The time I tried to pass for an 18-year-old (Spoiler alert: It didn’t work)

Last week I had coffee with a girl I am trying to lure into being my friend. About halfway through our date, this conversation happened.

PNF (potential new friend): So what do you do?

Me: Well I worked in TV news for two years, and now I’ve been in marketing at a university for about two and a half years.

PNF: Wait, so you’ve been working for almost five years? How old are you? 

Me: …I turn 27 on Monday.

PNF: Oh my god, SERIOUSLY? I literally thought you were like 20. Oh good, so we can talk like adults now. Keep going.

Oh, youth… you fickle friend.

I’ve not sure whether it’s my baby face, my aversion to pants, or the fact that I still say “You too!” after a TSA agent tells me, “Have a great trip!” but people tend to think I’m younger than I actually am.

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Me 8 years ago or me last week? YOU’LL NEVER KNOW. THERE ARE NO CONTEXT CLUES TO HELP YOU DECIDE.

This comes in handy when, say, you’re trying to get a student ticket to a movie, but less handy when, for instance, you’re trying to convince someone that, no, I’m not an intern. I am in fact the one in charge of your project. I know… I’m disappointed, too

Pretty much since I graduated from high school, my family plays a fun game with waiters called, “Guess how old she is!” (Note: The game is pretty much only fun for my mom, dad and older brother.) (I’m sorry, did I say older brother? I meant younger brother. It’s just that he’s got good hair and wears an antique watch, so it’s very confusing sometimes, even for me.)

The poor waiter never knows whether to aim high or low, but whatever they choose, it’s never the correct answer: “I think she’s 27, but with the anxiety of a pre-teen and the coordination of an 92-year-old after emergency hip surgery.”

So, in short, I have 16-year-old cousins who look like they could be my confirmation sponsors.

Recently, however, I learned there is a limit to that youthful glow, and that limit is essentially an Onion article titled, “27-year-old marketing rep tries, fails to pass as high schooler at local college fair”

Let me start from the beginning.

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to draw on my experience as a college student (which wasn’t THAT long ago) to help plan some of our marketing initiatives. Yes, 27 is basically old as dirt when it comes to marketing to 17-year-olds, but still, I do okay. (And when in doubt, I just text my teenage cousin things like, “What is a finsta?” and, “Is ‘lit’ still a thing?”)

So, since I’m pretty in touch with kids these days, I thought of COURSE I could blend in at a local college fair.

The goal was simple: Scope out the competitors and see how we stack up. The reality, however, looked more like me lurking behind kids in their Abercrombie t-shirts, grabbing a flyer, then slinking away like a serial killer.

All very subtly, of course.

Still, I was pretty sure I was FREAKING NAILING it. The few times I got caught by an actual human person trying to help me pick a college, I just told them I wanted to study “English or journalism or something write-y” and tried not to make eye contact. (You know, like a nervous high schooler. See how good I am at this?!) All I had to do was dodge the KU reps who might remember me (LOL, none of them would have remembered me, but a girl can dream), and I was homefree.

That is, until my adolescent bubble was burst by a sweet man from a college which will remain nameless. As I gave him my spiel (i.e. lies) about my college needs, I saw his face getting less and less smiley and more and more confused. Finally, he asked, “So, are you looking at graduate programs?”

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Ohh, 16-year-old Lindsey… Why have you forsaken me? (Actual photo of me at the midnight release of one of the Twilight novels. It. Was. LIT.)

At this juncture, I had two options for how to respond.

Response #1: Um, EXCUSE ME?! Sir, I have just come from dance team practice and am headed home to study for my pre-calc test. Of COURSE I am an average high school student, otherwise HOW would I know that you should not eat Tide pods because I 100% did that like all other cool teens? NOW GOOD DAY TO YOU.

Response #2: Umm… yes.

I went with #2.

You know, at one time I really valued my ability to stay calm when faced with difficult questions like “What are your lifelong goals” or “Why are you cuddling that Jimmy Johns sandwich?” But clearly I’ve gone soft in my old age.

I blame at least part of the situation on my attire. I, like the cool, teen-savvy adult I am, figured I knew EXACTLY what to wear to blend in with the youths. Leggings, sweatshirt, ball cap, done.

The only problem, though, is that despite my best efforts, I didn’t look NEAR grungy enough to be a teenager. Most of these kids looked like they’d fashioned their outfits from some combination of their pajama drawer and the lost and found at the school nurse’s office.

Clearly, my $29 leggings, Polo hat and puffer vest were not fooling Mr. What’s His Name from the University of You’re Not a High-Schooler.

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Maybe I needed to let my eyebrows grow out like fuzzy caterpillars to really complete the look…

And so, I exited the college fair with an armful of brochures, a mouthful of free cookies and a heart full of regret. (LOL, JK… I got COOKIES. What is there to regret?)

So, what’s the lesson here? Don’t impersonate a high school student? Or, if you do, at least do it better? Or, perhaps, skip the impersonation altogether and pay an actual high schooler $20 to pick up a few flyers for you?

No, I think the lesson here is clear: If you’re going to be outed as an adult who sneaks into a high school, at least make sure you get a blog post out of the ordeal.