There is a social expectation to appear young, wild and free in your teens and twenties. A guise that says you can get away with uncontrollable, unruly or bizarre behaviour because you are not yet to be taken seriously by dominating generations. The fetishisation of youth culture has long been discussed, the capitalisation of youth monumental, but just as I subsequently reject wanting to live in my past, I recently also find myself not wanting to wish my life away in a bid to be taken more seriously.
In my teens I thought myself as feeling older than I was. Certain experiences have that affect on you. I specifically remember going through a period where I, to my complete revolt and embarrassment today, would say “I have a thing about age,” as if I’d spent decades battling neurosis over my own mortality. I was fourteen.
When I was even younger, I’d make a case to sit at the adult table over time with my cousins and siblings. I was intrigued by adult conversation. I’d want to be a part of the discussion that was probably a bit too taboo for a child or listen in on a debate that for the most part I wouldn’t understand. I’ve always been a listener. I guess it’s how I ended up down a path of journalism - always wanting to gather knowledge, always the curious cat.
I have a lot of baggage around the concept of age is what I'm saying, which I know, is laughable at best as a 22 year old. But from being taken advantage of by older men to always being the youngest in the room at any event I attended as a fashion blogger, I have a good case for it and I grew up wearing a badge of honour whenever somebody assumed I was older than I was.
But as I’ve slipped into my twenties, appearing ahead of the number of candles on my birthday cake seems less attractive to me. I still prefer early nights in over drunk nights out on the town. Peace and quiet over booming loud music. An “old soul” my boyfriend would describe me as - something my teenage self would’ve loved hearing. But recently, I feel more defensive towards inhabiting such a label. Why do I suddenly feel so conflicted and confused towards seeming ‘older’ when I campaigned so hard to appear so growing up?
Is my 180 of no longer desiring to seem older than I am a simple truth of actually getting older or is it a symptom of having grown up exposed to the sexualisation of youth through the media? Of knowing there’s pressure as a woman to look younger and younger and younger? Of there not being enough publicised examples of women over thirty or forty or fifty to look up to? Moral implications aside, advertising sells sex and we all know youth to be an ideal that drives this. My three best friends and I nuance over a small ratio of one year between each of us - a gap barely worth mentioning in the grand scheme of things but a gap we acknowledge nonetheless. A distinction that perhaps wouldn’t even cross the minds of a group of men. But girls arguably have to grow up a lot quicker than guys, and then when we do, we’re told we’re only worth something when we’re youthful.
We idolise youth yet I can’t think of a single person I know that would re-live their school years even if I paid them. And the increasing pressure to have it all before we hit whatever number we’ve placed upon our personal pedestals has meant the construct of age has taken precedent to how worthy we feel in our lives. Am I allowed to just exist as I am without the panic stricken weight of a measure of time over my shoulders? Does anyone actually ever feel they represent a respective example of what their age suggests?
Whether you’re thirteen or thirty, forty or fifty, I believe that we each bring something completely unique to the table. Regardless of the number of days we’ve each inhabited the earth, we are all of equal worth. From white lies to a bouncer outside a nightclub or deducting a decade or two on an online dating profile, we all have a plethora of baggage around what ‘age’ means to each of us - I still have a lot of my own to unpack. But for now, all I know is that I no longer want to not feel good enough just as I am, at the age I am.