I am really bad at remembering how old I am. It’s like I have no concept.
This was really brought home to me at a recent party, where the guests were a varied mix of ages and I found myself stuck somewhere in the middle – older than the kids, younger than the parents.
I was instantly befriended by a very sweet four-year-old girl, who decided that I was her new best friend. ‘We’re not sisters, just friends – but I really, really love you,’ she told me very solemnly, once we had known each other for a few hours. She sat on my knee throughout lunch and we spent the day walking around, holding hands and playing imaginary games. Her mother and other assorted guests all said how good I was with her and how very helpful and nice. I was so happy that this little girl loved me so much. I was her favourite! I was great at this!
Then it turned out I wasn’t. This little girl was not only cute but quite bright, and she could soon sense a weak link. I wasn’t good at looking after her like a mum or a babysitter – I was more like another four-year-old. She said she wouldn’t be my best friend any more if I didn’t let her have more cake/jump off a high wall/try on my high heels – so of course (because I am tragic) I relented. My sister, who is actually a nursery teacher, laughed and laughed at me for managing to get myself conned into this, due purely to flattery that she liked me best. By the end of the day, I had let her run around so much and eat so many sweets that she fell over and then threw a massive over-tired tantrum. I had a minor panic and had to go and fetch her mum.
Later in the evening, once my small charge had gone home, I could be found smoking fags and dancing to Pulp with a trendy 17-year-old. I kind of forgot that we weren’t the same age as we talked about bands and boyfriends and the meaning of life until deep into the night.
Then ‘Live Forever’ by Oasis came on.
‘Oh, I love this song!’ she exclaimed. ‘It came out the year I was born!’
I was genuinely shocked. When that song came out, I went to Virgin Records to buy it. My teenage boyfriend used to do a cover of it in his band and I would sing along at gigs. I don’t know which of us was more shocked at the revelation of this discrepancy.
I really don’t want to be seventeen again, but sometimes I really do forget that I’m not.