I was watching my six year old daughter’s gymnastics class earlier this week, innocently going about my business of secretly imagining her as part of the Australian Olympic team (the Olympics are on at the moment, my daughter does a very good handstand in my opinion, and perhaps these things aren’t genetic after all – who knows?!) when I was interrupted from my reverie by a friendly lady who sat down next to me.
Her daughters were also doing gymnastics lessons and we swapped pleasantries about how they were having so much fun, isn’t it nice to see them do handstands somewhere other than against the living room wall etc., when all of a sudden she asked me if I was once a Lourdanian (i.e. did I attend Lourdes Hill College – a Catholic girls high school in Brisbane)? Why yes, I said, taken aback because I had only just returned to Brisbane after living in Sydney for 14 years, and was therefore unused to such questions. She explained that she too was a Lourdanian, and was in the year below me at school.
She was quite chatty and genial, and clearly has an impressive memory for faces. I managed to draw my eyes away from my daughter’s impressive gymnastics manoeuvres to talk with her properly, and while she looked very nice, despite being a year younger than me she also looked… well… middle aged!
This has been brewing for some time.
A year and a half ago while on a trip to New York, I caught up with a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen since we lived in Japan together when I was 17. He was from Long Island, and we lived (as Rotary exchange students) in the same small rural town in the middle of Nagano prefecture. We were the best of mates, and I was thrilled at the thought of catching up with him some twenty years later. We made plans to meet at the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park, and I waited excitedly for him to arrive. I was on the look-out for my 19 year old bestie, my partner in crime with whom I drank copious amounts of sake, cheated the Japanese train system (unsuccessfully), and decided it would be a “caper” if he were to sneak away from his host family’s house each night in order to buy me ice-creams and throw them up to my window (thus beginning my addition to late night chocolate). I was not looking out for a short, balding, slightly pudgy 39 year old psychoanalyst, so you can imagine my surprise when that’s who showed up… We had a fabulous evening reminiscing and catching up on the last twenty years of each other’s lives, but it took me a full hour or so to believe it was actually him…
Somehow, at some point, everyone my age has started to look just a little bit old. That is, except for me and my close friends (and my sister) – we still look just like we did in our early twenties…
Or do we?
At a recent girly dinner, my school friends and I stumbled upon this topic and I discovered that they feel the same way. We joked about it – how is it that we are the only people in the history of the world to have defied the ageing process? The conversation came to a natural close when one friend said definitively and totally without mirth: “But it is true that, as a group of friends, we have aged extremely well…”
I laughed at her strength of conviction and naivety, but deep, deep down I have to admit – I still believed there was a kernel of truth in what she said. For argument’s sake though, on the off-chance that she (and I) were wrong and we in fact do look our age just like everyone else, is it possible that we have inadvertently stumbled onto a hitherto undocumented phenomenon? A condition whereby one suffers from a complete inability to recognise the physical manifestation of the passage of time in one’s own face and those of one’s close friends?
It would no doubt be part of the same family of minor disorders as, say, thinking one’s newborn baby is beautiful – the cure for which is (in my experience) as simple as looking at a photo of the newborn in question no sooner than 6 months after he or she is born.
While a cure for this condition may not be as straight forward, I am currently aware of two effective (albeit temporary) treatments:
- Stand in front of a mirror next to a six year old girl with annoyingly luminous skin, and / or
- Get one’s drivers license renewed
At the end of the day, my friends and I are in our late 30s – we are approaching “middle age”, and it is highly likely that an independent third party would estimate our age correctly based on our appearance. But for as long as we continue to be subject to this inexplicable phenomenon, instead of setting the record straight, instead of bringing logic into play, instead of looking, closely, into a mirror…perhaps there is no harm in simply saying “You know, you’re right – we have aged extremely well. Let’s celebrate!! More champagne?”