Monday, 29 September 2008

Farewell Sweet Youth...


On Sunday, over a scrumptious breakfast at a cafe on Cowley Road, I experienced my first serious bout of 'Holy crap, I am nearly 30 and I am not [insert various personal/ societal expectations and one obvious biological function]!'

I am one of those treasures who has always liked the 'guess my age' game. I have pretty much always been told that I look far younger than I am. 'You fools', I think, 'it's just my smooth skin, puppy eyes and as for that merry glint in in my eye...Well, that's just in wonderful anticipation of being told I look youthful.'

But perhaps this whole squinting at the screen all day has started to take its toll, or perhaps I am more of a drinker than I think I am (I am pretty sure I am of the 'nurse one drink for 3 hours 'kind), or maybe it's all this damned endless worrying about how I might not look or feel young at any point and therefore had better make the most of my youth by acting recklessly that is sapping me of my vital chi. Maybe I should be going to bed for lights out at 9:30pm instead of 11:00pm for some reading and analysing.

In any case, I was reclining against the wine red cushions on the bench, half-committed to the papers, very committed to my hot chocolate, when my new German friend (and it's not that relevant that he's German, but it might explain how seriously I am taking his comment; they're not known for frivolity or exaggeration) made a comment along the lines of me 'getting on in life'. I said, rather perplexed, 'How old do you think I am?' He said, '29'. I said, a little winded, 'Yeah, I am. How did you know?' He replied, 'You can tell it from your eyes, they look like they've seen and experienced a few things' (or something very similar to this, Your Honour). But what I heard was: 'You can tell from your crack whore, heavily-lined eyes that you're a bitter, washed-up, hopeless, has-been who should either be married with brats or at least not hanging out with people in their early 20s'.

I said, 'Wow, most people think I look around 26.' He said, 'Does this bother you? Is this something you worry about all the time?' (Clever bastard). I wanted to say that I felt like he had just drop-kicked me into the backyard BBQ of a team of 30 year olds: the men (big boys) sporting babies strapped to their chests, Mambo T-shirts, cargo shorts and chunky slip-on shoes and the women singlet tops, floral skirts or linen pants, bulky diamond rings and gold sandals. Men tending to the steaks, women tossing the salads. Opinions on property, skiing holidays, school selection and fees competing with the latest Ministry of Sound compilation.

I wanted to say that I hadn't really worried about my age before, and thank him for pointing out my quickening march towards death, and, what's more, for making me feel like that undignified parent who tries to make friends with their children and their children's friends, those ones who brought out Champagne at parties when you were 13 and you sensed that the world wasn't quite as ordered or safe as you'd been led to believe.

What I said was, 'No, no, I am not worried about that at all.' But I am. I am not devastated, I can see the light-hearted side of it all, but I am changed somehow. I know this is tied up with vanity and perhaps I should embrace my overflowing wisdom and more even temperament, but I also feel this whole thing has doused some of my sense of play and sparkle.

If you have any words (your own or of others) that would help me perceive this differently, I would be most grateful.

6 comments:

KT Lindsay said...

Blimey! I too have suffered similar comments of late. Does something happen during that year that one approaches 30 that suddenly propels you to appear the age that you actually are. It has been months since I have been id-d in tescos when buying my friday night bottle of rioja, yet i still get that nervy feeling that the spotty 17 yr old kid will ask me my age....Look at my hair I useually say - see gry strands, with a inner gloat...will it occur no more!?! I can't bring myself to think so. Time to get out the facepacks and the hair die to bring on that youthful radiance! We will not age fair one! xx p.s thank you for using my pic xxx

Monkey Mind said...

This was the email response from my brother (who is 20 months older than me):

You'll always be a youngster in my eyes. I mean my mind's eye, cos yeah in my eyes I can see you getting a bit old. But don't worry. I'm sure you'll be pregnant in no time.

I'm still stunned about the boardies and baby straps call - ouch, man. And I'm back at uni - talk about living in the past. A Russian girl said to me that I 'could do with some eye moisturiser' the other day! I would have slapped her down but I was too stunned. I thought 'oh, she's only 21' but then I realised that she's one of those freaky people that never say a word they don't mean.

In fact, the next time I see her, I think she's going to get a-slapping.

It's bad. But being a woman is worse. I could have at least not got married, played the field, and what not. You guys play the field and end up lonesome and blue. We just end up with health problems. But man, playing the field. The reason I didn't of course is that I wasn't much of a gardener. Better to get in doors, Marjorie, and keep warm. But sometimes you do just want to roam out in the paddock it's true.

You should get pregnant.

Kate said...

If it makes you feel better, monkey, I feel about 45 right now.

Having seen that picture of you on FB (you know, in a sundress, sitting on a country fence with flowing locks), I think you have absolutely nothing to worry about. You look ridiculously fabulous in it.

Also, someone guessing you're 29 is just spookily accurate - he didn't say "35" which would have been a lot worse. (Nothing's wrong, obviously with being that age, but you wouldn't want to be mistaken for it six years before your time!)

I say you're hot and you should put it down to his teutonic bluntness.

K xx

John Flood said...

I was surprised when my mother at 72 said she pictured herself in her mind's eye as she was when she was 23. It wasn't her physiological age, but it was her mental and spiritual one. She seemed to enjoy it. And that was without all the "benefits" of cosmetic surgery or even modern cosmetics.

I found you!

Monkey Mind said...

I can't believe you found this John. That's quite impressive. I thought my disguise was clever;).

For other readers, John Flood is a well-known Professor in my field of interest. He has assured me he will not forward this on to all his academic colleagues who may have a hand in my professional future (gulp)!

Thank you for your ressuring words about your mum. I am on my way to full recovery...

Alana Piper said...

Umm...pearls...um...you're not old? And you know you look young. And you're pretty, which is more important anyway. Some people were ugly at 16, ugly at 21 and still ugly at 30.

Okay frankly I'm all outta pearls because I so cannot get on board with the panic. You're hot, you've got a hot, committed man, and you're at the start of a great career. Anyway, it doesn't take long to crank out a piglet or two ;)