Does my "petite woman" stature mean I'll never be seen an adult?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Britstix
By: PascalCC BY 2.0

I am a petite 27-year-old woman. My whole life I have looked younger than my age, and my size has always been a defining characteristic. I've always been "cute" or "tiny" and people took to calling me "Little Britstix." In one of my first temp jobs, my boss called me Ant because I'm tiny but I can lift heavy things. I am strong and smart and capable, but somehow my age/size/gender continues to eclipse those other achievements.

I spent the first eight years of my career working in the theatre as a stage manager and I faced a lot of gender discrimination. Despite years of formal training, internships, and hard work, the men who ran the theatres (directors, technical directors, designers, master electricians, master carpenters) still did not believe I was capable of changing a lamp, climbing a ladder, moving furniture, or understanding the machinations of their designs. With every new show, I had to re-prove myself to my new colleagues as a competent theatre professional. It was exhausting. My decisions were constantly challenged as if I were some green intern.

For the past three years, I've worked at a biotech company that is overwhelmingly female-staffed. Over 60% of the upper level management is comprised of women and over half the company itself is female. Up until recently, I hadn't experienced any condescending discrimination at all. I've been a valued member of the company and people have respected me for my knowledge base and my work ethic. I was so sure that this was directly related to the number of women in the company and I was so proud of my company for being a great place for women to advance their careers.

The other day I was in a meeting with some upper management. My boss introduced me to a new employee:

"This is Britstix, my project coordinator par excellence. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't know what day of the week it was or where I was going without her!"

Her boss (the Senior Director of our group) then jumped in, "She certainly doesn't let us forget anything! Such a little person helps us do so much!"

I thanked them both for being so kind, finished introducing myself to the new employee, and waited for the meeting to begin.

But her comment burned in my brain. "Such a little person…" A little person? (Please note that I do not mean to offend anyone who identifies as a Little Person.) Does my stature have anything to do with my ability to work? Is the amount of work I do more astonishing because I am small? The worst part is that the comment had come from a woman. Shouldn't she be supporting me instead of knocking me down?

I talked to my fiancé about it when I got home. Initially, he didn't see the problem with the comment. "Oh, she was just complimenting you. It was actually a double compliment because you're tiny and also good at your job. I've heard people say stuff like that to women all the time. It's supposed to be a compliment. I'm sure she was only saying it nicely."

I was stunned. How could he not see how condescending that was? So I asked him if he'd ever heard someone make a comment like that about a male co-worker of his.

"Nope. Never. They would never say something like that to a dude. That would be humiliating."

So… how is it less humiliating for me? How is it less embarrassing for a woman to be told that she is somehow less than a whole person? I felt like an intern again. Like my experience and abilities were secondary to my appearance.

When do I get to just be a normal adult woman? When I'm married will people start treating me with respect? When I have kids will I no longer be just a little person who miraculously does a lot of things? When will I be given the respect that I feel I deserve as a woman closer to 30 than 20?

I felt completely legitimate and like a successful adult until those words came out of her mouth. Then suddenly I felt like an impostor. Like some little girl just playing pretend. Like no matter what I achieve, I'll always be that cute tiny girl who also does things.

I know this might seem like a complete first world problem — why would anyone object to being called cute and tiny? But it just feels discriminatory somehow. As if my stature is being used against me as a modifier to my experience and skill level.

Has anyone else experienced this kind of condescension at work or in life? Does anyone know when "adulthood" starts?

  1. This.

    I suffer from a chronic case of "looking too young:" I'm consistently mistaken for being in high school, even though I'm 25. I feel like, in my working life, people are always seeing me as young or, in cases where I have authority, viewing me as being disrespectful to my elders by telling them what to do (even though it's my job to do so).

    Being married doesn't help, when people notice my rings they gasp in surprise, "you're married?!! How old are you?" Like I'm a child bride or something. True, "you'll love it when you're older and you look 30 instead of 40," but, for now, it sucks.

    • "you're married?!! How old are you?" Like I'm a child bride or something.

      YES. I hate that. I'm 23 and I get that reaction all the time. Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to consult you before my wedding. And it's usually strangers and older women! Why is this an appropriate comment to make?!

      • You know what really grinds my gears? When these things NEVER happen if my husband is with me. As if the magical presence of a male aura suddenly ages me and makes strangers realize what they're about to say is probably inappropriate.

        • That's odd, because my husband gets similar comments a lot – he's 28, married with a kid and people often don't believe him, or are really surprised. I joke that people will think I'm a cougar, since I never get comments like that. We'll get to our sixties and he'll look forty or something.
          It doesn't seem to bother him much, but he works at a lower level of his industry atm, so looking younger hasn't really affected him negatively. I hope that's not going to be an issue in the future.

    • Yes! I'm married and nearly 25, but people think I'm my husband's sister. Or, worse, his CHILD. His nieces and nephews (hey, they're like 7-9, okay, I feel like that's old enough to understand these things) literally thought I was his DAUGHTER. I've known these kids for years and they were like "Darren, why do you kiss your daughter on the lips? That's weird." I guess it doesn't help that my voice is also very child-like, but I chalk that up to probably having female Aspergers. I also wear lots of things with unicorns and shit, so that doesn't help my case much, BUT UNICORNS.

      Omfg. And don't get me started on how many times, working at a university, I'm asked what year I'm in. That usually ends up being more of a "DAMN GURL YOU LOOK GOOD" than something insulting, though 😛

      • "" I guess it doesn't help that my voice is also very child-like"

        I force myself to have a deeper voice sometimes…I've had people call and ask to speak to my parents…at age 25…

        • Lol ive had people knock on my door and ask can i speak to your mum or dad and im like, dude, in 31. I don't think I have ever been taken seriously because i don't look like a grown up woman. I get id'd alot, been told my id is fake and get shouted at as though i am some child off the MIL from hell! On the plus side, when i do get door to door sales men i just tell them my mum isn't in lol

          • I just say my mommy isn't here mister but I'm sure she'll come back soon. She's been gone for 5 years so I think she is due back soon mister.

      • I live in a place where strangers make friendly conversation all the time, and I work at a university. I always hear, "how was class?" or "how was school?" I've heard it enough times that I now unblinkingly reply, "well, I was teaching, but, yeah, it was fine . . ." It usually makes them pause for a moment as they realize their error. Oh, oops, you just semi-insulted a professor!

        • I get a lot of "How were exams?" and "Have a nice break!"
          I'm thinking, break? What break? I work over the semester break. I still have students to deal with.
          I guess it doesn't help that I was hired during a 5-year hiring freeze at my institution, and so the faculty just assume any new blood is a student.

        • I feel you! I'm going to be 15 on January 25, but I have been described as having a transitional torso, NOT like a little kid, but like a young 13 year old, BECAUSE I was born premature!
          My doctor says I'm going to be 5'8" when I'm 15 going on 16 [next year], because I have regular legs, BUT my torso will stay preteen/in transition.

      • Clothing is language. It does matter what you say. I am 5 ft even and have gotten "little" comments.
        I then worked for a judge in a court house located in the city jail. Wearing a traditional suit, pumps, and women's make up kept me respected and "yes ma'am"ed by both coworkers and violent offenders. It does not have to be expensive, just appropriate to the image you want to send.

        Dressing a bit more formally than your older-looking co-workers can nudge attitudes toward more respect. People read the messages you send with your hair and clothing. Height and youth can be compensated by dressing like a grown up. Is that fair? Maybe not, but it's true. Unicorns do suggest a little girl's clothing. You can wear whatever you want (just as you can say whatever you want), but at a job where you need to be taken seriously, the right clothes can really help you out.

        • I don't deny that you have a point about clothing, but I don't think that is fair at all, and there are some aspects of that I will not participate in. I am a petite woman (5'3") who often gets mistaken for younger than my actual age of 31. I often hear people say that in order to look "professional" I should:
          1. Wear makeup
          2. Wear heels
          3. Wear a skirt
          4. Cut my long hair to a chin length bob

          The only one of those things I will do occasionally is wear a skirt. If the occasion is right, I'll wear one, but I don't view it as something I would wear to work regularly if I had a more professional job. Pants are more comfortable and practical for me. I won't wear heels because my ankles don't deal well with them and I'm likely to fall or injury myself wearing them. (I have weak ankles from an injury in high school.) I don't wear makeup because I don't like it and it makes my skin feel uncomfortable and break out. I don't like how I look in makeup and I don't think I look like myself. I'm not going to cut my hair short because I like it long, and so does my husband. If anyone sees me as less professional because I refuse to adhere to these sexist standards applied to women, frankly that is their problem and not mine.

          • THIS! This so many times.

            Anyway, dressing like a grown up doesn't help that much. Nothing will change the fact that I'm 5'2" and look 19. Wearing mature clothing just makes me even cuter in many people's eyes.

          • I have many of the same issues, but have found a decent middle ground:

            1. Some really low-heeled Mary Jane -ish shoes with non-slip soles

            2. Long, slightly flared dress pants instead of a skirt to hide the fact I'm not wearing heels

            3. Mascara and lip gloss, occasionally a little eyeshadow, no foundation or blush to irritate my face.

            4. A simple ponytail or bun. Pulling my hair back shows my high forehead, which makes people assume I'm smart

          • I totally agree. Why should we have to be uncomfortable and dress like someone we're not just to get the same basic respect at work that everyone else gets. Why can't other people get that commenting on someone's age or appearance in a professional setting isn't OK. They're the ones with the problem not us. Sick of being told i have to change to fit in with society's expectations of what a woman should look like.

            Unfortunately, I've noticed that most of these sorts of comments do come from other women. Not sure what that's all about.

        • skirts and heels are overrated. Why does a women have to wear a skirt to be considered "more important" or respected? But if a man wears a button down shirt it's like he's going out somewhere fancy even if he's also wearing jeans?

        • In my experience when I walk outside with my uniform (Navy) people have to assume I'm at least 18 because that's the enlistment age but they still think I'm much younger and that I've just graduated high school (I'm 23). Even at my job I've gotten those comments asking if I somehow got the early enlistment at 16 or something…smh. I'm still trying to figure out how to dress more professional in my off time but it's difficult when all I want to do is relax and wear skinny jeans, not a pantsuit.

    • At age 33, I'm still treated like a college student or high school student thanks to my youthful appearance. (I still have acne and thus-far have no wrinkles.) It's annoying to still be treated as a child with all the negative stereotypes that come with that: immature, irresponsible, non-authoritative, unqualified to make big life decisions. People go bug-eyed when I tell them my age. I wish I knew what to do about it – other than point to the grey hairs on my head as proof.

      • I kind of LOVE when people go bug-eyed when I tell them my age. HA HA! You've had a 32-year-old in your midst this whole time and you had no idea!

        • What's really amusing is when I reveal to new acquaintances that I was once married for ten years and being asked, "Were you a child bride???" Despite being a big lady and in my mid-30's, I look fifteen years younger than I am.

          I can imagine it must be absolute hell for smaller women like the OP when their authority is called into question over perceived "inadequate life experience".

      • I was at a bar/restaurant with a friend who looks like she's maybe 17 if she dresses for work and puts on makeup – she's 24 this past weekend – and we both got carded. The waitress looked at my friends ID like, okay she's good, then she looks at mine and was like 'really? seriously?' I'm 11 years older than my friend. 😉 while not petite like her, i do have the "good" family genes – grandma was 89 when she passed, most people didn't believe she was past her 70th birthday, my mom is 65 – few people believe she has two children in their mid/late 30s.

      • Are… are you me?
        Last year I had a 23-year old co-worker do a double take. She thought we were the same age.
        I mean, yay, but come on… 10 years?

        I started wearing blazers after that. A blazer makes a world of difference. Not the trendy close-fit stylishly cut type. The generic-looking business blazer (properly fitted though) seems to work best to ageify me into respectability.
        I wear the trendy blazers on casual fridays. Oh that's the other thing… don't go totally casual at work on casual days – jeans with regular business tops or that nice sweater I wear to visit the grandparents on sundays seems to help quite a bit with the age perception.

    • I'm 42 and people consistently think I'm about 10 years younger. Which, yay most of the time – but for some reason it annoys me when people see me with my 18 year old daughter and comment that I can't possibly be old enough to be her mother.
      It feels a bit like being judged in retrospect for being a teen mother, or like I'm doing mothering wrong somehow because it hasn't aged me enough. It feels even more awkward because it's 'supposed' to be something I take as a compliment.

    • *True, "you'll love it when you're older and you look 30 instead of 40," but, for now, it sucks.*

      I get this comment all the time (I'm 24 and look about 18) and I hate it. No, I would actually prefer to look my age, and to be treated my age.
      Currently, I can't even look at a bar (whether I intend to go in or not) without the bouncer jumping down my throat demanding my ID.

      Plus, I'm certain that when I'm 40, I'll want to look 40 because there is absolutely nothing wrong with being 40!

      • i've been told that i should dye the gray in my hair if i want to keep looking younger than my actual age of 35. Um. don't care about gray, nature put it there, i've no need to change it — besides, it's coming in more as a streak and its kind of cool 😉

      • Seriously, I get that comment ALL. THE. TIME.

        I felt I could have written this post! I'm almost 27 and last year I went on an electric boat with my family and the lady asked how old I was (in case I needed to wear a life vest)…I looked it up and you only have to be 13 not to have to wear one. SERIOUSLY. I want respect, and sometimes I don't think I get it because of my small stature.

        People give me odd looks if I complain about it, because "it's a compliment," but it really isn't.

      • 100% agree. Pretty sure I'll want to be treated the same as other 40 year olds. Ageism sucks, 40 year old women are beautiful and have a wealth of life experience.

    • That's really frustrating! In America, it's pretty much universally unacceptable to ask a woman her age (with a slight exception if you are beginning to date someone)…. interestingly enough, in South Korea, the first questions you will typically be asked are how old are you and are you married?

    • I get that too! I'll be 25 in October, and got married at the age of 21. People often mistake me for a 18-19 year old when they first meet me, then its all "Holy shit, you're married?!" once they get to know me. I don't so much have people viewing me as disrespectful to them, more than them being disrespectful of me. I often feel like people treat me like I am an 18 year old girl, rather than an adult, doubting my abilities and knowledge, passing me off as a "know it all teenager."

      The marriage thing help a little bit, but I get the "you're too young to be married!" My mother was 20 when I was born and my parents got married almost 3 years after I was born, so how does being married at 21, make me "too young"?

      I hear the "you'll love it when your older," all the fricken time…


    • It never ends. Our culture neotenizes females. No matter what you do you are viewed as cute or silly. They will always reference what you look like – "The cute surgeon".

      "Oh, did you see the beautiful blonde hair on that dentist. She is so pretty." A woman's mind is of no purpose, you will always just be an object for someone else to use.

      You will be seen – by both men and women – as an object, an eternal child that "plays at being an adult."

      You can be a theoretical physicist, but will be seen as a kid who is just so darn smart! And they will pat you on your little head. 'cuz you are so small and cute.

    • I also suffer from this condition. My husband always tells me that to not take comments so personal and that I shouldn’t be insecure, but when you constantly are hearing these comments of “you look like a little kid, how old are you? 10? Are you finished with school? Oh look how strong you are for your little body, you’re adorable and small” it’s really irritating already that you can’t be taken seriously as an adult. It’s frustrating to me as a nurse when my patients don’t think I am capable to take care of them just because of how I look. It makes me feel so insecure and angry everytime a comment is made about my stature and looks but if you get angry you look like you are bitter and being dramatic. People don’t understand the constant frustration and feeling belittled and disrespected as an adult. I have had to hold my tongue all the time as I want no drama or problems at work but I’m so fed up with it. These comments are always going to bother me and make me feel insecure even to the point of when I go out to a bar or have to buy liquor, I have to add on extra makeup or wear heels to make myself look older and avoid being stared at like as if I’m a high schooler with a fake ID. These comments are actually body shaming and bullying. People need to be more aware of it.


    I'm in school to be a teacher and there are students taller and bigger than me. I often get mistaken for a high schooler even though I'm in grad school and married. My undergrad degree was in theatre. I completely understand your struggle.

    I don't know when the rest of the world will start seeing us tiny people as grown ass women too.

    • It's not just little ladies who get bossed around and treated like little kids- I am 5ft. 10, burly for a chic (muscular not fat), 34 years old, but am frequently estimated to be 24-26. Last week 2 older people on separate occasions asked me if I was my friend's daughter who is 14. And THEN had the nerve to be like, "Oh no, you're not Abby she's much younger," and, "Oh no, you're not Abby, she's much thinner." WTF? Young women are so objectified. Men who I don't know single me out and boss me around, condescend to me and talk to me like I'm stupid. Maybe it's because I am often alone. Women and kids do it, too. I can't take it anymore, and have reverted to teenage tactics of, "Uh, no, you don't tell me what to do, I am an adult." People tell me often that I look so youthful and that's like nice, or whatever, but young people, especially young women, do not get much respect. And we are pressured to stay young looking forever so that we will be beautiful, and while I don't want to look old, I (and all people) do deserve respect. And all I mean by that is common courtesy which is paid to all individuals. At my age when I encounter this disrespect, it is so much more insulting. I am right there with y'all and at this point in my life I keep having a fantasy of going to Asia, learning to fight, and become a warrior. It's funny that people do this shit to me because when I want, I can start yelling and it sounds exactly like a man and I have been told (by guys) that it is intimidating. I want people to think that I am crazy and not fuck with me. At least I have this ability to counter the youthfulness that people see and wanna exploit. It's so screwed up to me, because I never tell people what to do, except children and that is part of my job as a teacher. I have no desire and rarely pay attention to what others do. The double edged sword of youthful appearance is just a reflection of what it's like to be a woman really- damned if you do damned if you don't.

  3. First of all, you are absolutely right to feel put out. What your boss said was totally obnoxious.

    And, I truly think that this is something that is not going to go away, so the only thing to do is figure out how to best cope with it. Note please that I am NOT victim blaming here. If there is an opportunity to talk to your boss about how the comment was condescending and obnoxious, I would definitely take that up – she should be encouraged to not make that kind of comment again. And I think that we have the chance to either walk around life offended because people make boneheaded statements or we can learn how to not let it effect our own feelings of self worth.

    Sometimes I think that having a "go to" statement that shuts down someone (relatively nicely) helps. What about something like "I'm taller than I look?" Because I do think that you are equating "height" with "value" (because others are). Something like "I'm taller than I look" points out that fallacy pretty quickly. Around men, I would probably be tempted to say something like, "Good for you I'm small, because you definitely couldn't handle any more of me."

    Good luck.

    • Ha! Love your "go to" statement suggestions. Humor does help the medicine go down. If I get particularly pissed off I use a good ole' fashioned "Bless your heart" statement, like "That was rather offensive and you didn't even notice, bless your heart." Always with a smile on my face and in my voice. Works best if you don't give them time to react: just move the conversation along.

  4. I look young for my age and people barely 4 or 5 years older than me will say things like
    " Well Dear when you have lived as long as I have…"
    When I tell them that I how old I am I can see this look of shock pass over their face, usually they will quickly try to say they have a lot more life experiences.
    It is happening less and less as I get older but even now that I am 41 I still get that reaction occasionally.
    I am short, not petite but short and I have had a couple of bosses joke about only hiring people over a certain height in the future, usually because I can't reach something and I will have to get someone else to get it for me.
    I feel like there is no escape, people will always find what is different about you and comment on it. One of my best friends is 6'1" and she has been treated badly because of her height, men and women are often intimidated by her and have made rude comments right to her face about her size, unfortunately it goes both ways if you are outside of the "norm".

    • I'm 6'4" and I have to go through so much sh*t for it. When I was a kid, I couldn't get kid prices at the movies or order off the kids menu because how could I possibly be 10 years old if I'm already 5'8"?? People call me sir, treat me as less feminine… I have a lot of people assume I'm a lesbian, which isn't offensive but it doesn't make sense because how is height possibly related to sexual orientation? I am constantly harassed in public (everything from people yelling obscenities out their window to the janitor at Disneyland yelling for everyone to look at the girl who's taller than the stall doors), not to mention shopping is a complete nightmare and it's incredibly difficult to find women's clothes that fit. Before the advent of the Internet, I had to wear men's clothes/shoes… And you can imagine how well that goes over with peers in middle school. Thankfully, there is now one single website from which I can buy shoes that fit.

      Being an extremely tall woman is HORRIBLE. I've hated it my whole life. I don't get bullied at school anymore because I'm an adult now, but people still think I'm some sort of monster.

      • Yep, I totally feel ya! I was 6'1 at 12…dating in middle school, high school was ROUGH!

        My parents had an ID card for me to show waitresses for the whole children's menu thing.

      • My (just turned 2 year old) daughter is taller now than my 6'5" husband was at her age. She's quite friendly and her grasp and enunciation of the English language (and even a bit of Spanish) is on par with her age, but we've gotten "Is she a bit… slow?" from people. No, she's a bit… tall.

  5. Your fiance's comments concern me just as much as your work colleagues.

    For your work colleagues I would schedule a meeting with the Senior Director and tell her that her comments felt demeaning. You're sure she didn't mean them to come across that way and you are sure she values your hard work and commitment, and you've always felt so in the past. However by lumping X which has absolutely no correlation to Y in one sentence it came across like she felt surprised that you were capable of your job. That by emphasising an unrelated physical attribute above X, Y and Z qualifications, experience and skills it actually undermines those skills and experiences.

    I find it helpful to use real life examples using attributes most rational people would find patently ludicrous or offensive – eg. "That doctor sure is good for a black person!" "Gosh you're a very good cook for an accountant!" etc. She may get defensive and pretend nothing is wrong and make you feel like you're making a fuss over nothing. Or she may listen. But either way you are justified in explaining your feelings to her. If she's worth her salt she won't want her employees feeling undervalued.

    The fiance… Well. I'm not sure where I'd begin with him.

    • Once I pointed out to my fiance that if it was humiliating for a man, it was humiliating for a woman, he realized that he had been speaking from a place of privilege. I think it does take some adjusting to understand the world from a different point of view, whether that be a man trying to view it as a woman or any other "majority" trying to understand the worldview of any other "minority."

      As for my boss's boss (the woman who made the comment) – Your advice is great. I just honestly don't know if I can approach her about it anymore since it happened months ago and I never made a move. I'm new to this department and I'm very hesitant to make waves before I feel I've "proven" myself.

      • If she's never made another comment like that it's probably fine not to mention it unless she does. She may have realized after she said it how stupid/offensive it was (speaking as a chronic sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease…)

      • Well, if it happens a second time (and people are prone to repeating these things), you'll know what to do and you'll be able to say "well, it's not the first time this has happened and I feel I should tell you it makes me uncomfortable", and so on. I think it would be perfectly justified.

        I've never had to deal with that type of comment, as I am short but overweight. My guy friends tease me a lot about my height, but that is entirely not the same thing. But I've had a friend who was asked for her ID at a concert. Age limit was 16 and she was 28 at the time. The doorman was more than a bit surprised when he realized she was actually older than him! I remember she used to dress very soberly and avoid "cutesy" accessories so that she would be taken more seriously in professional context. I don't think you should have to do that, but it did seem to work for her.

        • I am relatively young for my position in my field, and I am a short woman. I always use the "dress boring" technique to look like I have more standing – though I have as much training as the rest of them.
          The worst is when clients feel like they can tease me for my gender/age/stature, whereas if I were a 50-year-old white man, they would only give accolades of respect. *sigh*

        • There's a guy at Kroger who keeps insisting he will find the flaw in my fake ID one day. But I think he's flirting. The first time he carded me though (for *cigarettes*!) I think he genuinely was shocked and studied it longer than necessary to make sure it was legit..

          • Once in college they almost didn't let me into some freakin' frat party because the dude (who was my age) thought my ID was "the fakest ID I have ever seen". My boyfriend (who knew him) had to argue with him for awhile.

            Please don't ask why I was going to a frat party, because I have NO idea. I think a friend's band was playing.

  6. I have the same problems with being called "cute" and variations thereof. I'm 24 and am easily and regularly mistaken for a teenager or, worst case scenario, a child. It's frustrating because I've noticed people not taking me seriously because they think I'm a kid and then, once I tell them my age and THEN they see me as an adult, even after I've established my experience and knowledge in whatever field I'm working in.

    There's currently only one person who has permission to call me "cute"–my girlfriend. The difference between her doing it and everyone else doing it is that one, she asked permission and we talked about it; two, she calls my actions toward her cute and not my overall appearance and stature; and three, it's never in a condescending manner.

    I just love it when people tell me, "Oh you'll like it when you get older!" because I'll be, say, 50 and mistaken for 40 or something. I'm at the point now where I think or say to them, "that's nice. I don't care. Please understand that doesn't make your treatment of me right now any better."

  7. Me, age 25, at the library desk signing up for the summer reading program.
    Librarian; "What grade are you in?"
    Me; "um…I'm in college, so adult."

    I'd been working full time for 3 years as a social worker, paying my way through school, had bought and paid off a car, dressed responsibly (I was on my way home from work), there was no way I looked like I was in grade school (in my opinion).

    Your abilities as an adult should be focused on your behavior/capabilities; your physical appearance should be left out of all professional comments, and it should not define you. I'm sorry people are not looking at you like the adult that you are.

    • Side note: Your library offers summer reading programs for adults? That's great! I have not seen a library with programs like that.

    • I'm so sorry that a librarian made that kind of assumption about your age! We are trained not to jump to conclusions about patrons.

      I happen to be a baby-faced 25-year-old librarian with my MLS. Despite my best efforts to dress and behave professionally, people regularly ask me if I'm a student on work-study or if it's an after school job. The worst thing is when men try to hit on me based on my presumed naivety and then think it's cute to "try" me with a question. They seem genuinely astonished when I am capable of delivering serious and thorough results.

      Obviously, the librarian who helped you had never been in my shoes, or else it was too long ago to remember. Unfortunately, I've encountered colleagues who are also surprised by my competence.

      As an aside, yes, adult summer reading programs exist! My system has one!

  8. As someone said above, being on any extreme tends to suck, and I would say especially so if you're also female. I have the opposite problem (I am about 6'0"), and people comment on my height constantly. There was one time where some random dude in an airport walked up to me (while I was practically running to make a connecting flight) and gave me this gross up-down look and then exclaimed, "You're so tall!" (I'd say he was probably on the shorter end of average height, like 5'8"). So I looked over, returned his up-down stare and replied, "You're so short!" And kept walking. He stopped, then caught up to me and sputtered, "That was rude of me, wasn't it? Can I make it up to you with a drink at the Admiral's Club?" I was not even old enough to drink, and I'm guessing the guy was in his early 40's. So no. Gross. I told him I was running to make my connecting flight. Blargh. People. It was not the first or the last time some dude has tried to use my height as a pick-up method. 😐

    • The height thing. ALL. THE. TIME.

      I too am six foot.

      My go to response now when people tell me I am tall is to look at them and go "Am I really? I'd never noticed!"

      • I'm tallish, 5'8.5", but I've dated guys several inches shorter than me. I was at the beach, once, with a then-boyfriend and his friend. We were wading in the water and his friend was chilling on the beach when he said, "Dude, Fern is taller than you!!" (He was quite a bit taller than both of us, so maybe it took the change in perspective for him to see it? I don't know.) Boyfriend said (very sarcastically), "What?! Oh, no! I never noticed that! I guess we have to break up, now!" I always though that was a pretty funny response.

        • I'm average at 5'6", but i'm almost an inch taller than my husband. For years I would avoid wearing heels so i wouldn't tower over him — that was, until he noticed and told me to just wear the heels because they made my legs look good. He did jokingly stand on his toes in one of our wedding photos, though 😉

      • *Tall woman fist bumps* solidarity, sisters. I tell people "Shhhh… don't tell anybody- I'm really not this tall, I'm just pretending". They always seem really puzzled by that.

        I'm finding it to be even harder now to be tall AND plus sized because how dare I take up more space than strictly necessary?" You mean you want to exist horizontally AS WELL as vertically? Isn't being gigantic enough? You have to be FAT too??" (Not actual quotes, obvs) When I was tall and thin, I was admired and praised (though still put on an impossibly tiny pedestal of how a tall person must be "You are wasting your height if you don't model/play basketball/volleyball/run track, etc" "Guys don't want to date tall girls because they don't feel manly enough with them" "those shorts you are wearing (that everybody in the school is wearing) are too short on you because your legs are longer" but now it's even worse (as it is for plus sized people of all heights, I am sure). You can buy "tall" clothes (sometimes) and you can buy "big clothes" (though the selection can be abysmal) but the two almost never meet. So my pants can be long enough, but they rarely will fit over my hips.

        I am a big person. Everything about me is big. I deserve to exist in a world that doesn't try to make me fit (literally) expectations completely unreasonable to my reality. I am not asking for anything other than the ability to dress for work without it being a huge ordeal.

    • Yes, I agree that it's rough on either extreme, even if it's for different reasons! Why is it something we need to keep pointing out? And the "At least you're…." comments that we make to each other aren't helpful, either.

    • I'm glad I'm not the only one that has this issue. I'm 6'1" and a girl too. My hubby is shorter and people will constantly make comments about my height. But not to him for being the shorter of the couple.

      I was complaining to a coworker about it and how annoying it was while we went to starbucks at break. He told me that he was shocked that people would make comments like that, and just then a guy walked up to me goes "wow, you are SO TALL. Do you only date basketball player?" I told him, my husband was against it. And my coworker just stood their slack jawed in shock over the whole ordeal.

    • YES to the extremes thing! I'm 6'1 barefoot (which is often my response when the 'oooooh circus sideshow how tall are you!?' questions happen), and am asked if I am a basketball player.

      I always reply "would you ask a short person if they're a jockey?" but I guess the answer is that you petite delights get the other end of the same dumb stick.

      In high heels I've been called Sir, and had people say "that girl looks like a dude," and things I find uncomfortable.

      If it happens again at work I would encourage you to say something. My mode is usually snarky responses (like "why assume basketball and not modeling? and do a little hair flip), but that works in my industry and don't want you to put your job in danger…

  9. I'm younger than the majority of people in my job (I'm 25 and a researcher at a university), and I suppose I must look even younger – I'm often mistaken for a graduate student, or even an undergraduate student, or (more oddly) for a member of admin staff. When I point out people's mistake, they can often get a little weird about it, and try to justify themselves – "Well, you look very young indeed!" "You look too young to have a Ph.D. already" – as though that would help.

    It sucks, and it does sometimes leave me wondering when I'll be seen as a full member of this profession. I often feel that I wouldn't be greeted with such surprise if I were a 25-year-old man.

    But I try to stay cheerful about it – I think having a "go-to" answer is a strategy I might try. Not something too snarky – just something like, "Actually I've been working here for nearly a year now. Have you worked here long?" Sometimes the people making the mistakes are new themselves, and at least this starts up a possible conversation! (While, you know, reminding them that I've worked here a while…)

    • As an older student(29, just finishing my B.S.) living in a college town with a really high percentage of students, I have a pretty wide age range in which I consider someone a potential student. I would wonder if all the people making these comments are actually making incorrect assumptions about your age.

      • Yes, absolutely – it's completely normal to be 25 and a student, of course. It's fine that people make this mistake sometimes.

        But, when corrected, I'd rather they just said, "Oh, my mistake!" or something – it's odd when they try to come up with a list of reasons for why they were wrong, which normally ends up being quite personal remarks about my age or looks. Stop digging, guys!

    • Yeah … I would assume anyone who wasn't middle aged who was doing research at a university was a grad student. If you told me you were 25 I would just assume that was your way of telling me I was right. If the average student finishes their BA at 22, does 2-3 years for a masters and then a 1-3 year program for their doctorate, that makes the youngest I would expect someone with a PhD to be 25. Since my personal experience has taught me that people tend to take time off, or do internships between schooling, I would actually expect anyone with a PhD to be pretty close to 30 at the youngest.

      So … you look young to have a PhD because, by many people's expectations, you ARE. And it is DAMN impressive! So the next time someone says you look a little young to have a PhD just tell them, "Yeah, it's because I'm awesome."

      • Thanks!

        It's partly contextual, too – most of the comments I was thinking of when I wrote the above post happened when I was in the staff lunch room. So… balance of probabilities is that I'm a member of staff. A female member of staff in her 20s – shock horror!

        I just sometimes wished I looked a little older, to avoid these awkward conversations. And, as I said, it feels very gendered – my 24-year-old partner's presence is never questioned at his workplace. He's just assumed to have been young when he got his PhD (which he was).

      • Actually, I've been thinking about these responses on my way to work, and I'm a little confused by them.

        We all make mistakes about people from time to time, that's cool. But isn't the best response, "Sorry, my mistake, I'll try not to do that again" rather than "Actually, my assumption was reasonable because of x, y z." Regardless of whether it was reasonable, it was incorrect.

        So I get that many people in their 20s at universities are grad students. But many are also younger faculty members. I think it would be more constructive for people to say, "Hey, I would've made that assumption about you myself – sorry! I'll try not to do that to someone else in future." Rather than to tell me all the reasons why that assumption makes sense.

        Because as innocuous as it might seem to the person saying it, comments that imply someone is too young, or looks too young, to do their job can be very undermining and hurtful. If this thread has shown anything, it's that we could all be more careful about voicing our assumptions about people.

        • I get what you are saying, and I obviously was not present for any of the conversations you are remembering, but here are a couple of thoughts:

          First, many of us have foot in mouth disease, and many people are self absorbed. This combination can lead to a bit of disorientation when a conversation does not go the way that someone expects it to, which can lead to extremely idiotic comments. Again, I am not excusing anyone, just putting forward a possible explanation.

          Second, those of us who are older students (or, I suspect, were, though I am not there yet) may be slightly defensive about having taken longer to finish, and may be reacting from their own internal sense that by making such an assumption about you, they have outed themselves, and may be concerned about your judgement. the weird remarks could easily come from such a place.

          Again, I was not present for any of the conversations you were part of; when I have inquired about someone's student status and been wrong, my response has been what you are asking for; and I have my own places that strangers push my buttons that are similar. I look my age, but not very healthy, and get "ma'm" at the grocery store consistently (and have since I was 22), unless I am wearing makeup, when I get "miss"; cause sex object status is obviously their business.. So, yes, I do get the whole women are judged strangely and inappropriately for any variety of reasons by strangers, and it sucks thing.

          • "First, many of us have foot in mouth disease, and many people are self absorbed. This combination can lead to a bit of disorientation when a conversation does not go the way that someone expects it to, which can lead to extremely idiotic comments."

            You're right, of course. It's true of me too, more often than I'd like, but I'm working on that. 🙂

      • And in my field you need at least 1 2-3 year post doc after getting your PhD, if not 2 post docs, to get a faculty position! But they should believe you when you tell them.

  10. "Such a little person helps us do so much!" This is crap.
    I am 5' nothing and weight about 110lbs on average- almost 30 years old with a two year old daughter and another one on the way- I get it. People call me "kid" or "sweetie" or ask how old I am all the time. Or when I am at work and they ask for "the manager" and realize they are talking to her, get decidely uncomfortable "Is there ANOTHER manager?" What, you mean one with a penis or one with five more inches in height? Or both?

    Almost every very job I have had has required schelping heavy things, being a person in charge who makes decisions and as an enforcer of security measures (including working security for marches and rallies). But at my last job, despite being the person in charge, running things etc- I was still introduced as a "student intern" from the director of the organization. Despite the fact that I was not a student and no longer an intern. When another position came up that I was qualified for, and I asked if I should apply- they said they needed someone with more "experience". When I resent them the resume I had used to secure my original job, they were shocked to be reminded that I had the experience they needed. But as a group of 40+ year old women, they did not look at me as "adult" despite the work I did for them, and frequently made comments on how "young" I was. Or that I was the "baby" at work. (FYI- Fuck anyone who calls you the baby and then asks you to fix their computer or run yet another seminar for them because technology is just toooo complicated).

    I wish I could tell you it gets better, but right now, I am pregnant and get even MORE condescending comments, or outright rude regarding the size of my stomach or how its "so cute" that I am "waddling". Add about a million other really frustrating things to that and that has been my life non stop for the past few months. Having said that- none of that bullshit comes from my co-workers or my boss. I have been promoted to the position I am in because I am awesome. And I work in an environment that supports me. But I can't help but be frustrated sometimes by being treated as lesser or less competent because of my size. Even my parents do it (my whole life) with my siblings reminding them that their idea of me in their heads as "weaker" or "fragile" etc in no way reflects reality.

    I hate that my ex used to be hyper sensitive about what clothes I wore because I should try hard not to look "childish" or "like a street waif"(I did say "ex"). I hate that at work, if I want to be take seriously by outsiders, I have to be very careful how I physically present myself. But I will also say, in the right environment, those comments become non existent and people treat you with respect because clearly you are respected. When the other large male manager defers to me on a decision or backs me up when someone complains- he is teaching the people around him that I am too be respected. When emails that should have been sent to me are sent to someone else and those managers swiftly inform them who "the boss" is- they let others know that I am not to be "gotten around" or ignored. Respect in the workplace requires that any reference to stature or body size, shape, colour, ability be discarded unless you happen to be a professional athlete.

    I would mention to HR or the person above you who you are comfortable with that this comment basically threw you into a "child" like category and was disrespectful. Thats the adult thing to do 🙂

    • I, too, have had "young manager discrimination" tossed my way. 5'2" and 24, sometimes it's as if people are downright offended that I'm a manager.
      I love your response: "What, you mean one with a penis or one with five more inches in height? Or both?" I wish I could reply that way sometimes… sigh.

  11. While I'm short, petite, & look young for my age, I learned from my mom early on to deflect this. She has the exact same problem, & ppl often mistake us for sisters (ok, she did have me when she was pretty young, but good genes also mean she's aged very gracefully). She has always overcompensated at work by dressing more seriously — suits, blazers, & "in charge" clothes from day one, no matter the office job, even when she was just starting out. Some of my earliest memories are of her kicking off her heels & throwing her suit jacket off when she came home from work.

    From my 1st job out of college, I dressed better than I had to. I'm in super-casual Silicon Valley, but I almost never come to work in jeans & Ts like a lot of ppl do. I dress business causal to project authority, esp. if I have meetings or I'm giving a training or will be interacting with anyone senior or who I need to impress. This really works! It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated either — read up on some fashion blogs (I humbly submit my own; click my name above), buy simple tailored pieces, even vintage or thrift-store pieces that fit well.

    Give the impression that you're a Serious Adult, that you're in the big leagues, & the "cute" & "little" comments will eventually fall away. Humans are visual creatures, so the image matters.

    • My dad is 5' 2" and normally soft spoken but some of the first advice he recieved for his job in which he needs to project authority is dress more formally. I, also 5' 2" but a woman, have found this a very effective strategy.

    • I'm in Silicon Valley too, and usually wear (well-fitting) jeans, boots, a t-shirt and jacket/sweater. I'm gradually phasing in some nicer clothes, but after looking through your blog I have to say I'm very impressed with how you dress and present yourself. You look very grown-up and polished but still have your own fun style.

      • Thanks! I do work hard at it, & I have to start over at every new job, even as I get older. I have to prove myself with my work & my image, but after a few months, the new company gets it, & I can let loose if I want (then again, I've found I enjoy dressing up, it feels good to me in a lot of ways).

  12. I'm also a short, 27-year old woman with young looks. I'm an IT consultant and a volunteer tax preparer, and I get a lot of "when do you graduate?" and "are you old enough to be doing this?". What's helped me is:

    1) Try to dress in a very polished way; even though I don't like it, heels, makeup, blow-dried hair, and a blazer make me look older and more serious.
    2) Good posture (a struggle, but I'm working on it), confident eye contact, and a firm handshake
    3) Working to lower my voice and avoid uptalk
    4) Addressing it first, in some situations – when I sit down with a tax client, I say something like "I know I look like I'm 18, but I've been doing this for five years and have advanced-level certification, so don't be scared!" and we laugh it off. I try to defend myself by referencing my experience and not my age; I don't want to contribute to the idea that younger people are automatically less capable.
    5) If they mention something, try not to take it personally; I just smile and say "yes, I've been married for 4 years" or "actually, I graduated from there several years ago – it set me up well for my career."

    It isn't fair, but it could be worse. Good luck, OP and fellow youthful-looking professionals!

    • 3) Working to lower my voice and avoid uptalk

      I was about to write this. There is probably very little you can do on your end to stop people from classifying you as young. But this is a piece of your presentation that is under your control. (Besides which, I would say this to any woman of any size or age who wants to be taken seriously.) No uptalk. Lower your pitch. Take lessons if you must, but these undermine the speaker.

      • I'm a linguist, and generally speaking uptalk is just a speech marker that you are a woman. Older women do not do this as much, as their cohort did not adapt this particular speech marker over time as it developed. (Though many middle-aged women will use this to sound younger.)
        So in my mind, by avoiding uptalk, you're really sounding "not" woman – or in other words, sounding like a man. And unfortunately, men still garner more authority in business.

        • Dude, uptalk is like, so 90s. It's all about the vocal fry now.

          But in all seriousness, it is shitty that higher-pitched and more feminine voices are considered less "professional." For men or women both.

        • Of course, uptalk (raising the pitch at the end of the sentence) also makes you sound like you're from Australia. Or Bristol.

          *linguist geek out time*

          • Admittedly, I'm talking from the perspective of an American. Linguistic variance can mean decidedly different things depending on region. *nod*

          • I believe it's a female marker in Britain too, generally.

            But also just always makes me think of my Australian friend Tom. 🙂

  13. I'm 28, quite short and a lawyer.

    I also often get mistaken for being quite young. At least 3 times, I've had randoms collecting for charity or something similar show up at my house and ask if my parents are home. That, I can deal with and generally tell them I own the house and make them feel super awkward. I also don't mind being carded (our drinking age is 18) almost constantly, again it is their job, and I know I look young.

    At work, we have a pretty laid back atmosphere and my boss has nicknames for everyone, mine is Travelocity (as in the gnome) because I'm short, again this, I don't mind because it isn't used in front of anyone who doesn't work at the firm, and he has never meant it condescendingly.

    What is not acceptable is other lawyers treating me differently because I look young. I have the same education and qualifications as all of them.

    Once I was assisting my boss on a questioning (like a deposition) and the other lawyer walked in, my boss introduced me as his colleague (and I was in a full suit) and she asked me how old I was because she wanted to make sure I was old enough to be involved. My bosses' response was that I was a lawyer and it didn't matter how old I was, but by the way I was 12 with the sarcasm dripping from his voice. I piped up and said "actually I'm 13", which shut the lawyer up on the other side pretty quickly.

    • I'm also a young female lawyer, and for some reason my problem is always with my clients. I think most of the legal profession understands training & professionalism, and so it's not bad so long as I act competent. But I've heard some really rude comments about myself come from my clients.

      • I get the "are you sure you are a lawyer, you look too young to be doing this" at which point I explain when I graduated from school (4 years ago) and that I've had quite a bit of experience, and that I actually look a lot younger than I am.

        • That's basically the response I get from court security guards. Most of them ask to see my Bar card. I happily give it over, since lawyers have the super power of entering courthouses without anything more stringent than going through the metal detector. I even get to keep my phone in Federal buildings. Win!

  14. I am almost 46 years old, still look younger than my age, have 2 kids (9 and 11), and I'm 5'0" in my stocking feet. I am still ignored in stores and am frequently treated like a child. I'm taken seriously at work because I make a point of being aggressively competent. But I am aware that my lack of height is a defining characteristic. "Short" is one of the first words people use to describe me. It was always thus, and thus it shall ever be.

  15. Yes, I definitely agree – it does feel like discrimination. I'm 5'2" and 25, and though I don't feel like I look that young, I am often assumed to be in high school.
    I hear the same comments at work – I heard that a woman at my job in a pretty high position referred to me as "that cute little girl", while at the same time complimenting me on a good idea I had – but I'd rather be known for the good idea, not my tiny-ness 🙁
    Also, for the most part I'm fairly quiet but if I have an opinion I will speak it – and when I do it seems there is always someone surprised, and usually say something to the effect of "oh you're feisty for such a little thing!" All for just speaking my mind! Usually I write it off like, "Well when you're this small, you have to know how to fight back!" But the fact that I have to make an excuse for it is infuriating.

    Ugh. At least we know we're not alone!

  16. I completely understand the suggestions about dressing in a way that is more polished or more professional than those colleagues who don't suffer from looking-too-young (or being female). But on the other hand, I hate that the world is that way! I have male colleagues who can comfortably teach their classes in light-wash jeans and flip-flops without comprising the position they have in the classroom. If I dressed less professionally, everyone would immediately assume I was a student, which is really not what you want when you are teaching a class. At heart, I am a very casual person, but I feel like I have to dress more professionally than most of my colleagues. So, that means I'm never truly comfortable.

    • Agreed! My version can be a little more casual, at least, but there are still boundaries for what would look "acceptable." I'm the only female engineer at a small company in Silicon Valley, and the men's dress ranges from cargo pants and nerdy graphic tees, to short sleeve button-downs with jeans. I'm not too out of place, but in addition to being the only woman other than our office manager, I'm also the youngest by about 5 years. There's no way I'd be able to wear the unisex graphic t-shirts or ripped jeans I wore in college, but in this area the men could without clients doubting their skills. Luckily I like looking a bit more polished, but I'd love to wear my hair in braids since it keeps it out of the way and untangled. Sadly I would absolutely not feel comfortable doing that, especially if I had to meet with clients, because pigtail braids just read as little girl. Blech.

      • Have you tried some of the amazing updo braids on YouTube? Crown braids & stuff? I don't have long hair right now, but I love the heck out of those styles – very fantasy elf queen, imo, super cool! Would be practical yet polished when worn with a structured jacket & jeans.

        • Oh, those look lovely! I actually just booked a haircut a few minutes ago, but when my hair grows out again I'll have to practice that for days I don't need to wear a bike helmet.

      • Can you do one french braid in the back? I do that a lot and it works well. I think it looks polished and kind of architecturally dignified if it's a sleek one and not a boho style loose one.

        Or you can do a french braid with the tail twisted up into an updo? Same kind of image only even more formal.

        • Definitely a possibility, although my grown-out bangs are too short to stay put (shoulder-length). I just booked a haircut so I can even everything out, and plan to be experimenting with grown-up braids when it's long again. Good idea!

    • I agree – I don't wear heels (they hurt my back/knees) and my office is "California business casual" so I wear darkwash jeans, plain gray van sneakers, a fitted (solid color) t-shirt, and a sweater to work most days. I don't go crazy, but I do wear makeup (basics – mascara, concealer, a little eyeliner).
      I've been at my current job for 3.5 years and when I first started I did wear heels and nice slacks/shirts for about 6 months. It was painful for my feet and made me feel like an outsider because everyone else was dressed so much more casually. As I became more comfortable with the company, I started dressing down and being myself more often. If I started "dressing up" now, I would get questions left, right, and center about whether or not I was interviewing somewhere else!

      • As a fellow small person, I definitely agree with all the suggestions that dressing more formally can help, but in the Bay Area, formal looks a lot different than in other places! I'm working in Silicon Valley right now, so I'm familiar with the uniform. You definitely don't want to go full-on power suit, but you could do flats instead of sneakers or a fitted blazer instead of a sweater. That way you could be comfortable but slightly more adult-y.

        Also, I don't know if you wear glasses or contacts, but I needed glasses last year for the first time (when I was 29), and I think they are aging me. I get carded much less often at rated R movies now! (Small victories, right?)

        Anyway, you are not alone, and you are not wrong to feel that those types of comments are discriminatory or inappropriate. (Especially in the workplace! What is wrong with people?)

    • In the words of RuPaul – we're born naked, the rest is drag. Think of it as your corporate work drag. It's a costume for a role you play, Wants To Be Taken Seriously At Work You. That's one of your many roles, just like, say, Hot Chick At the Club or Sloppy Gal On The Couch, for example.

      And make the role yours. Think of how many ppl have played Hamlet, but each one is different. Your Serious Adult Work Look can be Serious Adult without being boring or stuffy or uncomfortable. You'll have to put some time & care into it, but if you're tired of being called "cute little girl" the result will be worthwhile.

      I wear skull prints & bat jewelry to work with a sheath dress & comfy flats. I'm considered a Serious Adult. Make your own version 🙂

      • YEP. my work uniform is some sort of flattering sort of dress with flats, cardigan and tights added in winter, and sandals in summer. Comfortable yet professional enough. And I am the Sr. Associate director at a major university and hospital with 5 employees reporting to me.
        -I also make sure I speak directly and clearly. No passive aggressiveness!

  17. As another short lady, 5' 1.75", I have gotten a lot of this too. But for me, the worst is people treating me like the nanny or like a irresponsible teen mother. When I infirm them that I am indeed their 26 year old mother they either tell me I am so lucky to look so young or don't believe me. I had one woman tell me that I need Jesus for my sinful whoreful loins and lying tongue. I was speechless.

    • Jeez! That is terrible! I'm so sorry someone said that to you!

      If you need jesus, then so did my mom because she had me when she was 23!

    • OMG – That is actually kind of awesome. I mean seriously, that's a pretty fantastic one-off story.

      PS – Sinful whoreful loins sound so much more fun than, say, mildly twitchy hips.

  18. I'm so sorry you had to deal with that crap. I'm on the petite size and occasionally get similar obnoxious comments and I have some colleagues who are shorter than I and get even more annoying comments.
    One of my favorite responses to inappropriate comments from strangers is from Miss Manners, "What an extraordinary thing to say! You must be embarrassed that slipped out." Calls attention to the fact that they did something rude, but allows them the chance to save face. "Oh my goodness you're right, I wasn't thinking, so sorry, etc. etc."
    In this particular case, it might be useful to present the issue to your boss as a team problem. In a past job, when other department managers would always insist on discussing schedules and other logistics with my tall, male co-supervisor and not me (and made a lot of "you're so small and cute" comments), I brought it up to our director and presented it as an efficiency issue. She agreed and pushed the other managers to treat us like the equals we were and not treat the tall dude like he was the only supervisor. Lo and behold, I started getting copied on important emails and being able to do my job better! If you are being presented as weak and inefficient, that is a problem for your whole team. I assume your supervisor wants people to treat all of her team as competent professionals…and her comment, while probably not intentionally malicious, hurts her team. That could be a useful way to present it. Appealing to someone as an ally and feeding their ego a tiny bit often helps–again, allow them to save face and to feel that they are on the same team as you, which is ultimately what you want, generally.
    Other than that, I reiterate the advice of others. I wear a lot of blazers and generally try to look put together and in charge. It won't deter those that are determined to treat you badly, but I do find that it helps mitigate a bit of that.

  19. I plan to fully utilize my youth: look like you're still in college? Sit in on a lecture! Sometimes I look like I could still be in high school. But my boyfriend is a high school teacher, so I don't get hassled when I go visit him after school at his clubs' meetings! Sort of awesome.
    When I substitute teach, I make a game out of how many teachers & dean's assistants eyeball me or ask where I'm supposed to be. It's even funnier because I'm more well-dressed than any of the regular staff!

    • Definitely true. I can hang out in the campus coffee shop without people wondering what I'm doing there (profs at my school have occasional meetings there but few if any actually sit and do work there, which I enjoy doing).

      And as I noted in the post about being an "aging weirdo," my boyfriend and I can stay in hostels without being the "weird guy" and "weird old lady" in the hostel because we look like everyone else staying there.

    • I'm in this camp too–at (almost!) 5'2" I've always been the short girl in class, always sat in the front row for school concerts & photos, etc. While I used to HATE being called cute when I was growing up (I'm a big girl! gaaah!) it's more and more of a compliment now. I've embraced my petite stature as just another characteristic that makes me unique–and I like that I'm not ever hidden in the back of group photos.

      I think I might have developed my ability to stand up for myself and assert my opinions as a result of not wanting to be mistaken for a diminutive doormat, so I don't have to deal with much condescension. And those who don't know me learn pretty quickly I'm stronger than I look (mentally & physically, in the sport I play). Plus, the older I get the more I appreciate always being mistaken for being so much younger than I am–I love seeing the surprise on people's faces, from bouncers to cashiers to a new eye doctor who recently said "since you're still so young–" and then he glanced at my chart and stumbled, "oh! well, you're still relatively young…" When you still get carded at 35 years old, it's a great day! We spend the first 21 years of our lives trying to look older, and the rest all trying to look younger, so the way I look at it we're on the lucky end of the spectrum.

  20. I don't really have any advice, but I sympathize :-/ Being on the smallish size I get a lot of comments assuming I'm feeble and delicate (and yeah, granted, I AM out of shape and kind of a weakling, but still.) A lot of times people don't take my anger seriously, treating it more like I'm a grumpy kitten and therefore adorable. It hasn't been a huge issue- I tend to say awkward and sometimes accidentally rude things so "not taking me seriously" has actually probably has benefitted me on occasion, and the people in my life who are important to me know when to snap out of it and listen to what I'm saying. But it is…weird. And a bit annoying.

    I have learned that black hair/black clothes/chronic bitchface shuts a lot of people up, though. But only if you can manage to cross the line from "goth-kawaii" to "kinda scary." ;-P

  21. It happens to guys, too. My boyfriend is about 5 feet tall and looks every inch an adult with grey in his beard and stylish clothes. I'm 5'7". More times than not, when the host(ess) at a restaurant greets us, he/she will talk to me, even though I'm standing behind my man. The best thing I can do is look away and break eye contact – it forces them to talk to him without me saying a word.

    It's a passive trick I picked up on from reading OBBride – how to handle vendors who insist on talking to the bride only even though the groom is right there.

  22. Whether we like it or not, people's views of us are affected by our appearances. This is just truth. You can rail against it and shake your fist at the glass ceiling, or you can accept that's how it is and work within the realm of people's expectations. You can push the limits a little at a time (like the article on OBH about dressing goth at work) and slowly get things to change, but you can only do that if you aren't getting pissed off at people for not changing all at once.

    Can I also say that it's kind of sad that instead of focusing on the FUCKING AWESOME things your bosses said about you, you're focusing on the one not-even negative thing? Dude, she said you help them so much; why do you choose to focus on the "little person" part? If you can't change your circumstances, change your attitude. Walk a few inches taller because you're crazy valued at work.

    • You're right – I deserved that one. I know how much my direct boss values me, and we have a great relationship. My boss's boss is newer to the company and I'm a little unsure of her (for various reasons…some heard through the grapevine, some witnessed first hand) so I think I was perhaps a little unfairly or overly critical of what she said about me. I don't work with her directly, so it seemed odd that she would jump in and say anything at all – I certainly wasn't expecting that.
      It's nice to know that my reputation is known to her. I guess I just wish that it wasn't qualified in any way. What she said was a negative to me. I know it may seem like a total non-problem, but it's something I'm working on.

      • Actually, the more I thought about my comment, the more I thought I was too harsh. So thanks for agreeing with me, but I'm sorry that I sounded like a bitch.

        What my opinion boils down to is, yes, it's totally unfair that people would judge you based on your height (and I'm so saddened that theatre people would be some of the worst offenders). But people will always judge people based on their appearances. Unfortunately, you're being judged for something you can't change that you didn't choose (as opposed to your hair or tattoos or implants). Working on your attitude is absolutely the best way to keep yourself from stressing out about it, and I agree with the previous commenters that if this happens again, you should tell your boss that what she said is demeaning. But I'm hoping it was one-time only event that she immediately regretted. If she's anything like me, then she's probably nervous and trying to prove herself too, and that likely resulted in her saying something she didn't mean to say.

        • to piggyback on this–sometimes people's comments about someone can sound judgemental or negative, but they may very well be purely descriptive. You stand out from the crowd because you're short, that's just a fact. So by describing you by your physical appearance it quickly establishes who they are talking about, no harm intended (also, assuming it is an insult is based on the idea that being short is a bad thing… which I think most average or tall people wouldn't even realize it could be taken this way. Only us short folks are a bit over sensitive to it). Kind of like if there's only one black guy in a room of white guys… instead of beating around the bush and saying "the guy with the… blue shirt on…" because you're afraid of being perceived as racist, just say it was the black guy! That kind of conversational PC paralysis drives me bonkers.

          All I'm saying is I understand what it's like to be sensitive about this, but take a step back & look at it from a bit further away and know that when someone describes you as short it doesn't necessarily mean it's an insult.

          • Dude, YES. I was trying to describe a guy the other day who was short, brown (not black), and appeared gay. How the hell do I do that while being PC?

          • That is completely valid and I admit I've fallen into the "oh the guy…with the…khakis on?" trap before. But, in the scenario I described, it seemed unnecessary for her to point out my stature as I was clearly the person being referenced (I was actively shaking the guy's hand when she was speaking).
            Maybe if I had left the room or something and they were trying to describe me, then yes, short and capable are utterly accurate descriptors!

  23. Also, a Shakespeare quote for you, "Though she be but little, she is fierce." You can make this your motto (and get tons of awesome stuff with this quote from Etsy).

  24. Fellow shortie here as well.

    Once my brother said when my mom got angry about something our uncle did, it was like "a little kid sister throwing an tantrum because she didn't get her way." Which, way to insult both your mother and our little sister and women everywhere at the same time, dude. My brother makes me ragey. He doesn't treat women poorly, per se, but he often mansplains things, speaks for his fiance when she could speak for herself, and has that general "I must take care of my women" attitude that is condescending as fuck. Sorry that got a little ranty and off topic…

  25. My mother had this problem. She's petite and looked young, but she found that once her hair started turning silver people take her a LOT more seriously. Also she invested in voice coaching (she's a minister) to help her learn to speak more authoritatively, and that helped a lot too.

    I have the opposite problem–I'm tall, I grew fast and I "developed early" which led to a lot of deeply uncomfortable moments when people (especially adult males) thought I was a LOT older than I actually was. When I actually dressed my age people didn't take me seriously or look at me as an actual person because of that whole "girls with big boobs are obviously stupid and slutty" thing, and when I dressed in a way that minimized that, everyone thought I was Srs Adult and wouldn't interact with me like I was a peer.

    No matter who you are and what you do, some people are gonna treat you weird, I think.

  26. I was just thinking about the same thing yesterday. I'm 5'2 and have a petite frame (despite being plus-sized…nightmare to buy clothes for). I'll be 29 this month, have been married for a couple years, and have a 6yo stepdaughter, but when I go shopping alone, I get called "sweetie" by clerks. I always get carded when buying a drink. A woman actually called me "ma'am" at the movies the other day and I was so shocked, I had to take a minute to make sure she was speaking to me. I'm told it's a good thing to look young, but it can certainly be frustrating when you wish to be taken seriously. I have trouble being assertive when I get, "you're so adorable when you're mad. You sound like Minnie Mouse"-type comments.

  27. Oh, I thought I was the only shortie around here… Im 35 and only 4'8" (and not technically a little person) – I have had to deal with this my whole life! Especially at my job, I am not seen as competent, although I have a degree in chemistry… I just never get taken seriously.

    I am a natural platinum blonde, and I used to get asked every day how old I was – random people on the street and then having them make a big deal out of my answer and yelling and pointing me out, in the middle of the street/store, no less! So embarrassing…. what did help was dying my hair a bright, punk red color… at least people don't ask me every day, but they still don't believe me when they find out

    Sometimes, I even get accused of being my husband's daughter (and my 4 kids as being my siblings) – it got really bad when I was pregnant, but what can you do? Ive even had people in stores/restaurants refuse to serve me – b/c either I didn't have the money or I needed to wait on my parents

    I keep having people tell me that I will love looking younger, but even at 35, Im still waiting

    • I feel like the people who tell you that "it's a blessing in disguise!" and "you will love looking like a teenager for eternity!" are just trying to cover up saying something so obviously offensive and ridiculous. They just put their foot in their mouth, so they are slowly trying to extract it with "compliments." I don't blame them and usually just smile and say, "I'm sure I will!" and go about my business.
      My fiance has a similar issue (he also looks quite young) and he was carded at a restaurant after ordering a glass of wine. The waiter looked at his license, realized he was 28 years old and said, "Oh woah – yeah, you're good." ?? What does that even mean? Woah – you're old…er than I thought! *le sigh*

  28. Much of what I have to say at a hair under 5' has already been said, but I'd like to add a word of complaint about the fact that women don't even have to be that far from average height in order to be considered "short." Average height for an American woman is 5'4". There are multiple women up the thread talking about being short at 5'2", and I can't think of a single time I've heard a woman who's 5'6" described as tall, either by herself or others. I suspect that even at my four inches off of the average, I'm described as short more often than a woman who's 5'8" is described as tall. I don't know if it's because so many of our standard images of women come from models (I seem to remember hearing that some model related reality show type thing had a season for petite women that was defined as under 5'8", anybody remember what I'm talking about?), or if it's because we're being judged against the male average of 5'10". So women who are above female average are just getting closer to looking them in the eye and aren't "tall" until they start getting taller than men, whereas on the other side of 5'4" the only people we're getting closer to looking in the eye are other people of below average height and children. Maybe it's some of both.

    At least my voice has always been low, so I've got that going for me.

    • America's Next Top Model did a season of "petite" models under 5'8". If I remember right, most of the girls were between 5'6"-5'8".

    • I'm 5'9" and called tall pretty regularly (usually by some creepy and short old guy staring at my chest, because they're on eye level "staring back at him" *eyeroll*).

      Incidentally, 5'8" is the cut off between average and tall/long inseams, so part of the modeling standard is based on the prevalence of sample sizes.

      • And I get that on a practical level it's easier to take away than it is to add, so it makes sense for standard sizes to be based on somewhat above average height. (At least, if one's assuming that everybody of average height, let alone shorter, has the time and/or money to invest in altering everything.) But it still feels unfair when I'm trying to buy jeans knowing that I'm exactly as far from average as a woman who's 5'8", but she's using standard inseams and I have to look not just for petite, but petite short.

  29. I'm of average height, but still look young. My favorite thing is being asked when I graduated college. Psst! I see what you're doing. I know you're secretly calculating my age. I get the idea of feeling like you need to prove yourself, but I just go about my business and let my work speak for itself. No time to worry about their opinion. That said, I'm also not dealing with pointed comments usually. Can you imagine if the height-style comments were made about someone's weight??

  30. I would definitely talk to your boss about it, it was likely something that she said without thinking or even fully understanding herself what she was implying. I think in most cases your boss probably didn't see it as offensive because it is personally something she has never experienced.

    As to the whole grown up part of being petite… that my dear is going to be a whole different story. I'm constantly on the receiving end of comments about how "tiny" I am, especially on the rugby field (and I'm not actually considered a petite person). I'm young looking as well, which as I've read in previous comments, appears to also leave us more open to unwarranted commentary about being too young or not being "growed up enough". Eventually I just started to ignore it because in truth, the people making those comments rarely knew me. They had no idea of my age, my education or my personal life experiences. So whenever a stupid comment was made, I would correct the assumption gently and then move on. It takes a lot to be solid in knowing who you are and that you are good at what you do, just remind yourself when someone makes a comment that you are who you are and that you are strong in who you are.

    • Thank you – that is excellent advice. I know that I often put too much credence into what my job performance says about me as a person, so it's always good to get a reminder that I am not made entirely of what other people think of me. I am, perhaps more importantly, what I think of myself and how I behave in the world.

      The woman who made the comment is of average female height, I would say, and is not on the petite side. She is also much older than I am. I don't think she often hears those type of comments. But, you never know what damage other people have in their lives. I'm sure everyone has something about themselves that they wish wasn't pointed out.

  31. I'm 4'9", age 30. I still get handed the kids' menu from time to time. But people who know me? People I work with? Maybe they are shocked a "little person" can do so much, but they don't say so to my face. You project authority, you get treated with respect. People pretty much know if they piss me off, I'll set them or fire or something (not literally, and no, I'm not the top dog in the work hierarchy). My second week on the job, another short woman who'd seen me around the week before, said to me when we were introduced, "Oh! I thought you were a student!" Guess what? She doesn't say that anymore.

    I hate to say this, but I don't recommend bringing this to HR unless it becomes a repetitive, real issue, because you'll just be seen as whining. And I'm sorry, but whining plus being short isn't going to make your case for you.

    Best thing you can do? Act like you're in charge and prove them all wrong. The right attitude will get you far more than even dressing like you're older will (I only gave up my fun, printed comic book and video game t-shirts last year). And seriously, think of it as an advantage, not a disadvantage. If people keep underestimating you because of your height, they'll be sorry when you run them down because they didn't see you coming.

    Err, to clarify, I'm not *actually* saying you have to be aggressive or mean, just assertive and confident. I joke around; I even act silly at work sometimes and my desk has a corner full of tiny toys. But when it comes to the job, I get it done; I get down to business, and I don't back down when I know I'm right. People respect that. If height comes up, shrug and move on, and so will they.

  32. I should add–practice your angry face. I am told mine is scary. Also, if someone does make a stupid comment? Call it out as stupid simply by rolling your eyes or giving them a pointed look and say, "Seriously?" Don't make a huge fuss, but that's enough to get them to realize it was a stupid joke/comment.

  33. I completely agree with everyone who posted. I am 28 and all of 5'1". Add an extra 1/4" if I stretch. However, my last name makes it even worse. Im not joking, my last name is Shortt. I work as a photographer and people don't take me seriously when I show up for a shoot because I look so young. I've had magazine editors ask if im an intern or still in high school. I have started to over dress for the shoot, just so I am treated as an adult.

  34. At some point you will be seen as a "little old lady" but people will probably continue to default to "small = young" for a long time. Hell, a lot of the running jokes in the Lord of the Rings series (just as an example) revolve around the Hobbits being mistaken for 12 year old humans. And there's Helena's line in "Midsummer" about Hermia "…though she be but little, she is fierce." That was 500+ years ago, so you're not fighting a new stigma here. 🙁 I'm not sure if that's a default setting in humans since we're semi-programmed to look after children even when they're not ours, but the fact that in the States in general we tend to infantalize women far beyond their childhoods doesn't help, either.

    And as far as the stage managing goes (I'm a part time TD and Prop Tart 🙂 ) some of that is just because you're female. Some of it is because you're also petite. I get different but still stupid assumptions made about me ALL THE TIME because I'm built like a Valkyrie, teach combat, own my own tools, etc. (NO! I don't play fucking SOFTBALL. And right now, you don't want to hand me a 33" bat either!) When I've dealt with the "the girl can't do that" shit, I call them on it– after I do the job. I'm not sure if that would work when people attribute weakness to your physical size, but maybe it's an angle from which to think of a longer-range solution? With the boss, a politely worded email pointing out that while she probably meant to give you a compliment, expressing surprise that a short person can do the job is as illogical as it is hurtful may go a long way toward both clearing the air and making her think about why she assumed small = weak.

  35. LOVE this post. I'm 23 and petite as well. I completely identify with what people are saying in the comments, too.

    I'm the training Coordinator/Hiring Manager with my company. When I go to the lobby to meet people for interviews, the interviewees will look up expectantly when a guy or anyone older than me walks out. When I walk up, they always look away, just assuming "Nah, that's not the person who is going to interview me." And when I introduce myself there's always a surprised look on their faces.

    Also when I am around the facility with my trainees, anyone that comes in from outside (vendors, etc.) they always go to one of the older trainees to ask questions first, assuming that they're in charge and not me. Frustrating.

    Edited to add: I should also mention that I work at a bus company. I wish I had a nickel to every comment about how people wouldn't expect me to drive a bus, or even every time I get a funny look driving a giant bus out on the road. Or every assumption from repair companies that I won't be the one driving the bus back. Or every time there's a comment about a woman driving period. I could keep going, trust me.

  36. All I can really say is… I've been through it all as well. As a 33-year old petite woman who looks about 21 I get comments all of the time. When I was actually 21 I kind of enjoyed looking young but now as someone who has been trying to establish herself professionally, it can be difficult. On a side note, I'm about to go into my second marriage and the shock on everyone's face when I tell them this cracks me up. I think they assumed I must have gotten married the first time when I was 14 or something. 😀

    • It really is hilarious seeing their "OMG SLAVE CHILD BRIDE!!" expressions, isn't it? Priceless.

      (Married 10 years, divorced, but look about 22, despite being 36.)

  37. I could have written this post. I'm 4'10" and 22, and I invariably get treated like a child still (the irony is that I developed early and at the age of 11 was being mistaken for a college student…I guess I'm just perpetually 18?). But people call me "sweetie" and "hon" all the time, and to me it feels very patronizing. I had a manager once nickname me "Little Bit" because I am so small (she meant it affectionately, so it didn't bother me much, but still).

    I have taken to wearing heels pretty much every day and dressing very chic-ly when I am in a professional setting. I've found that it helps a lot; I feel more confident and self-assured, and people respond to that. I'm also a singer and actress, so I'm able to be very poised even when I'm internally uncomfortable. Also as a result of my performance experience, I have perfect posture, which helps!

  38. I thought it was a term of endearment. I think petite people are adorable. I took it as, yes she seems small, but she is powerful. Especially since you hold your bosses together, based of what they said I would imagine that you have a lot of energy, or so it seems, and your bosses just don't know where all of it comes from, hence so much, production, energy, and power in this adorable package, it's fascinating to watch. I am sure that if they didn't think you where able to do the job they wouldn't have hired you.

    • Thanks for your perspective.

      I think that petite people hear the "adorable" comment a lot and it gets really grating after a while – even though it is mostly meant lovingly as you pointed out. However, you don't really hear grown people being called adorable. Mostly that descriptor is reserved for children, so it makes me (at least) feel like I'm being treated like a child. It's kind of a diminutive…even if "normal sized" people think it's not.

  39. I am 31, 5'2", married, and apparently have a very young face. The most humiliating comment I ever received about my perceived age (I was mid 20s at the time) was in a job interview. They literally asked if I was aware there were child labor laws because they didn't think I was old enough to have the experience on my resume. Needless to say I did not get the job. In retrospect I am glad because who wants to work for people who don't believe you.

    Usually people seem to try to be complementing my small height and petite frame (but hey I am healthy and happy for my height and weight). It just gets a bit old hearing it all the time. Instead I'd love to hear more compliments based on my intellect and my work than for something I have little to no control over.

  40. When I worked in retail whenever I was asked "can I speak to the manager?" and responded, "I am the manager", I more than once got the response "I mean, the real/actual manager" (!) I am 5 foot tall and relatively young looking (big, round cherub cheeks) and never knew for sure whether it was because I was small, young looking or female but it was likely a combination of all three.

    However, that was merely irritating…

    In my 20s, many people thought it was ok to pat me on the head (friends and strangers) or even PICK ME UP. Like a toddler. Like a baby. Without asking. One time, a guy in a nightclub picked me up from behind and span me around his head (wrestling style) and actually dropped me on the dance-floor. All the while I was screaming at me to put me down. Well, I am not proud of it but I had to be pulled off that guy (only time in my life I have thrown a punch)

    Slightly extreme example I know but it has stuck with me all these years!

    • I've been picked up at a party IN MY OWN HOUSE without my consent. I freaked out and scratched that guy's face pretty badly. . I am 5'2" and at this point people saying I'm adorable is starting to get rage-inducing, especially if I'm mad already. "Oh, you're so cute when you're mad!" = "I view you to be as non-threatening as a child"

  41. This this this.

    I'm a short person, and I look relatively young for my age (I'll turn 30 this year, but people still think I'm in college). One of my biggest pet peeves is that all short people, in my experience, are always called "cute" when they dress up, instead of "elegant" or "beautiful." Cute is a complement all the same, but when I was younger, I always saw "elegance" and "beauty" related to taller, slender women. Even on my wedding day, I was told "you look cute" constantly.

    • Yes!! I always thought the same thing. The "cute" schtick wears out fast. My fiance calls me beautiful, and that's one of the (very small) reasons he is my future husband 🙂

  42. So, this could be an unpopular opinion, but I am offering it as a way for us to re-frame some of these situations to have less of a negative impact on our psychological states. This really only applies to the more benign statements, like being called cute or being given a true compliment at the same time someone is calling you short. So, with all these qualifications in mind:
    Do you think that when you are already sensitized to something (being called short or young), that you interpret statements to be related to that when they might not be intended that way at all?

    • I'm sure this could be the case sometimes. I tried to pull back and look at what she said and see what bothered me about it and this is what I came up with:
      – I help the department do a lot of things. I am a go-getter and my reputation here is very much "she gets shit done." My boss's boss was trying to convey this.
      – Because I am petite, she added the part about me being a little person.
      – If I had been of normal stature, she would probably not have qualified her statement with a comment about my size.
      – If she had said, "Such a busy person helps us get so much done" then I wouldn't have taken issue because it would have been a reference to the fact that I need to balance my workload with also helping the department.
      – If she had said, "Such a determined person…" or "such a pro-active person…" it wouldn't have really made sense because of course determined people get things done. Of course pro-active people get things done. She might as well have just said "Britstix helps us do so much!"
      – She used my stature as a "little person" as a qualifier to how much I get done, like perhaps if I were larger I could maybe do MORE! Which also doesn't make sense.
      That is really the crux of it for me. That tiny inference that maybe if I weren't so small I could maybe do more/better.

      Am I over thinking this? (Probably…) Every time I try to explain how much her statement really cut me, it sounds absolutely absurd…but it just really made me wonder.

  43. I just want put the clarification out there that being petite has Nothing To Do with one's weight. Petite is the term for the unique body proportions seen in women typically 5'4" and under, regardless of how heavyset or thin one might be.

    And also, I totally get the demeaning language thing (5'1" over here) and UGH.

    On that note, if you do happen to live in Petitelandia, it may be helpful to shop at petite clothing stores (they fit us better!) if you decide dressing more professionally is a valid path. Nice clothes won't do as much good if the armscye on your blouse doesn't fit.

    • Also saves you time or money if you don't have to hem all of your pants. 🙂

      Although…sometimes you still have to hem the "short" sizes…

    • When I worked in Macy's children's clothing, the 30-and-40-something age extra-petites shopped there often. I guess being in Florida impacted this reason, as most women here want to look like perpetual teenagers.

      Interesting, na?

  44. Here's another tactic:
    Around the world, people who take up more room are seen as more authoritative. This presents a problem when you are not, in fact, very large at all. However, you can still use posture to convey "I'm here to kick ass." Don't cross your legs and minimize the space you take up, leave your feet flat on the floor. Stand with your shoulders back and your spine straight and your head up.

    Even if you can't do it in a meeting you can do some "power posing" beforehand and it will continue to influence how people see you afterwards for quite some time.

    • My husband and I watched that Ted Talk recently and now when I'm feeling down, he encourages me to do power posing. It's kind of hilarious, but it totally works. It's called the Wonder Woman pose because it really does make you feel like a super hero.

      • I fucking love the wonder woman pose so much more than "stand like a man" because when i think of it that way it just makes me angry that I have to act like a man to be successful.

  45. Oh man. This thread is fantastic for me feeling not so alone.

    Height is not my "problem" area (I'm about 5'8), but the age/looking young thing… oh man. I'm 26, with a bachelor's and 3 years of experience, but I look quite young and I am the youngest in my workplace. My clients repeatedly write on my feedback forms that I am mature, wise, full of good advice, an expert in my field, etc… and yet, on my performance evaluation last year, my boss wrote that I am "immature," with no examples whatsoever of when I have demonstrated a lack of maturity. It still stings so badly.

    I've been feeling a lot this year like the beginning of a career is just So. Tough. I constantly feel like my boss doesn't think my opinion is valid, and I'm always worried of my clients asking to be switched to one of my coworkers (though this is largely paranoia, as it's never happened and I always receive excellent feedback). I keep wondering when I will have a boss who recognizes the good work I do, and who doesn't treat me like a child.

    Thank you for making me feel not so alone in the struggle.

  46. I feel your pain! Unfortunately it doesn't end with kids. Mine are 15 and 13 and we're constantly asked if I'm their sister. It's especially annoying for stuff like school meetings and extra curricular activities. But I just go with it. I mean I'm happy I can still wear my hot topic clothes and have fun!! 😀

  47. Ugh, this post exactly. I am a manager where I work and I get a lot of phrases like, "thanks hun," from co-workers who are about 5 years older than me. Honey? Dear? REALLY? It's so annoying, but I choose to look past it. Unfortunately you can't really do much to make these people change over night. All you can really do is make changes to your own appearance or call people out on it when possible.

  48. I am not practically petite/youngish looking (I think?) but I am a manager in a system where most of the people in similar positions are older than me. I work for the public library system in my parish & basically all of my employees are older than me/have been there longer. About 6 months after I started a thing happened which still grinds my gears. A guy came in & had fines. I looked back at his record & saw he'd gotten a lot of his fines waived/forgiven, so I told him he had to pay up (it was a few dollars. Nothing major.) He then went & talked to my much older coworkers, assuming one of them was the manager. One of them (not a regular at my branch, someone who was filling in) offered to pay some of his fines for him out of her pocket. She says to him while doing so "I know she looks like she could be our granddaughter, but she's the manager here so we have to listen to her!" I know (choose to believe) that she didn't mean to undermine my position. I told her afterwards why I had refused to waive the fines & she apologized. Still. She's a freaking adult, even more so than I am. She should know better. Your boss/coworkers should know better too. But in similar situations, I choose to believe that no harm was meant & explain the situation/my feelings about it when I am no longer upset (or, when less upset.)

  49. I may be the height of an average guy, but I have a real babyface and get ID'd all the time. I'm also the youngest mum in our child's year and regularly get mistaken for the older sister (when I'm nearly 30!) and can't buy wine from the supermaket without being asked to prove I'm old enough to! There will always be people who judge you on what you look like, but really, don't let those people get you down. It says MUCH more about them than it does you 🙂

  50. This is definitely a gender issue. The "petite", young-looking men at my office are never treated like impostors, but I'm sure your experience isn't uncommon for petite women. It also bleeds into the body issues. My sister, who is average height, but barely 100 pounds, gets teased all the time for being thin. Our society thinks it's okay to point out the body type of a thin woman, but being singled out or judged on body type is offensive whether you're 300 pounds or 95 pounds.

    And can I just say, if one more waitress or old man calls me "hun" or "sweetie", I can't be responsible for what I do to them. And I have an average body type. I can't imagine how often a petite woman hears these terms.

  51. I teach middle school, and I'm about the same size as a large number of my students. I know I look young, so I make it a point to dress like a professional. When I was still interviewing for jobs, I kept my hair short, so I would look older (it was also easier to wash, yay!). Every so often, I get mistaken for a student by visitors to the building, but they're always embarrassed when they realize their mistake. I don't really mind having people mistake my age, especially if I'm kinda dressed like a kid in jeans and a t-shirt or something, and my hair is long. It's a reasonable mistake! I haven't really encountered any further size-based issues in the workplace. What really bothers me is when people know how old I am, and make other size-based assumptions. When I worked in a clothing store, I used to get comments from bigger girls that it must be SO easy to find clothes when you're so tiny! It's not! It's actually really hard to find a properly fitting suit when you're the size and shape of a 12 year old. (I've come to the conclusion that pretty much nobody has an easy time finding clothes that fit. Everyone has something about them that makes it a challenge.)

    Anyways, I got a bit rambly. If you know you look younger than you are, especially if you don't try to make yourself look like an adult, don't get mad if someone makes an honest mistake about your age. If they insist on making a big deal of your size after you've corrected them and asked them to stop, they're being assholes. Try a simple, "Listen, making comments about my size isn't cool. You wouldn't tease someone about being fat, so why do you insist on teasing me about being small? I'm an adult human, just like you."

    • I try to dress a little nicer than required per looking a little older, but I have drawn the line at altering anything else. I have had it suggested to me that I would look older with shorter hair or certain makeup, but I feel like that's giving other people the ability to control me in a weird way in reaction to their bias.

  52. A thought on the advice of strategies provided to counteract a petite height and youthful appearance:

    I've wondered about this a little bit as I've been going to job interviews but not landing a job. While I'm closer to average height (5' 4"), I've always been very slender and can still fit into some kids' clothes (even with my 30th birthday coming up in a few weeks). I look young but have a distinct alto voice, a combination I thought would balance things out a bit. Now I'm not so sure. I honestly wonder if it's a matter of intimidation and insecurity. I worked at Home Depot for about a year doing fairly heavy labor and using electrical lift equipment. This scared people, women in particular. Male customers were less likely to remark on my size and would just be thankful that I was able to find/retrieve something for them. Women, meanwhile, freaked out if I got on the electric ladder. I could hear them asking, "Are you sure you should be doing that?" while I'm 20 feet or so in the air getting a cabinet door or sink for them. That was not particularly enjoyable. As I'm going through the interview process, I wonder if I'm reliving this experience in some ways and thus barring myself from getting a job. It may not be direct discrimination, but it's there.

    Given that I come from two lines full of petite women, I've looked at them to see if they've experienced any sort of snide remarks due to their height. So far I haven't found anything (or had anything mentioned to me on the subject). I'm thinking about comparing myself to them and seeing what differences could cause them not to receive any comments while I have to wrangle with passive-aggressive attacks. My hypothesis is that posture will be the defining factor. Marching band and running have formed my back enough to make standing taller with somewhat lower shoulders very easy for me to do. Thus, my posture is somewhat lengthening and makes me look more assertive (if not necessarily taller). Further elaborating on that, I think posture adjustment can alter how people perceive a person's figure/size but that too much adjustment can swing the pendulum from viewing a person as excessively young to triggering insecurity. It's a thin line, indeed.

  53. This advice is less proactive, but I've found it to work wonders when dealing with inappropriate behavior from customers at my coffee shop and actors when I stage manage. When someone is offensive, even without meaning to, I make sure to directly look them in the eyes and raise my eyebrows. I keep a pleasant expression on my face when I do this (to avoid the "hysterical woman" label) and remain silent. I just let my body language work for me. I usually precede the look with a slow turn of my head or body to make sure I have their attention. Then I move on, pleasantly going about my business/conversation as though it's no big thing.

    Hope this, and all other advice offered here, helps!

  54. Oh gosh, this. I am female, 5'2.75" and baby-faced. And an engineer. With enormous boobs so it's not like there's any hiding the fact that I'M A SHORT GIRL in a man's world.

    To make matters worse, I had braces in college. People were surprised I was old enough to drive (15-16 in the US). The night after graduation my boyfriend and I wanted to check into a hotel as we'd packed up our dorm to move to San Diego from LA. The desk clerk didn't want to check us in, and wouldn't say why – eventually he took my driver's license to the back to make a copy. I finally realized he thought I was an underage prostitute with a fake ID! I was so offended we left and went to a different hotel, where the lovely goth night clerk checked us in without any problems.

    Later that year I went to a friend's wedding. I had lost a bit of weight so my suit jacket was a bit too big and I must have looked like a little girl wearing mommy's clothes. I had my ID in my pants but spilled food on them at the cocktail hour before the reception, so I went back to change to a skirt which had no pockets. I was at a table with a lady my age who I think looks younger than me, and a guy who was actually underage, but I was the only one to get carded – I was so pissed. I ended up drinking from everyone else's glass and caught a cold.

    Even just a few years ago at age 26 I went to the mall to exchange money for a trip to Japan. The lady said she was out of yen, but asked if I was with the blah-blah school trip. I said no, actually, I graduated from college 4 years ago. She said, "Oh, blah-blah is a middle school!" I was mortified.

    Now I'm 30 and have a 3-month-old baby, and at least temporarily the new mommy look with dark circles and bags under my eyes makes me look a little older, haha. We'll see what happens when that wears off!

  55. I go through this all the time. All. The. Time. I am not a fan of women commenting needlessly on other women's appearances for any reason in the workplace, so the liberty people tend to take with "looking young" really, really irks me. The other day I met a new employee for the first time. I said, Hello __, it is nice to meet you! Her response was, with nothing before it, "You look twelve!" Then my boss made a comment in the same line. I was horrified and felt like my position as a colleague and peer was undermined.

    That said, I have not really found any way to breech this subject well, so my tactic has always been to tell myself that as long as I am behaving and performing in a way I can be proud of, the ball is in THEIR court to be fair, professional and respectful.

  56. I'm not that short (about 5'4") but have a pretty young face. I get asked all the time by my patients if I'm in high school, or if I'm old enough to be a doctor. Once I was told I looked 16, and my reply was that I was "more than double 16" which shut them up for awhile while they calculated how old that was. I usually refuse to tell my patients my age because it's rude of them to ask and none of their business. I always get the "you'll like it when you're older" bit but at 33, I'm not liking it so far. I know my patients are just stressed out (I'm about to anesthetize them) but that doesn't excuse the behavior. Since I'm in scrubs and a scrub hat, there's no way to make myself look older aside from waiting to actually be older. Sigh.

  57. One more reason to be super glad that I'm tall… Even if shoe shopping is a pain.

    I totally feel you on the 'hate being called cute' though. I'm always like, "I'm a grown woman damnit, not a puppy."

  58. I meant to comment on this when it was posted, but the right words escaped me. I'm going to try now.

    You remind me of an amazing woman I met and still follow on Facebook. She's dating a close friend of my husband and came up for Christmas two years ago. She is 4'11" and model gorgeous. I commented to the friend "wow, she's so tiny and perfect." He said "She's not tiny when she opens her mouth, she's 10 feet tall and astounding." As the evening progressed, drinks were flowing, and she (at the time, one year and one semester away from her masters degree) blew everyone away with her wit and her intelligence. She just got her masters and I honestly believe this woman may be president in a few terms. I did make the faux pas of asking her height, she gave me her stats then asked me mine… point proven. Apparently, in situations like you described, she'd be the one saying "And coming from such big people within the company, I have to graciously thank you for your compliment!"

    Point being, if you find benign ways in which the comment can be received and comment to that, then you have the upper-hand. And eventually, the comments will stop. Commenting on your appearance is NOT OKAY, but being small in stature makes it a bit difficult to file complaints: "well, you ARE under the average height for women in this town, so technically it was the truth."

    Then carry yourself and speak as though you are ten feet tall. You look them all in the eye, you be confident in what you are doing, and those "tiny" or "small" comments get shot down with a smile. Yes, you will be seen as an adult. And yes, you will make those asshats feel stupid.

  59. I am in my early 20s and 5'1"

    I also look much younger than my age, and I am treated like total crap for it all of the time. I have always hung out with older people, dated older guys (my husband is a fair amount older than me), because those are the people I identify with more, yet I am still treated like I small child.

    When I was getting married, I got tons of rude comments from my peers, from vendors. When I mentioned to the seamstress working on my gown that I was graduating the same month as the wedding, she assumed I meant from high school (what???), which explains how she was flat out ignoring me and talking directly to my mother instead.

    When I was growing up I had a lot of issues leading groups. I love leading and I love directing (I actually left film school partially for this reason), but it was always very hard to get taken seriously. When you have to physically look up to people you are trying to lead, it does some screwy things to the dynamic. When i switched to a more female dominated field, I was met with being treated like a child because of my height and young appearance.

    Getting married didn't really help. Now I'm just seen as a child who is "owned" by her more capable and older husband. Which makes both of us want to puke.

  60. So, I've experienced this as well –

    The other day, a door-to-door sales rep came to my door, a rather tall man in his late 20s, early 30s. I'm 23, a month and a half off of 24. He proceeded to ask me if my parents were home. I live with my fiance and two other friends of ours, all in our mid to late 20s.

    I was surprisingly hurt by the assumption that I was a) young enough that whatever he had to say couldn't be said to me and b) that based on some factor (I'm not sure what), I wasn't an adult.

  61. I am 4ft 11 and am 26.(I'm also blessed with a curvy body, big boobs, hips, thighs and bum and would have assumed this counters the child-like look) however I have always struggled with being seen and treated as younger than I am and the "aww she's so cute/tiny/bless" mentality that seemed to follow me growing up especially when people realised my 'big' brother was actually 2 1/2 years younger than me. I had my daughter fairly young (pregnant at 19 and gave birth at 20) and I found people's attitude then hard to deal with. Complete strangers would often complain to me about 'underage pregnancy' or assume that once she was born, she was my younger sister and not my daughter.
    It's lessened somewhat now, but people find it amusing that my daughter is almost shoulder height on me now and my partner is 6ft something. I do find it funny that people comment about how she ' is like my partner rather than me' given he's not her biological dad.

    I've found when working or applying to work with children and young people, some bosses have implied that I would not be able to 'cope' with pupils who were taller than me simply because of my height.

    Ami, I've had things like that happen to me before now where a salesman has come to the door and once I've answered 'asked to speak to my parents'. One one occasion my daughter was asking if "she should ring Grandma". The salesman then quite rudely asked " Oh, how old are you? You must have had your daughter very young".
    My daughter (who is not shy) replied for me: " My mummy is 26 and I am 6. She is just short! and Grandma doesn't live here"

    I am happy to be a short person but I do wish people wouldn't assume I am incapable or that I am 'cute' or 'helpless' or less of an adult because of this.

  62. I have always been a young-looking person in a professional career. And, yes, getting to your 30's works, but it is the slow solution! I think that 'youngness' or 'cuteness' (and let's be frank, 'femaleness') makes some people think that you are lesser-than, but using assertiveness and intelligence redresses the balance. I don't engage or legitimise questions about my age by answering with a smile and "you would be surprised", then follow up straight away by getting back to business with "now, you were asking my clinical opinion on……"

  63. I'm 25 and I get mistaken for being in high school. I'm short too kids actually mock me for looking too young making cutting songs at me as jokes "Are you old enough". I am pretty sure my height is 99% of the reason people judge my age. My mum is short. Well I say if someone cant find a reason to stop degrading you find better people!

  64. Here's my issue. I'm a pastor's wife – 30 and just as most have been saying, look young for my age (most say age 16). I grew up in this church, my husband just became lead pastor. There is a girl who also grew up in the church, 8 years older than me. She is CONSTANTLY making comments about how I'm "just a baby" and she's "so much older". She'll say "I did this, oh but you were probably in diapers". We're an age diverse church so I often hang out with men and women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and no one has ever (at least rarely) made any comment about my being too young. But her…all.the.time. She hangs with lots of girls "my age" but only makes comments at me. I get it – we grew up together and I was younger, but we're not 7 and 15 anymore, we're 30 and 38. Advice on getting her to stop?

    • Agree with her in a positive upbeat way. "What a great observation! You are right! I AM 8 years younger than you! God works in mysterious ways." (wink). Now if you'll excuse me. I have to return these calls, attend this church meeting etc, must say hello to this person etc…. than turn- walk away. This makes it seem that you are too busy to entertain her views on your "young-ness" because you are too busy. And as a pastor's wife- I'm assuming you probably are.

      Do not ever show it bothers you or get confrontational with her. That could backfire and makes you come off as defending yourself for something that as the article mentions; should be inconsequential. Yeah, she's insecure about your position within your church and perhaps even a bit envious. You mentioned that she hangs with people your age- Is she relating to them as equals or is she mother henning them? It's nice to feel like a big sister to other younger women so maybe its unsettling that she can't do that as easily with you simply because the dynamic is different. Especially if she makes those comments in front of others. Really 8 years older? Its not such an age difference once you hit your 30's.

      – I'm 34 and I get the "young" quotes and small" petite quotes" all the time. I especially get mother -henned to death. There is no end to a few lady colleagues who make it their business to have an opinion about everything you do at work and in your life and tell you how it should be done differently, but that "I'll understand when I'm older." Its always for weird inconsequential stuff too. I notice they never pull this with men that are my age in the same position I'm in.

      I've actually jokingly said, "I appreciate your concern but I'm not your teenager. I'm not going to take the car out without your permission." 🙂

  65. I just turned 25 and I have gotten these comments my whole life. I'm 5'1" and only recently reached a "medium" build – otherwise, I could be described as elfin or tiny – and have always looked young. To my slight benefit, people tend to comment on my pale skin, but unfortunately it's more in the range of "you look sick." I used to work as a barista and ALWAYS wore makeup so I didn't hear that.

    I think being full-busted has saved me some of the disbelief at my age, but it changes into my being identified as "the short chick with the boobs." Gee, thanks. I don't feel like I stand out because of them already, please use them as a primary identifier.

    I have a hard time figuring out how to do the professional dress in my field – I'm a graphic designer and they always tell you to dress like your style, and mine is inspired by art nouveau and Japanese decor. It's hard to balance the pro look with the organic and flowery aesthetic and still look adult.

  66. Clearly not alone!

    I'm 5'2", 31, and I've been ID'd for movies! People have asked me if I was visiting my dad at work. I was pregnant with braces and people assumed I was a teen mom. I'm a professional engineer and I work a fair bit in the construction industry. In a hard hat and steel toe boots I'm a poster for 'take your kid to work day'.

    Someday I guess it will end. Until then I let a lot of it slide, I demand respect when needed, and I represent myself they way I would like to be treated. I treat young adults with respect too, because no one should have to put up with judgement based on their age.

  67. I'm 37, 5 feet tall, around 100 pounds, petite. Most people can't believe it when I tell them my age. I'm a creative director for a magazine and am constantly meeting people, but often have to reiterate my position and authority so they don't suspect that I'm just an intern. I do still get carded when buying booze, and am SO sick of women younger than me calling me "hon" or "sweetie" at a restaurant. Gah!

    While I do dress (mostly) professional for work, my style is still somewhat quirky, and my go-to casual wear is fun and/or geeky t-shirts and jeans. Most days I don't wear a lot of makeup or style my hair much, so I suppose I can see how I look much younger than I am. My family has always called me "Runt," and I'm actually okay with that. I'll eat off the kids' menu, no prob (my site explains why, btw)!

    Another than that occasional "hon," and having a heck of a time finding clothes that fit, it really doesn't get to me. Career-wise, I'm awesome in my field, outspoken, and my assertive personality can compensate for my small stature. I just roll with who I am and don't worry about it much. 😉

  68. I am 47. I thought it would end when I began to visibly age, but I still look younger than most women my age and (HORRORS) I'm still considered pretty and (OMG HOW DARE I) I'm in great physical shape The condescending meanness never stops. I've become adept at taking the words lobbed my way, turning them positive and lobbing them right back. Then, I avoid the person who tried, once again, to make me their victim.
    I believe women like to eat each other alive. The only cure I can figure? Everyone needs to read 'Screamfree Parenting" by Hal Edward Runkel and break the cycle of womanly meanness upon our very own daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters.

    I'm so very tired of mean women attempting to gut my happiness, and I remember it started somewhere after I began to walk. The attacks started with my maternal grandmother. This stuff is passed down from generation to generation and it is a deliberate and cruel way to control a people by manacling the women. Please, please help me stop the cycle. I have a daughter, too, and the meanness among women now begins in 5K and the First Grade.

  69. As a 26 year old, 5'1", very young looking person, it can be tough being a Mental Health Therapist who works with an adult population. That means that about 80% of the people I work with are older than me. Most of them older by decades. I often have clients tell me they're not sure if I can help them, I'm too young, or that they don't think I have enough life experience. Basically any form of "your physical appearance makes me question your abilities".

    I've found that the easiest way to deal with this is to be up front. I tend to say something along the lines of this:
    "My age or personal life experience really doesn't have much to do with my counseling abilities. I have a masters degree and extensive training, and it's my job to bring my unique skills to our counseling relationship. It's your job to bring your life experiences and understanding of what it means to be you. Honestly, if this was all about my life experience, it wouldn't really be very relevant, because YOU are the expert on your personal mental health."

    It's worked pretty well so far!

  70. I can relate. I now think its affecting my career aspirations…
    I became eligible to graduate uni at the end of last semester (I'm 26 now, I didn't go straight into uni when I was done with high school but travelled and worked). I started with the intention of getting into secondary school teaching, so after I'd graduated, I was eligible to enrol in a postgrad programme for teaching. It involved quite a lot of work, such as attending a school and writing up an observation as part of your application, attaining two references and attending an interview with a panel of two people (and I did all these things). I answered their questions the best way I could, but I was shocked when they mentioned my size, when they said "you're quite small, I wonder, how would you command a classroom?" I felt like they were degrading me for being of a small stature (all the women in my family are this build, and in fact, I have two aunts and two uncles that are teachers – the aunts are on my bloodline side, and they are small women and I'm pretty certain it doesn't get in the way of their command over a classroom!). Following this comment, I was told that I didn't look my age. There was some amazement that I was born in 1990. He tried to turn this into a compliment by saying I would be grateful for this when I was 30 something, but I didn't feel like it was a compliment. I felt like they were judging me for my size and the fact that I looked younger than I was. And yes, I always get carded and there's always 'that look', like, are you sure this is you?
    Aside from fixating on my size and the fact that I look younger than I am, they said that I was calm and contained but told me that teachers also had to be "larger than life". They called me three working days later and said they hadn't decided, but that the main issue was they didn't think I had the right "disposition" and that I apparently come across as too introverted (do they need to watch "the power of introverts" by Susan Cain – Ted Talk?). They're giving me a second interview in which I am being asked to teach them something practical. I already feel very discouraged, and all I can take from the comments and remarks is that I am too small, too introverted, too calm, too this, too that… that I look too young… all of their objections reek of discrimination and I'm upset to say the least.

  71. I’m a 22 yo female and my height is 4’9
    I’m soon going to be married but my height has been one of my biggest insecurities. People don’t take me seriously just because of my height
    During this season which is Halloween people ask me as a joke if I will be going trick o treating or if I’m going to get my face painted for exameple or if I go to the market they automatically assume I’m a child and ask my partner if the child would like something to try and that makes me so angry because I don’t like people that assume and say things without knowing
    Like if I see a short person I can pretty much tell their ages if they’re young or old I don’t just assume anyway I would like people to start treating me the same as they treat others
    I just want to be normal at least average height it depresses me and saddens me to the point where I just cry to myself .
    Any tips on how to look taller ?

  72. This is so relatable. I am 23 years old and doing Masters and still people ask me in which school grade I am. Sometimes, it becomes so frustratingly annoying. It shatters my confidence and I feel worthless. But, at the same time, it is truly a sight to see people's jaw drops when they come to know that I am a POST GRAD xD

  73. LOL, don't be a fool, record all these clear incidences of discrimination and harassment, drag their a## into civil court and sue them.
    Take the money you get and start a business.
    If you look carefully you'll see a lot of short people start, run and own businesses, they do it for the very reasons you're complaining about with regards to your treatment in the workplace.
    As a short man, with a good education and a keen sense of observation I've been the victim of this garbage all my life. You can't change it, and it unfortunately shows that a lot of people in this world are ignorant jerks.

    Count your blessings, at least as a short woman it will have little affect on finding relationships, most women think short men are vermin.

    Any intelligent self respecting person that finds themselves treated in this manner constantly just stops trying to interact with people, I don't even talk to people anymore I'm so disgusted by it.

    strike out on your own, walk away from it, you'll never change it.

    heightism, the OK form of discrimination that everyone thinks is all just a big joke

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