Graduating high school was a momentous occasion, which meant that I was inspired to get more dressed up than usual. I prepped my hair, using my best leave-in conditioner to ensure that my curls popped. I tried on different outfits to ensure that I looked my best and felt the most comfortable. And I went to get my nails done, something I rarely, if ever, do.
While in the process of receiving my manicure, the nail technician asked me how old I was. I smiled, feeling excited as I relayed to her the fact that I was going to turn 18 years old in a few months.
“Oh, really?” She said. “I thought you were like twelve or something.”
There are countless annoyances and benefits that come with people thinking that you’re much younger than you are and treating you like such.
1. People you’re own age assume that you don’t attend the same school/place of work.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I made a friend that knew more people than I did, so she started to introduce me to her crowd. At our last pit stop, this guy asked me if I was a shadow, or a student from a middle school who was assigned to a high schooler to gauge if they wanted to attend that school. To his credit, he did seem mildly embarrassed after I told him that we were in the same grade. But I couldn’t help but wonder: how old did I really look?
Although this sort of situation can be and was embarrassing, part of me kind of appreciated the anonymity I had with some of the other students. I didn’t feel like I needed to know everyone after that, but it pushed me to think a little bit more about how I appeared. Not in the sense that I should change how I dress, but to do so in a more elevated and sophisticated fashion so that people knew I wasn’t (as much of a) little kid anymore.
2. People hitting on you gets real weird, real fast.
Looking younger is something that can help stop people from hitting on you, which, at the right age, can be a blessing. When I would tell guys that I was 14, 15, 16 or 17, they’d instantly become less friendly, since I was a minor.
Once, I even had a strange and kind of scary incident where this guy was following me and my younger siblings to our bus stop when I was 13 (for reference, he was about 16). He kept asking me how old I was because he was trying to ask me out, but even when I told him I was 13, it wasn’t until one of the other kids at my bus stop confirmed my age that he turned around and left me alone. It was probably the only time in my life someone thought I was older than I was, but it didn’t make me feel good—what if I had been 16? Would he have then continued to bother me?
That’s the downside to relying on your youth to get you out of those sorts of situations. To the creepy guys, it’s an invitation. It’s exciting. They look at you like this fresh and naive thing, that they just need to say the right things to and assume that then you’ll be easy enough to manipulate into whatever.
Still, to this day I think about these situations and what I’ll say now that I’m not a minor. I mean, I shouldn’t have to lie to avoid being pestered by men who make me uncomfortable.
3. People tend to make more positive assumptions about your personality.
As a journalism student, this definitely comes to my advantage, as people are less likely to think I’m threatening when I approach them. Being thought of in a rather positive light is helpful since people are more likely to talk and offer insight. I smile wide and bright, and whether they believe I’m a good person or not, it puts them at ease.
Ultimately, it’s one of those things that make looking kind of young almost seem worth it.