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The Secret To Eternal Youth

Birthday Cake

"Don't eat it! You'll get wrinkles!"

I have discovered the secret to eternal youth and I am prepared to share it with you (how terribly kind of me). Here goes; I have stopped having birthdays. That’s not to say I’m claiming that I shall forever remain the image of vitality and baby-buttocked facial freshness that I was at the age of 16, sadly I don’t have an attic in which to keep my portrait á la Dorian Gray, but I have found myself now unconstrained by the awful terror of impending age.

Ok, let’s get this out the way. I am not going to discuss my actual age so please don’t bore us all by guessing. Besides, I think I may actually have blanked it from my memory some time ago, either that or I lost track after having introduced a film franchise style of birthday for a while. First there was 21, then there was 21: The Sequel. After that we had 21: Again (not the best according to the critics), 21: The Return and who can forget the gripping 21: Strikes Back. I was 21 for quite some time but that all stopped when people started laughing in my clearly 25-year-old face. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I’m 25. You at the back, stop laughing!

My deep rooted hatred for birthdays is a complex matter that some future therapist will probably charge a vast sum of money to explore, so let’s not deprive them of their early retirement fund, let’s leave that for now and instead look at just one of the many, many reasons that people dread certain age marking milestones (other than dry cake and poorly thought out gifts) and that I believe causes signs of premature aging.

When you were a wee nipper, you could not wait to be that little bit older, that little bit closer to independence, to riding a big-boy bike, to staying up past 19:00, to being allowed to get your ears pierced. When asking a four year old how old they are, they suddenly turn into Rainman with all kinds of mathmaticals being spouted with alarming accuracy. They are not four, they are four and nine twelfths, born on a Saturday at exactly 09:11 which means that they will be 5 in precisely 85 days, 15 hours, 38 minutes and counting. Then they go back to eating blue paint and trying to put shoes on the dog.  Being older cannot happen fast enough.

Until you are older.

Once you get to your adult years, certain milestones start looming ominously like a dentist appointment. Milestones were there when you were younger, only it was up to your poor frantic parents to fret over these. Well, now that baton has been passed and you can start forming your own wrinkled brow, both metaphorically and literally (Botox allowing). When you were small, your parents worried that you hadn’t said your first word by the time you were 1, they worried that other children were walking before you and they also worried, in certain rural areas, that you weren’t pregnant by the time you were 16 (“She baint be fertile, she’ll not make a wife. Sell her to the neighbour for tendin’ thems pigs”).

I call these milestones in adulthood ‘Magic Numbers’ because of all the unrealistic mystical power and ridiculous fairytale endings that we pin on them. I’m not talking about the legal age markers, such as the ones that allow you to get drunk without having to hide round the back of the youth club, or the ones that mean you can have sex, again, without hiding behind the youth club, I’m talking about the ones we set for ourselves. Everyone has at least one, you may have passed the first one but you can bet your fertile farm daughter that there’s another one round the corner.

Let’s use 30 as an example of a Magic Number. I could use another number but then 30 might get offended and I have no time for sulking digits.

Chaps, don’t pretend turning 30 doesn’t/didn’t get you too. Yes, it’s mainly the women who are vocal about dreading the impending commencement of their fourth decade (it sounds worse like that, doesn’t it?) but after a few sherries, more than a few of you boys have confessed to me that you also produce enough bricks in your undercrackers to supply a building site when mid-twenties turn to late-twenties. You thought you would be fine with it, you thought that it was funny to watch other people squirm through their Magic Number Melt Down. Well, you’re now regretting that “hilarious” getting-too-old comment you wrote in their birthday card because you, yes you, are sobbing into your pillow each night because you are nowhere near where you “should” be in life and that age is in the post.

Show me someone in their late twenties and I will show you a nervous wreck filled with self-doubt and terror who views the approach of their 30th birthday like some slow moving, unavoidable, deadly zombie. They aren’t in a long term relationship so there’s no way marriage will happen in the next 3 years which means there’s no chance of a baby in that time either *gasp*. Still working at the job which just about pays the bills but sucks their soul and yet everywhere in the media are foetuses parading round making millions from their dreamlike careers (Mark Zuckerberg and Miley Cyrus, I’m pointing my finger in your direction) *shudder*. They don’t own a house, they don’t even rent a very nice one *tremble*. They can’t afford to pay off their credit card bill without joking about turning to prostitution. They are joking, right?

The list goes on and on. All these things that we MUST have accomplished by the time we hit our 30th birthday or something really terribly awful will happen. So awful, so terrible, the thing, it’s um, well. What will happen if you haven’t done all these things is, um…

On the other side of 30, 40, 65, or any other Magic Number (so I’m told, I’m still 25 so don’t really know), isn’t a gaping chasm of failure and you don’t get carted off to The Valley Of The Sad And Lonely to live out the rest of your days alphabetising your DVD collection surrounded by cat hair. What actually happens is that you get to breathe a huge sigh of liberated relief, the dark clouds of doubt lift and you realise that today is exactly the same as yesterday and the universe still holds you in about as much regard as a pimple on its bottom, just like it does everyone else.

You still have your entire life ahead of you to marry the wrong person before finding the right one, to have a fantastically dysfunctional loving family and make questionable career choices that earn you less/more and make you happier/richer. The mortgage? Well, you realise that you don’t know if you actually want to live in this climate for the rest of your life so paying rent to a cockroach is probably very prudent for the time being.

You can breathe normally without the aid of a paper bag (or a bottle of wine) again. You can enjoy getting on with real life and not counting down to that awful day where you officially earn your failure merit badge. Things are rosy again, you can skip down the street like a giddy school girl on her way to the free ice cream store, until you suddenly notice a dirty black smudge on the horizon… Oh no. Another Magic Number!!!

Fear not, for there is a solution. You can exchange all this terror and grey hair inducing torment for eternal youth, simply by ignoring all the silly expectations placed on age related achievements or, like me, just give up birthdays!


About prettyfeetpoptoe

I live in London and have both my own legs so I am fortunate enough to get out and about on occasion. I form many views on the things that I see and do and love nothing better than a session of linguistic gymnastics in order to share these views.

73 responses »

  1. This post hits too close to home for me. I’m going to live vicariously through my grade 12 students for the rest of the day. Oh god, I hope I’m still relevant…

    Hilarious and well written as always

    • With wit and grammar like yours, you will always be relevant. I can’t comment on whether or not you will find everlasting youth by listening to the debauched shenannigans of 12th graders though.

  2. Well said! Age is totally relative, just a number really. I once dreaded those big days, too, but once I was diagnosed with MS, it changed my entire outlook on life. Each day, especially birthdays, are things to treasure. We have much to accomplish in each and ample opportunities to do so. You can either lament or rejoice, and I’m going with the latter!

  3. Allow me to offer a different perspective. Not to be a downer, but from the vantage point of one who is turning 60 in one month and has survived breast cancer for more than 10 years, I say take each birthday by the balls and enjoy the heck out of it. If you’d like to know more about my views on this topic check out my blog post:

    • Thank you for sharing and congratulations on being a survivor!

      It’s a shame that sometimes it takes a serious illness to make some people see that triflling Magic Numbers really don’t matter.

      I wish you a very happy 60th birthday and many, many more.

  4. Fun, humorous and insightful, but clearly you haven’t reached the 40, 50 or 60 markers. I could previously dance around, enjoy or ignore my birthdays. Now I’m facing time literally in the mirror and wondering ( painfully) what my life is about & why I haven’t accomplished more.

    Yes, I need to be gentle with myself, but also face that time and life are slipping away, and now is the time to do what I aspire to do.

    Blessings, and many more happy Birthdays. Having one is much better than the alternative!

    Brother Brad

    • You are indeed right that I haven’t yet crossed certain age thresholds but I know others that have and they have done so with fabulous style. I can see from these individuals that there is still much life to be lived when you get over the so called hill and sure, there are things that they haven’t accomplished but look at the awesome trail of experience they leave in their wake.

      I bet you have achieved loads in your time. You’ve discovered me for one thing! 😉

  5. I know you’re not going to believe this, but I have never fretted, worried, dreaded or concerned myself about any future or current birthday! I always assume it will wasted energy. I am firmly in the minority with this mindset, but I usually am!

    And for the record, I’m 22.

  6. If there’s one thing I always enjoy, it’s finding some other kindred soul who shares my philosophies. I’m not always right, but I’m seldom wrong, and I’m the final arbitor on matters of this nature. Enjoy your free flight!

    • If anyone agrees with me, they instantly show themselves to have superior intellect, exquisite taste and excellent humour. Of course, that’s just my opinion… 😉

  7. ….. must be some sort of trick . :-/ .
    Happy Birthday!!

    • That’s it? That’s all you’ve got? I expected far more digging from you. 😉

      • Well ,I saw the title and halfway through the post my mind was making so many conclusions and corrections and having such a good time that by the end of it I had ……something of a mental orgasm ….. totally blew all my calculations . ( couldn’t resist that one :p )

        But anyways ,I have your age pegged at a solid 42 . Now tell me I’m wrong (i.e. overshot ) otherwise I’m completely happy at leaving you at 42 and nothing more :p .

        • Aaaaand there it is. Your pegging of 42 is incorrect but I shall take it as a huge compliment because the years you’ve added to me clearly denote a wisdom and wordly experience far beyond my actual years.

          If you want to be more confused, for some reason, 25 was one of my major Magic Numbers.

          I can hear you starting your calculator up again…

          • Shucks woman! ’25 was ONE of my major magic numbers’ ?! really?
            Ok ,so you’re clearly past 30 from the handful of times I’ve reread the whole post …. you’re not yet past 40 and nowhere near ‘cus well ,you weren’t really outraged :-/ .
            I’m gonna go with 32-34 . ( I probably have ocd ,so now would be a good time to spill)

            • “Clearly past 30”? Really? Willing to bet one of your limbs on that?

              May I refer you to the portion of my post that advised people to avoid guessing at my age. You won’t leave here any more enlightened than you arrived. If you insist on guessing, you’d better learn to live with disappointment.

              Game, set and match – me. 🙂

  8. I have to say I was 26 for at least five to eight years until even I had to admit I was fooling not even myself 😦 But fortunately, life DOES get better with age. You lose the insecurity and self-doubt along with the lithe looks and wrinkle-free skin. And I wouldn’t ever want to lose my hard-won wisdom and experience. Age is not a number, it’s a badge of pride for me!

  9. Fourth decade? Try the fifth one! THAT’S the killer number! And AARP refuses to let you forget it. Within days of that big 50 birthday they’re already to declare you a senior citizen!

    I don’t celebrate my birthday and haven’t for about 10 years. First, if you’re going to buy someone a gift, don’t go to Walmart and walk up and down the isles til something catches your fancy. Second, if it’s THAT stressful, who am I to make your life miserable in return for a mere “yahoo, let’s celebrate your birth”. How dare I!? My husband has issues.

    Great post! Made me laugh! Just have to keep in mind that those “birthdays” are just numbers. Yeah, I’m having a tough time convincing myself of that, too.

    • So cruel that they make up these mean names to taunt us with. Senior Citizen, OAP etc. It’s enough to make you refuse your free bus pass and discount restaurant offers!

      Dodgy gifts, I can certainly relate to. I’m saying no more than that for fear I get myself labelled as an ungrateful toad (I am). Remember, stay away from that wrinkle-inducing cake!

      • No, we’re not ungrateful toads, I just think I’m worth more than set of measuring cups and magenta pink winter gloves.

        I do believe they call you “pensioners”. They call us “retirees”. I’m not sure which is worse.

        Cake can be evil. It’s the number of candles on it that cause the wrinkles. Just make sure there’s only 1 or 2 on there. 😉

        • I try to avoid all candle topped cakes. They usually come accompanied by THAT song. *shudder*

          The trick to getting presents you actually want, is to buy them for yourself!

  10. I hear your frustration, but I’m not yet willing to abandon the only occasion that I receive mail that isn’t bills!

    • I’m thinking of adopting the European tradition of celebrating your ‘name’ day instead. It means everyone has to give you gifts and get your drunk BUT there’s no mention of how long you’ve been roaming the planet. I’m pretty sure having a name doesn’t cause grey hairs.

  11. Ha! I’ll have the comfort that a bottle of wine provides, thank you very much Tuscany. Your vino is delicious, by the way. 😛
    I’m creeping up on the big three-zero, so I feel your sentiment. I figured that I would be ruling the world by this point, but I’m not. 😦

    Oh well. Who would want to rule such a mess anyway? 😛

    • You mean you haven’t got your Mega-Death Ray in position yet? You only have 3 years left to get that sorted, you know. Chop chop, off you go to ‘WOMD R Us’.

      I have to admit, there’s a lot of comfort to be found in one of those lovely Tuscan bottles. If at first you don’t find it, don’t give up, keep looking – it might be right down at the very bottom.

  12. Missy Amber

    I totally LOVED turning 30. I made such a bobbins job of my 20s, it was a blessed relief to get on with being a proper grown up, which, it miraculously turns out, I’m not completely useless at. (And there’s always hormonal vampire fiction if I want to recapture my adolescence in the privacy and safety of my own head.)

    But you, lil’ missy, are still techinically in your single digits, so you’re laughing.

  13. I read a story a long time ago about a researcher who asked an eskimo how old he was.
    “I don’t know; probably about 110.” The comment made was that with the eskimo’s unconcern with age he probably WILL live to that age!

    As for birthdays, I no longer get depressed by them: I use them as an excuse to have a great time.


    • Love that story. Looking at it another way, I might start using that instead of the 21 thing. If I tell people I’m 110, they’re going to think I look amazing for my age! 😉

      Wishing you many more fab birthday parties.

  14. I have declared myself ageless or if you like, you may refer to me as a woman of undetermined age. It’s not the years I mind so much as the mileage. I’m working on an undetectable method of turning back the odometer.

  15. I’m laughing. When I was 48, I had a huge epiphany. One of my closest friends died of breast cancer. It was that frying pan-over-the-head moment. I got it. From that moment on, I decided I would live both for myself and for Miki. When I turned 49, I took her with me. And 50 and 51 and…. Every year (this one is 64) is one I shout to the sky. I’m 64! I’m living for both of us! And the really crazy thing is, the years since 50 have been the best in my life. From your vantage point, you probably think I’m nuts. But I swear. The best. The very best.

    • Firstly, I assume that everyone who stops by here to read my witterings is just a little bit nuts so there’s nothing new there. Secondly, I’m sorry to hear about you losing a good friend but I’m happy to hear that you’ve found a way to continue celebrating her. Excellent work!

      I hope to hear that you’re still rocking out way into your 90s and not giving a hoot what numbers are written on your birth certificate!

  16. Edward Hotspur

    Age ain’t nothing but a number. And your number is 36. And that’s cool, because beauty knows no age.

    • 36? I thought we weren’t going to play this game and if we were, I’d like to think people would stick to guessing in the low 20’s.

      Let’s just agree on 25 for the sake of continuity. 🙂

  17. I hated 39 and was glad for 40. Figured if I got past 39 the rest would be a breeze. 50 was my favorite birthday. 60’s are more of a challenge but still a wonder worth a few wrinkles and aches.

    • Glad to hear you got passed your Magic Numbers and can look forward to enjoying yourself without dreading the ever-poorly sung “Happy Birthday To You”.

      It really does seem like it’s only the young who are afraid of getting “old”. Once you’re “passed it”, you get the joke.

  18. So far….I love getting older. I love it because I look a bit younger than my age. I make sure this will never change because I know exactly what county to move to when my age catches up to me. I will only live somewhere where I can remain a 7 out of 10.

  19. Audrey Hepburn once said…”Success is like reaching an important birthday and finding you’re exactly the same.”

    I just celebrated a milestone birthday and am holding tightly to Audrey’s belief.

    Happy Birthday!!

    • If it’s good enough for the legendary Audrey, it’s good enough for me!

      A very happy birthday wish from me to you and may I just say, with a smile like that, you’re clearly young at heart and full of fun all year round!

  20. I’m (just) in my early twenties and I already feel old.

    Mission Boycott Birthdays begins in three, two, one…

  21. I turned 30 yesterday.. no panic, no stress… my hubby however.. he was freaking out.. so I guess it’s different.
    I don’t like birthdays for another reason, and that is that I have to invite some of the relatives to celebration. Have to! otherwise they’ll nag to death.. and these people I cannot stand… so there is my reason for hating birthdays…

    • Happy birthday for yesterday and well done for not freaking out. I hope this means you can teach your husband the art of remaining calm at the thought of candle topped cakes.

      Have you considered eloping for your birthday to avoid the relatives? Or perhaps you could play dumb and pretend your birthday was last month and they missed it.

      • Haha.. play dumb would be hard as they all called and congratulated.. but we are most probably escaping town, thanks to hubby 🙂

  22. I turned 27 yesterday and for the first time felt a slight bit of negativity regarding my age. I know I’m still considered young, but the whole thing about not being in a relationship and therefore, hearing that clock ticking has started getting to me. I guess I’ll take your advice and stop having birthdays. It’s the only logical option.

  23. Oh my god, only 3 years to go until the deadline and you’re not even wed! You may as well give up and move to The Valley Of The Sad And Lonely now. Kidding! You’re in the same boat as many but there really is no need to panic, just forget how old you are by going on a strict no birthday cake diet. Simple.

  24. I absolutely loved turning 30. I’m beginning to view the oncoming 35 with the teensiest bit of trepidation, though. Single and happily childless, my biological clock is digital – it does not tick. Rather, I think it’s the fact that happy choice gives way to flat-out, cheeky, biological inability that might get to me. That and the inevitability of gravity sucking my flesh to the floor. Theoretically. If I do have a freak-out. And if it doesn’t happen at 35, I feel certain it will happen at 40. Let’s not look ahead.

    • Quit birthdays while you’re ahead, that’s my advice. Oh, and for that time when gravity takes its toll on our lithe bodies, I plan to have a plastic surgeon on speed dial. I just need to find a vastly rich sugar daddy to pay for it all first (if becoming the next JK Rowling fails, of course).

  25. best advice EVER. My 30th was less than pleasant and landed me in the psych ward. kidding…or am I? i stopped counting 2 years ago and refuse to be put upon with societal expectations about age related success. Good for you 🙂

    • So, I’m pretty much preeching to the choir here. Well done for surviving 30 and for casting aside the Magic Number countdown forever more. Hip hip hooray to that!

  26. The last time I celebrated a birthday with any gusto was when I was about 8. I have successfully avoided almost every birthday since. For years nobody at my work even knew when my birthday was, until my mother let the cat out of the bag by phoning up to wish me a happy birthday and a colleague took the call.
    Why celebrate one year closer to the suppose’ders? I celebrate my youth by not caring about ‘celebrating’ the ageing process.


    • Mothers can be evil like that. I think they do these things on purpose because they never really forgive us for what we did to their bodies.

      I was outed by the IT boys (unlimited access to everyone’s files, damn them) some time ago and have spent the rest of my career using threats of kicked shins and face-ripping on anyone who has a memory for dates.

  27. Ok have explored blog and you do live in the UK. That is good, very good. You are at the centre of the book creation universe. Start approaching publishers NOW. You are brilliantly funny. I will buy your book. Sign me up for an autographed copy now. Will explore more in the coming days – don’t tell me? You’ve already got a book deal? I really hope you do!!!

    • You can most definitely come again.

      I don’t have a book deal but rest assured, as soon a I do, you shall be among the first to know.

      Now, should autographed copies be sold at £50.00 or £60.00 more than the unsigned ones…

  28. They can’t afford to pay off their credit card bill without joking about turning to prostitution. They are joking, right?

    To be quite honest, I’m not sure anymore. And I’m talking about myself.

  29. Aaaaand because I can relate to this post so much:

    I turned 30 this year. I didn’t celebrate it in the traditional sense. I ran away from it and pretended it didn’t happen tralalalala. Instead, I climbed mountains, did some spelunking, trekked on rocky trails, ate a whole lemon pie, puffed some magic dragon — all in one weekend. Was it a last-minute desperate attempt to hold on to my youth? Maybe.

    I wish I didn’t give a flying fuck about turning 30, but I did. When I came back, I got a lot of birthday surprises, but instead of being grateful, I was thinking, “OMG they’re pitying me that’s why they’re trying to make me feel better.”

    Ah, but I’m sorta, kinda over it. Life doesn’t play out the way you want it to. I still have a lot of things I want to accomplish. Yes, I do wish I got them all before hiting 30, but maybe I’m a late bloomer. I’m too old to worry about whether or not I’m too old for the things I want. 🙂

    /cool story, bro

    • That’s one hell of a way to try to capture some last minute youth. I feel older just reading about your birthday weekend!

      Remember, it’s never too late to quit. Birthdays, that is.

  30. Oh Lordy,
    Thank you for bringing this subject matter up…to hell with birthdays!
    I’m all for it…bring on another round of pure fun and hair raising adventures 🙂


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