On my way to pick up takeaway lunch from the local vegetarian cafe, as I often am come lunchtime,I pass a student’s union. During term time there are always youngsters hovering outside, handing out flyers for student nights: boys in skinny jeans with hair in a stiff plank over one eye, girls in humiliating skintight fancy dress (why don’t the boys have to wear it?!), shivering skinny frames warmed only by fake uggs. Running the gauntlet of the flyer kids is akin to passing a building site and bracing oneself for the whistle, or lack of. I’m offended if they mistake me for a student and offer me a flyer; I’m offended if they don’t and clearly think I am old and past it.
Today took the biscuit though. At the veggie cafe/shop I also picked up some garden goodies, and held them in my arms so as not to use a (gasp) plastic bag. A lanky youth proffered a flyer to the “I LUV SEXXY SCHOOL DISCO VODKA PUKE NITE OMG” or similar. I shook my head politely, but dude, seriously. I’m carrying a litre bottle of organic seaweed fertiliser. Do I look like a debauched student type? At the same time I was secretly pleased that- assuming he was awake enough at 1pm to actually see properly- I could be mistaken for a student. And then I wondered whether it was the clothes that did it, and felt less smug.
It has got me thinking about ageing, and my conclusion is that I don’t give a toss. I actually like being 28 and don’t mind the rapid approach of 30. (Oh I can just see myself in ten years time, ROARING with laughter at the idea that I’d feel moved to ponder on “ageing” when my age still begins with “2”) . Fortunately I don’t have wrinkles yet, and I assume that I can”t hold too many pencils under crucial parts of my anatomy- not that I’ve tried. As it happens, I think women get better, appearance-wise, in their 30s. So I’m not bothered.
In terms of confidence and work and all that- well, I’m miles more assertive and self-assured than I was at 21, and though my working hours are lamentable, I’d rather work until 11pm in an edit suite than spend my days running through torrential rain to fetch frothy lattes for demanding directors.
And I don’t feel a sense of my youth escaping me- in fact I look forward to the exciting things that the next decade will bring.
I think my mind is also on this subject because I’m filming an item about equal pay tomorrow, and I have set up interviews with some very impressive, much older, women who are successful and opinionated and fabulous. I made a decision not to reveal how intimidated I felt when I spoke to them on the phone- and was surprised to realise that they were talking to me like an equal. Like, we were just women having a work conversation, rather than a trembling, mumbling teenager trying to speak to a proper adult. So perhaps I am finally growed up- or at least getting there- and apparently I’m totally OK about that. Surprise!
Why do we think being extremely young is so brilliant? As I remember, it was filled with hard work and uncertainty and hangovers. Why do we buy magazines which tell us we should aspire to be like 19-year-old models, all the skinnier for their hamster wheel existence and the drugs they snort to stay awake, rather than the sort of interesting women, who don’t answer to anybody, whom I’ll be interviewing tomorrow?
It strikes me that in our tunnel-vision focus on youth- the appearance of, the retaining of, the recapturing of- we’re missing the bigger picture: the fact that we’re perpetuating a bit of a myth, really.