Brianna Parkins: Some people fear ageing but you couldn’t pay me to go back to being 19 again

Young girls on TikTok are terrified of getting older, but they have no idea how good the crone years can be

I am a person who is good with money. I know exactly what to spend it all on. People should really give me more so I can demonstrate this talent to its full extent. Unfortunately, after some time spent reporting on the finance desk early in my journalism career, I discovered that other people’s definition of “excellent with money” is different from mine. But being the sort of open-minded person I am, I was willing to accept and even embrace their unorthodox school of thought to see what I could learn.

So far those lessons have all had the same conclusion – “if you had only known about compound interest/ investing/pensions/bonds/index funds/mortgages sooner, you would have been much better off, you bloody idiot”.

I try to cut myself a bit of slack. Women, especially those from working-class communities and/or minorities, aren’t exposed to the same sort of advice or encouragement to put money in shares or invest in property than other groups take for granted growing up. But I’m still annoyed I didn’t know about all that stuff. While I had no clue about dividends, somehow my brain was filled with all kinds of “anti-ageing” facts. Like which way to sleep to avoid chest wrinkles, which make-up formulations sat in eyelid creases, and 10-step skincare routines to keep you from looking like a wizened crone lest the villagers come and chase you out with pitchforks when the crop fails.

My knowledge base came from the repeated message hammered into all women from every bit of media consumed, from television to magazines to overheard conversations on the bus, to the back of cereal boxes – “if you don’t defy nature and get old you are worthless”. The passing of time is inevitable, but if you let it show on your face then you have failed as a woman. You will become invisible not just to men but also in your career, children will think you are a witch, no one will want to talk to you and you’ll be left alone to die after being stalked by a pack of wolves.


We’ve tried our best to campaign against it, to show young women it doesn’t have to be like this at all. But the sexy bikini photos of Dame Helen Mirren and Kamala Harris being elected vice president of the United States in her 50s haven’t worked. Tween and teen girls are so obsessed with anti-wrinkle skincare routines, staff at make-up retailers have begun keeping testers behind the counter.

Before their first wrinkle, last year young girls begged for pricey Drunk Elephant-branded serums for Christmas in record numbers. Would an 11- or 12-year-old boy be thrilled unwrapping a bottle of cream from Santa? They would probably take the family rabbit hostage until they had something decent to play with. So why are young girls asking for lotions instead of toys?

TikTok may have something to do with it. The “GRWM” (get ready with me) genre of videos exploded in 2023. Featuring an attractive influencer with a beauty light and a blurred filter, they consist of women slooshing pricey moisturiser they got in a PR drop on their faces at different stages. In the way we watched our mothers put on lipstick when they went out to understand how to be a woman, these girls are doing the same. Except instead of one woman in a mirror, they have access to millions on their iPhone who aren’t their mothers and are trying to sell them products via brand partnerships.

You couldn’t pay me to go back to being 19 again unless it was to tell my past self that it was all going to be okay . . . and to buy something called bitcoin

The result is they are terrified of getting old, and think they can hold it off with the right kind of skin goop. When a video went viral for showing “what a real 28-year-old face looks like” without any “work done”, comments from young female users ranged from “I would never let myself get like that” to “she looks 40, gross”.

Yes, all this to a quite healthy face of woman who was not even in her 30s!

If I could sit them all down and wipe all the unneeded retinol off their little faces, I would tell them there’s nothing to fear about getting older. In fact, life gets better.

Personally, I am thrilled to be advancing into my bog hag years. My “cailleach era”, as Taylor Swift might call it. The time where I start carrying Werther’s Originals in my handbag and offering them to people on the bus.

It’s true, I’ve noticed unsolicited male attention has dropped off in my 30s, but only the kind I found unwelcome and disturbing in the first place. I’m not sure if it’s my frown lines or my comfortable shoes or just the way I carry myself that sends signals to would-be natural predators that I’m not to be messed with anymore. But the result is wonderful.

You couldn’t pay me to go back to being 19 again unless it was to tell my past self that it was all going to be okay, that I look great and there’s no point wasting your youth trying not to look old, like a perfectly preserved bog body behind a glass case.

Oh, and to tell myself to buy something called bitcoin.