If I had a dollar for every time in my life an older person has come up to me and said, “Sweetheart, you just look like you’re still 15,” I would be a wealthy woman.
Here is why you should never say that to a young person, male or female:
It’s insulting. Period. Whether you think so or not, it is.
Yes, yes, I know, the common response is, “But honey you’ll love it when you’re 70!” Yes. I probably will. When I’m 70 I will likely want to look 11 years younger than my age. But right now, at 26, your casual words undermine my authority, my professionalism and my self-confidence in the workplace.
I am a young professional, not many years out of college, still trying to prove myself and my abilities in the workforce. When you come up and ask me if I’m still in high school, and then insist that looking like a teenager is a good thing, that is the opposite of flattering or helpful.
What board room of executives is going to take a 15-year-old seriously? Probably not the ones I walk into.
Remember when you were fresh out of school? Remember when you wanted to be taken seriously? How would those comments have felt to you then?
This also spills over into cruel assumptions made about a person’s intelligence and decision-making abilities based on their “appeared” age. I have a young friend my age who got married the same summer the Mister and I did. She and her husband now have two beautiful sons, the first of whom was born a year or so after their wedding. She was 22 at the time.
I cannot believe – and yet, really I can believe – the insulting remarks and actions she received any time she took her firstborn out in public. Things like, “Honey, you aren’t old enough to have that child,” and “Don’t tell me he’s yours!?” and “Did you do this on purpose?” Yes folks, it really happens. And I expect it to happen to me too one day, unfortunately.
So, please, make an effort in the coming year to put the phrase “But you look so young…” out of your vocabulary. (Unless you actually are in a nursing home, in which case it is probably appreciated.) Please be respectful of the younger generation still trying to blaze their trails in the world, and please don’t make assumptions about young-looking women with children. For all you know she could be in her thirties and just be “blessed” with a teenager’s physique.