A Plea to Recognize Ageism


I’d barely gotten seated at the doctors’ office when the receptionist asked, “How old are you?” I smiled and told her I was 22. As expected, she immediately laughed and told me that I looked like I was 15 or 16. I explained that I get that a lot.

5 minutes later, the nurse asked about my emergency contact. I gave his name and number. Then she asked, “Is that your father?” No, it’s my husband.

This kind of thing happens to me a lot. I look young, apparently.

Oh, you’ll be thankful for it when you’re my age! You’ll be grateful for that someday!

Perhaps. But right now, it feels like an insult. I nearly have a Master’s degree. I have a respectable career-level job. I’m married. I’m paying for a house and a car and otherwise being an adult. Your assumption that I’m 16, or that you have any right to ask how old I am to satisfy your idle curiosity, negates everything that makes me feel like an adult.

I’m tempted to reply in kind: “Oh, you look so old to be working! Why aren’t you retired?” But that is not acceptable. That is rude.

So is joking about my age. So is assuming that because you’re older, you have the right to ask me–a random stranger or, in this case, a customer–about my age and then proceed to tell me that I look so much younger. As if I didn’t know.

Most of the time, there are less offensive ways to determine my age. Ask about my schooling. Or my job. Look for the sparkling diamond ring on my finger…most 16 year olds aren’t married.

I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Anyone who is petite or has a baby face fields questions like these on a regular basis. Just stop. Stop reminding us that we look young. Try to pay more attention to how old we actually are or how much we’ve accomplished. And think about how it would feel for strangers to ask personal questions and mock your age.

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7 thoughts on “A Plea to Recognize Ageism

    • How do you usually respond? I’m trying to think of a polite way to say, “My age is none of your business,” but I have yet to land on one.

      • Haha.. I haven’t formulated the perfect response yet 😦 And not everybody says it in a mean way, so I’m lost again.. There was a time when I used to feel embarrassed, but now I just sail on 🙂

  1. OHH MY GOD YES. I RELATE TO THIS SO MUCH. I get it alllll the time and it drives me insane. Like you, I see it as an insult, it makes me feel like they are saying I’m immature for my age or something. I put it down to my shortness, blondness, round face and lack of boobs. -_-

    Most people think I’m 16/17 like you, when I’m actually also 22!!!

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