There was a pivotal moment when I knew I was a grown-up. Not the overly made-up, dressed up, trussed up, pretend kind of grown-up, but a grown-up the wider world recognised as such and took seriously.
For me it was the time I wasn’t ‘carded’ when ordering a Gin & Slimline at a trendy London bar.
‘Hey, don’t you want to see some ID?’ I asked the back of the retreating bartender. He turned and gave me a knowing smile.
What the hell with the knowing smile, I thought. Why, I was carded only last week. Ask anyone.
And from there, there was no going back.
I was a ‘Madam’ in Boots The Chemist, as in ‘Would Madam like anything else?’ and a ‘Sorry, Lady’ (as in ‘get the hell out of our way’) as the local skateboarders skated around my obviously ageing limbs. When did I become a lady to be apologised to? I resisted kicking off the work high heels and corn plasters and grabbing a board to show them my moves. Show those ruthlessly youthful young things I still had moves. But that would have been daft and a little desperate, although I’m sure I still had moves…sure of it.
And here’s the thing: I don’t particularly hanker after the things youth left behind, but I do mourn a little the fact there is no getting away with it anymore. I could always get away with it. At 30 I looked 20, but I guess at some point all Dorian Grays get to the point where we look our age.
Getting away with it for me was applying concealer and instantly dropping seven years, convinced that would be the only beauty trick ever needed for an instant face lift. Now, by the time I get to work, that same concealer has settled into the million crevices no home mirror ever picks up but the unforgiving mirrors at work will. There your reflection will laugh at your vain vanity at thinking you had somehow got away with something.
Anyway, so there I remain. Stuck in that bar in London aged around 30 now that I am 15 years hence (alright, 22 years hence) and living in Not London.
No surprise then that the beautifully poignant photographic portraits of older people by Tom Hussey seeing their younger selves in a mirror would have such a profound effect on me. A series called ‘Reflections’ and which was sent to me by my sister. Here’s one photograph from the series.
But the photograph I hold tenderly dear is the one of my mother-in-law in the bikini T-shirt gifted to her by my Cousin Sara and depicting how she felt on a significant birthday – and actually every day – which is clearly not the age on her birth certificate, that mechanism used to age us by a piece of paper.
So, anti-ageing be damned, there is no such thing, no matter how much money the beauty industry spends to convince us otherwise.
We will all age, and visibly, no point fighting the inevitable, but no-one can make us age in our mind. I’m 52 and happy being 52, but also happy to feel like that youngster with the skateboard moves who was years away from corn plasters and not being ‘carded’.