Monday, February 22, 2010

card me

Last week I was mistaken for a student. Twice, on the same day. This has happened before, but usually it's once a term, or even less frequently. Keeping in mind that SLAC is an undergraduate-only institution, this bothers me just a little. I also realize that I will likely be garnering very little sympathy from readers.

Maybe I should just be happy about it, while it lasts. Maybe, as a friend suggested, I should start wearing makeup in an effort to age myself. I think this is a bad idea due to a number of issues, but primarily because I have never learned to wear makeup and I don't think it's going to happen at this point. My toiletry needs are also already damaging enough in an environmental sense, and I really don't want to add to that if I don't have to.

My own thought is that if I dressed more professionally this wouldn't happen. I'm not sure this is true, but it's what I suspect. I usually wear jeans with a decent-looking and not-too-revealing do most of my colleagues. SLAC is not the kind of place where people teach in ties and high-heels, for the most part. But I also like being comfortable, and I'm usually doing a lot of moving around during the day, so I'm just not willing to wear something nicer that would cramp my style.

I guess that means that I'm choosing to look young and to allow people who don't know me to assume that I'm a student. So this is an issue of my inability to take personal responsibility. Interesting. Maybe I'll start keeping track of misidentifications, so I can quantify my physical decline over the next few decades. Sweet.


T said...

I went through that at SLAC, and I gave thought to the idea of professional dressing, too, and nixed it. Ultimately I knew I wasn't a student, the students in my classes knew I wasn't a student, and putting on some sort of uniform (jackets? blah!) would have compromised my identity and made me too uncomfortable.

At my new institution, many of the students are non-traditional (read: older), so it still happens but I'm less taken aback. Now I try to dress up the first few days of class to establish authority in the classroom (which was never an issue at SLAC) before I go back to normal-me on days like today, where I'm wearing Converse to class.

Addy N. said...

I get mistaken for a student (grad student) at CONFERENCES all the time. I used to try and take it as a compliment that I look young for my age (I'm almost 40), but now that I've been in a tenure track job for eight years and tenured for two, I find it insulting. It just happened last week when I was at a conference talking about my U to a grad student at her poster: "Are you almost done?" "Oh, I'm faculty" I said. UGH!

Eric Reuter said...

Context matters a lot. In a SLAC setting, lots of people are used to lots of students, and so their minds are in a pattern of looking for students. I suspect if you were in non-academic setting, this might not happen as often.

I was on a train recently, returning home, and the passenger next to me asked if I worked for The University. When I laughed and said "not even close", she apologized and said that I "looked academic". Not sure what that means, as I was wearing a beaten-up Carhartt vest, work boots, jeans, and a baseball cap, but clearly it trigged something in her mind. But given that I was the only one in the vicinity reading a book instead of fiddling with their phone, perhaps it was behavioral.

Personally, I can't tell the difference between most people of 21-35. So I wouldn't think anything of it in your case, beyond any situation in which it would be actually problematic to be mistaken for a student.