While many of us don't care to talk about it much (and I mean really talk about it beyond a self deprecating 'joke' about wrinkles or there being too many candles on your birthday cake), age is awkward. As women we're often plagued by the pressure of time in pretty much every aspect of life - fertility, employability, the socially perpetrated image of 'beauty', and so on. But shows like Love Island serve as a reminder that on top of all of that, there's apparently a mythological timer on finding relationships, too.
Dating shows are, more often than not, centered around typically attractive people in their twenties, and sometimes younger. Take Me Out, Dinner Date, The Bachelor, Ex On The Beach and even the confusingly commissioned Naked Attraction all advocate the search for love as being a young persons game, and a young persons game only. Rarely will you meet a woman in her thirties whose singledom is presented as just as normal as that of those ten years younger than her, and that's if we're introduced to a woman in her thirties at all.
Shows like First Dates are the slight exception, which my gut tells me is in part why the series is so popular. There's no clear typecasting and the breadth of ages and backgrounds is probably one of the most diverse on reality television. When a pair of daters in their thirties, forties and upwards are juxtaposed by a couple who are barely of legal drinking age, I can't help but be a little startled by the brilliantly unspectacular presentation of romance, relationships and yes, 'love', as being timeless.
But this image is rather rare. Most other dating shows would have us believe that you have to look a certain way, be of a certain age and be confident enough to make a move on a fellow young, bronze and beautiful human on national television wearing little more than a bikini. So, as we're introduced to another batch of young, beautiful twenty-somethings ahead of the new season of Love Island next week, are we meant to assume that looking for love beyond their age bracket is a waste of time?
Meet The Love Island 2018 Contestants
Profession: Cabin Crew
Claim to fame: Once served Channing Tatum on a flight
Profession: Retail Manager
Claim to fame: winner of Miss North West 2015.
Claim to fame: was once babysat by Keira Knightly.
Claim to fame: did an advert for ITVBe.
Profession: West End Performer
Claim to fame: performing in Mamma Mia and Dreamgirls.
Profession: Electrical and Nuclear Systems Design Engineer
Claim to fame: Instagram.
Profession: Student / Construction Worker
Claim to fame: none - 'I'm really low key', he says.
Dr Alex George
Profession: A&E Doctor
Claim to fame: none.
Claim to fame: was in a pop band called EverYoung.
Profession: Personal Trainer and Gym Director
Claim to fame: none that we know of.
Profession: Stationary Sales Manager
Claim to fame: can swim a length underwater.
Those of us on the road to thirty have probably felt an acute awareness of how that age milestone is just another reason for distant aunts at family gatherings to question why you haven't 'settled down' yet. Those of us who have passed the milestone and realised that the other side of thirty isn't all gloom, doom and involuntary celibacy may well be still facing those presumptuous conversations. But in reality, beyond our own private experiences we have few points of reference to tell us that finding a relationship isn't fixed to a certain period of life. Namely, the earlier ones often described as our 'best'.
With the youngest being 20-years-old and the oldest 29-years-old, the age of the Love Island contestants affords them a certain freedom - one that is without expectations of getting it right straight away. They're free to live the parody of what is anticipated of their fun and flirty single peers and dive head first into romance without the weight of obligation on their tanned, toned shoulders. And in sticking to this age bracket across the board, the majority of reality TV has excluded anyone who doesn't fit the mould from feeling like they belong to the fun, free and single crew. The group that we're thus told are allowed to hook up freely, fall for the wrong person and so have a cry (and a drink) before picking yourself up and doing it all again, does not welcome the women Sex and the City told us we were allowed to be. If we're operating by those standards, that action all stops at the big 3-0.
Deep down, we know that's rubbish. Life continues, as do the one night stands, the almost relationships and the 'just for fun's. But TV would be doing us all a favour if it stopped playing into the hands of outdated social constructs that want us to be married with children before 30. Locking down a relationship, if that's what you want, is not a timed exercise. And even though it's not presented as such, the fun fleeting madness that is condensed into six weeks of prime time programming doesn't end their either.
Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha