An infantile issue

So, I was rewatching this episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S called ‘The One Where They All Turn Thirty’ recently. It’s essentially about the horror of turning 30, perhaps the first time in life that a human being realises it’d probably be a good idea to stop ageing. And it got me thinking — about how wrinkles are considered among the worst curses to befall humankind; about the trillion products that claim to contain anti-ageing properties; about the widespread fear of not just looking older than one’s age but actually looking one’s age. And in all this hullabaloo about looking young, I realised how the world of science and cosmetology — hell, humanity in general — remains completely oblivious to a counter-problem: those who look younger than their age. It is a bit like the character Blake Lively played in the recent fantasy film, The Age of Adaline , who is perennially stuck at 29, despite the passage of decades. Nobody thinks of it as a problem, even if it is, to borrow a modern catchphrase, a first-world one.

I’ve carried a beard for as long as I can remember, if only so the security at organisations I’ve worked in don’t stop me at the gate for fear of abetting child labour. I’m exaggerating, but you get the point. I know a friend who came quite close to shedding tears of joy when he noticed his hair turning grey. “Now maybe, they’ll finally promote me!” When you look younger than your age, you have to deal with several unique problems. There’s always that person in the office who’ll look affectionately at you, as if at his neighbour’s toddler, and ask you if it’s your first job, even if it’s your fifth. Job-related issues aside, there are worse misfortunes that can befall those who look younger than their age — like this female friend who forever has to bear with being asked for identification proof at pubs, even while college kids, at least half-a-decade younger than her, walk in uninterrupted. There’s the random invitee at your wedding who looks to his side at a stranger and wryly says, “So sad. Cut down in his prime.”

It is perhaps only in sports that this isn’t a handicap. Take Sachin Tendulkar, for example. What a great life choice to choose cricket for a living! Can you imagine if he, with his baby face and squeaky voice, had become a corporate employee? He’d forever have been thought of as an intern, even while his batchmates aged, grew and retired. “Hey Sachin, you’ll have to stay back longer today. Keep your parents informed.” Even going by his legendary status as a batsman, you have to ponder about his rather unsuccessful captaincy stint. Who knows how many players had problems taking orders from somebody who looked like their high-school junior? Perhaps this is exactly why Adolf Hitler sported his sad excuse for a moustache; who can know these things for sure?

Are cosmetic companies listening? As outlandish as it may seem, an ageing cream could be a pretty decent idea, and I dare say there are quite a few of us who’ll kill to get crow’s feet, or as they are interestingly called, ‘character lines’. Character lines? You see, this is exactly what I’m talking about.

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