The Picture of Dorian Gray

It is, apparently, bad form to ask a lady her age. A man’s age, however, is fair game.

When a young (or otherwise) lady asks me how old I am I always like to play a little game... “Go on, guess!” They invariably come up with a figure well below my real age. After telling them they’ve just made a friend for life and thanking them profusely I don’t even need to reveal my real age.

Guessing someone’s age etc (and a woman’s age in particular) is a dangerous game. Guess too low and you risk sounding like some fawning fool. Guess too high and you risk offending someone. There are some questions which should go unanswered. “Do I look fat in this?” being a prime example. A friend of mine’s party trick was to guess a woman’s weight. He was accurate, deadly accurate; a perfect example of how to lose friends and negatively influence people.

Even taking into account the fact that guesses of my age are a little on the low side so as to avoid offending me I like to think that the years have been quite kind to me. I don’t smoke and I try to avoid the sun. My hairstyle (if it can be so called) hasn’t changed for years. Unlike Oscar Wilde’s character Dorian Gray I don’t have a portrait in the attic which ages hideously while allowing me remain to forever young. The best I can do is my passport photo. Passports usually last ten years (and when approaching their renewal data) are a good way of judging the ravages of time. Passport photos aren’t my forte and in my quest to avoid smiling (as the requirements for passport photo state) I end up looking like some fugitive from the law.

Recently I conducted a little experiment. I changed my facebook profile photo for one that was taken a while back. A nice photo, taken on the train on the way back from a fortnight’s holiday in the sun. I looked tanned, relaxed and, most importantly, with only a double chin instead of the usual triple one. I’m still waiting for people to enquire why I have used such an ancient photo. Nothing yet, maybe they’re just being polite?

“You’re as young as you feel,” apparently. However, I prefer this version “You’re as young as the woman you feel”. For a while my variation on the theme knocked quite a few years off my age. Kasia was a few years younger than me. I won’t say the exact age, but at the time she was still studying at university and living at home with her mother. I still remember like it was yesterday when she told me about how she’d told her mother about me. Apparently, so as not to alarm her mother, I was in my early thirties. I remember telling the guys at work how, before going to Poland, I would have to lose ten years, ten pounds and gain 10cm in height. Luckily the meeting with the future ex-mother-in-law never materialised so I didn’t even have to try to defeat the laws of physics or invent some sort of time travel machine.

I am beginning to feel my age. Physically, if not mentally and I’m always conscious that younger people might perceive me as being old. Perish the thought! Casting thoughts of our own mortality aside, I’ll leave you with some light relief (at the risk of offending my fellow countrymen). This sketch from “Harry and Paul - Polish Café” always makes me chuckle (especially when I’m asking for a duże cappuccino).

“I was in Poland, I go to see my father who is dead”
“Was he old?”
“Yes, he was very old, he was forty seven”.

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