Age is just a number

In the past couple of weeks, two people have considered me older than I am. Should I be offended?

The truth is, I do not pay much attention to age. I have always been horrible at estimating the age of others and I constantly forget my own. Whenever someone asks my age, I need to calculate it using my birth year which is one of the few things I remember (my birthday is a memorable number combination). Some find it weird that I cannot recall my current age without sophisticated mental gymnastics. Then again, years change all the time – who has the time to keep count? My birth year is the only one that stays the same.

Another example. In my mind, my mother ceased ageing the moment she hit the big 4-0. It feels like just yesterday that she crossed that milestone, yet logic insists she must be older. After all, the idea of her birthing me at the tender age of thirteen is unlikely.

Coming back to the two incidents where people thought I was older… Because I pay such little attention to age, I was not offended. After all, age is just a number. However, due to our society’s hyper-focus on age, these two incidents left me with some lingering thoughts.

Age as a sign of fading looks

I think one of the most common thoughts that goes through a woman’s mind when someone considers her older than she is, is that she must look older. There are so many companies making a profit from claiming to smooth out wrinkles and cover up grey hair. It is no wonder we are hardwired to get a tiny heart attack when someone implies our skin is starting to resemble a raisin.

I like wrinkles, though. They are remnants of my most commonly experienced emotions which show how I perceive the world. Wrinkles near my eyes and corners of my mouth are traces of laughter and joy. They show all the positives I have witnessed. Lines on my forehead and between my eyebrows demonstrate the deep thought, judgement, or disapproval I have engaged in. The wrinkles around my lips represent all the love and kisses I have given. Put them all together and you get a wonderful tapestry of who I am, essentially.

Of course, to be honest, my skincare routine is not as thorough as it should be. I do likely look older than I am purely because I have better things to do than exfoliate, moisturise or lie with cucumber slices on my eyes.

About grey hairs, I am not worried. It will take some time before any potential greyness becomes visible in my fair hair. Besides, dying your hair grey seems to be all the rage nowadays.

Age as a sign of experience

“I thought you were older because you seem so mature and experienced.” This was a very nice save and not at all incorrect. Ever since I remember, my family has called me “noor vanainimene” which roughly translates to “a young old person”. This means that, sometimes, I say or do things that are more common to ancients than to people my age. Knitting. Not going to parties. Yelling at those damn kids meddling on my lawn. You know, the usual.

I also think this is a better alternative to choose when someone estimates me to be older than I am. Being old and wise is admirable. People have always looked up to elders and trusted their guidance. With this mindset, someone implying I am old is a high compliment.

On the other hand, being older does not necessarily mean one is inherently wiser. As with most things, the quality of one’s experiences matters more than quantity. A hardened young person may have had plenty of traumatic, educational, growth-triggering, personality-shaping, or life-changing experiences while their older peers have had boring uneventful lives with little to no effect on their person.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

– Mark Twain

Age as just a number

In the end, my age is just a number symbolising how many trips our planet Earth has made around the Sun since I plopped out of my mother’s womb. It does not necessarily mean I am wiser with every passing year. Nor does it mean that I am uglier. Therefore, having someone assess me older than I am is no big deal. After all, in the immortal words of Mark Twain, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

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