It would be an understatement to say I’m a late bloomer. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve even finished undergoing puberty yet. I don’t look like someone on the verge of turning 22; I look like the preteen son of a Glee cast member. Because I look younger, I’ve always been treated like I am. And to an extent, I’ve even conditioned myself to think that I’m younger than I am.
Part of my insecurity stems from looking young. If I’m ever complimented, I’m told I’m “cute”, which is both flattering and infantilizing. When an older guy messages me, I think of it less as a compliment and more as a To Catch A Predator scenario and when a younger guy approaches me I feel like I’m deceiving them by being older than they anticipated. And when it comes to guys my own age, I have little to no luck. It’s like I can’t tell whether or not I should act the age I am or the age people see me as being. How can I see myself as an adult if no one treats me like one?
I’m always told by people how lucky I am to look so young and I know that I’ll be happy to look like I’m 40 when I’m 50. But at the same time, people don’t realize how annoying it can be to look young. With age comes credibility and when you look younger, you’re treated like you know less. Employers see you less as a viable candidate and more as some doe eyed college student oblivious to the working world. And random strangers patronize you. Younger looking guys are emasculated and younger looking girls are fetishized, there’s no real winning for either gender.
I know that there are some positive elements to looking young. For starters, you’re less likely to be judged for ordering off the kid’s menu, which is great for us who love chicken nuggets. We get away with more because we’re seen as nonthreatening. Younger people are more likely to approach me than one of my peers because I look more similar to them. Moms are more likely to put their child in the seat next to me on the subway because I look small and harmless. And coworkers are generally more patient with me because I look younger and greener than I really am. The best part of looking younger is that you’re allowed to act younger if you so choose. I’m sure my whole jumping around on couch cushions/tickling my friends would be less tolerated if I was a 6’5 guy who looked like Big from Sex and the City.
It’s not a novel thing to say that people should be judged by the contact of their character not their appearance. I’m fully aware that being discriminated against for being young pales in comparison to being discriminated for racial or gender based reasons. I just wish people thought a little bit about what it’s like to look younger. We can all agree that high school isn’t the best part of our lives, so is it really fair to treat someone like they’re a high-schooler and make them relive that scenario once again? I know that it’s hard to resist patronizing someone, especially if you feel that they know less about the world than you do. But just because someone looks younger does not mean that they know less than you. They could actually know a lot more than you. So let’s treat people with respect and dignity. Let’s not treat younger looking people like they’re puppies, babies, or the cast of the gone to soon Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. And remember, when you and I are 55, I’ll look like I’m 40. You’ll be the one who starts getting mistreated because of your age and I’ll have no sympathy for you. Because if you’ve spent your entire life disrespecting me because of my appearance you best believe I’m going to follow you around with a megaphone and say “HAHA THIS BITCH LOOKS SO OLD!”