In a society that values youthfulness, I have learned, however, that having a youthful look is not always rewarding. Sure, I reaped some benefits when I was younger. I passed for a 12 – “year old for several years, which gave me discounts to buffets (although, I feel a little guilty about this now). I could shop at the young girl’s department, which sold cheaper clothes (mind you, I don’t do this anymore.)
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t snap at him, but I was in a good mood and wanted the drink and souvenir mug badly.
But as I got older, I started to blame my lack of growth and baby face features on my Asian heritage. Somehow I thought that I would be problem – “free in the appearance department if I were white. I thought, if I were white, I would have longer legs and larger breasts. It was also a matter of convenience. Jeans frequently needed to be hemmed and most clothes did not fit well for my petite stature.
At the age of 21 today, I still look exactly like I did in high school, with the addition of ten pounds. And looking this way only meant that I had to vindicate my age whenever I wanted to drink at a bar.
The suspicions of my age became more apparent when I went to Las Vegas this past holiday vacation with my family.
I was in Paris Las Vegas and I was particularly drawn to the drinks sold in large, colorful hot air balloon – “shaped mugs. Without feeling threatened by the vendor, I approached him.
“You don’t look 21,” he said in a doubtful tone.
“Actually, I am,” I responded unconvincingly. Like an FBI agent whipping out her badge, I proved it to him with my driver’s license.
Besides, if I were really in France – ”as I am believed to be, for sake of argument – ”where the drinking age is 16 (or practically nonexistent), I would not have been interrogated.
“What, as of yesterday?” he barely glanced at my license and waited for my next defense.
I smiled and said, No, since August (goodness, that was so long ago!). In retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t snap at him, but I was in a good mood and wanted the drink and souvenir mug badly.
Getting the drink was one thing, but walking around with it was another. First of all, the mug was heavy. I had to switch hands every so often. Second, I got the occasional stare.
At first I took this as a sign of envy. Others wanted my mug and maybe were wondering where I bought it. But then a man walking with his wife kept turning around, looking first at me, then my mug.
“How old are you?” he finally asked.
“Twenty – “one.”
“Okay,” he replied almost disappointingly, as if saying I was younger would have made a better follow – “up.
As I drank, I doubted that the vendor put any alcohol into my drink because I started to analyze the consequences of looking younger instead of putting the whole manner aside.
If a valid driver’s license wasn’t enough for me to defend myself at a bar, how many other people were passing me off as a young 15 – “year old? When first impressions last a mere few seconds to the onlooker, my youthful features alone might judge my character before my personality can get a chance. It may seem like a vanity issue to discuss such a petty problem, but I became concerned about how less seriously people would treat me based on my youthful appearance.
It turns out that I don’t really know the answers to these questions or even have much control over how people judge my appearances anyway.
I started to think about these questions again when I flipped through the pictures from the trip. A picture of my whole family made me realize the youthful symmetry of all of us. We were all of similar height and built. My brother, in his mid – “20s, still looked a few years younger. My parents, who are in their fifties, still have a full head of black hair and few wrinkles. Appearances aside, as a family we act young and goofy as well.
Here I was coveting the older features of my counterparts, thinking that my life would be better if I looked a certain way. Rather, I should appreciate how truly great it is to both feel and look young, regardless of my age.
I may still be brushed off as a high school student several more times in life but, at least when I’m older, I won’t have to lie about being younger than I am!
Emily Peng is a senior at University of Delaware.