What I Want You to Know is a series of
reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their
personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the
unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to
this series,
click here. Today’s guest posts is by an anonymous reader.

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It
seems really commonplace to bash a female celebrity for looking old.
People will give a self-satisfied smile as they point to a picture of
Blake Lively or Megan Fox in a magazine and say, “Can you believe I’m
ten years OLDER than her?”

Well, I look old for my age. I’m in
my 20s, and routinely, bouncers who look at my ID will stand, mouth
agape, eyebrows raised, before repeating my birth year in an exaggerated
tone. They say, “Wow, I thought you were so much older.” Sometimes, I
don’t even get carded. When friends of mine finally discover how old I
am, they are always shocked. And it’s not because I’m “mature”, because
I’m not–Spongebob is easily my favorite television show. I don’t
dress “old”–I wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, and when I go out at
night, I dress like all the other 20-somethings.

I wouldn’t mind
looking older if it wasn’t seen as such a reprehensible trait for a
woman to have. My boyfriend looks older than his age, mostly due to his
chiseled features, facial hair, and mature manner of dressing. And
it’s totally fine. Nobody points to old-looking male celebrities and
laughs at them for looking “rode hard and put away wet”. And in fact, I
think my boyfriend’s mature look helps him, both socially and in his
career. And I think he looks better and handsomer today than he did
when I met him in college.

But for young women who look ten years
older than our ages, it’s not the same. People assume that young women
who look older have done something irresponsible to get that way.
We’ve chain-smoked, tanned, and partied our way to minor nasal-labial
folds, and we should be ashamed of it. But actually, sometimes we just
look this way for no reason. My parents both look young, I’ve never
smoked a day in my life, I wear 30 SPF daily, and I don’t use drugs. I
just look older, and I can’t explain it. Do I like it? No. Do I worry
that looking in my 30s when I’m in my 20s will lead to looking 50 at the
age of 40? Absolutely. But I’m against plastic surgery for the most
part. I’ve just come to accept it, and a part of me longingly looks at
celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, who looked mature at a young age and
then never aged past that.

But more importantly than the fact
that I look old is the fact that looking older, no matter how old you
are, should not be a crime. It should not be cause for other women to
wonder “what you did” to get that way.

Don’t assume that I’m a
chain smoker, excessive tanner, drug user, or party animal. I’m just a
woman who’s aging in her own way. I don’t know what I’ll look like at
thirty, or at forty, but I like to think that my abilities as a human
being, and how I treat other people, is valued more than how teenage I
look.