She’s Old Enough to Know Better

I am a blond, but I keep it on the down low. It’s not a big secret or anything. It’s just that I’m a much better brunette and if the world believes L’Oreal Preference 4 is my natural color, who am I to disabuse them of the notion? Every so often, the truth about my hair comes out and somebody flips out about it. They usually ask for photographic evidence, which makes them flip out some more. (“But your eyebrows are dark! How can your eyebrows be dark?”)

It happened at work a few weeks ago, and my coworker’s subsequent dark-eyebrow-crisis attracted the attention of my boss, who drifted in and saw the picture.

This picture.

This picture.

“Wow,” he said. “What are you, like 14 in this picture?

“I was 18,” I said, a little put out. “It’s my senior photo from high school.”

His reaction to this news brought his own boss into my office. “What’s this?” my boss’ boss said. “Oh my goodness. How old are you in this picture? Twelve? And I’m not even going to ask what’s going on with that hair color.”

“I was 18,” I whispered sadly to my desk as they all left the room.

It’s not the first time someone’s underestimated my age. It wasn’t even the first time that week. I’ve aged since that photo was taken, but it still happens a lot. I have a baby face and I don’t know what to do about it.

Benefits of Having a Baby Face

– Sometimes I get discounted admission to events because people assume I’m a student.

– When my fellow baby-faced co-worker and I ran short on college-aged actors for a video we made last month, I was able to fill in.

– That’s it. That’s all.

Every time I whine about having a baby face, some older woman (always an older woman!) overhears and tells me that someday I’ll be grateful for it. I don’t think you understand, lady. I’m not going to look like a young 50-year-old. I’m going to look like a really rough college freshman who’s seen some things.

Drawbacks of Baby Faces

– Every time I interview someone for work, they ask when they can expect the story to be in the school paper.

– When I first meet people in other departments, they ask what I’m studying and when I’ll be graduating.

"Um. Probably two-and-a-half years ago, if everything goes according to plan."

“Um. Probably two-and-a-half years ago, if everything goes according to plan.”

– I feel like a fraud every time I pull out my ID at the liquor store or a bar. (“It feels weird, I know. It’s not fake! I’ve just run it through the wash a bunch of times, I swear!”)

– I have yet to meet a tradesman or hardware store employee who believes I own my house.

– I got carded for an R-rated movie this summer. I’ve been able to see them on my own for the better part of a decade.

– I keep making elderly family friends feel awkward when they ask my parents how old I am because it’s a trap. I look 17, but I’m 24, and 24 is right about when you have to stop asking people how old they are because it’s getting a little rude.

I keep turning to the internet for solutions, but it’s no help.

Maybe I Should Try to Look Older

wikiHow suggested I try wearing makeup that makes me look older, but since I haven’t worn blue eyeshadow since 9th grade and glitter on my face since 7th grade, I don’t really know what that means. More lip liner?

– The same article suggested I dress more conservatively. That makes sense. It’s probably all the neon microskirts and crop tops with beer slogans that I’ve been wearing to work every day that are doing it.

– I could cut my hair shorter but I worry that all it will do is showcase my baby face more.

– I could go outside without sunscreen more and get wrinkly, but I’m too afraid of death.

– I’ve heard meth does wonders when it comes to speeding up the aging process.


Oh. It will also ruin your life.

Maybe I Should Try to Act Older

– I can complain more about my mortgage.

– I start wearing bygone presidential campaign shirts exclusively and drop old-timey slang in conversations more often . No one will ever be able to pin down my age! And how!

–  I’ll ask more rude questions to prove that I’m old and can’t be bothered with social niceties.

– I’ll try to yell “Get off my lawn!” more often than I already do, but it’s going to be tricky since it’s already my number-one hobby.

– I will somehow, impossibly, become more bitter and cynical.

That’s the real problem here: I’ve been told I have an old soul, but that’s just a nice way of saying that I was born crotchety. My face doesn’t match my actual age, but it really doesn’t match my cantankerous insides. I’ve been 70 years old for the last 24 years.

Maybe it’s time to stop fighting it. Maybe it’s time to sit back and enjoy the confused expressions on people’s faces when I open my stupid mouth in my stupid baby face and the words of a bad-tempered septuagenarian come out. Now get. off. my lawn.


  1. chrysaliswithaview

    While, yes, you definitely do appear younger as well as undeniably blonde in the first photo, I have absolutely never thought while reading one of your posts ‘Gosh, Stephanie has a baby-face’. So the dye must be working. I have thought things like ‘she really should stop worrying’ :) Also, as an older lady (how dare you young lady?! :)) it was comforting to have a birthday ending in zero recently and have somebody just naturally assume it was the previous zero number. Same issues as you, but now really seriously just hoping it lasts another twenty years or so! Enjoy

  2. NotAPunkRocker

    I am 38 going on…20 something up to 35. Depends on who you ask and what light I am in. Also may be people take into account my blue nails or other clues to come up with an overall age. Baby face definitely is an inherited thing, as my son has it too and people don’t believe he is 18.

    I know you will or have heard “enjoy it while you can!” but there’s a difference (at my age at least) between “you look good for your age!” vs “you look so young!” I know people mean well, but I also just don’t get it. I’ve never been able to guess ages properly because everyone in my family tends to look slightly younger than they actually are.

  3. Gerry Ajesta

    Oh I definitely understand how you feel. I just turned 23 but people also keep on underestimating my age. It’s true that there are pros and cons for having a baby face. I also am planning to cut my hair short so when I go for a job interview, people will not look at me as if I am a kid who couldn’t get the job done but like you I’m not really sure if it’ll help or if it’ll just make me look younger. :)

  4. pensitivity101

    I had a similar problem when I was a teenager, but the other way, looking older than my years.
    These days, people are surprised I am 10 years older than their estimate (blush and thank you) and it did wonders for my morale when the daughter of a friend of my mother’s thought I was in fact her Grand Daughter.
    My HUbby’s got it right though, he forgets his age and acts his shoe size (9). :-)

  5. theveryspecialblog

    When I was 20, everyone thought I was 15. Now that I am 24, people think I am 19 and it feels like a MASSIVE improvement. It’s like I’m finally old enough to be seen as someone who is not just an adult but also has an entire year of adulthood under her belt. Last year, my similarly young looking friend and I got carded at an R-Rated movie but the guy was so embarrassed when he saw her ID that he just waved me away without checking. I’m told I will appreciate this young appearance later in life, but I’m skeptical.

  6. sweetsound

    I’m 30. Honey I’ve owned a home, been married and divorced, and lived on two different continents. It used to bother me that people still asked for my ID at the liquor store or a bar, but I think I’ll miss it when it stops happening… which will be any day now, I know it. (And how! Hahaha)

  7. Denise

    I think if you add waving a shotgun to your “get off my lawn” performance that might work. Also, I have, in my past, enjoyed saying the most horrible things out of my soft deceptively sweet baby face. Destroying peoples perceptions is hilarious. Although, I have to admit I’ve stopped saying quite such horrible things in recent (middle-aged) years because others don’t find it as hilarious. People have suggested that it’s mean! So, I have decided to be gentler to people with rigid perceptions. They still guess my age down by 2 decades but I’ve stopped trying to correct them and just chock it up to great skin. A few years ago I took a solo vacation abroad and was told by a kind motherly lady that I was too young to travel alone. I was 38 at the time. Anyway, there you go – proof that I’m old – I’ve run on and told several inane stories to people who likely just want to get on with their lives.

  8. Joshua B

    So….I am 31, male….with a beard….I was recently on a college campus and was asked about my major. When I shot back the question, “How old do you think I am,” the response was….22. Guess I will enjoy it more when I am 60 and they think I am 50. Good post.

  9. Lorna's Voice

    Young people want to look older. Old people want to look younger. Such was it ever. You know why the barristers in England wear those silly white wigs? To look older and wiser. Maybe you could try that… ;) And I agree with you–stay out of the sun and away from meth!

  10. PiedType

    I used to run into the same problem, but it ceased to be a problem when the “younger” me was old enough to have a career. From then on it was an advantage. I loved it the day a rather condescending superior learned I was actually his senior; nothing but respect from that day forward.

  11. EgoPoisoning

    The prior-to-reading-this-I-was-in-no-way-grateful-for-it joy of a receding hairline is that I’ve never suffered baby facery. While I explicitly blame the aggressive retreat of my topside foliage on playing the original Diablo in college, it roundly proclaims “This dude is not a lad, he’s a grown fellow.” My wife, on the other hand, has recently been hit for an item that didn’t make your list–carded for trying to buy a lottery ticket–so gender appears to play a significant role here.

  12. Prismal Liferie

    Totally get this. I’m short, and have a fair complexion, which leads to annoying little occurrences, such as getting carded when I go out drinking, or when I stop to buy cigarettes. I’m also asked if I shop at Baby Gap. It makes me wonder what they make out of my big boobs. Maybe they think I’m a freak show baby (and, seriously, that would say a lot more about them than about me).

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