Thursday, 13 December 2012


Little h 1988, Big H 2008
On the 17th at exactly 11:45am, I'll be another year older. Another digit will be added to my age. People are always surprised by the number of years I own up to. At 16, I seemed to stop visibly ageing, perhaps I hit pause before then. In primary school portraits, it's still undeniably clear that it's me. That little girl hasn't finished growing up yet. A girl with freckles and a brown ponytail dressed in the regulation school uniform with the green and grey striped tie and green cardigan. A smile, a solemn look or scowling. I might have lost the puppy fat as my frame became more sculpted, but beyond that I've stayed much the same. People from those days, even the teachers and office staff, still recognise me instantaneously. Adulthood has not changed me enough to hide me. Do we all feel that looking back at early pictures of ourselves? Can we all identify unaltered features?
The family jokes I'm a 'Dorian Gray'. Somewhere there's a painting stashed away that ages. The paint peels and cracks with every new crease and wrinkle, so that my appearance remains untarnished. People still ask me for I.D or if I've written my list to Santa. They say I'm blessed with youth, blessed with genes or a non-belief in visible ageing, but I don't feel that way. I have an older head on not-so-young shoulders. In attitude, youth slipped away, perhaps it was never there to begin with. I was always the responsible one. The sensible one. The practical one. The one who joined in with adult conversation. The one who would rather play at being a grown up. Now it's the reverse: I'm a grown adult child that teenagers race ahead of. I do not understand the youth of today even if they're only half my age. The clothes, the current trends, the lingo and the use of social media.
Where has a civilised society gone? What has happened to social etiquette? Gone, gone, gone. Somewhere it evolved into something different and I missed it. Or perhaps I chose to ignore it. The ghetto twang in London accents. Life interrupted by tweets and texts. The overspill of text speech into every faucet. The misspelling of words and the misuse of apostrophes. Your used instead of you're: you are. Math's instead of maths. I underline, circle and correct these grammatical errors because the 'dumbing down' that is accepted by others irritates me. It's petty, but I can't hide my compulsion to do it.
The speed at which children want to grow up alarms me: to wear hot pants, padded bras and stilettos; to experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol; to leave school uneducated, distracted by the latest technology; and the need to conform to an image by having cosmetic surgery. I hate to use the line 'when I was young', but when I was, the social pressures that were there were different. They weren't unavoidable, but with the advent of social media they're now inescapable.
An ageing mind and body cannot be wilfully prevented. One day you will turn into a version of your parents, in looks or in your behaviour. Suddenly you'll become interested in property, politics and the architect of churches. You'll find yourself unintentionally using the same phrases and mannerisms, like a nervous tic you can't control. As you realise this, you'll utter, “Oh my god, I'm turning into my mother!” At some point I expect to wake and find my appearance has caught up to match my demeanour, and I won't object to these lines etched, to this new picture.