The other day a young friend contacted me over Skype because her friend was freaking and wanted my advice. Rarely do I give advice over Skype, but I've known my young friend for years, and it was not a complex situation. Indeed, the situation was even simpler than it sounded at first because the real problem was that the friend of my friend was 25 and having "I'm 25" wobbles. It seems worthwhile to write on 25 again.
It was incredibly dumb of society to arbitrarily make 25 the age at which youth ends or something. This has nothing to do with present generations. Let me quote to you from An Infamous Army (1937) by celebrated romance novelist Georgette Heyer:
Lady Barbara Childe was no longer in the first flush of her youth. She was twenty-five years old and had been three years a widow.
If Lady Barbara Childe was no longer in the first flush of her youth, I must have a foot firmly planted in the grave. Of course, Lady Barbara was in her second flush (or whatever) at the Battle of Waterloo, and I suppose back then I might have already been in my grave at 39, what with the short lifespan of women until someone came up with the brilliant idea of doctors washing their hands.
Anyway, today 25 is young. I agree (in hindsight) that at 25 you should be out of school and into work, or at least well advanced on your useful (e.g. dentistry) post-graduate studies, but in terms of marriage-and-babies 25 is still young. As far as I can tell the only (and I mean only) age any woman who likes children needs to worry about is age 35, for that is the year fertility specialists currently say your fertility drops off. But, of course, God's actions are not limited by the opinions of fertility specialists so, girls, feel free not to settle for Mr. Just Okay when you are 34.
Men, of course, do not need to worry quite so much about their fertility dropping off, but it is a sad fact of life that most young women do not fancy balding men, so don't think your rugged good looks will continue to attract 25 year olds for the rest of your life. When you are 30 or so, even if you are incandescently beautiful, young women will begin to say "Yes, but he still doesn't know what he wants to do for a living." And you will see your less good-looking, more mature pals marrying marvellous women of all ages. Don't you settle, either, but don't think men can put off adulthood forever without severe consequences.
The most helpful thing I ever read about age was an article by a journalist who was always ashamed of how old she looked. Decade by decade, she compared photos of her current appearance to photos of her more youthful appearance. And then one day, she was struck by something. While looking at a beautiful picture of herself in her 30s, she realized that when that photo was taken, she was hating herself for looking so old. And she realized that when she was 70, looking at photos of her current, 40-something, self, she would think how beautiful she had looked. In short, it was all relative, and she stopped worrying about it.
The aristocratic heroine of Turnip Tops (1929) by Ethel Boileau, notes that men now look at her beautiful daughter Veronica in the way they used to look at her. This obviously makes her sad, and she feels older than the hills. Veronica Mallory, described as the most sophisticated, although physically virginal, of the Jazz Age generation, is only 19, and her older brother is about 22, so Mrs. Mallory is probably 45, tops. Now I never had a glorious, Country-Life-Model, beauty to lose, which is perhaps why I feel much better about getting on in years than Boileau's heroine. Also, this is 2010, and health care is immeasureably better. All the same, I think Mrs Mallory was rather silly.
Anyway, there is no real point in worrying about turning this age or that. It happens, of course, and people feel real grief over turning 25, 30, 40 and (I believe) 60. But this grief is not very logical. The alternative to turning 40 is dying before 40, and personally I don't feel I am done with living yet.
The way to cope with Bad Birthdays, I have held since shortly before I turned 30, is to have as big a birthday bash as you can afford and tell all and sundry how old you are, so that they can, truthfully or merely politely, tell you you don't look it. You should be left with memories of a great night.
I simply cannot remember what I did for my 25th birthday, but for my 30th, I organized a big birthday dinner at the best Chinese restaurant in town (and everyone insisted on paying on their own dinner AND mine) with cake in my tiny bedsitter afterwards. It was a marvellous party, and not only did it help me turn 30, it helped my one-year-younger brother rethink his dread of turning 30.