Last week I needed some utility knives, and the closest place that sold them was Poundland. I wandered down and picked up a pack, and went to the till. The lady at the till asked me for some ID. This happens to me a lot, so I reached into my pocket for my drivers’ license… and then remembered I’d sent it back to the DVLA as I’d requested an address change on it.
The woman slid the knives away from me and told me I couldn’t have them.
I am 33.
Like I said, this happens to me a lot. I have been cursed with the baby face, making me look a lot younger than my actual age. Normally I keep my ID on me, as I can get ID’d at any time. When I used to drink, I’d make sure I had my ID with me when I went to bars as I was bound to be asked to prove my age sooner rather than later. If I ever needed knives, glue, anything that was vaguely ‘adult’, I’d have to show my ID. Every time I pick up painkillers (again in poundland, it’s 3 packs for a pound in there and they’re just as good as other branded stuff) I’d need to prove I was old enough to buy them.
This in itself is not a problem. Taking my ID out with me isn’t a struggle, and it takes two seconds to hand over my license and prove my age. Staff in bars and stores have to do this, they can face serious repercussions if not. (By the by, if you’re the kind of person who kicks off when you’re asked for ID, you’re either underaged or just a git. Pack it in, it doesn’t make anyone like you).
The problem is that the baby face changes the way I am perceived. In the past, I was told ‘You’ll be so grateful for it when you’re older!’ and I believed that. At my current rate, I’ll look in my early 50’s when I hit 60, and I thought that was cool. I thought it was brilliant that I looked younger than I was. As I’ve grown older though, it’s brought a lot of new problems with it.
As I hit my 30’s, I found that people generally do treat you differently if they think you’re younger. I’ve had people talk down to me and assume that I don’t know things, because they’ve assumed I’m in my early 20’s. Let’s admit it, it’s very satisfying proving them wrong. It’s still wrong that they make these assumptions, though. It shouldn’t be up to me to tell them ‘I’m in my 30’s, stop talking down to me’. They shouldn’t talk down to anyone, period.
I even had a blazing row, in public, because someone treated me like dirt because of my perceived age. I was so needled I screamed ‘I’M 32, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!’ at him. Then he got on his high horse because I’d sworn at him.
You can’t win.
This has happened in my working life, too. Co workers have treated me like a small child that needs to be kept out of the ‘adult’ dealings of the business, or just plain ignored me as I clearly was too young and not worth dealing with. I’ve had plenty of job interviews where I’ve clearly looked younger than what they were expecting.
Of course, my looks aren’t all that was wrong with my dealings with these workplaces, not by a long shot. It compounded the problems though, and certainly didn’t help in any way.
I have noticed a difference in my interactions with others now I work from home. I deal with everyone either via instant message or email. As I’m never face to face with anyone, they don’t know how old I am. I’m definitely spoken to like an equal, rather than a child. It’s worked the other way around, too. Because they’re not able to form any opinion on me based on my looks, I’m more comfortable in sticking up for myself when I need to. It’s working out much better for me.
The moral is you shouldn’t assume that someone doesn’t know something, because you think they’re too young. You don’t know that person. They could be 18 but be super worldly, or in their 50’s but still very naive in some respects. You just don’t know. You shouldn’t withhold respect just because of a person’s age. Get to know them first, and see who they are as a person.
And just sell me my knives, man. I’ve got stuff to cut.