Advice Column: Response to “Squirt”

Dear Hailey,

I struggle with looking MUCH YOUNGER than I actually am, and it can get awkward in certain situations. I teach high school, and sometimes other teachers are shocked when they find out my real age (when they ask, I certainly don’t offer it). I know that so many women out there would love to look younger, but it feels more like a curse than a blessing. 

For example, I went to Sam’s Club the other day and wanted to try a piece of shrimp at the food sample cart. The man looked at me and said, “Do you have your parents with you?” I immediately knew what he was thinking and quickly replied that I was well over 18. I dress my age, granted I don’t wear a suit jacket, black slacks and heels everyday, but I don’t have my hair in braids and wear t-shirts that have logos on them either, nor do I have any piercings, tattoos or an unusually loud hair color. I suppose there is a fine line between what some people consider “young.”

I guess my real question to you is, how could I confidently tell others my real age when I’m asked about it, or questioned? It just gets embarrassing sometimes- although when the moment passes I laugh it off. It doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, I want to be confident and straightforward in a polite way. 

I honestly don’t understand why people ask other people how old they are in the first place- especially in casual settings where you won’t ever talk to that person again. (the food cart). And the other time recently when I was buying some spray paint for a home project and the clerk asked me if I was legally old enough to buy it- I said yes and she said, “Are you sure?” Again, I replied that I teach school and did she want to see my ID, and she said don’t worry about it but-she gave me that look of not being 100% sure.

Anyway, that was a lot and hopefully it didn’t sound like insecure nonsense. I hope I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this. 

Thank you!


Dear Squirt,

It can be extremely painful when people assume that you are significantly younger than you are. After all, it feels like all of your life experience is discounted and ignored, and almost like you are being sent back to high school (which no one wants!).

I want you to realize that you aren’t obligated to disclose your age to anyone in a casual setting if they ask. You can politely decline to share if you would like. Even if you choose to disclose your age, know that you don’t have to, it’s a choice. Sometimes just realizing that you have a choice in the matter can make it easier. If it’s an official reason such as a purchase that requires ID, feel free to call someone out if they are being rude about your young appearance. 

We are conditioned to be “polite”, even when we are faced directly with impoliteness.  While I don’t condone rudeness, I do encourage people in my personal life and clients to be upfront. Especially in response to something that is less than kind. 

My advice would be to either respond with humor and maybe even a little sass. Do your best to let it roll off your back. That is definitely easier said than done, but the opinions of others truly don’t matter. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but as you get older you really will appreciate looking young. You’ll get to reap the benefits of this quirk a few years down the road, and it will eventually be flattering to be mistaken for a younger age. 


Posted in Q&A

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