When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a woman. But I don’t think the rest of the world sees that and it has always caused me to grow self-conscious and frustrated. I can’t tell you how many times my mother and the other women in my life have told me that I should be thankful people think me younger than my age, but it isn’t a compliment at my age. It isn’t a compliment when a nineteen-year-old is confused for a fourteen-year-old, on any level. Why? Because there’s a difference between being confused as a twenty-five-year old for a thirty-year-old, and as a fourteen-year-old and nineteen. When you question a thirty-year-old of her age, you are questioning her beauty and youthfulness, not her intelligence and maturity. When you confuse a nineteen-year-old for fourteen, you are most definitely looking at their looks, but mainly you are judging their level intelligence and maturity based off the age you assume them to be.
I want to say I look like any other girl but I know for a fact that, that is a big fat lie. I am barely 5 foot one, with limited curves (my hips are wide, but my breasts and butt are average), a skin tone I like to call as 60% dark chocolate, and a mass of curly hair that is the best symbolic representation of my personality. For the sake of the age approximation of a woman, people normally zero in on height and curves. Now being short already brings my age down (interesting concept that shortness equals youth), but short with minimal curves? Yeah, you can see why people assume I’m fourteen. Most people might think that curves aren’t a factor but when you are short, they do. Many girls that are short have a full figure, a figure that comes with obvious age and development. Therefore, when people look at me they see a girl that is short and probably still developing. The reality is that I have been the same body type and height since I was around thirteen years old. My body isn’t changing any time soon…unless I do something drastic which is very unlikely. So where does height come in? Well, if anybody read the book “Divergent” by Veronica Roth they will remember the main character Tris Prior and her insecurities about her body. Tris, at sixteen, is in much the same predicament as me. She isn’t curvy, she isn’t tall, but she is still close to be an adult. There is a particular scene that I always reflect on, where Tris is with her mentor/love interest Four, and she wished that she was taller, as she believes it will make her look her age, or older which might be attractive to Four. She describes how that if she was tall at least she would appear “willowy”, and not “childish”. Height, and curves define a woman’s body, a body which everyone judges and comes to conclusions about her age, an age which defines her level of intelligence or maturity.
Now why do we honestly believe that age is a precursor to intelligence and maturity? Because the common misconception is that the older you are, the more experiences you have, the likelier you are to have yourself together, and understand the world around you. This is NOT true. I know and hear of plenty of people who assume they know themselves, know the world around them, and understand where they want to go, and then a year later break down and realize that they haven’t been honest with themselves. Maturity is something that doesn’t come with age. It comes with experience, and open-mindedness. In order for us to experience new things, new situations, and new ideas we must be open to criticism, open to trying new things, and open to new experiences. If you go into a new experience thinking you know everything you get the opposite result, you walk away learning nothing. You go in with an open mind, and you actually are able to learn something from said experience. It stands to reason that the older you are the more time you have to develop those learning experiences and cultivate knowledge, however, correlation does not equal causation. Just because one person is older doesn’t mean that they obtained as many experiences in their time on earth as the younger person sitting next to them. The older person might have just spent majority of their life playing video games, living with their parents, and doing the same things they did growing up. The younger person could have cultivated work experience, traveled, participated in different activities and movements, and met numerous people in either the same amount or less time. Age does not equal maturity. It’s the openness, curiosity and desire to experience the world around you that brings it about.
Furthermore, how you look does not equal your age, which does not equal your intelligence or maturity level. There is no way that this is the equation of how we should be seen in the world:
Looks (height, weight, curves, wrinkles, etc.) = Age = Experience = Intelligence = Maturity
Life doesn’t work that way, I’m sorry. Stop making judgments on who someone is based on how he or she looks.
I went to Sri Lanka for the first time in seventeen years this past summer, and almost everyone I met believed me to be fourteen…until I opened my mouth. When I told one man that I was eighteen after having spoken on a political issue he told me that he had never heard an eighteen-year-old speak like I did and was very impressed, but he had thought I was fourteen before I had given my age. You can see that there is no correlation whatsoever between my level of intelligence and maturity in comparison to my age or how old people perceive me to be from my looks.
When I look in the mirror I see a woman not with a height of five-foot-one, average curves, and high cheek bones. No, I see a woman with confidence, pride, and a desire to be happy. I see a woman willing to work hard, and prepare for a future. I see a woman who is done with the critical looks others throw at her as she walks in the grocery store, sits in a class, or attends a party. I see a woman that has had enough with the stereotypical thoughts that run through a person’s head when they first see a woman. This is the woman in me. Can you see her? Can you understand her? Maybe you can. But if you can’t, that means that you aren’t looking deep enough. How old I look and what my age actually is doesn’t define who I am. I define who I am, because that is the woman in me.