This week was my 16th birthday, but you’d never guess it by looking at me. I’m not even close to being elderly or wise, but people frequently mistake me for someone much younger. It happens so frequently that I’ve lately begun an experiment in which I ask strangers—friends of friends, wine-store clerks—to guess my age. Their responses range from 19 to 22, putting me somewhere between a recent high school graduate and a jobless college intern.
I know what you’re thinking: Cry me a river. Who wouldn’t want to appear younger than they actually are? The truth is that this didn’t concern me until I was 21, and even then, doormen assumed my foreign ID was fraudulent. While walking my dog the other day, I ran into a neighbor who lives in my building and whom I had seen a handful of times in the elevator but with whom I had never actually spoken. We discussed our shared South American heritage as well as our experiences in New York. I felt he was hitting on me because he was so chatty. “So, do you live here with your parents?” he inquired.