Being ungrateful, I guess

There are two things about me that generally would be considered good, positive attributes to have. (1) I speak English pretty much like a native with no foreign accent and (2) I look younger than I am, sometimes even 10 years younger. I appreciate the benefits of these attributes, but more often than not I don’t like having them.

I am from Venezuela. I have not lived in the US all my life. My native language is Spanish. I read, write and speak much better in Spanish than I do (and probably ever will) in English. So when people look at me funny because I use peculiar words or make mistakes constructing sentences or conjugating a verb while still sporting a perfect American accent, it bothers me. If I had a foreign accent they would cut me some slack, as they do with every other accent-having foreigner. Not me. They forget where I am from. “You’re from Venezuela? But you were raised here right?” Even though I explain this to people over and over, and one of the first phrases out of my mouth when I meet someone are “Because, you know, I’m from Venezuela, Caracas. The country on the north tip of South America. Have you heard of Venezuela?” They just forget. Why? Because I don’t have an accent.

If I hear one more time “well but you’re young, you have time, you can wait” from someone who I know for a fact is at least 5 years younger than me, I might hit them. Or say something nasty to the poor unfortunate soul. It’s not until I start talking about my experiences, where I’ve been, what I’ve done professionally and personally that people stop and finally ask “Wait, how old are you?” And every single time I tell them, the answer is the same “No! I thought you were 28 at the most.” Of course a 28 year old can’t have done and lived all I have. I am 37. 37 people! That’s not oh-don’t-worry-you’re-still-young-and-have-time-age in anyone’s book.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I am sure my lack of foreign accent and my youthful face have opened doors for me in my life, for which I, unknowingly, am grateful. But, wouldn’t you have had it already too? Wouldn’t you want people to treat you the way expected for what and who you are? Wouldn’t you want to be treated like an adult and not as a kid? I know I would. That would be kind of a nice change.

6 responses to “Being ungrateful, I guess

  1. Its really hard when people make assumptions about who you are, but it sounds like you handle it gracefully 🙂

  2. That would be really challenging, especially since it happens a lot. So typical of America that we want people from foreign lands to be proficient in English and yet fault them if they excel. I look younger than 37 too and often feel like people aren’t taking me seriously. Most people think I am only 30 or younger. While I appreciate appearing youthful I want to attain a certain status that comes with age. I’ve earned it damn it! I feel you on that.

  3. You're young, you still have time? I hate that. HATE. IT.

  4. Kate – Isn't it just the worse?

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