If you don't know me to look at, guess what age I am from my writing. I'm curious, because I apparently look much younger than I am and I wonder if I write to my age. I have come to expect the jaw-dropping amazement of people finding out that I have a daughter of whatever age she is at the time (currently 19).
Bizarrely, the most common age I am assumed to be is still around 24, which I started passing for when I was 14. I thought when I was 34 I would surely start slipping up into my late 20s for looks, but no, I have now looked 24 for 24 years. It's almost a Dorian Gray experience except without the haggard portrait in the attic.
In our youth obsessed culture looking young is supposed to be every woman's goal, but not me. I feel no need to put expensive lotions on my face and skim over the cosmetic articles and ads in magazines. My standard 'flattered' response to the inevitable variation on 'you must have been 5 when you became a mother' is not really heartfelt. Even a sincerely meant compliment loses its lustre when heard for the hundredth time. It can be a disadvantage to look young when you want to be taken seriously as a professional or a parent. I'm kind of curious about what it will be like to finally start looking closer to my age (something I only dimly remember from my mid-20s).
Modern life makes chronological age harder and harder to guess, and less and less meaningful as milestones of education, career and family are no longer strung out in a tidy row. Of course among the affluent, more people are able to look younger for longer and poor people continue to be more likely to look older than they are. But for women especially, looking young is considered a valuable currency, and in the spirit of sharing the abundance I am blessed with, I'll tell you to what I attribute my youthful looks.
Well, in line with the advice in magazines I am pretty obsessive about wearing sunhats, sunscreen and cheap moisturiser; drinking water, eating veges and avoiding cigarette smoke (but all because I want to live to 100 and not get cancer, rather than to preserve my looks). I laugh a lot and sleep enough as that's my idea of hedonistic self-indulgence. I think having long hair and being plump add to the illusion. I got great genes from Martha, who has always looked too young to be my mother and continues, in her 60s, to look at least 15 years younger than she is.
But if you want to know my real secret, I think it's eating lots of fat! Mostly in the form of chocolate, but also anything oily yum yum yum. This is approach is heresy to most beauty therapists and dietricians and I accept no responsibility for adverse effects (such as heart attacks, obesity or acne) which may be unintended side effects of following my fatty diet.