Katy Guest: Young enough to have a ball, old enough to know how

32 is the perfect age. But is time running out?

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Inside my bathroom cabinet, in case of bad-everything days, I keep a photo of myself at the seaside when I was just 16. I was a size eight. My hair was blonde (it was summer). My teeth were straight (I'd just had my braces off). And I was utterly, truly minging. No matter how bad the hangover now, despite the crease on my forehead that appeared overnight the time I was dumped, I will never look so cripplingly awkward again. I do feel sorry for the immaculate teenagers in Skins and Beverly Hills 90210. What do they have to look forward to when they are old and slightly crumpled?

It is nice to know that I am not alone in this; but there is bad news as well as good in the latest survey about us modern women and our crazy lives. Thirty-two, my age, is the year when most women felt most attractive, confident and comfortable in their bodies, it says. The glass-half-full brigade feels duly vindicated. The rest of us realise that it's all downhill from here.

Last week, Scarlett Johansson confessed that she, too, wishes she were 10 years older. "I look forward to that time when I'll be able to have more of a life that I have experienced to put into roles," said the pneumatic 24-year-old, who recently married. She has a point: those "experiences" that contribute to your immense wisdom at 32 are still to be experienced at 24 – and most of them ain't going to be pretty. Unfortunately, you can't fast-forward until you are old and clever.

There are drawbacks as well as advantages to being the perfect age. You must always get drunk at parties or people will assume you are pregnant. The only clubs that play music you like are gay bars; you become a kind of mascot to semi-naked men.

Contrary to popular opinion, not every single 32-year-old is desperate to get married and breed. My admiration for the novelist Jilly Cooper evaporated last week when she said: "I think many women... would feel a bit frantic to find someone if they were still single at 32."

Nu-huh (as we like to think the kids say). Those of us who were born in the 1970s are apparently going to live to 120 – that's 90 years to spend with someone who passed his peak at 17. And single men the same age are complicated souls. The clever ones want a tormented relationship that will form the basis of the thinly disguised roman-à-clef they are really writing soon. The dumb ones are, well, dumb.

Thirty-two-year-old women know what they want: that's fun, bacon sandwiches, no bullshit and lots of sex with someone they get on with and is relatively clean. Thirty-two-year-old men want to take cocaine and play football while they still can.

A spokesman from the bottled water company that conducted this research says that "women are more confident and wiser at 32, [but] they still have a wild side, which is very attractive to men. They have a confidence in their looks, their ability and a control over their destinies that wasn't achievable in their twenties."

I have three months left at my physical and emotional peak, and I intend to use them wisely. Fortunately, as I am 32, I have the wisdom of Solomon. So I'll see you at the disco, drinking for two, and flirting with gay men. Dorian Gray in the bathroom cabinet will still look worse than me in the morning.

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