As her mum and I studied countless photos of her and her friends, dressed up to the nines and having the time of their lives, we both wistfully expressed the same sentiment: “Oh to be sixteen again.”And there’s no denying from the outside it looks pretty great but, in reality, I’m not sure I’d want to go back.
The best thing about being an old fogey is the pressure is off. Let’s face it, just having your own teeth, a full head of hair and not
being debilitated by brittle bone disease is a bonus. There’s no doubt in my mind that, as your physical attributes diminish, so your personal satisfaction increases. There’s the sense that you are barely holding back the floods of time so worrying about a spot or a wrinkle or an extra pound or two is a bit like trying to put out a forest fire with a watering can.
Time is the great equaliser; after all you’d have to be pretty short sighted to judge other people on their looks when you would hardly win any prizes for your own. In fact, all of the things that might once have been considered a turn off, suddenly become endearing and can be seen as a symbol of someone who is embracing life. Show me a fat bloke and I’ll show you someone who enjoys his food and drink and, in my mind, that guarantees a good night out. Likewise, a lived in face is usually possessed by someone who has done a lot of laughing and, all that history etched on a face, makes it more likely that he will have a fine repertoire of anecdotes with which to entertain. See as you get older you wise up and learn to see things differently.
I don’t know one woman who doesn’t look at photos of her younger self and wish she had known then how good she looked and agonised far less about her short comings. That’s the problem with being young, every perceived flaw is magnified. I hated my curly hair and spent my entire youth longing for a sleek “Swing Out Sister” bob which was never going to happen. I loathed my freckles and tried a whole host of remedies to rid myself of them. These two issues consumed me and, when I look back at photos of me as a supposed carefree young woman in the prime of her life, I remember almost ripping my hair out at the roots, in an attempt to pull it straight, and the time I gave myself an allergic reaction by scrubbing my face viciously with lemon juice.
That’s the downside of being sixteen; you look fantastic but inside you are riddled with self-doubt. At least I and all of my friends
were. I can’t remember ever feeling satisfied with how I looked or good enough. Nowadays, good enough doesn’t even come into it; I’m satisfied just to be alive and kicking. Plus the other thing that comes with age is money. I don’t have to worry about my hair since the invention of ghds and the fact that I can afford to buy expensive hair products that, even had they existed when I was sixteen, would have been way out of my price range. It’s amazing what you can cover up when you can afford to buy your make-up at the Chanel counter. To misquote the old bard of Barking, Billy Bragg, “The pretty girl buys beauty and the old fogey
On balance then there are lots of things to be said for youth but I’m not sure they are the best years. Maybe it’s nature doing its
thing but I have been happy to leave each different stage of my life and now that I am hitting my stride as a fogey, there’s a lot to be said for that too.