to the next sweet shop.
A lot of people say it can be difficult to gain respect in the workplace when you’re young (or look young), but I do think if you’re surrounded by decent people then beyond your first day that isn’t a majorly big deal – when they see you know what you’re doing they forget what you look like and treat you as one of the team. However, in a customer orientated job there are expectations from the customers. Like that the person that’s going to be dealing with their query isn’t going to be the kid on work experience. That’s fine, but let me see if I can solve your problem first before you start to judge me based on my baby face.
Last year a lady started to talk to me whilst we were walking up the street (it was one of those awkward moments where we’d half got talking because someone had stopped us both at once for directions and we happened to be walking exactly the same way). She was chatty and I’m sure she meant well. A retired teacher, she was very interested with my education (which has long since been and gone) and my impending results. The assumption that I had just completed my GCSEs (she very specifically had assumed I was 16, but there we go). When I had explained and set her straight that I had finished school, and I was not currently at college as was her next assumption I was very clearly on a gap year. By the time we’d reached the end of the street she’d decided I was on said gap year (she was a talkative sort, not really leaving any room for correction) and heading off to university after the summer. Alas, it was not to be so and I had great joy telling her that I was heading in another direction to her and that I was, indeed, on some sort of ‘gap decade’ if that was the case.
Life choice judgement
Discussing with a friend of mine (who also looks young for her age) she mentioned that, as she has a child, that she finds looking young to bring out the most judgemental people. With a young son there is an assumption that she has had him very young as a teenager. Not only is she not a teenager, but if she had done – would that be their judgement to make on whether that was right or wrong in her life?
In a similar vein I might sometimes drop into a conversation that I am married, hoping that will age me without me writing “I’m 27” on my forehead. The common response tends to be “but you’re too young to be married”. I could have chosen to marry at 16 if I so wished – why is that something you need an opinion on?
Our lives, our choices.
“One day you’ll be very grateful that you look so young”
This may well be the case, and when I’m 90 and finally looking 30 I’ll be back here letting you know how that feels when no-ones giving up their bus seat for me and I can’t get into places and a concessionary OAP rate. See you then! Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of me in the future turning 50!