Turning 20

No more ID checks, one would think, once you reach 20 in the UK. Unless of course you are graced with a baby face or a short height. I have one of those things – the short height, but it’s surely never my 5″3 level that makes the woman at the local Co-Operative doubt my age legitimacy. Nor could it be my face, which, I am told, reasonably looks like that of an adult. In truth, I don’t know what it is. But most people reckon I look older than 18. Most folks but for the woman at the local Co-Op.

Let’s call her ‘Janet’. She looks like a Janet. Janet is in her 50s, I would say. Janet doesn’t like it when I bring a Smirnoff Ice or a bottle of wine to the counter to be bought. Maybe she gets it often by teens pretending to be over-18s. Or perhaps Janet just has trust issues. I don’t know. But despite my faithful service to the local Co-Op for the last eight years, Janet finds it hard to believe I have aged over the 18 mark. Why make such a fuss over this ID check when a lot of people go through it, Gwen? It’s just a few moments, right? It’s not like you aren’t actually 20.

Well, that’s just it. I am not 20. I don’t feel it anyway. I think there’s a big difference between being 20 and acting 20. Maybe I act like what is expected of a 20 year old (hangovers do not happen often for me, I’m organised enough to pass for 20, and I try to behave myself around everyone – if that’s not too bigheaded).

But I certainly do not want to be 20. I would have happily stopped at 17. Not just because I despise getting older, but because I no longer have an excuse for my silly little outbursts with my friends, or for liking video games and fantasy movies, or for telling people that my real dream would be to be a computer games artist or writer. Sure, I’m doing an English undergraduate degree, but even with that it still sounds a little childish when I tell my older relatives and friends of the same age that I want to be a writer or artist. It still feels like just what it is: a dream. And dreams are not for 20 year olds. Dreams are for children. Dreams are for that 17 year old Gwen, who is still a teenager and can get away with her dreamy remarks. Dreams have to be replaced with reality at 20. I have to ‘act my age’ which probably means say things my age too.

Can I still tell people that I’m a video game fanatic and wannabe writer? Can I still make these comments at my age and still seem like a sensible 20 year old? Perhaps it depends on the company. But to most, everyday people, I’m quite sure that while I act the 20 year old part, I do not always talk the 20 year old part. And I do not want to have to change for the rest of the world. I am happy being a childish little cat cuddler, avid gamer, lover of writing and wannabe author. I am happy to binge TV shows and obsess over older actors I’ll never marry and make gifs of fictional characters. I am happy living in my own little ageless world, but as a self-aware individual, I will not be happy if it all damages others’ perceptions of me. And so as I get older I find it increasingly harder to really be my age. In years I am 20, but at heart I’m still only 17. What do you have to act like, to be 20? What do you have to say, to be 20? Do you have to feel 20? I certainly don’t. Maybe I’ll never truly grow up. Who knows.

And back to Janet – the ID checks are more frequent now than ever before. My picture on my provisional license is very accurate. In fact, the small mini mole beside my mouth conforms its legitimacy. But Janet asks to check my ID twice. She will hand it back, and after applying NUS discount on my purchase, she’ll ask to just check it again. Every time. Without fail. Poor Janet. Maybe she should go to specsavers. Maybe I should give her some reassurance and tell her to match the mole to the photo on my license. At least Janet keeps me young – reminding me I don’t yet look 20, whatever that means. Can’t blame her for protecting her job, I guess.


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