Ageism

On being the victim of ageism.

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I’ve been the victim of ageism on numerous occasions. It’s when someone assumes you’re a certain age and treats you as such whether it be above or below the respect level that you’d receive if that person knew your true age.

I’m 26 years old. I look 16. Which is better than when I was 21 and was handed a children’s ticket for Harry Potter. This was the first time that I realized it could be good to be discriminated against–that I could use people’s prejudices to my advantage to get the treatment that I want.

Bwahahahaha!

Actually, I only use my power for good. I didn’t ask for that children’s ticket, though I didn’t reject it either since I didn’t realize that they’d given it to me until after the movie was over. I’d simply been standing innocently next to my dad when he requested “3 for Harry Potter”. They assumed I was a child.

For the most part, I just like to tease people by having them guess my age. It’s usually after we’ve already had a decent conversation where I’ve probably dropped hints that I’m older than I appear (like talking about college classes with the hairdresser). It’s funny watching their faces as they hem and haw about what number they can throw out there that won’t insult me. I hope that one day I’ll be like my grandmother: 85 and passing for 65!

Then there are times when I play up my youthful appearance in order to save my sanity. You see, I’m a clutz and I’m awkward and I make stupid mistakes at times. This wouldn’t be an issue except that I suffer from mild anxiety 90% of the time (controlled by mind over matter). Whenever I do something particularly embarrassing, I simply neglect to include the verbal clues that tell people that I’m older than I look. This way I can tell myself that if they’re going to judge me it will be through the lens of my being “a kid”. This saves my sanity because instead of spending hours or days (a lifetime) stressing over what that stranger thinks of me, I tell myself that they weren’t accurately judging me because they’d inputted the wrong age to base their criticisms on. In society, it’s one thing for a small 16 year old with their 1st job to struggle with an overloaded hand-truck. It’s something else for a 26 year old with a good 15 years experience (my dad put me to work young) driving a hand-truck to no be able to control the stupid thing.

Of course, sometimes it’s simply annoying when people decide that I’m younger than I am. I was at Burger King a few weeks ago and I wanted their onion ring sauce, but the cashier had turned her back to me to work on the next order, not realizing that I still needed her attention. I said a mild “excuse me”, but she didn’t hear it. An older lady in line said “she didn’t hear you, sweetie” and I looked at her and said, “I know. I’m waiting for her to finish what she’s doing before I interrupt”. You see, even when it’s annoying to hear the slightly patronizing “Sweetie”, I can still use the prejudice to benefit myself because it’s an excellent teaching moment–don’t judge too quickly (I definitely sound older than I look) and patience isn’t a vice.

Edit 8/16/15: BF and I went to the hospital last weekend to visit one of his aunts who’d just had a double bypass heart surgery. She looked really good while were were and since we haven’t heard anything negative assume she’s staying with her son now as planned.

While we were in the car driving to the hospital, I realized that I didn’t have an ID with me and I thought I’d remembered this hospital requiring an ID to enter after hours. I didn’t mention this to BF because we were already over halfway there and stuck in traffic. I was a little concerned, but didn’t think it’d be that big a deal. Especially since I had a plan, muahahaha. As we walked towards the hospital entrance, I used a little skip to catch up with him (his long legs vs. my short ones). This was also to get me into the right mood. He walked confidently up to the security desk and said he wanted to visit his aunt. They wanted to see his ID and then the guard proceeded to check him in. Meanwhile, I’d been trailing slightly behind him, half because I have short legs and half because I was trying to act like a kid. I stood patiently to the side, with a childish slightly bored, but interested expression. Needless to say, the guard bought it hook, line, and sinker. He handed BF his sticker ID (which had his name and picture on it) then told him to give this one “to your daughter. I assume she’s your daughter”.

BF: “Nah, she’s my girlfriend.”

Guard: {heh heh} “Sure, if you want to get arrested.”

BF: “No! Seriously, she’d my girlfriend! Guess how old she is!”

Guard: (looking slightly uncomfortable and you can tell he was suddenly adding years to me) “16?”

Me {laughing}: “Actually, I earned this shirt I’m wearing” (I was wearing a UVA sweatshirt.) “I’m 26.”

Guard: “No way!” He elbowed the other guard at the desk who appeared to not have been paying any attention. “Guess how old she is!”

2nd Guard: {Gives me a squinty look} “Obviously almost 30.”

At some point during the rest of the exchange I admitted that I didn’t have an ID, but I’m not sure the guard heard me as he was still baffled by my age. He was more than happy to send me along with a “My Child; Please Return to {BF’s name}” sticker and never did demand to see my ID.

‘Course, I told BF in the elevator ride up to his aunt’s room that the guard had never stood a chance of thinking me over 18. Like I said, he didn’t know that I’d forgotten my ID so he didn’t know about my plan to look 12, which is how I prefer it. While I wanted to intentionally deceive the guard, I wasn’t about to truly lie in order to visit his aunt. BF probably would have gone with the child story if he’d known about it, but I preferred to get caught. Really, my intention was to prey on the guard’s laziness, not his ability to accurately judge a visitors intentions. I hoped merely to get him to do exactly what he did: give me a child’s pass rather than ask for my ID to give me an adult’s one. Once the child’s pass was printed, odds were very slim that he’d want to go back into the system to change it. Then, the charade could be lifted so that he would be given the opportunity to do his duty to check my ID–it was his choice not to. I was fully prepared for him to deny me entry and was grateful that he didn’t.

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