Oh my god! You think I’m 40!

Do you think that getting older automatically makes you wiser? Sometimes the 20-somethings can teach us a thing or two about life, work and relationships.shocked woman

There are some questions you never want to be asked:

“Does this make me look fat?”
“What do you think of my new boyfriend?”
“Am I wearing too much make-up?”
“Shall I get a divorce?”

One of my colleagues came straight out and asked me one the worst:
“How old do you think I am?”

I paused, considered her work experience – she’d managed a large store in Edinburgh – looked at her face and body: make-up plastered on like oils in a Turner sunset, complete with colour scheme, bad back. I incorporated her attitude to relationships; she was hunting down a husband. I took off five years for politeness then dived in.

“Thirty-five?” I said
“Oh my god,” she shrieked, “I’m 24. You think I’m 40”!
My jaw dropped and incomprehensible sounds dribbled out.
“You did that thing where you take five years off to be polite, and you think I’m 40!”
True. Now what?

Backpedalling faster than Bradley Wiggins goes forwards, I cited her poise, her management skills and her experience and claimed that she didn’t look 35, but that she had the authority of someone a decade her senior.

She waited until I’d finished waffling, smiled her glamorous best, batted her immensely long masacared lashes and said, “It’s OK, everyone thinks I’m 40. The problem is that I keep attracting older men and I want one my age.”

But she continued to top up the fake tan and wear what looked to me like ballgowns for work, with enough make up to cover 10 normal women on a night out.

One day I saw her in the office looking marvellous.

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“Jessica, you look wonderful!” I said. She shrieked.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” she said. “I’m not wearing any make-up!”

So a couple of months later, I took her to one side and reminded her of the conversation we’d had about her looking for a man her own age, and I suggested that perhaps she should tone it down a little. Her look – which she’d described to me as “high class whore” – was perhaps frightening them off.

Again she waited for me to finish my well intentioned advice.

“That’s sweet of you,” she said, “but I’m engaged to Matt now. He’s two years older than me and he’s adorable.”

Sometimes, even though I think I know a lot about the world, there are some people I just get completely totally wrong. But that’s OK too.