Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm No Good at Being the New Kid. (Or the Young Kid.)

Looking young gets old, you guys. Yesterday, I met with some teachers at a school we tutor at and they asked if I was one of the high school students. As in, a 14-to-17-year-old. Awesome.

I’m sort of tired of being told, “You’ll be happy someday,” and reassured, “Well, as soon as you opened your mouth, I knew you were older.”

Maybe I will be happy when I look 22 as a 45-year-old and people mistake me for a college student. Maybe I’ll be thrilled to get carded in my forties. Maybe nothing will delight me more than hearing, “You don’t look old enough to have a daughter in high school!” someday.

But for now? It’s really difficult to imagine that when anyone meets me, they’re thinking, “Good Lord, how young IS that girl? How can she work at a high school?”

Most of the time, I pretend I don’t mind; I convince myself that being mistaken for an under-16-year-old-after-curfew at the grocery store is funny, not awfully annoying.

Mostly, though, it’s sort of a confidence killer. I feel doubted and patronized. I feel paranoid that when a new colleague meets me, she’s surprised at how young I look. It’s all rather annoying.

Okay, I needed to get that out of my system. I hate to be negative and vent here, but don’t worry, there’s more.

It's been a rough week. My nose piercing almost closed on Tuesday and if you saw my Tweets on Wednesday, you might suspect that it was a less-than-stellar day for me. I’m doing better –being new at a job is just ridiculously overwhelming. Especially when you realize your job is actually twice as big as you thought it was and involves regularly working 10 hour days, weekends, and overnights.

I don’t want my job to be my life, so that might be a problem. (And a whole other blog post.)

Other than that, the people I work with are awesome and say things to me like, “Everyone who’s met you has loved you!” and, “You’re going to love it here!” How could I not love that?

Overwhelmed and exhausted, I’m still going to give this a chance.


  1. I get comments on how young I look all the time, and I'm a lawyer. Imagine being in your position, but then having to argue a motion before a judge and expect them to take you seriously. Especially in the area of the country where I live and a LOT of the attorneys are old white men.

    When they first see me, a lot of clients automatically assume I am a college or law school intern, not someone who has been practicing for four years. Once I open my mouth though, I think people get past how young I look.

    Oh, one more thing... when I was 24 years old and on a cruise with my family, I was given a schedule for the "kids activities" by one of the ship's workers, which was for ages 4-16. (And yes, she gave it to me because she thought I was in that age range... she told me so.)

  2. I totally feel for you. I have the same problem of looking young. I just turned 30 and my husband who is 4 years younger than me sometimes get's asked if we need a kids menu, come on people I can't look 12.

    I think that is one reason why I tattoo myself so it is kinda in your face guess what I'm not a kid but still being 30 and having people think you are 18 sucks. I am also always the driver so I don't drink when we go out, that doesn't help peoples perceptions.

    I have also noticed that I have a more than normal fear of getting old. What if one day I do wake up and I look my age, over night aging from 18 to 30 is scary.

    I don't get taken seriously anywhere and is also probably one of the reason I love the work I do even more, I don't work with people at all, just me and a bunch of animals who have no perception of age.

    Not getting taken seriously is so difficult to deal with for me. It makes me so negative towards every one I meet right away. I just am so use to being thought of a kid and not even being heard in conversations doing important things, like trying to get my car fixed and things in the apartment fixed.

    So no help for you, sorry, but I find hearing other people go through the same thing helps me feel better sometimes, sometimes a good rant and a rant back do make me feel a bit better, hope you are the same way and I didn't just make it worse.

  3. I know just how you feel. I'm almost 29 and I still get carded at rated R movies. Seriously. It used to bother me, but I just try not to let it get to me. A friend of mine just turned 30 and is a doctor, and she looks even younger than I do and has had a really hard time with people not taking her seriously. I think the key is to hold your head high, be confident and intelligent and blow 'em out of the water!

  4. Two things: I've been getting the, "Are you old enough to be married?!" questions at work lately, too. It gets old. I want to scream, "I'M TWENTY-THREE!" at the people who ask if I'm in high school, "I HAVE MY BACHELORS DEGREE!" Also, the boy and I got carded TWICE at a sports bar last week. Once by our waitress (fine.) and again by the manager who didn't trust her waitress. Uhh... what the heck?

    Secondly, give the job some time to adjust. I gave my old job six months until I decided I just couldn't handle it. That doesn't mean you'll hate it in six months, but give it ample time before you judge it.

  5. I have felt your pain. Years ago I was teaching Kindergarten when one of the parents came in and asked me where the teacher was. He thought I was a 5th grader reading to the class! I was 25 and I believe most 5th graders are about 10!

    Have to confess, looking back I have to laugh. And, now that I am nearly 40, I am glad to look about 6-10 years younger. Getting carded is a ball! The key is sunscreen I am convinced.

  6. I, too, have the problem of looking very young. If I had to guess my own age, I'd probably say 17. My ex, who is actually a lot older than me, also looks his age, so we made quite the pair running about town. I could never decide if he looked really creepy or I looked really slooty. Does that happen to you and Mike?

  7. this is the story of my life!

    Everytime, without fail, when I go out to eat with my parents, I'm always given the kids' menu. Then cue the raucous laughter coming from my dad who thinks it's the FUNNIEST thing ever everytime.

    Also, when I went to visit my friends in NJ two yrs ago, I almost didn't get let into the bar because the "bouncer" dude didn't believe my license was real! I had to show my college ID and a credit card just to prove my identification!

    so, I feel your pain.

  8. I have the same problem, and like stephanie, I am a lawyer. However, I have grown to use this to my advantage. A lot of older attorneys think I am too young to know anything, and out I come blazing!

  9. Look how many people are in your boat!

    I also have the same problem. I'm 29, but short (5'0) and have a young face (but w/ a fair amount of grey hair! That no one ever notices except people who know me, those people comment on it constantly) Like Stevie I get carded at R-rated movies. Bars are impossible. This is all worse in the winter when I'm bundled up for the cold.

    Recently I was meeting my dad for dinner and I got there first. I was reading a book as I was waiting when the waitress came up and said "Sweetie, can I get you a lemonade while you're waiting?"

    I replied "Actually, I'd love an IPA" as I'm handing her my I.D. She replied "Awe honey, I'm sorry I can't serve beer to minors." I nicely pointed out that I WAS HANDING HER MY ID...and she made her manager come check it too. *sigh*

    I might start substitute teaching Jr. and Sr. High School soon and I can't even tell you how much I'm not looking forward to being stopped and asked for my hall pass! ;-)

    Point being. I feel your pain. And clearly a bunch of us do! It sucks. Sometimes I feel like I have to work harder to prove myself. I keep telling myself I can't wait until I turn 30 next year...because it seems like people in their 30's get a lot more respect to begin with...Being in your 20's people so often dismiss you as still "just a kid." Which can get frustrating...adding the looking young factor to that only makes it worse.

    Anyway. It annoys me (too) when people tell me someday I'll appreciate it...but I fully suspect it's true.

    This too will pass (both being the new kid, and at some point much later...being the young kid) and hopefully you'll be able to look back on it all very.very. fondly. :-)

  10. When I worked a month of late nights, and weekends, I complained to my friend and he said 'you work to live, not live to work - find something that works for you' and so I talked to my boss and we worked things out.

    Hope you can figure things out, and get your work to work for you :)

  11. Totally sympathizing with you. For the past 6 months I've worked in a position where "Young" was in my title. . . as in "Young Adult," but people always assumed the "Young" applied to me--that I was a trainee! Um, no, I have a Master's Degree. And am over 30.

    Regardless of the age thing, transitions to new jobs are always hard. There is a learning curve and it WILL get better. In the meantime, because you have been working hard--do some playing hard, too. :)

  12. Sometimes giving it a chance is the best you can do. Good luck! :)

  13. I get this a lot too- and then shortly after, it's followed by the older ladies I work with talking down to me. I think there's something about being a young woman- and being a happy one- that throw some people. If you're really having trouble with it, I'd buy some more formal, cute blazers or jackets and just try to offset it that way a little. But it's lame. I feel for you.

    As someone who has started lots of jobs in the past two years, in every position I've been in there is that initial Amazing High of finding that perfect thing, then a little disenchantment with it as you deal with the backlog left by the previous person, and then after a month or so you'll get a feel for what it is. Plow though, this is the earning your stripes phase, you'll get through it!

  14. I feel you. totally. I worked as a sub and every time I was in a break room- I mean EVERY TIME- when another staff walked in they would ask- "Are you student or Staff?" What do you think? I am just a student who sits calmly eating lunch in the staff room? It was so frustrating.

    I hope the job settles down for you.

  15. This happens to me allllll the time. Just two days ago I was asked where I was starting college next week. I told them I had recently graduated with my Masters, thank you very much. I agree that it does get annoying and frustrating, but the worst part is always having to prove yourself. It's one of the many reasons I'm nervous about finding a job.... I want it to be something that I KNOW I can succeed in because I know I'll have so many obstacles (such as looking like a teenagers) to overcome. Good luck! Hopefully it will get easier soon!

  16. I've always had that same issue--I am reaching the point now though where I'm pretty excited when I get carded ;) It is really annoying when people condescend to me because I look so young. It's happened in almost every job I've ever had, and I keep waiting for the day I'll finally look "adult". Until then, I'm using my college id card for discounts every step of the way!!

  17. I'm a teacher and I've been yelled at a million times for not showing up for duty---when I'm actually there, but just blending in with the kids :)

    Working with students, and in a new environment is exhausting---you're on "output" mode all day. It'll get better, though. Good luck. xoxo

  18. I'm with you on the young-looking comments. When I interviewed for my job almost years ago, at the ripe old age of 26, one of the teachers who crossed my path on the campus tour asked me what year I was applying in, "will you be a member of our freshmen, sophomore, junior or senior class?" Did I mention that I work at a high school? The professional attire didn't tip him off given that our students have a dress code.
    With a 6 1/2 year old and a 3 1/2 year old in tow, I still get what I can only refer to as the "teen mom" look from random people in the mall, grocery store, etc. Catch me on a beach day, or bad hair (ie: ponytail or hat) day and all hope is lost...I still look 17.
    Sure, maybe I'll be thankful someday...but what if I get hit by a bus before then?!

  19. I'm blown away by how many women are telling the same story of people thinking they are children. I think this is indicative of a larger societal impression of what a grown woman is supposed to look like. Here's a hint: We are not all 6' tall models from Victoria's Secret. Also, characters on TV and movies are often portrayed by actors who at least a few years older than their characters.

    I think it's also that older people have a problem telling the ages of younger people. They get grouped into the same category. I say this because my freshman college students all know right away that I'm young but not that young. They make a very quick distinction between their age group and my age, yet people who work at the school (often women age 45 and up) will question me about whether I'm the student or the teacher. I get suspicious looks when I hand in attendance and grade sheets.

    Furthermore, when people make the mistake in thinking you're much younger than you are, the underlying message is that you're immature. We associate ages with levels of maturity and wisdom, so no, it's not exactly a compliment when someone tells you you look like a high school kid. Yes, it's nice to be considered a youthful 29-year-old, but it's not nice to be treated like a teenager.

  20. Yikes, the whole "are you a student" thing must be SO annoying. :( And so frustrating!

    Hmm. I guess you could always start chain-smoking, plus tanning and heavy drinking ... you'll look old, wrinkled and haggard in no time! Kidding! ;)

    I hope work gives you a chance to take a breath and that this next week is WAY better than last week! Good luck with the nose ring. Mine closes up SO fast! And then hurts soooo bad to put the new nose ring back in!

  21. I get this a lot too. Though, I've never been mistaken for a high school student, most people peg me at 18. Which is difficult because they immediately underestimate you and have a stereotype they put you in.

    But, then again, I don't mind the underestimation so much - gives me a reason to prove myself.

    I feel for ya, lady!

  22. When I take the youth group on cross country mission trips or ski trips, I regularly get asked, "are you taking any adults on the trip?"

    I want to scream and say, "I've been to Europe by myself THREE times, and you have never left the state, I think I know a few things about traveling"

    The worst though, is when the kids in the youth group ask me where I go to high school. It's bad when someone IN that age group think you're part of it.

    My mom is nearing 50 and no one believes she has married children and grandchildren. She love/hates it. I guess time will tell if we will too :)

  23. I get this all the time! I'm only twenty (almost twenty-one!), but people honestly ask if I'm fourteen. People I work with. I work at a place where you have to be at least eighteen. Duh.

    They automatically freak when they find out I'm married ... and I hear the same thing! "You'll love it when you're older."

  24. Hi Ashley! I feel your pain - I'm 24 and often get taken as a high school student. I was flying to Denver on a business trip and was seated in the exit row... you have to be at least 15 to sit there. (You can see where this is going.) The flight attendent came up to me, and in a very condescending tone, asked if I was old enough. One day we'll appreciate it! (Or so I'm told...)

  25. As someone from the other side of the spectrum.. looking older is not fun either! Before the bangs I looked waaaay older. I never got carded (even when I was under 21...). Sometimes I'll get carded, but it's only when I get the bitchy waitresses who have a stick up their bum about serving alcohol (for whatever reason, I don't know).

    Good luck with the job though, I hope you're able to find your work/life balance (ugh I hate that term, but it's true).

  26. I completely know how you feel. A co-worker and I are the two youngest people in the newsroom (at 24 and 25), and whenever we go to high schools, we get confused for students and asked for hall passes. Whenever we show our cameras, people obviously realize we aren't high schoolers, but it gets aggravating after a while.

    Just keep with it and keep your head up. Looking young isn't a bad thing, and once everyone knows you (and stops commenting on it), I bet things will get a lot better.

    Sending positive vibes your way!

  27. It's interesting how many young women have the same age problem. I have it too! And trying to start my own business where I would essentially be telling people what they should change in their life to feel better is hard! I think people look at me and think, what can she possibly teach me? I am still trying to figure out how to deal with this.


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