Whenever someone makes a choice I think is boring, or excessively conservative (going home before the pub closes, not doing shots on a school night), I ask them, mockingly, if they are a 50 year old woman.
The trouble is, I do actually know some 50 year old women- my mother, for instance, and her friends and colleagues, none of whom are particularly impressed with being my derisive synecdoche. I tried to remember this when I was talking to my mother yesterday afternoon, telling her that I’d spent 6 days not eating sugar after reading an article that promised me ‘sugar caramelizes the skin cells, and makes one look old.’ While she was too busy snorting with laughter to respond, my little sister pointed out that ‘it was too late for me’, and ate the last crisp.
(I remember the crisp bit clearly, because crisps have no sugar, so I was eating as many as I could at that time).
Looking old is something that concerns me in the same way that bad posture concerns me- when I remember to think about it, it is all-consuming; but most of the time I forget. Except for when people ask me how old I am, which happens more and more (and not just from my snotty little sister, when I ask if we can go get Happy Meals), and always makes me feel slightly panicked, mostly because I’m not 100% sure I’m not a year out. (There’s no real excuse for this, and nothing makes one look older than forgetting how old you are, so I simply plump for a reasonable-sounding number and offer it up with conviction).
Until yesterday I suddenly realized that I’ve been doing it all wrong, and told a man I’d just met that I was 35, with 2 kids. ‘I’m in very good shape,’ I pointed out, helpfully. He nodded approvingly. (Or possibly in alarm, because I really had no good response when he asked me where my children were). It went down so well, in fact, that I’m planning on telling everyone I’m a good 10 years older than I actually am. Soon, I imagine, I’ll be convincing them I’m a 50 year old woman.