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Looking young both a blessing, curse

A few weeks ago I was on a flight from Orlando to Columbus, and I was one of the first people to board the plane because I opted for early check-in. Most people have a preference on where they like to sit on a plane. Some people like sitting by the window, others would rather sit in the aisle, and I think we can all agree that no one likes sitting in the middle. No one.

I sat down in the emergency exit seat, for the perks of more leg room and a 50 percent less chance of sitting next to a total creep, or worse, someone who smelled.

To put my experience in context, the people who sit in the emergency exit seats have to be at least 15 years old, because they’re responsible for helping fellow passengers off the plane in case of an emergency. The idea is that anyone over the age of 15 has super power strength, or can at least push open the exit door.

So I got settled in, took out my Kindle, put my carry-on under the seat for easy access, and then began to zone out, waiting for everyone to board.

Then the flight attendant assigned to my section walked up to my seat, leaned down so she was at my eye level, and said “Sweetheart, how old are you?”

I turned 20 the week before. Welcome to the story of my life.

I graciously informed her that I was 20, and not some tween flying without my parents for the first time. She seemed taken aback and then said, “I bet you get that a lot.”

Actually, yeah Becky, I do.

I’m probably the only person alive who has ever dreaded turning 20. Not because I’m afraid to grow up, or because I don’t want to take on any more responsibility, but because it would just be one more year older that I didn’t look. Because If I’m being honest, I don’t think I look a day over 17, and that’s being a little generous.

My name is Kristen Mitchell, and I have a baby face.

I’ve passed as a 12-year-old when seeing movies with my family, I still get carded for R-rated ones, and on Friday nights, I sometimes get nasty looks from people who likely think I’m a high school student trying to crash a college party.

They’d never guess I’m older than the freshmen at that party.

It’s not that looking young bothers me, I always joke that when I’m 40, I’ll be the best-looking mom around, but I hate having to constantly defend my age. I have the right to be 20, I deserve to be 20; I’ve lived for 20 years, so I don’t think it’s so ridiculous to be a little offended by this age discrepancy.

Forget ever using a fake ID, you can be sure I won’t be trying that. If I don’t look 15 to some random flight attendant, and don’t look 18 to my friends, there’s no way I look 21 to a stranger. I’m already assuming someone will try to take my totally legitimate ID next year, creating an argument that will likely lead to the involvement of the closest police officer for verification of my state-issued identification card.

I can’t make myself look older; a different hairstyle, more sophisticated clothes and more makeup aren’t going to give me the transformation I need to be taken seriously as a college student. While I’m starting to think that someone slipped me a drink from the fountain of youth around age 15 or 16, I can’t help but think that one day I’ll wake up and find myself looking my age.

Better yet, one day, everyone around me will assume I’m some preteen genius who skipped three years of high school, and will be so impressed by my wisdom beyond my “years” that no one will ever bring up the issue again.

These are really the only two options I’ll be satisfied with.



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