Stop Asking Where I'm From

I love it when I’m underestimated. Which is often.

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 27•13

You guys have seen pictures of me, right? I mean, there’s a picture of me directly to the right of this post, so, obviously. Look at me. I look young, right? I always get told I look young. It’s probably because I’m petite (I’m exactly 5’1″ if I’m not slouching), and because I STILL have baby fat taking up space in my face, which is just cruel at this point.

And you know what’s weird? Like, strangers comment on it. In courthouses. I’ll be wearing my tailored blazers and little dresses, and I’ll be striding purposely through the halls of the courthouse in my heels, with my phone in hand (a sure sign you’re an attorney – no one else is allowed to bring phones into the building) and RANDOM PEOPLE appearing for the morning call will stop me and be like, “How old are you?”

No “hi.” No “hello.” No “how the hell are you?”

Just, “How old are you?”

And it’s always white people who ask me, too. Only white people.

Oh, white people.

Anyway, normally, I’d just be like, “It’s none of your damn business how old I am, stop being frigging creepy.” But sometimes (most of the time) they catch me entirely off guard, so I’m just like, “…I’m twenty-six.” And they’re ALWAYS like, “You look eighteen!”

It’s always eighteen, too.

Hm.

Anyway, so that’s kind of really weird. But it does make me think that I probably do look quite young.

And let’s be honest: I’m adorable. I’m the most adorable person to ever adorb, is basically what I’m saying to everyone reading this, forever. I’m petite and my glasses make my eyes look huge and I have pinchy cheeks and I’m always smiling or grinning or smirking and I wear cute dresses with nipped in waists and tailored blazers and I have super shiny, super flippy hair, and I am just a vision of adorableness.

(IT’S NOT BRAGGING, IT’S REPORTING.)

 

So yeah. I’m kind of horribly precious. Not necessarily in a good way, either. Because who wants to try to be a fearless, tough defense attorney and look precious?

NO ONE THAT’S WHO.

But I’m not going to start deliberately ugging it up because screw that, and I’m not going to start wearing clothes that don’t fit me because my mom made me do that all throughout junior high and some of high school, so screw that, too.

(OMG, you guys, I was a trainwreck in high school, physically. I hadn’t yet figured out that curly hair wasn’t meant to be brushed, so I’d brush it and it would get HUGE and be nothing but frizz. I also didn’t know how to use straighteners or hot air brushes. So I basically wore my hair in a huge frizzy ponytail, and it was awful. I obviously didn’t wear makeup, which has only slightly improved over the years because I have since learned how to apply mascara, and I only dressed in jeans and tees. Also, my mom insisted I wear sweaters that were like 4 sizes too big for me because boys exist and boys are bad, so I was constantly DROWNING in fabric, which explains why I gravitate toward tailored, structured looks now that emphasize how petite I am and -GASP- actually fit me. And then senior year I decided to rebel because I was an overachieving goody-two-shoes little monster, so I just abandoned wearing shoes and only wore my slippers to school. But whatever, because they were so comfortable. So yes. Trainwreck in high school. I make up for it now, and how.)

So basically, I refuse to change up my current style, because I love it. I’m just going to keep being normal and if that means I end up looking twee, so be it. I’ll deal.

But it’s kind of funny, just because of the environment. I’m ALWAYS the youngest-looking person in the room. Always. Judges have commented on it. Repeatedly. Different ones. Sometimes on the record, which is pretty funny. Courtroom personnel ALWAYS comment on it. With regularity.

Plus, my boss, who is sometimes with me in court but not always, is old enough to be my father. And my counterparts for the State are all older than me, and most of them have been practicing longer than I have.

And when I show up in court with my pencil skirts and shiny earrings, smiling and chipper (why am I always so chipper in the mornings? I DON’T EVEN CONSUME CAFFEINE), they basically see this:

Sigh.

Guys, that’s basically me.

I’ve been known to wear bling-y headbands to court.

BECAUSE WHY NOT.

But let’s not get too focused on who’s wearing headbands and who isn’t, you guys. We’re better than that.

I’m very aware that this is what they see when I come skipping into the room.

Haha, there’s this one judge who calls me “dear” and it’s kind of really sweet. I know that offends a lot of women, and I take no issue with that. If some women are offended, they are absolutely right to feel that way. Sometimes it offends me as well when men say that, especially when they don’t know me and that’s the first term they use. Fuck you – I’m no one’s “dear.”

But I’ve had some conversations with this judge and told him a few jokes and made him laugh, and after that he started calling me “dear,” and so I can tolerate that. But I’ve definitely seen an ASA or two frown at me a bit when they notice use of that term and notice how …. almost solicitous (?) the judge is when I step up. And I do believe that at least part of it is because this judge is an older judge who’s sat on the bench for quite some time, and he knows how new I am to his courtroom, and he’s trying to be nice.

Also, let’s be real, I kind of look like I’m a total airhead.

And the caricature I play on this blog doesn’t help matters, does it. :P

But good luck getting me to stop.

Haha, there’s this one ASA on one of my child porn cases who, I swear, it’s a challenge to get this man to even LOOK at me. He’s been a hot-shot State’s Attorney for years, and he’s admittedly pretty damn handsome, so he’s got the whole prosecutor strut down, and man, I seriously think he thinks I”m just some random fan that follows my boss around and writes down whatever he says and fetches him coffee. Seriously, he WILL.NOT.EVEN.LOOK.AT.ME.

I’ll be standing right there, it will be MY MOTION that we’re discussing, and he’ll just look right over my head and talk to my boss. And what makes it really funny is … I don’t think he even really recognizes me?

Like, I think the guy must have goldfish memory, because every time I pass by him in the hall or whatever on my own, I always smile at him and nod (in recognition, you know, not to be an ass), and he just gives me this long look of perfect bewilderment, as if he can’t imagine who I am or how I was even allowed into the building.

So now I’ve just made a game of it and I tease him relentlessly and he doesn’t really know what to do with me. He’ll find out what to do with me when I absolutely slam him during the hearing on my motion. Oh, he’ll find out. Bet he’ll recognize me after that.

Then there are the prosecutors that give me pep talks, because they recognize that I’m new. And that’s really sweet, and I appreciate it. Except when they do it in a way that reveals that they think I’m a dumbass. Because, fuck that. I’m new and I’m young, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing. Hell, I bet they’ve been practicing for years with other attorneys who don’t know as much about how to defend a child porn case as I do. So, whatever.

(I know, you wouldn’t know it to look at me that I know this much about that awful crime. I think that about myself sometimes, too.)

Then there are the prosecutors, like my poor, beleaguered ASA up there, who really just won’t talk to me about the case at all because I’m not the lead so I’m not worth their time and I look like a little airhead anyway, so forget it.

…And then I manage to pull something that throws a serious wrench in their case, and they can’t ignore me anymore. That is by far the most fun. Because I did that once with a special prosecutor on one of our biggest sex cases. My boss was in federal court that day for an emergency arraignment so I was handling a status dates on several of our state cases that were up that day. It was totally comical how sweet (and dismissive) this prosecutor was when I made it clear that I was the only one there … and then how stony he/she got when I very sweetly revealed what I intended to file and tender that day. It was beautiful. And now whenever I enter that courtroom, this prosecutor notices. I love it.

The same goes for our clients, too, actually. Some more than others. I don’t talk that much during initial meetings because my boss is always with me and, what, I’m going to talk over him? Repeat what he just said and look like a moron? Nah. So I sit there and concentrate on taking notes,  and I feel like they initially see me as some kind of glorified secretary, or just a newb attorney who knows nothing substantive about their case.

And that’s okay, I don’t blame them. They’re stressed out and don’t know any better. But when they call the office, I’m the one that often deals with them and answers their questions and tells them what to do. On any given day, I’m fielding phone calls from our inmate clients about where their case is positioned and what we plan to do next, I’m giving instructions on how to proceed for a federal detention hearing and how to comply with the bond, I’m explaining how sex evaluations work and how to help us put together effective mitigation. I know the details of all their cases. I know, at any given moment, all the itsy bitsy To Do items that they need to take care of and that we need to take care of. I know all about their cases, damn it, and I know all about the procedure aspect on our end, and how we have to proceed.

Some clients are jerks. No matter how much they see me do, I’m still the newb associate that can’t be trusted. But it’s always nice when we get to that moment where clients “get it.” Where they see me coming to their court date on my own, with my files tucked under my arm, and they’re not apprehensive about it because they know I got this. When they feel comfortable asking me the questions, and knowing I’ll give them the answers.

Sigh. IDK, you guys.

I’m pretty used to being underestimated, to be honest. All my life, really. And I knew I was in for a lot more of it in this environment. But I don’t let it bug me. Like with that one bewildered ASA, I usually make a game of subverting people’s image or expectations of me. It’s not something that upsets me (…for too long) or keeps me up at night.

Besides, the real joy is in seeing the looks on their faces when I show what I’m made of. That’s the best thing about being underestimated. Because I can walk in there looking like an adorable airhead, be awesome, and walk out like a bad-ass.

Yup.

Exactly like that.

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