13 Going On 30: Getting Old(er) While Looking Young(ish) In An Ageist Society

Source: Playbill

One evening, during my mid-20’s, I went out to dinner with my then-boyfriend and his parents. The restaurant was busy, so his mother asked the hostess if we could all wait at the bar. If looks could literally kill, we would’ve all burst into flames.

The bar was off-limits as far as I was concerned. Everyone else was free to go, but I would have to wait by the door. Why? Because underage customers were prohibited, she said. We snickered, which only compounded her confusion. “Trust me, she’s over 21,” his mother assured her. Puzzled, the hostess said, “I thought she was 12, or something. Right this way.”

While I’d love to say this was an isolated incident—that people rarely see me as nothing more than some lowly high school freshman—it’s not. In fact, it’s so common, I’ve begun to think I’m half my age, as well. On average, people assume I’m 13-15 years old. Every now and then, someone will guess I’m 17 or 19, but few are ever so generous with their estimates. Even my former boss believed I was too young to have watched The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or know all the words to the theme song (which I do, thank you very much.)

Of course, once people discover I’m much older than their initial hypothesis, each must rationalize their mistake by claiming I’ve got great genes and that, one day, I will be grateful for my youthful glow. (No, actually I’m worried that I will wake up looking ancient one day, doomed to spend the rest of my life at the opposite end of the spectrum, all while never having the opportunity to look like an actual young woman. But that’s just me.)

Yes, looking young has its benefits. I can shop in the kids’ department, for instance, and buy shoes for half the price sans judgment. I can easily make babies smile, not because of my maternal vibes, but because children think I’m one of them, too. But when you look like a kid in an adult world, life can get pretty tricky. Countless activities are essentially impossible—activities your peers take for granted—because you simply don’t fit the role. Here are just a handful of the things that are off-limits to those of us who look 13 (even if we’re actually 30):

You can’t openly flirt with other people in your age group.

It’s hard to gauge who is your age and who is not because the people who look like you are technically illegal babies, and those who are actually your age run in the opposite direction because pedophilia charges would certainly hinder any future prospects.

When you speak with authority, it sounds like you have no respect for your “elders.”

Your fellow adults think you’re being rude and disrespectful because they don’t view you as their contemporary. Instead, they think you are speaking out of turn because how could someone who looks like you possibly know what they’re talking about? (They’d much rather speak to your mother!)

You can’t wear makeup because it looks like you’re playing dress-up.

If you don’t wear makeup, people advise you to do so, because painting your face will surely make you look older! However, once you do, you look like nothing more than some clown-child hybrid who has raided their mother’s cosmetics collection. Why put forth all that effort each day when it only makes the situation worse?

Everyone assumes you’re the intern because you don’t look like you’ve had much experience.

You look 13 and you’re a woman? Congratulations! Enjoy some fresh-baked inequality, on the house. Why not sit back and relax? No one’s going to listen to what you have to say, anyway. And, by the time you’re old enough to look the part, you’ll be too ancient for anyone to acknowledge your existence, so settle down and fuel up—it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

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Why Posting Photos of Your Children on Social Media Isn’t Always Welcome

Source: Pexels

Long before smartphones and social media came to be, people had no choice but to carry physical photographs if they wanted to show their friends and family images of their recent vacation or kids’ recital. Grandparents would whip out their wallets instead of struggling to upload pictures from their digital camera.

But now that anyone can post photos to Facebook or Instagram within moments, users rarely hold back. From brunch plates to birthday parties, everything’s fair game (even if no one needs to know you’re on your third mimosa). However, just because you can post any and every photo you so desire, that does not mean you should.

Now that the people who joined Facebook upon its inception are beginning to start families of their own, the social media platform features more baby photos than your average mall portrait studio. People insist on sharing photos of their kids’ every waking moment. Personally, I love when parents wish their child a lengthy “Happy Birthday” on social media even though the kid isn’t old enough to read, much less manage an account of their own. Everyone knows those who commit such acts are merely fishing for compliments. (But that’s the underlying essence of social media, isn’t it?)

Beyond this element of self-indulgence, however, these incessant posts demonstrate an innate level of insensitivity that disregards the feelings of those followers forced to endure this flood.

Most proud parents and grandparents are too caught up in their joy to notice that many others aren’t so lucky. They brag on social media not because they are malicious, but because they’re consumed with happiness. But what about those who are suffering silently? How about those friends and family members who’ve desperately tried to expand their own families, only to find they can’t conceive?

While I cannot assess the situation based on personal experience, every new photo reminds me of how devastating infertility and miscarriages can be. Of course, it’d be rude to deny those lucky families the opportunity to bask in their joy, but they also need to understand that the photos intended to spread smiles might spark sorrow for others.

Social media often breeds narcissism, after all, as most users care about little more than the image they convey to the outside world. Perhaps if we showed more thought and concern for the emotions people hide inside, however, we’d breathe new life into the compassionate planet we hope to leave for these little ones in the first place.

(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

Stop Using Social Media as the Scapegoat for Society’s Demise

During the early morning hours of May 7, Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to help fans in need. Over the course of this dialogue, Minaj agreed to pay out an estimated $30,000 of her own money to help the fans in question afford their college tuition and school supplies. While many critics might be skeptical about the motive behind her random acts of philanthropy, it’s hard to ignore that Minaj’s generous soul would never have connected with these struggling individuals had it not been for social media.

Of course, it’s easy for people to focus on social media’s failings. It promotes narcissism. It’s an unyielding distraction. It hinders everyone’s attention span. However, along with the bad, we’ve been exposed to a world of good that outweighs any negative sentiment. We now have an outlet for connecting with people outside our immediate circle, allowing us to learn and grow in ways we never could have before its creation.

Thanks to Twitter (and the Web, in general), we have the opportunity to remain abreast of international news in real time. Yes, there’s an enormous amount of content to sift through at any given moment, but by adopting healthy social media habits, it’s simple to filter through what’s important and what’s frivolous fluff. You see, those who claim that social networks drain people’s time and ruin kids’ attention spans are those who’ve failed to master healthy social habits themselves. All good things must be consumed in moderation—even media. We may live in the era of the Netflix binge, but that doesn’t mean such behaviors are smart. When used properly, social media arms us with the tools necessary to dismantle widespread ignorance and hold public figures accountable. Social media acts as the weapon we need to effectively fight for what’s right.

Following the U.S. presidential election, for instance, voters quickly took to social media—in some cases to celebrate, in some cases to express their disbelief and anguish while establishing the foundation for what’s now known as The Resistance. Women came together via social to plan and execute the Women’s March on Washington, as well as its sister marches across the world. And organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, have turned to social media to mobilize supporters and bolster donations. Without such outlets, these groups never would’ve come together so quickly and effectively. Without social media, it would’ve been much more difficult for these like-minded activists to find one another and turn their mutual disgust into productive outreach.

Even in less extreme cases, social media has the potential to make people feel less alone. Prior to social networks, outcasts likely felt that there was no one else in the world who understood their struggle. But, by being able to express their emotions online, many have found support they might’ve otherwise gone without. Those with minor grievances can also take solace in social media, for the memes and comics that rule the space demonstrate we’re not as alone as we once thought. (No, you’re NOT the only one who feels that way!) Critics will argue that social media has the opposite effect, as Facebook and Instagram posts often make said outcasts feel even more out of the loop than before, but when you stop to evaluate the new connections at their fingertips, it’s easy to see that social empowers them to change their situation for the better.

Face it—bullies will never cease to exist. There’ll always be people who tear others down in order to make themselves feel superior, no matter their platform of choice. But it’s our responsibility to teach today’s children how to navigate these new networks. Our parents taught us how to handle the challenges that came along with growing up, and we’ll have to do the same. Kids still have to face the same battles, even if they’re fighting on uncharted battlefields. Remember! We’re the ones who created this supposed mess, so we’re the ones who will have to right the course. We will have to teach them how to limit their screen time. We will have to teach them how to be mindful of others online. We will have to teach them not to idolize the manipulated images and personas they see across platforms.

Parents and authority figures who believe social media has ruined today’s youth are merely projecting their own insecurities, for they exhibit these less than stellar behaviors themselves. They’re guilty of deifying the celebrities they follow, and checking their phones excessively. They’ve become addicted to refreshing their feeds and awaiting new notifications. Yet, each time another adult gives their child an iPad or smartphone as a stand-in for an actual caretaker, they perpetuate the very problem they wish to rectify. Unless we take responsibility for how we conduct ourselves, we will never be able to alter the issue at hand.

Until then, critics will continue to focus on social media’s failings and blame these networks for what’s wrong with the world. Social media isn’t without its flaws, of course, but we mustn’t overlook the value it brings to the modern world. As with any tool, social can be used for good or evil. Let’s remember what social media can help us accomplish—as was the case with Nicki Minaj—before we vilify these networks once and for all.

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(This post originally appeared on Storia.)