"You look so much younger"

(I started this post before leaving for vacation and didn’t know if I was going to finish it. But, in light of a personal vignette tonight, I’ll add a little and publish it for your enjoyment.)

Tonight I paid a visit to the liquor store up the street. It’s right behind the Jack In The Box on Beach and Ellis in a long, awkward lot without much parking. I can’t remember the name, but a tall, green and faded yellow sign tower over the street to announce it’s presence. I’d never been there before, so I decided to walk over and buy a 40 after getting back from the beach.

After looking over the beer selection — which was surprisingly diverse and well priced for a corner store — I took my green bottle of Mickey’s to the counter. The cashier was an older Asian man and he asked for my ID. He looked over my driver’s license for a minute and I could tell he was comparing my picture with the birth date printed in red.

“Woo,” he said. “You’re that old?”

“Yeah. How old do I look?”

He handed back my license and said, “You look so much younger.”

Some people my age may not have liked being mistaken for being much younger, but it put a smile on my face. As a matter of fact, it always does. People — mostly cashiers at liquor and grocery stores — always say I look much younger than I am. I’ll be 25 later this month, but, seriously, how old do I look?

The students have returned to UCI, and tents and booths for fraternities, sororities, and student organizations line the ring road to advertise themselves and attract new members. People hand out flyers and leaflets left and right. During the day I take a few walks around campus to get out of the bowels of Social Ecology 1, and I always return to my office with handouts from frat guys, Christian student groups, and study abroad ambassadors filling my pockets.

Here’s the thing: These people don’t pass out their information and invitations to just anybody. They’re handing them out to other students. And the frat guys are targeting new students, namely freshman.

Me? A freshman? Not again.

Let’s think about this. I definitely don’t look like a staff member. Staff usually wear long pants and “casual” office shirts. They look very mature and professional. Faculty dress much the same way. I wear shorts, an untucked button-down shirt, and flip-flops (now that’s my definition of office casual). So I’m not dressed like your average staff person.

Also, I’m younger than other UCI staff. Many of them are in their 30s and 40s. I’m in my mid-20s, so I look much younger than everyone else, and could honestly be mistaken for an upperclassman or grad student.

But do I look that young? Do I look like I’m 18, 19, or 20?

More examples:

When I moved to Santa Cruz I stopped in a tourist shop downtown to get some post cards. When I went to the register the older woman behind the counter asked, “So, are you starting at the university?”

One night last October, a man collecting money to help homeless children came to my house in Santa Cruz. When I opened the door he introduced himself and asked, “Are your parents home?”

My parents? Huh?

Earlier today a man walking around campus asked me, “Are you a student here?” As I was about to answer he pulled a huge book from his backpack and said, “I’m trying to give this away.” I was both curious and creeped out. Regardless, I said, “No. Sorry.”

At the wedding reception when my good homie Ethan tied the knot in August 2006, the woman working one of the beverage tables asked for my ID after I requested a glass of shiraz. She didn’t ask any of my other friends — born only a few months before me — to provide their proof of age. When I stepped up for another glass (probably five minutes later; I got tanked that night) I asked why she wanted to see my license. “You look too young to drink,” she said.

Too young to drink? What?

There have been a ton of times when people mistook me for being much younger than I am, but those are the ones that stand out right now. I don’t know why I don’t look my age. Is it because of my long, shaggy hair? My baby face? The band of stubborn acne still plaguing my neck? My eyes? It might be a combination of all those things, and a few I don’t have any clue about. But I think there might be one thing that trips people. I’m curious, eager, and knowledge hungry; I’m still holding on to my dreams and ambitions, my wishes and desires. Deep down inside I’m still a kid. When I look at guys my age (no, I’m not checking them out) their faces and demeanor make them appear tired and dreamless; it’s like life has beaten them to a pulp and they don’t want to do anything that isn’t socially expected from them.

Not me, not me. There are still so many things I want to do, and I have a lot of youth left inside me. I don’t want to waste an ounce of it.

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