Why is age such a sore point?

candlesWhen do we start getting hung up about our age? And what triggers it? I’d never really given it much thought till I realised that I was actively shaving little bits of my age and hoping no one would notice, a bit like I evened up the shape of the baked New York cheesecake that leapt out of the supermarket freezer cabinet and into my fridge all by itself.

It was just for neatness really. Some ages look, well, squatter and frumpier than others. Especially those with a big fat 0 at the end of them. So what if I lingered a little at my favourites? It wasn’t as if anyone noticed. It was all going swimmingly until yesterday when I brought my 11-year-old son into college with me. I’m doing a part-time teaching course and most of my lovely fellow students are a fraction of my age. Let’s say three-quarters shall we? So there I was feeling quite the smug mum-about-town with my lovely well-behaved son mingling with my trendy young student friends (his school was closed for the day, so needs must).

As you can imagine he was thrilled to have escaped school only to spend the day in a room with 50 trainee teachers. Anyhow, there he was playing Minecraft with his new best friend when a student on the next table leant over and said, “Aw is that your grandson?” I. Nearly. Died. He’s 11. I’m – never mind – but Not That Old!

“Son!” I snapped, a little too quickly, “He’s my son!” I repeated, attempting a breezy tra-la-la what larks giggle while I aged ten years inside. She seemed to accept it without missing a beat, little knowing what mental carnage she had caused.

The lesson passed in a blur as I wondered whether I could replace the strip lights with tea light lanterns or slip into the loos for an Essex facelift (I’m an Essex girl by marriage so it’s all right – I can say that), but afterwards I wondered why I was so upset. So what if she’d added a good 15 years to my age? Perhaps she was just rubbish at maths. But I kept it to myself all day just in case the news was greeted with sympathy rather than the requisite yelp of baffled hysteria. In fact you’re the first to hear about it.

So, for the record, and because I trust you to keep it quiet, I’m 39, have been for ages. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. For quite some time.

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