Hello my poor, patient, neglected reader. I am writing to you from Limbo, where I have been languishing lo these last few weeks. Fear not! I shall return to you soon enough.
But in the meantime, I wanted to drop in and talk about something that happened to me today. Something I can't get out of my head.
This summer I've been working at my Alma mater as an Admissions Interviewer. I spend all day listening to students and asking them questions. After an interview is done, I walk the student back to the lounge. Normally the parents jump to their feet, maybe ask me a couple questions.
This afternoon I had a father ask, "So, you graduated from here?"
"Yes," I said, "In 2004."
He blinked. "2004!? That's...EIGHT years ago!"
Great. Look who can do mental math and essentially announce my age to the entire room of waiting parents. "Yes."
"But—how can that be? You're like...twelve!"
Let me pause this conversation for a second to say that this isn't the first time someone has been surprised by how young I look.
It's true, I have a bit of a baby face I guess. (I'm still waiting for my birthday cheekbones) I'm also pretty short: just about 5' 3" in shoes. What I'm saying is, I'm used to this.
However, what I'm not used to and will never be used to are the men I don't know very well who seem to think that asking me my age or commenting on it in public is perfectly socially acceptable.
And possibly even complimentary.
You may be thinking, "But it IS a compliment! He thought you looked younger than you are. Why are you complaining, Jennifer? Why are you looking for faults that aren't there?"
The thing is, it's not a compliment to me. And I don't have to consider it one. And I don't have to be thrilled or flattered that a middle aged man exclaimed that I looked like a TWELVE YEAR OLD in a professional setting thereby totally undermining my authority.
And making me feel very young and very small.
I wish I had drawn myself up, looked him in the eye, smiled coldly, and said, "What an odd thing to say to the woman who just interviewed your son and has a very large part to play in whether or not he is accepted to this highly competitive institution."
But no, my manners kicked in and I said something polite instead, a deflective joke.
I've had women that I've known for months politely ask me how old I am, if it comes up in conversation. But men, they just seem to think it's fine, normal in fact, to ask me bluntly how old I am when they've never even met me before. And why? Because I LOOK young. So it's fine, you guys. It's a COMPLIMENT.
I do not dress like a twelve-year-old, or a seventeen-year-old, or even a twenty-two-year-old woman. I dress my age. And I definitely don't ACT like a twelve-year-old. I don't think I really acted like one when I was actually that age. And I do not consider it a compliment to be compared to a tween or teen. It's rude and demeaning.