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When I am a Young Woman I Shall Wear Purple

I was waiting to cross the road the other day when an extremely old lady came up and started chatting to me. I’d put her in her eighties or maybe even nineties; she was frail and wrinkled and huddled over her stick.

“That’s a very nice jacket,” she told me.

“Oh, thank you!” I replied.

“An unusual colour,” she continued.

“Yes, it’s vivid, isn’t it?”

And then she hit me with it: “You’re keeping up with the young people.”

THUD.

Keeping up with the young people?

“Ha ha...” I replied, summoning up all my manners. “Why should they have all the fun?”

Keeping up with the young people?! I am thirty-three years old and little old ladies no longer think that I’m young. What a blow.

“If somebody had said that to me this week,” said a friend who was turning thirty-four the following day, “I would have burst into tears.”

But it got me wondering: when do we stop being young?

I know I’m not young to a two year old. I know I’m not young to a teenager. I’m not even young to many people in their early twenties but to friends my own age (I broke my Facebook ban to do a quick bit of research on this) I am still a young person.

I have always kind of assumed that the older I got, the older "old" would get. Middle age would always be a little bit beyond my reach, like a half empty paint can with the lid not properly on - threatening, but harmless if ignored.

I had figured I could drag out the being young thing indefinitely. I pictured myself in my seventies, celebrating because I finally had pale enough hair for turquoise dye.

I hadn’t really considered that there might be some sort of cut off point.

I definitely hadn’t considered that I might have reached it. I still believe all technology can be mastered with practice. I still think children's choirs sound sinister. None of my cosmetics have anti-wrinkle properties. How can I be anything other than young?

And then I thought about two technically old men I interviewed last year. They had a combined age of 170 and big bald patches and they were urging me to think about my pension arrangements, yet I still came away thinking of the pair of them as young. Because they were. Not literally. Not in the strictest sense of the word. But in attitude. I don't remember ever meeting a bigger pair of comedians.

It's a cliche to say you're as young as you feel or as young as you act, but it's true. All around me, I have friends doing apparently grown up things - buying their homes, slipping wedding rings on fingers, popping out offspring - and not one of them has morphed into middle age.

Not one of us is a "youth", of course. We've grown out of the worst of our angsty attention seeking. We suppose our parents can understand us a bit. We no longer treat this place like a hotel.

We're adults.

But we're ever so far from old.



16 comments

  1. I cannot like this enough. Not only because that is an amazing coat, hat, and scarf getup, but overall, I love the entire post. I'm 30. I feel old at times, but mostly I'm realizing that it has taken this long for me to finally find myself and my style. WE ARE YOUNG. When I'm 90, I'm still going to scream WE ARE YOUNG. Please, rock that vibrant purple as long as you WANT. xoxo

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  2. Thanks Becky - I shall! And when I'm a young ninety I'll try to remember that nobody in their thirties is old!

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  3. Loved this. I'm turning 30 this year and like you i have friends all around me doing "adult" things (buying homes, getting married, having babies). While I havent done any of those things myself (nor do I feel the need to at this time), I'm looking forward to my 30's because youth is overrated. Sure, I was skinnier but I didn't know much about loving myself and making confident decisions. 

    Whatever, you rock that purple coat really well. 

    Here's to not being or feeling old!

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  4. Trisha Pelletier3 February 2012 at 21:15

    i love your post. i am 35 - and when people find out my age their jaws drop and they all say the same thing "no way, you are not that old!" (i should add most people that me me think i'm still in my early 20's. sadly when i WAS in my early 20's i played the "guess your age game" at the amusement park who told me i was 12. yeah. i was 23.) some days when i think about the "number" of how old i am i get a little depressed. but it is truly just a number. i look at most of my friends and we are all still silly crafty girls. we are all living "adult" lives- with bills and houses and husbands, but i think it's all in the attitude. so..if we believe, we will never stop being young.

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  5. I wouldn't worry about it - I'm three years older than you and I've been successfully avoiding all of the adult stuff for ages now.

    As far as I'm concerned, another birthday is just an excuse for another party.... 

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  6. Exactly - my thirties are so much more relaxed; I'm not racing to meet any "figure out what I want from life" deadlines because I've realised there's no point over planning an unpredictable future.

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  7. Definitely.

    I get that, too - it's only in the last year I've stopped being IDed for alcohol. Which, actually, is a bit crushing to my ego, too... I don't look 18 any more...?! What?!

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  8. Pff, all insults are blog fodder to me!

    (that's not 100% true; don't be mean to me; I'll cry)

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  9. I am nearing 40 and hope to never feel old, maybe even only occasionally truly 'adult' - but I don't ever want to again 'treat this place like a hotel.' 
    I love this . . . thank you.

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  10. Trisha Pelletier4 February 2012 at 13:43

    I got carded a few years ago to buy a rated R movie by an 18 year old! I asked him how old you needed to be and he told me 17, I kindly asked him how old he thought I was and he snarkily (i think i just made up that word) said "well OBVIOUSLY NOT 17!!" I calmly took out my ID showed him I was OVER 30 and he didn't say another word. Sometimes it can be a bit embarrassing - but I haven't had to buy anything I need an ID for (I don't drink and well I haven't tried to buy or go see a rated R movie in quite some time haha) I think I definitely look over 21 now, but probably not much!

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  11. I loved this post. I often have this lingering thought about when I might be 'too old' for the clothes I wear and I'll have to retire them. Then I punch that thought in the face. Never.

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  12. Ha ha! Good! If our clothes are meant to say something about us, I want my clothes to say I have fun!

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  13. Great post.  When I got into my mid-twenties (still only 25 now) I started noticing weird little signs of getting older and it's really bizarre! I love that jacket, regardless of your age :)

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  14. I do get quite excited about buying new towels... it makes me feel grown up...

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  15. sometimes a post is so good and so well written that i have a hard time coming up with words i think are good enough for a proper comment.  this is one of those posts.  so good.

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Please play nice.