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It's official: I've found my first grey hair... The inevitable is happening.

It’s fair to say that I’ve developed a slight hang up about getting older.

Image: Shutterstock/Lars Zahner

“HANG ON…”

It’s a Sunday night in The George. My date’s face is suddenly a ball of concentration, as she leans in towards me.

‘This is it’ I think, silently high-fiving myself on my choice of outfit for the night.

“Hmm. You have grey hairs. Did you know that?” she observes, examining my fringe.

After a moment of shocked embarrassment I feign indifference, mumbling something about the heat of my hair straightener, before swiftly changing the subject to Shirley Temple Bar and her Bingo calling skills.

Later that night however, as I peer anxiously into the bathroom mirror, I count not one, but three clearly visible grey strands of hair. To add insult to injury, I am then confronted by a barrage of hair dye products whilst watching television in bed.

As I drift off to sleep, thoughts of Regaine for men and anti-ageing products swimming around my head, the following question disturbs my thoughts.

Am I getting old?

Now, before I continue I should make it clear that I have just turned 27.

I know, getting panicked over a few grey hairs whilst still in my twenties is a little ridiculous. The day of being offered a reserved seat for the elderly on Dublin bus is far off (more’s the pity, standing in rush hour traffic is a killer in a pair of VANs.)

However, while I may not be old I am getting older. The inevitable is happening. It won’t be long before I’m blowing out 30 candles on an extra large black forest gateau and opting for the laid back atmosphere of The Front Lounge over the madness of The George on a Saturday night.

I’m getting older, there’ no denying it 

Despite this realisation, like many other people of a similar age, I had previously blocked out the thought that I would one day no longer be classed as ‘young.’

Whether due to the aforementioned onset of grey hairs, or perhaps that tendency to reflect on one’s life as a line of shots are replaced with successive cups of tea, this denial has now been replaced with an acceptance that one day I too will be pushing a checkered trolley (to match my checked shirt of course) around the local shopping centre.

Having previously never thought about growing older, I now find myself eyeing up (no not like that…well…) the customers of New Look and H&M, noticing that the majority of female shoppers appear to be in their early to mid-twenties. ‘Where will I shop in a few years?’ I’ve often found myself wondering, making a concerted effort not to glance in the direction of Marks and Sparks – my mother’s favourite haunt.

I’ve also found myself inquiring as to the age of the guests that I perceive to be young on The Late Late. If the answer is under 27, I automatically reach for the chocolate digestives.

More recently, on foot of seeing a picture of a young looking Pat Kenny, I found myself googling the broadcasters date of birth, in order to establish his age in the photo. It was then that I realised that my thoughts about ageing had become a little obsessional, reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s characters behavior in ‘As Good As It Gets.’

I’ve developed a hang up about getting older

Gerascophobia is a medical condition and describes an abnormal or persistent fear of growing old/ ageing.

While my concerns about my age are, thankfully, not as extreme as those expressed by some people on forums dedicated to the topic, it is fair to say that I have developed a hang up about getting older.

Despite having previously thought that the passage of time had never before crossed my mind, upon further reflection I realised that turning 20 was in fact the catalyst for such concerns.

It seems ridiculous now, but back then, that transition from teen to 20 year old made me feel like I was over the hill. In fact, for a brief period of time after my twentieth birthday, I insisted on being referred to as twen – teen (such an insistence may become slightly problematic when I hit thirty.)

However, having spoken to a number of friends about this period in their lives, leaving behind those teenage years was for many a little traumatic.

Granted, some people upon turning 20 were delighted to leave the ‘teen’ club behind, associating it only with years of clueless sexual experimentation and bad skin, but for many reaching 20 was a scary milestone, signalling a departure from childhood to adulthood.

I’ll miss the slack you get in your 20s

Yet a few years now short of 30, part of me longs to be that age again.

After all, being in your early twenties gives you a certain amount of freedom, not to mention slack.

In regards to work, it’s viewed as no biggie if you’ve not settled into a career by 23, are switching college courses annually, or have just come out the other side of another unsuccessful relationship.

However, when in your mid-to-late twenties, peoples expectations of you and your life’s achievements increase. There is a sense of urgency projected upon you, whether by friends, family – or yourself, and this only increases as the years pass. It is almost as if there is a giant clock, ticking down to the theme tune of Countdown, in the background of your life.

Despite the fact that the definition of youth varies according to whoever you ask: some people believe you are as young as you feel, while others (usually people who are themselves teens) see anyone above 24 as being over the hill, it can’t be denied that youth is something people often cling onto or tend to hark back to when they reach a more mature age in life.

Is it any wonder we want to stay young?

To be young, in most instances, is to be healthy, able bodied and in a position to live your life to the fullest. It’s no wonder that we can at times become a little obsessed by it.

However we should remember that as individuals we are evolving each year.
While the carefree early 20s may look attractive, the grass is always greener. On further inspection of those years gone by, we may in fact not even like the person that we were back then.

Now in our mid-to-late twenties, we are likely better informed to choose the right career or partner – not to mention clothing/style. These are the perks of getting to know our true selves and this can only come from life experience.

This is why we should resist the temptation to disrupt our youth by worrying about the inevitability that is getting older. Instead, we should enjoy it and embrace change.

In the meantime, the hairdresser has assured me that if further strands of grey appear, well, I have options.

Bressie may have been preaching the truth when he sang, “You can’t stay young forever…” however with the help of a little hint of a tint, we can try.

Christine Allen is in her third year of Information Technology at DCU – a part-time course funded for those that are unemployed. In between trying to get to grips with JAVA programming and looking for work, she loves nothing better than sitting down at the laptop with a cup of tea, and writing. She has been published in DIVA Magazine, on TheJournal.ie and Gaelick.com. One day she would like to be known as the lesbian version of Carrie Bradshaw. Follow Christine on Twitter @AllenChristine2.

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