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Thinking about ageing

make up free and unedited!

Here’s a story: When we were down in London recently, Dave and I were buying drink, and the lady in the supermarket said to him ‘It’s you who’s paying isn’t it, because she’s not old enough’! I was all outraged to the point where I forgot my age: I went ‘I’m 28!’ when I’m actually 29! I scuttled off and stood at the side, and she kept talking to Dave going ‘She does look really young! I have a 25 year old daughter so I know’. Then she started telling Dave how he looked really old though, so she was ok to sell him the alcohol. Which he didn’t really appreciate either!

This got me thinking about age, and the relationship our external and internal ages, i.e. how old we look and how old we feel, and our actual ages of course!

On that day in London I was wearing my glasses and no make up, so maybe that was part of it, and there are things about me, like my (lack of) height, the big smile with the chubby cheeks, the open pores, the spots and chicken pox scars that look like even more spots that I guess do make me look young. And the way I dress maybe (see below), though on that day I was actually wearing jeans and a jumper like everyone else. But I fail to see how I look 17, I really do! 24 maybe, 22 at a push! And it’s not as if this is the first time this has happened, I’ve been ID’d 4 or 5 times in the last year. I suppose I should be happy about it, looking young is no bad thing in this ageist society.

Though I see the signs of ageing in my face and on my body and it’s weird to me that they aren’t apparent to everyone. My skin is thinner and dryer, and there are lines around my eyes and on my forehead, and on my hands and feet, ridges on my fingernails, and bags under my eyes, always bags under my eyes, no matter how much I sleep. Though I honestly don’t care, I feel quite neutral about all that. I’m not saying I like it, but it’s part of me, and I like me. Well, the bags do bother me, but the lines are ok. They’re interesting, fun even, to look at. I like changing, on the outside as well as the inside.

Because I don’t feel young any more at all. I’m in the place in my career where I’m settled and I know what I’m doing and I know I’m pretty good at it. And we’re getting married because we think we are finally mature enough to have kids ourselves. I don’t feel old, particularly, but I do feel grown up. So it bothers me that obviously people look at me and see an inexperienced girl.

I suppose I should dress more professionally to appear older. I have actually changed my style quite a bit over the last year, not consciously to look older, but my taste has changed quite naturally. While I still love my bright colours, I’m embracing the business casual look more and wearing colours as ‘pops’ with a neutral base rather than having the whole outfit bright much more often. I’ve basically got rid of the cutesy plastic jewellery stuff I used to be into, and I’ve pretty much stopped wearing trainers except for exercise. And tshirts. I’m even wearing small heels all the time now. Every now and then I’ll still put together an outfit that screams ‘children’s tv presenter’, but if someone thought I was 20 on one of the multicolour days, it wouldn’t even bother me anyway.

In case you’re wondering where this is going, it’s not! For once, this is a completely un-thought-out post. Just stream of consciousness really. Hope you don’t mind.

But it’s an interesting topic, isn’t it. What is your relationship with age? Do you look the age you feel? Do you dress in a particular way to make you look the age you are? Or the age you feel? What do you think of people dressing younger than they are? Do you assume that they want to be younger? What constitutes ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ anyway? Is it about showing more skin or something else?

So many questions! I’d really love to hear what you all think!

The picture by the way is make up free and unedited, so you can see all the various bits on my face showing my age and my supposed youngness, all of which I usually try to hide in photos through strategic lighting and use of the magic spot healing tool in photoshop. But I’m strangely ok about this photo. I actually really like it. This is what I look like!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lemondrop Marie 30 August 2010, 3:06 pm

    I am a little age sensitive since I am growing older and it seems older (I live in a college town so I am reminded a lot!) I am glad that I look a little young for my age- I've been carded for alcohol plenty and never mind, while my hubs who has spend far more time in the sun is rarely asked to present ID. I think I dress a little young for my age- colorful, intersted in trends more than some, but I avoid trying to dress way too young- I have a professional job and don't want that to be my image at all.
    Interesting post!
    Marie @ Lemondrop ViNtAge

  • Helen 30 August 2010, 3:09 pm

    That is very rude! I also get told I look young all the time, especially in work as a librarian. People expect you to be old with glasses. There have been a few occasions when people haven't treated me in the same way that they would an older librarian which annoys me and I've sometimes struggled to have myself taken seriously in work. I know everyone says oh when you're 40 you'll love your youthful looks, but it's so annoying right now!

  • Lorena 30 August 2010, 3:28 pm

    Franca I enjoyed this post very much.
    I actually like your picture too, it's very natural, human and pretty.
    In regards to age, I have to admit I feel a little uncomfortable with knowing that each day that goes by I am prone to more white hairs, more lines…
    I feel I "began" to age, or at least that I see it, about 3 years ago when I turned 32.
    Before that, I got carded in a bar in NY, meaning the bar tender was either half blind, it was too dark or I looked less than 21.
    While I am still adapting at being a grown up, sometimes I still feel like I have not grown up.
    I do not feel my age and sometimes when I walk into stores that are oriented toward younger crowd I wonder if I am being looked at.

  • Maven 30 August 2010, 3:35 pm

    I'm about to turn 36, and over the last year or so I've started to feel like my body is getting away from me. It's just little things here and there that other people probably wouldn't notice, but I know that in the next several years it's just going to get worse and I have to make peace with it so that I'm not struggling with my body. I think I look like a woman in her 30s and I'm fine with that. As to how aging has affected my clothing choices–I'm not sure. I think I've gotten slightly more boring and functional in the last two years, but these things go in cycles for me, so who knows what will be next (aside from more gray hairs, which are guaranteed)?

  • Cynthia 30 August 2010, 4:19 pm

    These are cool questions, and I might answer more fully in a blog post, but I will say — I was like you. I don't smoke, don't spend a lot of time in the sun, and I've been using moisturizer on my face since I was in my 20s. I kept getting carded when buying alcohol through my mid-30s, although now that I'm over 40 it hasn't happened in a few years.

  • chelsea 30 August 2010, 4:53 pm

    I am turning 25 in a little over a month and I couldn't be more excited. I think it is a marvelous growth, being a quarter of a century old. I am old enough to do everything that the young kids want to do, and young enough that many older people look on wistfully and sigh "Oh, to be 25 again."
    I have always had a super positive idea of ageing. Birthday parties as a kid? Is there anything better? It was always exciting and for me it still is. I'm not sure when I'll get to the point where I hate ageing. I kind of think it won't happen. I want to embrace my laugh lines, not fight them. I hate those commercials and ads for anti-ageing syrums and creams. But then, I haven't reached the point of having to use them. I want to age. I don't want to look 25 for the rest of my life.
    On a side note, I too get the "You look so much younger" bit. I once had a woman tell me that I didn't look older than 16. I'm sorry, but there is no friggin way I look 16. No way. I used to get the "You look so much older than 8!" because I was always so tall. It is a very strange turn around.

  • Kelly 30 August 2010, 5:00 pm

    I'm 24. I think I pretty much look it. I'm starting to get lines beneath my eyes and on my forehead, though, despite my devotion to moisturizers and sunscreen. I hate to admit that when I'm with people my age, I study their eyes and foreheads to see if I'm "normal" – and even though by now I'm pretty confident in the fact that I am "normal" and not more wrinkly than lots of other people my age, I can't help but check everyone out anyway. The lines under my eyes are my biggest body insecurity.

    I can't decide if I dress young or old. I like bows, ruffles, sparkles, and cutesy stuff. I'm trying to get away from that, but I can't help but love it all. So in that way I feel like I dress young, like a child. But I also tend to cover up more than other people my age. While I do have some mini skirts and low necklines in my closet, I don't wear them very often. A lot of women my age wear a study uniform of tube tops, halter tops, etc. and that's just not me. So in that way sometimes I feel like I dress more like a 34 year old than a 24 year old.

    As far as people dressing younger than they are – I think that's a tough one. Some people look "right" in "younger" clothes and some people don't.

  • Emily, Resplendent Tranquility 30 August 2010, 7:22 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post. You raised so many good points and questions about society's fascination with aging.

    I am 25 and more often than not I'm mistaken for being younger. Recently, a blogger friend mentioned to me that I could easily pass for 18. Others have told me even younger than that. While I'm not altogether unhappy about such compliments (are they even compliments?), I feel, as you stated, comfortable with the way my body is changing and would like to be recognized as someone who is both happy and healthy at her current age. I want to embrace aging and I feel like my current mindset will allow me to do so without getting caught up in all the hoopla over ''appearing younger.'' If in 10 years I still retain a look of youthfulness, that's fine. If I don't, that's fine too.

    P.S. This is completely off topic, but in response to the last comment you left me: Spicy pumpkin soup with ginger sounds incredibly delicious! I've only had ''tame'' (haha) pumpkin soups with a bit of sauteed onion. I think it's imperative that I look up spicy pumpkin soup recipes pronto 🙂

  • Shallow Mallow 30 August 2010, 7:56 pm

    What 's my age again? Well, you know about that one 😉

    I get to show my foreign ID plenty and wait impatiently for check out girls to identify which of the numbers is my birthdate. I am pleased most the time but when I am in a rush I can be a grump about it. Hey, every time could be the last 😀

    I got me some chubby cheeks and despite my tiny eyes I have quite a baby face *sigh* Once a friend of mine looked at a picture taken not two weeks earlier and she went "ooooh! You as a baby!" I didn't know how to tell her this was grown up me wearing a hood & no make-up but when I did she was shocked.

    Darn neotony doesn't help you to be taken seriously but then at least I can get away with wearing bows & just generally look like I 've fallen into an array of paint pots for a little bit longer.

  • Charlotte 30 August 2010, 10:49 pm

    A friend & I were talking this morning about not wanting to look like "mutton dressed as lamb." She turns 60 in the spring, when I turn 55. Aging turns into a bit more serious game after 40, I think–it's no longer a novelty. We spend most of our lives (if we're lucky) being "older." Youth's such a fleeting thing, and it's so beautiful–the pain of losing it can be acute, since our bodies do not just get cuter & cuter with time. In a nutshell: Enjoy it while it lasts. You'll look back with a smile on the days of being thought "too young" quite soon.

  • madam0wl, a.k.a Sandra 30 August 2010, 10:55 pm

    I'm 35 but I still get ID'd occasionally. Probably I dress a bit young, or at least different, which I think people associate with youthfulness. Also I've got a round face with only a few wrinkles, and I still battle zits ever so often. But I have a crop of grey hairs popping up. And varicose veins at the sides of my legs 🙁 And a few bits are sagging more than they used too. So I'm def. aware of how my body is ageing, but like you I'm fairly OK with it. However the other day I did purchase my first "anti-ageing" product, some Oil of Olay face wipes with 7 age-defying ingredients or something like that. I figure I should probably start trying to maintain/prevent a bit more than I had been. Also after reading that wearing large sunglasses helps to avoid squinty eye wrinkles I've been wearing my shades more often. Stuff like that.

    At 28 I still felt fairly young. I had my kids at 27, 29 and 32 so I know what you mean about finally feeling "old" enough for that. I'm glad we waited a few years longer than many of our friends did.

  • Franca 31 August 2010, 8:26 am

    Wow, such amazing stories and comments! Thank you everyone!

  • Little Miss Plump 31 August 2010, 3:11 pm

    This was an interesting post. I get ID'd a LOT, and I'm 35. It's annoying, because I don't have a driving licence and so have to carry my passport around with me. Not being British, I'm a little hesitant to do that – I mean what if I lose it? But I have to, I was actually refused to buy a bottle of wine in a Tesco express a few months ago! Ever since then I carry my passport with me at all times. And I get quite annoyed at being thought of as under 18 (or under 25, apparently they have to ask if they think you look under 25). I'm a woman, not a girl! But I admit I have a chubby face, few wrinkles, and I think I dress too young. This is something I've been trying to remedy lately, and I've started wearing more grown up clothes. But I'm not sure I *feel* grown up though! Some people think I should be flattered, but I don't want people thinking I'm a youngster. I think people sometimes treat me differently because I look so young. And I can't really believe it either – I have lots of grey hair and varicose veins, and have had since my early twenties.

  • Rad_in_Broolyn 31 August 2010, 4:04 pm

    I am 30 years old now, but since I often wear thrifted clothes from Junior's sections (for girls aged 13-17) and my body shape/weight hasn't changed much since my teenage years, and my own not so wrinkled, but still battling-spots skin, I often get mistaken for younger. The fact that I eschew "formal" and "business wear" like the plague does not help. The fact that my 31 year old partner gets mistaken for a 20 year old does not help (I generally hear 25). But sometimes, I wonder if folks don't know what 30 really looks like. I gauge a "younger woman" (23-36?) based on style, attitudes, speech, and maybe skin (but I had friends with significant fine lines at age 26, and other friends at 34 with skin like a youngster). I think it's generally difficult to guess anything except an age range.
    I also like your picture.

  • sartoriography 31 August 2010, 4:52 pm

    First, I really love the photo with this post. It looks honest and open and completely lovely. Isn't it great when the truth is beautiful?

    My relationship with my age has always puzzled me. When I was a child and teenage I always felt older than everyone else (despite being a year younger than people in my class). Adults always told me how grown up I was, how mature, etc etc. I'm sure part of that was physical- I've been tall since I was 10, had breasts, always had clear skin- and part was just generally being happy and confident. I got into R movies when I was 12, could go to college parties as a 9th grader, etc. I "passed", I guess we could say.

    Now, though, people often tell me how young I look. Like you, I'm generally not flattered by being told I look 20 when I'm in fact in my late 20's. I'm glad I don't look aged, but really, take a good look, people! I don't behave at all like a stereotypical 20 year old (as if there were such a thing), I don't think I've ever really dressed like one, and I certainly don't think I look young enough to warrant such constant commentary.

    Dressing for one's age is so tricky. I mean, it's a perennial favorite for magazine features, but I think age is, as we've proven, in many ways internal. I don't think there's anything wrong with a 40 year old woman wearing something a 20 year old might choose. I think in all cases the issue is one of taste and what suits your body.

    I think age has always been socially constructed. And as life stages and how we define them change from what they were in the 50's to the 90's, how one should dress changes with that. So, basically, I don;t really know how I "should" dress for being 27, but I know how I do dress. And I'm happy with it. So there, people who ask me if I'm 20!

  • The Waves 31 August 2010, 6:39 pm

    I am 32, and often get mistaken for younger. I think a lot of it comes down to me wearing clothes that are not all that grown-up (what does that even mean, really? beige suits or something?), and to not wearing make-up. There are times when I wonder whether people take me seriously, but I have no idea whether it is because of age issues or just because of my all-over-the-place-type of personality, and being a woman to top that. Sheesh, I don't know. I have so many thoughts regardings this topic, I might have to write a post about this!

    I was actually ID'd this summer while buying alcohol in Finland, but I got the feeling that it was partly because I was with friends who were in their early 20s. It was funny though – I have a feeling that the man behind the counter was probably the same age as me. He was amused to say the least.

  • The Sheriff's Daughter 1 September 2010, 4:13 pm

    A very interesting topic…
    I turn 47 tomorrow (actually that's good as I was convinced I was going to be 48!) and that's a little too close to 50 for my liking, somehow, although I am married to a 50 year old.(How did that happen?)
    I was asked to show proof of age, recently, in the supermarket, by a wee boy on the checkout(I was clearly old enough to be his mother)…it might have been flattering if I didn't think he did it as a joke…sigh.
    Actually, that is something I have noticed about growing older (apart from the lines etc.etc.etc.) and that is that I fancy men who are about my age or older now (including hubby, of course!.
    I think quite a bit of "looking your age" or not is down to your attitude too. A young heart and mind can take years off you.

  • Dolls Factory 2 September 2010, 10:17 pm

    Don't wanna think about aging at all. Please Please Please

    Lovely blog. I found you through IFB and I can tell that you have a great sense of style.
    Lets become fashionable blogger friends and follow each other.
    Check out my blog and maybe you'll want to make your own Recessionista Chic Post

  • elle s'ennuie 3 September 2010, 9:42 am

    Funny, I'm the same. I'm 30, and someone, a stranger, recently asked my age and proceeded to stare at me incredulously for minutes after finding out, to the point where I got a little uncomfortable. Sure, I look younger, but not -that- much younger. I'm short as well, and I guess my face shape and features are such that upon a quick glance they can make me seem younger, even though when looking closely (like in the bathroom mirror under glaring lights 😉 signs of my real age are much clearer.
    I don't really care one way or the other, I've never felt much of an attachment to age or even birthdays.

  • Lady Cardigan 4 September 2010, 4:13 am

    When I saw the title of your post and your photo, I thought, "She doesn't look like she has to worry about ageing." You look great.

    I looked younger than my age for a long time. In my late 20s I was mistaken for a teenager. Well into my 30s I was frequently called a "girl." Have to admit I enjoyed that. I dressed very casually, t-shirt and jeans, and I think that was part of why I looked younger.

    When my real age started to become visible, it was sudden and it took me by surprise. I wouldn't have minded turning 40 so much except that I looked it! What has helped: Starting to dress better. I don't think there should be rules for how to dress at an older age, but I'm thinking more about what I wear, how it fits, how to put together an outfit. I am still no fashion plate, but it doesn't worry me so much now to look in the mirror. Instead of fretting about my drab graying hair or looking for new lines around my eyes, I'm thinking about my clothes, and every day is another chance to get it right.

  • Secret squirrel 5 September 2010, 11:48 am

    I have always looked younger than my real age. Like others, I am regularly ID'd for alcohol, which I try and take as a compliment. Cashiers usually get embarrassed / defensive – one time in particular was hilarious, when I was assistant manager of a shop and had opened, run & closed up all on my own one day – I was so surprised to be ID'd that evening, as I felt completely drained and knackered and thought it would show in my face!

    With work, I am always being told that I am young for the jobs I do, and it is still happening, as I take more senior roles. I wonder, when will this end? Am I always going to look like the baby, or will it get to a point where I finally look 'right'?

    The other thing this reminds me of is how funny people get about ages – I'm 30 next year, and keep getting the 'big birthday coming up' comments. I don't pay any atention to ages – I keep forgetting how old my husband is, I have friends older and younger than me. I certainly don't have a to- do list connected to my birthdays!

    Long post, sorry 🙂