Old: The New Young?

Poland girl

By Amy Hackworth. Image by Justin Hackworth.

A few months ago I was in a local boutique, and held a skirt up to my waist in a sort of “can I pull this off?” gesture. The owner of the boutique noticed, looked at me, and, I think with the intention of being helpful, explained, “My store … is more for … juniors.”

Oh, boy. I was a little embarrassed, but mostly amused. Was I one of those people, in denial about my age? I don’t think I was quite as far off as the boutique owner suggested (I’m certainly biased, though), but it’s true that I have often thought of myself as younger than I am.

When I was a teenager, anyone over 35 was a varying degree of “old,” and that teenage feeling of perennial youth took a long time to wear off. Now I am 35, and I frequently refer to friends and stories from fifteen or twenty years ago. Twenty years? I do the math and marvel.

My perception of age is further complicated when I think about my role as a mother. I look at our 9-year-old son and often see my little baby, but I have to remind myself how independent and mature I felt as a 9-year-old. As a child, I saw my parents as the ultimate grown ups — the rule-makers who had everything figured out. Do my children think I have everything figured out?

I used to have an idea that traits I considered “grown up” would arrive when I reached a certain age, like a birthday gift I could unwrap and call my own. Maybe one year I’d receive wisdom, and another year understanding, and then I’d officially be grown up. That hasn’t happened yet, and instead I’m learning about the fluidity of age, of wisdom, understanding and life. One thing, though, is for sure: “old” has become a sliding scale, with its defining point being pushed ever a little further away.

What is your perception of your age? Have you ever felt younger or older than you actually are? Do you embrace the aging process, or fight it with every cream and lotion you can find?

31 thoughts on “Old: The New Young?”

  1. My perception of age has definitely changed as I’ve grown, and I still don’t consider myself a “grown-up”! But at the same time I want to be treated as an adult, because even if I feel like I’m still figuring everything out, I AM an adult and deserve to be treated as such. I’m 27, married for 7 years with 3 kids, but apparently I look “sweet 16”, at least according to the lady who did my pedicure two weeks ago! Because I look so young, I constantly feel like I’m being judged for having kids already, not taken seriously, my opionions and experiences being brushed away because, “Oh, you’re such a baby!” Yes, I’ve had that phrase said to me sooo many times. I’m starting to realize that age doesn’t matter, kindness and how you treat others is what really matters.

    Sorry, little bit of a rant there! As far as fighting the aging process, I feel like to each their own. Hopefully we all feel beautiful in our own skin, no matter how old that skin is, but a little anti-wrinkle lotion never hurt anybody either! :)

    1. I am right there with you, 31, 2 kids, been married for 7 years and people still say I’m just a baby. It is kind of frustrating. Not that I want to look old, but don’t discount my knowledge because of the age you think I look!

  2. It was once pointed out to me by a sales person that I was in the “petite” section of the store… I think I’d rather be told I was in the “junior” section!

    I am struggling with “aging” in that I don’t mind it all that much, but all my friends seem to be fighting it. So should I continue to color my hair or are the greys ok mingling with the brown? I don’t mind them… but I know certain friends harbor feelings about how I should really take care of them.

    1. Most of my age related thoughts are as follows:
      -I feel old (I’m 31) but I think most of that is because I’m tired all.the.time. That and attention to my appearance ranks right above the bottom on things to attend to during the day.
      -I’m vain as all get out about wrinkles and age spots and have already invested in creams and skin care regiments that are sure to keep me looking young until the next century.
      -I often wonder, like Gabrielle mentioned above, about the music I enjoy. I still get obsessed about popular, youthful songs being played and wonder if I’m getting to old to do that. I’ll probably continue to sing loudly to them anyway because it makes me happy. :)
      -As for clothing, I am hoping that what I wear (which is basically the same style I’ve donned forever) will work for the rest of my life because I like it. And I’m too lazy to figure something else out.
      And lastly, when I was younger, I saw HS kids around town and would think, ‘They are so old and mature!’ but when I was in high school, I didn’t feel that way (and HS students are not mature, period!). I saw college students and thought, ‘Wow, they know what their doing, they’ve got their focus and plans’ but when I was in college, I was not so certain. I saw people in their 20s, young professionals and thought ‘Geez, they’ve got it. They have a job they like, financial freedom and no stress’ but my mid-20s were my least favorite time. The heartbreak I felt by not having stuff figured out was a weighty bag to carry around.
      But from my late 20s until now, while tired and having lost some of my youthful luster, I feel contented with who I am, what I do and where we are as a family. My life is not perfect and will continue to be imperfect but I’ve given up on comparing (well, mostly given it up). I’m not sure if it is aging or maturing or having children or finally understanding that the control I so wished to harness is truly out of my hands. I feel more connected spiritually than I have before in my life and I know that plays a big part as well. Life is good even when I feel like I’m making it up as I go.
      As for the skirt you were contemplating, I say, if you like it, buy it, the rest of the public be damned. :)

  3. Oooh, great topic as I am struggling with this image issue. I feel 27, but am much older. As far as clothes, I think sales people must think I am shopping for my daughter (3 yo!) when I am in the younger sections of dept stores! Your situation made me lol, Amy! Thank you for sharing. Some stores feel too old for me, but I am clearly not meant for the juniors dept anymore. It is hard for me to dress myself, at this age and being a mom of 3 (one of whom is still nursing). I always dressed well, and to be in this predicament is puzzling to me!
    I made this more about clothes/image. But a part of my feeling like 27 is that I also struggle identifying myself as the responsible adult in the house, in my marriage, in life….!

  4. As a kid, teenager and young adult I always felt older than I actually was. Maybe this is because I was the baby of my family, so I was always trying to break out of that mold…. But right now at 24, I just feel… 24. My age. It feels good to be happy with where I am!

  5. wow. amy. i so identify with you on this issue. i turn 34 this year. when i was a kid i thought 20 was pretty grown up, that i would be pretty wise at that age. now i look back to my early twenties and think how immature i was in a lot of ways, and how inexperienced. which is scary because i made so many life-altering decisions back then! (what to major in, who to marry, when to have a baby…) when i was in my twenties i’m pretty sure i thought i would have it figured out by 30. but that didn’t happen. now i know that wisdom and age don’t necessarily go hand in hand. hopefully as i get older i will get better at implementing the lessons that my life experiences have been teaching me… :)

  6. I was in Victorias Secret once and the sales assistant nodded at the style I chose and said with a smile “This is my Moms favourite style!” I mean, I was well aware that she was younger than me but the fact she saw me in the same category as her mother left me standing with my mouth hanging open! (And wondering if I should choose something a bit more racy!)

  7. I’m turning 29 next month and I go back and forth between feeling super young and feeling like I’m aging rapidly. Since I had my kids young (started at 20) I always feel young around the other parents with kids the same age as mine, most of them are in their late 30’s or 40’s. However, when I’m at work I feel like an old lady. I work at a University and most of my coworkers are early 20’s, single, no kids, living the college life. So, it just depends on the day and the place, I suppose.

  8. Aging I am ok with…how to dress as a 38 year is what boggles my mind…not ready to dress like late 40s -though I know what look I like at that age, don’t want to show up somewhere in something my middle schooler’s friends have one! It is tough…maybe a series on how to dress at 35++but not yet 50!

  9. Ha, I was shopping once and tried on a skirt. When I came out and made that “What do you think” gesture to the salesgirl, she said, “Yeah, I can’t pull off that look either.”


    It should also be mentioned that I was 20 years old when that happened.

    At 31, aging has definitely been amusing to me. I love it, and even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t go back to my early 20’s for all the money in the world. That whole “who am I?!” stage was awful. Now, I think i’ve just learned to be content and live every day for what it’s worth. I really like it, except for the whole wrinkles and skin elasticity issue. :'(

  10. I’m almost 47 and I feel on top of the world! I joked at a bloggers’ conference recently that forty something bloggers were the new black … My youngest son Miles is only just 8 years old (the eldest is 17) so I am doing my best to keep fit, healthy and active. Curiosity and genuine love of life keep you young!

  11. I LOVE this post. So many interesting points. My mom died at 29, so reaching 30 was very bittersweet for me. Grey hairs? Yes! Wrinkles around my eyes? PLEASE! Not all of us get to old age, but I am embracing it (not that 30 is old!)

    That being said, I feel like an awkward 12-year-old much of the time.

  12. “old” has become a sliding scale, with its defining point being pushed ever a little further away.

    That is a brilliant line/concept, Amy!!

  13. Oh! I’ve lived a good life, learned a lot, I know my face in the mirror, but if someone asks how old I am, my first thought is 27! But I’m almost 35, I may look younger, but having 5 kids bring me back to reality, how on earth can I be 27, haha!
    Doing these kinds of math is a bit scary, isn’t it? It reminds us that life is short and that we should cherish each year with our loved ones, specially our parents and kids.

  14. Our firm brought on two new employees this past year that are right out of college. When we were asking about their families, I was surprised to learn that I’m as old as their parents. In fact, one has a mom that’s a few years younger than me. I’m 45 and still think of myself as young, although in my 20s anyone over 40 was old. Funny how your perspective changes!

  15. The other day my 15-year-old niece posted a picture of her and some friends on Facebook and I said “ask that girl on your left where she got her dress!” My sister commented after and said “um, if a 15-year-old is wearing it, you probably shouldn’t be, Emily.” I had not even thought twice about it, I just loved the cute striped maxi. I’m constantly in denial. I just found out one of my very good friends graduated from high school the year I had my first baby. I thought we were the same age and I’m 7 years older than her. Yikes!

  16. I had that store feeling when I was reading a magazine recently. It was like an epiphany, “Oh my, I’m too old for this magazine now!” I just bought a striped maxi today too. I’ll be wearing it with a cardigan or blazer though. HeHe.

  17. I’m starting to think about age in a new way… my husband just turned 30 and most of my closest friends are older than me (most of them are late 30s), but instead of feeling super young (I’m 25) or older than my age, I just put us all on the same page. We’re all ageless, we’re all timeless! It often surprises me when I remember that I’m actually younger than I often think of myself…

  18. I am 59 years young. I say that because I feel no older than I did when I was 29 except I do have a “bionic knee”. I move a little slower but I think about my movements more so I get almost as much done. I am a pre-k teacher so I am one the move all day long. I have lots of projects and am constantly learning new things. I think age is a state of mind and I am still feel young. now I don’t dress young, but I do like crazy nails!

  19. Amy- I enjoyed this. I agree that “old” is certainly on a sliding scale these days. I am 54. The only thing frustrating for me is that my outside is NOT the same age as my inside. I still like doing many of the same things that those half my age are doing, though at times I do find myself feeling foolish like when I attend a certain concert or event and everyone there is half my age…You know, like perhaps others might think I’m the mother of one of the band members. And…I guess that’s okay. But your husband reminded me that I need to just remember that I’m there because I like the music and age has nothing to do with that. Is there a rule that says we have to give up those things we love doing just because we are “growing out of the age bracket that does them?” :)

  20. I turned 35 just last month and I’ve got to say that I have more confidence now that I ever had before – The confidence I faked for so long is finally real! I spend less time apologizing for who I am, what I do and what I like. Having an amazing husband, and two adorable little kids who aren’t old enough yet to make me feel old, helps ;)

    That said – I looked at a magazine cover while in line at Target and I had NO IDEA who any of those 20-somethings on the cover were! ha! Amanda somebody, Ashley who? Princess huh? *shrug*
    My parents always seemed like “pretty cool” for older folks because they knew about the new music and artists. They didn’t try to act like kids but they weren’t out of touch either. Honestly – my parents are still pretty cool.

    But, while I’ve started reading Better Homes and Garden, I refuse to pickup RedBook. For whatever reason that magazine is still an “older lady” magazine to me!

  21. I turned 48 today, and I told my class that I was turning 24 for the second time. I asked them how old that was, and some of them figured out that I was 48 (note to self, teach more math). Some of the kids then piped up that their grandparents were around my age, which I was surprised, but ok with. But then my educational assistant (who is 28) said “my mom is 1 year older than you!” That was a bit of a shock!!!

  22. I love this topic, Amy! And I love the way you wrote about it. This has been on my mind lately especially as it relates to music.

    I love many of the new bands and albums that I’m exposed to (either through my kids or just general internet explorations), but I imagine the band members hearing that a mother of six is a fan and being totally grossed out. Do I have to listen to young music hiding? : )

  23. I love my age (30) but sometimes I think it’s all relative. At work surrounded by upper management (most of whom are 50+) I feel like a child at the adults table. But then at lunch I’ll sit next to a table of high schoolers talking about their crushes and feel like an old married woman!

  24. Im 44 and my only child is 4. When we go out, people think Im my child’s grandma. That pisses me off. I dont feel like 44, I feel like 30.

  25. I was taking my kids out to lunch the other day and the spot we were at got flooded with kids in class of ’13 shirts. I was sitting there thinking about how I can so vividly remember graduating high school and how exciting it was… when I realized that at that moment my kids were exactly the same number of years away from being high school seniors as I was past that point. Now THAT made me feel old. I am always waiting for the moment I will feel like a real grown up. By all kid measures I am one – job, husband, kids, dog, car. So why do is still feel like I’m pretending to be an adult. When I talk to my mom about it she says she feels the same way, maybe is a big secret of growing up?

  26. Oh goodness, I feel the same way! I am almost 35, and my oldest is 11 1/2. It’s strange when you have vivid memories of being that age and realize that your “baby” is a pre-teen. How did that happen?! I also find myself thinking of the things I wanted to achieve when I “grew up” and feel a tad bit down, when I realize I am, in fact, grown up and have a long way to go before I accomplish said goals. Don’t get me started on grey hair, either. I must be in deep denial, because I’m simply too young to have grey hair! I’m seriously considering dying my hair a lovely shade of pink, while I’m still “young” enough to get away with it.

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