Youth is Wasted on the Young

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It’s an old adage but the further I advance in years, the more poignant it becomes. I wouldn’t say I envy young people because I had my time and pee’d it up the wall quite nicely (the way you’re supposed to) and had the kind of fun that only youths can have. But sometimes I do wish that I’d had the more mature head I have now on those young shoulders; I would have done things differently – thought differently.

From childhood I was convinced I was ugly and fat. I would stare longingly in the mirror on a daily basis and wish I’d been given a different exterior. I wished my ears didn’t stick out, I wished that the birthmark/mole bang in the middle of my right cheek didn’t exist. I dreamed of a straighter nose and poker straight hair. Why had I been given all this to contend with? Why was I funny-looking? Even ‘plain’ would have been better than this. My mother used to swear blind that I was beautiful. My siblings used to insist I was pretty. I thought they were all raving mad or were just being polite or just had very bad taste in what beauty ought to be.

In my teens and early twenties – I spent my life on crazy diets (mainly consisting of not eating at all) just so my legs would be thinner, just to try and even out that weird pear-shape I’d been given; just to be more like my skinny friends. I bleakly read glossy magazines and stared at the pop stars, actresses and models and wondered why I didn’t look the same way. Basically, I was just like every other young girl – convinced by the popular media of the time that I just didn’t fit the bill.

It is only now that I am in my forties and look back at the photographs of my childhood and teens and twenties that I realise that my mother was telling the truth. I was pretty. My body shape was perfect for my height. In my twenties, I was perhaps not beautiful but that strange-looking girl in the mirror was actually attractive (certainly not plain). My hair was long and thick and curly, and facially, I was interesting. I was just right. But it’s too bloody late now!

My youth has gone and with it has gone that pretty girl. Honestly, I’m not fishing for compliments; I look okay for my forty-three years. I take care of myself, I exercise, I eat balanced meals (on the most part), I cut my hair short because it was getting thinner and it accentuates my face better than when it was long. I wear clothes that suit my short stature – I like to think I dress well. The minute I turned forty, I raised my game because I knew I had to work harder. But that fresh-faced beauty that only youth can possess has faded away – and I didn’t even appreciate it when I had it.

I’d hate for my kids to be like me. So my aim is now to ensure my nearly fifteen-year-old daughter realises her potential. She is beautiful, she really is. She has the added bonus of her father’s height so I know she will be stunning (and tall). And I tell her every day just how beautiful she is. I’ve been telling her since she was born. It’s not that ‘looks’ are everything because they’re not – brains and personality have far greater significance. But it’s also important that you recognise that your exterior is aesthetically acceptable (not to others – to yourself). You shouldn’t mope away your entire youth striving to be somebody completely different. But I fear that my daughter doesn’t believe me, just like I didn’t believe my mother. Because mothers are supposed to say that. Mothers always think their kids are beautiful just because they’re their kids.

As I push my glasses further up my nose to write this, my eyesight worsening year upon year (I didn’t appreciate that either when I was young!), I want to reiterate that I’m not being vain or shallow to write a piece like this. It’s not about attracting the opposite sex or how others perceive you. All I’m saying is, I was a good-looking girl when I was young but the society I lived in persuaded girls like me into thinking we just didn’t make the grade – and that is only getting worse. We’ve got to teach our kids to like themselves; we’ve got to convince them that it’s okay to be a bit nerdy or a bit idiosyncratic and that their outer image is just perfect for them. I’m not encouraging kids to be arrogant or ‘looks’ obsessed – just to be happy in their own skin. Because it’s so true, youth really is wasted on the young – they’ll never know how wonderful they were until youth as passed them by. I guess you just can’t have that kind of wisdom or maturity on young shoulders. You can only learn that with time. And d’you know what? When I’m old and grey, I will probably look back on the forty-year-old me and wish I’d appreciated her more too.

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8 thoughts on “Youth is Wasted on the Young

  1. How difficult it must have been to be a little girl especially when you were born in our times. The fashion industry dominated by people who find little boys sexy has spent decades making models that look like little boys the norm. I never liked little boys myself (even when I was one lol) so I never fancied any of the super models out there as I was growing up. You may find this hard to believe but I actually thought that made ME weird, until I was older and realized the truth about what people held up as beauty and what was really behind it. I also had to get old enough to not care if anyone didn’t like me saying it.
    I love this saying (and it came from that president everyone loves to hate George W Bush) “When I was young and dumb, I did things that were young and dumb, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it, just the way I try to explain it away now.” I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for that idiot I was for so many years, and it’s hard to look back and thank that person, but I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds as though you had a pretty mature head on your shoulders even when you were a little boy – it’s just little girls like me didn’t realise boys like you existed. Oh well, we can only try to get the message across to our kids. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, and I can empathise – when I was a teenager I put myself under huge pressure to lose weight and stuff, and it was only when I (apologies for the upcoming fluffy phrase but I can’t think of a better one) learned to love myself that I was able to accept myself as I am, and I don’t think that I didn’t get enough compliments or support from my parents when I was growing up, it’s just a phase I went through. I shall endeavour to try ever harder with my son!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Adele. great post as usual, I was lucky as a youth in the respect I played sport nearly every day, I honestly look back and I was always quite chubby and always got teased about it but it never bothered me because I could always run faster and further than any of them. But you are right about the teaching them they are beautiful. I hope my son and daughter grow up to love who they are and not change themselves for anyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much – I think some kids are more susceptible to teasing than others. My daughter tries so hard to fit in, to wear what other people wear – I feel some kids just don’t have the courage to actually be themselves until they grow up a little.

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