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Why Are We So Fixated On The Age Of The Love Island Contestants?

A week into Love Island and admittedly, we’re still waiting for the excitement of last year’s series to kick in. Interest is waning, re-coupling has been disappointing and audience’s patience is starting to run out with some of 2018’s contestants.

Our consolation prize over these past few days, however, has been Twitter. Much to the dismay of the small percentage of the population who don't watch the show, it dominates our news feeds providing the entertainment that might've been missed in that evening's episode. #LoveIsland is the social media gift that keeps on giving.

Most tweeted commentary is hilarious and if you've been following our daily Love Island Low Down, you'll know that we can't get enough of the memes. But one of the recurring topics of Twitter deliberation is the age of this year's contestants. And no, it's not discussed in the most positive of lights.

Love Island has long promoted the message that relationships are a young person's game. The contestant age bracket has consistently skewed towards the early-mid twenties and anyone who falls beyond that bracket is defined as the 'older woman' when, in actuality she is yet to even reach her thirties.

This year, that role has been bestowed upon 29-year-old flight attendant Laura Anderson. Laura coupled up with 20-year-old Wes Nelson at the very beginning on the series and the pair have been together ever since. The audience's response to her is, for the most part, indifferent. She's often compared to last year's Olivia and hasn't really been at the centre of that much drama, although Twitter was skeptical when she seemed to take a revitalised interest in Wes when it was revealed that he had once spent £1000 on a date. The only conversation around Laura is dominated by speculation about her ripe 'old' age.

Some people are convinced she is lying about how old she is. Viewers went so far as to search for indication of her 'real' age on Instagram, eventually uncovering a picture of a 30th birthday celebration (there were balloons and a banner, but she was not in the photo) from a couple of years ago. This obviously led the Twitterati to believe that Laura is 32-years-old (oh, the horror!) however, this was debunked by the MailOnline who of course obtained a copy of her birth certificate to confirm that this young woman is indeed 29-years-old. But why is it that we care so much?

I'd like to think that if it was a simple as saying: 'Hi, this woman is 29. Why is it a problem that she's single and looking for a relationship', then the majority of us would see the ridiculousness in mocking her age. However, apparently it's not that simple. On entering the Love Island villa, Laura has seemingly resigned herself to the agist ridicule that's attached to the stigma of competing - because, let's not forget that this is a game - with those who are five, six, seven years younger than her. And thus, the mean memes ensue...

The conviction that Laura looks older than she is comes from somewhere. We all deal with our share of image-led insecurities which, in turn, drives sales of beauty products with the words 'anti-aging' attached to them. But what do we actually get from proving (or disproving) that someone is a couple of years older than we thought? Because if national statistics are anything to go by we're getting married later and staying single longer, so perhaps Laura is one of the few contestants in the villa who (in an admittedly rather restricted way) reflects the reality of what singledom looks like in the outside world.

Then there's 22-year-old Adam; 2018's answer to Muggy Mike and handsomely built beyond his years. There's been similar, albeit less insulting, debate over Adam's age. We've watched him on our screens and have come away unable to believe that this tall, muscular, rugged slime ball of a man could be so young and, as in Laura's case, we can't help but make these assumptions on looks alone.

To ease your frustrated mind, a member of the Grazia Online time did some serious digging and was able to confirm thanks to an uncovered U16 team rugby picture from a school magazine that yes, Adam is 22. Putting him firmly in the early-twenties camp doesn't change anything of course, but do we really feel any better or worse for knowing that he's 22? My guess is no, but that's not to say that it fascinates is any less.

Age is one of society's permanent hangups, and that's only magnified when we apply that to relationships. Perhaps its a hangover from the deeply engrained tradition-led norms of dating. Eye lids are still batted dramatically whenever news of a celebrity relationship with a significant age gap breaks in the tabloids, and the rational of your early twenties being the time to 'have fun' before settling down for the big 3-0 hasn't gone anywhere. But does the fact that Laura is a little bit older than some of the other contestants negate the legitimacy of her entering Love Island? Of course not. It just highlights that there still isn't a space on TV or otherwise that lends itself to finding love at an age beyond your twenties. Spotting someone at the boundary of that sacred age bracket on a show that relies on the youthfully naive antics of the inexperienced ones only makes us push Laura further into that 'other' field, and causes our definition of 'old' to slowly creep it's way to an earlier spot on the age scale.

MORE: Who Are This Year’s Love Island Contestants? Here’s A Brief Introduction

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