Adventures in Looking Young

I looked like I was eighteen for about seven years of my life. Starting in high school, people started thinking I was a senior in my sophomore year. Then when I actually turned eighteen, I hit a point of equilibrium, and for years after people thought I was still eighteen.

Ten years later, I don’t quite look eighteen anymore, but I don’t look my age either. Both of my parents also don’t look quite as old as they are, so I guess I have genetics to either thank or blame, depending on the day.

Somehow I’ve also gotten good at figuring out how old people are, though I don’t know if this is relevant to the fact that I look young or maybe I’m just observant. I met a guy who thought I was younger and I told him we weren’t so far apart as he thought, before I even knew his age. I told him I bet he was thirty, max, and he admitted he was going to be thirty in about three months. I’ve done this so often that I should try to find work at a carnival.

It’s gotten to the point where I don’t tell people my age anymore, though, unless they ask directly and there’s a good reason for me to tell them. At my last lifeguarding job, I caught wind of some coworkers “throwing shade” (as the kids say) about how I’m twenty-eight and still a lifeguard. Never mind the fact that I was their supervisor… After that, some newer coworkers asked how old I am and I would only tell them I was in my twenties.

Sure, I know that shows a bit of self-consciousness, but hey, what can I say? I didn’t feel too great being almost thirty and a lifeguard either.

With that said, there are some pros and cons to looking young, and then there are some funny or weird things to it, too.


The Good

Looking young is often equated with looking good

What more is there to say about this heading? Even though I have a pretty bad case of acne that flares up from time to time, I have boyish good looks. I’m not especially proud of it, but hey, it is what it is. And if the trend continues, maybe I’ll still look thirty when I’m forty.


I don’t stand out as the old guy at school

I think most people now would guess me to be around my early twenties, which is absolutely perfect when you’re in college. I took a long time off from school before going back, and now that I’m going into my senior year, I actually look like a senior.

In one of my classes this past semester, a classmate asked my age point-blank as I walked into the room. It threw me off a little but I knew she was twenty-six so I felt fine answering the question. Then a girl in the back row said, “Wait, hold on, no offense, but I thought you were like, nineteen.”

I sometimes wonder if knowing my age changes the way people see me in classes, and again I know it’s stupid, but I’d rather them think I’m younger. It’s more impressive when I do well that way. It feels a bit like cheating to get some of the highest grades on papers all because I have more experience writing than my twenty-year-old peers. I also don’t tell people my grades in English classes unless they ask for that very reason.


The Bad

I often worry how employers will see me

You know how employers aren’t supposed to ask your age at an interview? The most they can ask is if you’re at least a certain age, like eighteen or twenty-one, depending on the type of job. This is to prevent them from discriminating.

Because of this, I now include my high school graduation year on my resume and I make sure to have a copy of that resume with me at the interview. As long as they see it, the math isn’t hard to figure out. And it always helps to casually drop it in conversation, like “Well, I became a lifeguard when I was sixteen and after twelve years I decided it was time for a career change.”


I think looking young changes how I see myself

If you looked in the mirror every day and saw a kid, you’d know you’re a kid and you’d act like one. You wouldn’t look in the mirror and say “I see a man who looks like a professional who should be doing a real job wearing suits and making money.”

And there isn’t much I can do about this. When I put on a suit and tie, I feel like I actually look younger because, relative to the type of person who wears a suit and tie in my eyes, I am younger.

Yet there are plenty of people my age and younger with suit-and-tie jobs who look right at home. I don’t see this in myself, and I don’t expect I will until I’m in my thirties.


The Funny

People at liquor stores don’t trust me

True story. I went into my local grocery store which has a liquor store at its center. I walked up to the counter and set down a bottle of bourbon. I reached for my ID (as I always do, because I’m more surprised when people don’t ask me for it) and she took it. But as she did, she started shaking her head and saying, “You look like you’re about seventeen.”

I think she was being serious, too. I sincerely think she thought I had just handed her a fake ID, because she kept shaking her head as she scanned the back of the ID. I don’t know much about those systems, but I’m pretty certain it’s impossible to fake the scan code on the back, and if I were using someone else’s ID (possibly a lookalike) it would have said that my ID was void.

It beeped, and she looked really surprised as she handed back my ID. And here’s where I knew she had been serious: she apologized. She also offhandedly told me she has a nineteen-year-old son who looks older than me.

I’m not really sure what to ask for in the comments this time. I feel like this post is kind of like when I was younger and I complained about having a hard time gaining weight and people would be like “I wish I had *your* problem,” and I’m like “No, it’s a real concern,” and they’re like, “Yeah, sure, whatever.”

Photo by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash


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