Not long ago I got carded while buying a bottle of wine. (Remember getting carded?!) Never mind that I was in North Carolina, where you can pick up a very nice Pinot Noir in the supermarket. Never mind that the “person” who carded me was the self-checkout machine in a fancy Kroger supermarket. I still got a little thrill when the screen instructed me to show my I.D. to a store manager. And the actual human being to whom I was supposed to hand over my drivers license was kind enough to actually look at it – in a wink-wink sort of way.

The truth is, I don’t look younger than 21 – but I do look younger than my actual age and, like all the women on my mom’s side of the family, I always have. When I was 12, and 16, and even 22, I considered this something of a liability. It was especially difficult when I moved to New York from the South after graduating from college and felt I had to battle both my twang and my little-girl looks while interviewing for jobs.

Once I landed a position as an editorial assistant at a magazine, though, my career was launched and my insecurities about my appearance and drawl disappeared. I hardly thought about either again for years, although I do remember being seriously carded on my 30th birthday while buying champagne – and that was a thrill, ya’ll.

Me and the kids on my last birthday. Will is the old one (now 21) , Eliza is the only girl (12), Lucas (9) is sitting right beside me making a goofy face, Wyatt (6) is making the even goofier face.

But now that I’m staring down the barrel of 52, I’m realizing how lucky I am. I love telling people that one of my kids is a senior in college, because more often than not I get a shocked, “No way do you have a kid that age! You must have had him when you were five!” I love mingling with the moms of other first graders (my youngest child is six), because while I know that I’m old enough to be the mother of many of them, they would never guess that. I look at my own mother, who at 74 could easily pass for 64, and give thanks for my personal fountain of youth: age-defying DNA.

And yes, it’s very true that I look young because it runs in the family. But I’d like to think that I’m doing things that help as well – and I don’t just mean keeping the gray at bay and wearing sunscreen every single day of the year on my already sun-damaged skin. (Remember, I grew up in the South, in the era of baby-oil sunbathing.)

I try – not always successfully – to maintain a youthful mindset. It helps that I have young children, of course, so on many sunny afternoons you can find me at the park throwing pop-ups for my little boys. But I don’t really need the kids to look and feel young – nor does anyone. I honestly believe in the adage, “You’re as young as you feel.” Start thinking like a woman ten years younger and chances are you’ll begin to look younger. I can’t promise you’ll get carded, though.

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  • RozWarren October 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Great essay! A 54-year old man I know was carded recently and it made his day. It was in a dark club and he IS a very youthful-looking 54. Still — he, like you, was quite pleased.