Tales From A Young Looking 29-Year-Old
Due to not being diagnosed until I was 3 and the ensuing malnutrition that comes along with a lifetime of cystic fibrosis (and some “shorty” family genes), I stand at a towering 5 foot zero inches (ok ¾ of an inch but who is counting!) and 105-110 pounds soaking wet.
I look younger than my age
I’m also blessed with a very young-looking face. Though I’ve learned to embrace the 3 little wrinkles that have formed around my eyes in my late 20s. My “CF voice” on a good day sounds like a sexy husk and can be cleared with a cough or two. On a bad day it sounds like a high-pitched almost-whisper that’s tough to project — coincidentally sounding very much like a 9-year-old who is answering her mom’s phone.
What follows are some of my funniest encounters thanks to mistaken age and a few strategies I’ve begrudgingly adopted to mitigate the confusion!
The dreaded children’s menu
As a teenager, I frequented the New England-based Friendly’s restaurant. It was a popular spot for a date with my mother after doctor’s appointments. The food is great comfort food, but the waitresses didn’t consistently live up to the Friendly’s name... particularly my mortal enemies: the ones that had the audacity to ask 18-year-old me (an angsty teenager but ADULT nonetheless) if I wanted a children’s menu and crayons. Ugh!
Often, while out to eat with people slightly older than me, having cocktails, the waitress will single me out. She may say, “I need to see YOUR ID,” to which the “older-looking” table mates will lament, “DON’T YOU WANT TO SEE MINE?!” They get a quick smile and sometimes an obligatory ID check. My best days are the ones where I’m able to avoid the ID check!
On the phone
Perhaps where I am most conscious of my youthful mistaken identity is on the phone. If you didn’t know better, I sound not much older than 7 years on the phone. This has resulted in:
- A pizza man not preparing my pizza because he thought a 7-year-old had hacked into her mom’s iPhone and was PRANK CALLING the pizza shop! To my husband’s dismay, when he went to pick up the pizza it hadn’t even been made. “I thought that your daughter was ordering it…”
- When I worked for an assisted living, I often had to talk on the phone to older people. Without a doubt, they would always say “I’m sorry, you sounded like a little girl!”
- General confusion when anyone at work has to talk to me on the phone without having met me. Though I try to put on my best “work voice,” often I get an, “Um, and who did you say this is again?” No doubt wondering if my non-existent child logged into their mother’s Skype for Business account.
My strategies for overcoming my young appearance
Below are a few strategies I’ve adopted to convince people I am an adult who knows what she is talking about:
Whether this is in my body language, or even in the words I use. I don’t leave room for misinterpretation of the words I’m saying due to my unwavering confidence exhibited in mainly professional interactions.
Without a doubt, the number of comments I get about my age increase with the amount of make-up I’m NOT wearing.
Dressing my age
I try very hard to dress professionally so my skinny legs aren’t mistaken for teenage legs. This means a blazer or a dress worn most days during working hours, and “mom jeans” on the weekends.
One day when skiing with a good friend, I remarked that I was going to report the people smoking weed in the chair in front of me to ski patrol. On that day “Ski Patrol Bomba” (Bomba is my nickname from my maiden name) was born, thanks to my friends on the chairlift.
Rocking my young look
Ski Patrol Bomba sounds a lot like a combination between Elmo and my worst day CF voice, but with zero confidence and lots of filler words such as "like" and "um." She is always on the lookout for trouble and says things like “Umm.. hi! This is ski patrol Bomba speaking and umm.. could you please stop smoking on the chair lift or I’M GONNA REPORT YOU to authorities, Um thanks OL bye!”
With my “alter ego” I get to own any jokes made at my expense and own the fact that I know people might mistake me for a young girl when I’m actually a powerful Superwoman!
Looking younger than my age has resulted in some small injustices, but mostly hilarious moments. Though I’m still sometimes self-conscious about it, overall I’ve learned over time to embrace it and mitigate it as much as possible by acting like my true self and not worrying what others may think about it!
Have you had a similar experience? Tell us about it in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do your pets help with your cystic fibrosis?