Tonight at an event, a guy who I was talking to was shocked that I am only a freshman and noted that he thought I looked older than my two upperclassmen friends who were also in the conversation. One of these friends retorted, “See, Lauren? You look OLD!” Since it’s been a while since something quite like this happened, I thought tonight I could blog about the often funny way people have perceived my age throughout my life.
I was always tall for my age. Even in kindergarten a girl once insisted, “You’re not really five! You’re six!” and people of all ages have assessed me similarly ever since. As a kid I mostly got a kick out of it. I loved asking “How old do I look?” whenever I was in a mixed-age group of people who I had never met before and laughing when they guessed wrong. This eventually led to the time when I was thirteen and a friend of my mother asked me if I was home from college, when a waitress at Applebee’s asked if I wanted my pink lemonade “Regular or from the bar,” not getting any flack about being a freshman in high school because the upperclassmen didn’t know that I was a freshman, never getting carded for going to rated-R movies, and that time when I went out to dinner with three other mature-looking friends before a rehearsal and the waiter said something along the lines of “Wait, are you old enough to drink?” I mean, we were sexy actresses so it seems legit, right?
However, my perceived physical maturity has not always been an advantage. Some girls, mostly in middle school would sass back with, “Well, you’re gonna look wrinkly and gross earlier than we will.” In a previous post I elaborated on how my appearance forced me to unsuccessfully compete with the older and more experienced actresses in my community theatre, despite the availability of mom and teacher roles in school productions. “Taller than I am” has basically stopped being a requirement for potential significant others because at 5’9, 5’10ish I am now taller than the average U.S. male. I even tower above my first celebrity crush. I also often felt pressure for my emotional maturity to match my appearance. This still sometimes leads to me seeing myself as immature for irrational reasons.
However, last year the comments about how much older I look than I actually am took a break. Most everyone in my hometown knew that I was in high school, so they could finally be right when they guessed that I was a senior. It also oh-so-briefly ceased to hinder me in theatrical productions when I was in two community productions with casts that were mostly younger than I was and played good-sized roles as a housewife and a businessman in my school’s productions. I grew much more comfortable with this aspect of me with whom I had a love-hate relationship for years. Looking back at my summer job I think that my appearance caused people to treat me with more respect than they would have if I were younger looking. Now that the “You don’t look like a freshman,” comments have returned, I know how to face them without the insecurity that plagued my childhood self.