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 doing his 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 fourth-former buying booze for him and his spotty mates to drink in the park while making lewd comments about the 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.


  1. I get a shock every time a curl of grey hair falls round my shoulder. Most of it is still dark brown, but then, out of the corner of my eye, my years are plastered on my face for all to read.

  2. There's something very warm and inviting about a matronly woman!

  3. At first I looked older and now I look younger, so I guess I can't complain. I am blessed with good skin, I can't help it, but I am ever so grateful for it. I don't mind growing older and I don't mind not getting looked at anymore. I like what is happening in my mind as I mature, it gets easier up there.

  4. The same seemed to happen to me when I turned 30 a few years ago. Just as I'm starting to become comfortable in my own skin - that skin is starting to sag and wrinkle! Ahhh!

  5. I've always looked younger than my years too. But I was very disturbed to see in the mirror this morning that I'm developing when I call "middleaged chin". I shall be doing neck exercises all the rest of the week. (It's another depressing birthday next Wednesday!)

  6. oh, funny--i'm with you. i used to look very young and rage against it. and my mother always said, "some day you'll be glad to look younger than you are!" and i did not believe her.

    now my face is starting to sag and i fear i'm starting to look my age. how vain am i---yesterday one of the very young people i work with told me that i don't look a day over 35. that gave me such a lift! (i am 51.)

  7. I'm 28 and could easily pass for 10 years younger - there's a 6th form college very close to my house and some of the girls there look older than me!

    My elder bro once got asked for ID in Tesco - about a year ago, I think. He's 42 and, about 9 years ago, was in a boy band. His stage age? 'Just turned 21'. No questions asked!

    My older sister is 45, 4'11, and woe betide her if she's wearing a white shirt, black trousers, is carrying a rucksack, and happens to be on a bus full of schoolkids... she'll get herded along with them. This has happened twice in the past year.

    Needless to say we get the inability to age from parents who are in their 60s/70s and could easily pass for 15 years younger. Knowing I won't look too bad when I get to a certain age amkes me almost look forward to it!

  8. I got ID'd about a year ago when I was buying cigs for my friend. I'm 23.

    I also got ID'd for alcohol the other week, at the Tescos attached to work, buying a bottle of cava for an office birthday! Luckily I'd taken my wallet with me...or I would seriously have died.

  9. This is EXACTLY what I experienced.
    I have not enjoyed a time of looking like I was in my twenties -Very funny description.

  10. This is EXACTLY what I experienced.
    I have not enjoyed a time of looking like I was in my twenties -Very funny description.

  11. Pleased to say that a couple of times I've been asked for proof of age when asking for an OAP reduction!

    I used to do Bohemian (without the chic, I fear) - now not so much Matronly Eclectic as Wrinkly Eccentric.

  12. Nice to see you around again. And I admit that I laughed at the words "coltish flaring nosrils." That was so APT.

    I've always looked my age so I can't relate much.

    But, aging has been tough for me. I am 49 and I look it. I sorely miss those days when I would get second looks in stores....

    I am now part of the "invisible older woman" club.

  13. Ah, I'm becoming quite familiar with 'bohemian chic' - more the bohemian than chic I'm afraid!

  14. The other day as I passed the supermarket I heard the tail end of a conversation between two older girls and a pair of younger ones. "Let me guess..you want us to go in and buy fags for you," the older ones were saying with tolerant smiles. ID? Who needs it.

  15. When I was 42 I was taken for "an old looking 28". Now I am more than 52, I have actually been offered pensioner's rate on the bus. In other words, in 10 years I have aged almsot 40 years. Could even be more ... I mean, the bus driver might have thought I was 90 for all I know.

    OK, so the smoking is my fault (and yes girls, it DOES cause wrinkles!!!), but the menopause? Who the hell can we blame for that?!

    I should add that I only get offered pensioner's rate if my hair needs dyeing, which is something I suppose.

    The fact that I acquired my first grey hair at the ripe old age of 23while pregnant with my first child is neither here nor there. At that age I looked so young that delivery men used to ask me if my mother was at home.

  16. My first age-related shock came when I was about 20 and I was looking in the job centre window. An old man next to me said - 'humph, they are all for young people!' 'I'm young' I said, a bit huffily. 'Yes' he replied, 'but you're not 16 are you?'. That hurt, it really did!

    I'd like to say I'm comfortable in my skin. People say I look young for 45, and I don't mind the odd grey hairs, but I'm beginning to really fret about the jowls I'm developing.

  17. Around my kitchen table! Check out my blog! I've only done one so far! Love your great-neice!

  18. Mopsa: My sisters are both naturally blonde and all their grey hairs blend in nicely - so unfair! (Un-fair? Unfortunate word!)
    GB: And something very warm and inviting about a man wearing a permanent fur coat!
    Irene: No, it definitely gets easier as you get older in some ways, especially if you're settled with someone who accepts you exactly as you are.
    Rosie: Beauty is all in the mind - that's what I keep telling myself, anyway!
    Rol:Let me know how you get on with those exercises. If they work, I'll be doing them myself!
    Laurie: It's a cliche but true - youth is wasted on the young!
    China Blue: Young genes are much better than any surgery, creams or exercises.
    PDEWYMO: Just thinking about those times in my youth when I was challenged about my age still makes me go red!
    Veggie: My only consolation for you is that you eventually get to an age when you couldn't give a monkey's!
    Stitchwort: Wrinkly eccentric - that's me too!
    Maria: Isn't it strange how the older you get, the more invisible you get. Try shouting - works for me!
    Nutmeg:Better to be individual than a High Street fashion clone.
    Omega Mum: So true. I always have to resist the urge to march up to smoking young people, pull the cigarette from their lips and harangue them about their health.
    Witty Woman: I am resisting the urge (and ease) of going grey and still stick a colour on my hair on occasion. Wish I was braver and could just be totally natural. Vanity, I suppose.
    Mid-lifer: Hold this thought: "The best is yet to come!"
    Whoops!: Hello! Great blog. I'm going over to comment in a minute. Hope to see you soon. XX

  19. Hello - nice to meet you!
    I do identify with this - I looked perilously young at 18. And I DID borrow my mothers clothes. Imagine nighclubbing in 1990 in a satin shirt with pearl buttons, culottes and a nicely nautical navy blazer. Country Cauals rocked! I'm cringeing now.

  20. Thank you :) you inspired me! read yours thought they were amazingly true but funny! decided I want to be a journalist now! Maria x x x

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  22. This rang so many bells. I seemed to move seamlessly from spots to wrinkles without any of the glorious young but sophisticated years in between. Great blog.