Since my early twenties, people have thought that I was a lot younger than I actually was/am. When I was 22, someone mistook me for a 14-year-old. When I was 24, a guy I was dating thought I was 19 at first. When I get carded at bars in the US, doormen always look at me skeptically. In St. Petersburg, when I start teaching a new group of students and reveal my age, they are shocked and often say they thought I was 20.

Frankly, I’ve never really liked this too much. I’ll admit that having a chubby baby face makes me look young, but if after talking to me for a little while you still think I’m a teenager, what does that say about me?

I’ve never really understood the world’s obsession with youth. I’ve always had friends of all ages — my oldest friend is in his 70s! Older people tend to have their shit together. Older people have read more books. Older people have interesting stories to tell. And I truly believe that narrow mainstream notions of beauty are a fictional cultural construct and that women can be lovely at any age, not just 15.

All right. So I have to admit, with my 29th birthday approaching this weekend*, being mistaken for younger is bothering me a little bit less. Partly this is the influence of Russia, where you’re supposed to sow your wild oats and be married and have a kid by the time you’re 25. Of course, I haven’t started to believe this in any way, but if I look younger people ask fewer insulting questions.

So to all you people who said, “Oh, someday you’ll be glad that you look young for your age”: OK, you win. Someday has arrived.

*this is not shameless fishing for birthday wishes, I swear