Ask any little girl how old she is and its highly probable the answer will involve how old she'd like to be or is about to be. She's never just six, she's six and a half. My ten year old is constantly reminding me that she is soon to be eleven. Do you remember that feeling? Desperately wanting to be older? Dreaming about the freedom each milestone would bring.
As young women we proudly announce our age, sometimes even adding a couple of years, particularly if we think people will take us a little more seriously. I loved my twenties and remember being told by an older woman that my thirties were going to be even better, she was right, they were.
When I turned forty a couple of years ago I had a party to celebrate. The night was exactly as I'd hoped, old friends, lots of silliness, good music and a requirement for a greasy breakfast in the morning. When I looked around at others my age I realized there was a quiet smugness that came with getting older, a confidence that has you revisiting fashions, but this time you don't do the bubble skirt. You've learnt from past experience and you know what you're going to regret. When I looked at my girlfriends, many of which I've known since my teens, I realized how far we'd come, how much stronger we all seemed.
Of late though, I've wondered about the smugness. It feels like it's being stolen, there's a sinister element creeping in, a conversation that keeps popping up, whether its a quick coffee, a chance encounter in a car park or a dinner party. We're all starting to talk about our faces.
I guess the first thing I noticed was my neck, as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror I realized the skin was different, it was papery and thinner, I began plastering moisturizer on it, thinking it might be a temporary thing. It's not.
At the traffic lights I looked in to my rear vision mirror and was forced to take a second look at my eyelids. How did that happen? I'm sure they didn't look like that this morning? Did they just drop? I think it happened somewhere between the petrol station and the supermarket. I began to push my eyebrows upwards, I found the perfect pose, index finger lifting the eyebrow while my thumb pushed my cheek towards my ear. There, I don't look stupid at all! Perfectly normal. Now I just needed to work out how to carry the groceries.
Then it was the bump on my nose, a little round ball that has just appeared out of nowhere, "It's nothing" said the doctor at the last visit, "if you like I could send you to a plastic surgeon to have it removed but you'd probably be left with a scar". I thought about my potential visit to the plastic surgeon, about the cheeky add ons I could include while I was there, would anyone notice the eye and brow lift, the fillers, the injectables, the neck skin removal? When I came out looking like a spoon, completely unwrinkled and bump free, would the smugness return or would I just be waiting until I had to find another excuse to get back there again?
When do we get old? When do we allow ourselves to relax? When did wrinkles lose their respect?
Would I care so much about my droopy eyelids and papery neck skin if I didn't have to see the weird perfection of my peers? If Kylie Minogue didn't seem to have one eyebrow permanently raised? Nicole Kidman with her unusually full lips. Meg Ryan looking constantly startled. Like most women in their forties I'm not brave enough to never say never, but what I want to know is, if I started, when would I stop? Rather than look younger, aren't I just going to look like another older chick that's been pumped, lifted and filled?
What I want is the freedom my Grandmother appeared to have with her friends. When she proudly told me that she loved her wrinkles because they were the evidence of the life she had lived, the laughter, all the good times. She said wrinkles helped the young people know where to come for advice. Let's also not forget the practicalities, I am one hundred percent sure that if you discussed the cost involved with Botox with my mother, she'd tell you she'd much rather get the leaking pipe under the driveway fixed or put it towards the new kitchen cupboards.
I think I may have discovered a solution though. Like I said earlier, remember when you added a few years? Maybe we just need to start doing it again. Instead of telling people I'm 42, I'm going to tell them I'm 52. I look pretty good for 52, don't I?!