A Question of Age

THERE was a young man in the supermarket queue in front of me buying some beer. He seemed a decent enough lad but he looked young. The shop assistant was obviously suspicious that he might be buying booze to alleviate the pain of facing an evening of history homework so she asked him for some ID.

He looked offended and said, “But I’m 22!”

Oh how I felt for that young man as he rifled through his wallet for some proof that he was a man of the world and not a shifty teenager buying booze for him and his spotty mates to drink in the park while making lewd comments about young women walking past.

For age is a funny thing. When I was young I always looked much younger than my years – a fact that was very galling to a wannabe wild-child clubber who at 18 looked 12.

Looking young when I was in my teens and 20s was a cross I learned to bear. It had many downsides. Boys one or two years older than me wouldn’t give me a second glance while I was at school, being more attracted to the “cool” girls with their supercilious smiles and coltish flaring nostrils and who, in retrospective, looked about 30, while I had to fight off the attentions of boys with scabby knees and snotty noses from the yawning chasm of two forms below me.

Old men patted me on the head a lot (no doubt the reason why I’m short) and called me “dear” in a patronising tone of voice – very galling to an ultra-sophisticated (in my own estimation, if not in anyone else’s) 18-year-old. In pubs I had to hide away or drink Coca Cola.

I wore “grown-up” clothes, always had a cigarette dangling from lips and plastered on the make-up. Sadly, it was all to no avail. It made me look as if I’d raided my mother’s wardrobe and stolen her Woodbines and Rimmell strawberry crush lipstick.

At 25 I was still passing for 16 which I must admit, was handy for getting in on a child’s ticket at various attractions but had very few other benefits.

Then I reached 30. At one minute to midnight on the eve of my birthday I looked 16; at midnight everything dropped, folded, shrivelled in some places and ballooned in others. At one minute past midnight I looked like an old bag.

At no stage of my life have I ever looked in my 20s – those prime years of most women’s lives when they’re old enough to know what they want and young enough to get it.

These days, however, I’ve settled into my skin, even if there is rather too much of it. I have given up trying to look - or act - sophisticated and have settled for what I like to think is Bohemian Chic but which in reality is more Matronly Eclectic. Never mind, at least I no longer smoke and I've given up the strawberry crush lipstick in favour of strawberries and cream - so much more satisfying whatever age you are.

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  1. Cute post. Funny how 30 was your tipping point. Mine was 21. The day I became legal, I was never again was I asked for an ID. Somehow neither am I asked for ID these days for the senior discount. Sigh.

    1. Yes, not being asked for a "senior" ID card is very galling!

  2. THey asked for my ID at a BB game in Atlanta when I was 50 and I thought that was great until my brother told me they ask for ID from EVERYONE without even looking, to avoid any issues.

    1. That's a shame! They could at least have pretended you looked much younger!

  3. I remember getting carded in a casino when I was 26. I was shocked. I didn't think I looked that young. (I was with my mother and her friend. They told me to enjoy it.) I haven't been carded since. Of course, I go into casinos... well, that might have been the last time, and I don't drink, so it's not like it's necessary.

    1. I hope you won some money to help you get over the shock!

  4. I always looked younger too, even after having children. It didn't help that I married at 18 and preferred jeans and t-shirts with sneakers instead of "grown-up" clothes. I remember when I was 28 and my youngest was newborn an older woman, about 60 I think, told me I was a nice young girl helping out my mother by minding the kids for the day. I'm 67 now and it shows in my hands and around my eyes more than anywhere else, but I don't feel old, even though my grandson is getting married this coming Saturday.

  5. Oh my....to be that young again! Drinking age when I was 18 was 18. Carding was not a big thing back then. However when drinking age changed to 21 I was 21. Not that I was ever a big drinker. Being legal seemed to be the THING! I have to admit though, having gray hair and looking OLDER then 21, it is fun to be carded at 59 now. I know it is a HAVE TO DO thing but I like it. Makes me feel young.