Once when I was 20 working part time and going to community college on campus about 4 blocks from where I worked, I was stopped for curfew violation coming home at 10:30. When I showed him my ID, the police officer who was still in his car say, “Wow, I thought you were 10.”
Since then ten has been the lower estimate of what age strangers think I am. A rare few go as high as 18 and most around 14. In fact I’m 26 and a 5’0" tall man. One half of my family is full of tall people. the other half has shorter people, but no one other than my grandma is shorter than me (and she thinks she’s shrunk quite a bit as she got older). I always joke that my short genes must have completely skipped my mom’s side.
For a while I had gone without getting a children’s menu, but recently when going out to eat with a lot of family members in town, my aunt who was standing next to me was asked if I needed a children’s menu. I should have kept the children’s menu and asked where the beer selections were on it.
Which brings me to the next thing, carding. Guess what, I’m not going to wait to take out my ID until you ask. My family, especially my dad, finds it funny that I preemptively have it ready whenever I am ordering alcohol. I know what you are going to ask and I’m just waitiing to look closely at your reaction when I order.
Inevitably after a dose of misaging (a word I am making up for the phenomenom) in the company of family or friends, I will hear, almost word for word the following:
“You know, when you get older (or when you are 40,50, whatever) you will love looking as young as you do now.”
A more creative response I once got at a bar was, If she looked as young as I did, She’d be messing with everyone and having tons of fun.
It seems many people truly do think existence is skin deep. If I look 20 when I’m 40, it doesn’t mean I’m actually 20. Hello! It means I’m 40 and I look 20. A new secretary at Microsoft during its early years once called to her boss telling him that a sixteen year old kid just entered Bill Gates office, and what was going on.
That kid WAS Bill Gates, only he wasn’t 16.
Which brings up the third response to looking young. I’m a college student studying some pretty advanced math, and obviously I’m on campus, but I look 14. Inevitably, this brings up a Doogie Howser reaction in people. Or more generally a child prodigy reaction. “Oh, your taking Partial Differential Equations, what are you, 6th grade, 7th grade? Haha, blah blah Doogie Howser blah blah.”
At work, the same thing happened. My eventual best friend told me later that he had thought I was a high school student working there on some sort of internship (it was a government contractor position). A number of other people have thought similar things.
The most difficult thing about being 5’0" and looking 14, is it making dating or meeting women on those sort of terms, nearly impossible. First, because they won’t even imagine you that way even if they notice you. Second, because being short as a man is a huge disadvantage for dating. My record in this area, is very close to nonexistent. One woman who I talked to for a while via email and met through EHarmony, said when she got my picture that I looked like her younger cousin. And then without explicitly doing so, gradually broke contact (eventually she said she had to do volunteer work at the zoo and hang out with friends the next day, so we couldn’t meet up on the weekend. I gave up after that)
Appearance is the doorway to finding out more about a person, and I flunk that test. But appearing young does let you find out how much more it matters in many areas that you might expect.