You probably don’t look younger than your age

A funny thing happens in any online discussion whenever the topic of age comes up… everyone, or at least everyone female, chimes in with how amazing it is that they, and they alone among all their acquaintances, are always mistaken for being so much younger than their actual age. Well, they are not as unique as they think they are, since a survey by cosmetics brand Lancome Advanced Genifique (via The Daily Mail) found that fully 75 percent of women think they look at least five years younger than their actual age (the other 25 percent, presumably, are staying out of online discussions).

The paradox comes when you realize that, if 75 percent of all people who are, say, 40, appear to be 35, then the age they appear to be is actually what 40 looks like. So yes, all 75 percent of you (as well as the more realistic 25 percent) probably do look exactly as old as you are. As this Newsday columnist puts it, “It seems that if everyone pretty much looks younger than their age, or thinks they do, or are told they do, it raises the question: What is that age supposed to look like? Statistically speaking, we can’t all look younger than our age.”

So why do people tell me I look younger, then?

There are a number of reasons why you may be hearing the line about looking younger. Several Quora users bring up the fact that actors in movies typically play much younger characters, so if we’re presented with, say, a 30-year-old playing an 18-year-old (or a 50-year-old playing 30), then our perception of what 18 (or 30) looks like may skew older. Yet another reason is the fact that such comments are a cheap form of flattery — after all, the friend, acquaintance, or random stranger who tells you that you look every minute of your age is the same one who’ll also tell you that you really do look huge in those pants, and this is the kind of bad news you usually only get from your mirror.

If your primary evidence for your allegedly youthful looks is the fact that you keep getting carded, well, as one savvy Quora user reveals, many waitstaff do this in order to earn bigger tips. YourTango adds that even septuagenarians may be carded by certain businesses, likely because those businesses can never be too careful when it comes to covering their behinds, legally-speaking. While it’s doubtful that ATF agents would apply special-effects makeup in order to trick liquor stores into selling to underage customers, store policy may well require that I.D. be produced for any such purchase in order to take the burden of guesswork off their employees and management.

Reasons why you should stop claiming you look younger

Whether or not you do look not a day over 20 (ok, 30) in your own mind, you should keep this opinion to yourself. For one thing, how embarrassing would it be for you to realize that nobody agrees with you? As those Quora threads and that Newsday piece make painfully clear, many times when anyone announces their age with an “I know you must be surprised to hear I’m that old!,” the listener is often thinking “Nope, not surprised at all. In fact, I’d probably have guessed you were a few years older.”

As YourTango points out, boasting of your apparent youth just makes you sound both vain and delusional, and turning it into a humblebrag about how agonizing it is for you to have to produce an I.D. at the age of 30-plus sure doesn’t help. What’s more, if you really do think that your supposedly younger looks entitle you to act younger or date younger, well, you’re in for a rude awakening when you find out that age is not just a number. Well, in some sense it is, but your bank balance is also just a number, and so is your rent payment. If the latter number exceeds the former, pretty soon there’s no “just” about it, and good luck getting a payday loan if your “just a number” credit score is so low that not even a cow-riding John Cena can save it.

Why looking your age isn't such a bad thing

If you’re still floating down “De Nial” river when it comes to your apparent age, then there’s nothing we can do about that. If you’re starting to wake up and acknowledge what’s likely to be the truth, though, it doesn’t have to be painful. Author Kristin McTiernan wrote a blog post about how for women, in particular, denying their age and assigning great importance to the perception of youth is a refusal to acknowledge the power and worth inherent in older women.

Whether you are 27 or 70, it is to be hoped that you will continue to get older and more amazing for many decades to come. And the way to be your best, real-age self is to embrace that age instead of trying to chase after vanished youth. Just as a teenager wouldn’t try to recapture her kindergarten style, a mature woman does herself no favors by trying to look/dress/act like a 20-something when that decade is in her rearview mirror. Why should those younger days be encased in amber? It’s not like you were at your best back then, so stop obsessing about which hairstyles or makeup tricks can recapture lost youth. As McTiernan puts it, “There is no one… who can say they knew me in my prime. Because, darlings, I haven’t hit my prime, yet. And neither have you.”

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