Four years ago, I posted a picture of my daughter Bea on Facebook doing yoga on a beach. The comments flowed in telling me how marvellous I looked.
‘You don’t look a day over 18,’ said one kind friend, who’d mistaken her for me, which was ironic as my daughter was only 17 at the time. I was 52. I was half-tempted to let them all think I had in fact got younger since most of them last saw me at university in 1989. But my embarrassment that anyone would think I was vain enough to post a picture of myself in a swimming costume was enough to make me confess. But it did get me thinking about the similarities nowadays between mothers and daughters, how different it was in my day, and how we really are living through an era of the age-defying mum.
When I was growing up, our mothers were a different country. We would no sooner borrow their clothes or share the same hairstyle as we would with our grandmothers. We moved along parallel lines, always a respectful and large generational gap away.
Helena Frith Powell claims if you take good care of yourself, there is really no need to look middle-aged any more. Pictured: Helena and daughter Bea
Now I can’t buy a pair of jeans without finding them almost immediately seconded by one or both daughters, aged 21 and 22 respectively. All three of us have long, straight hair and when we are out together people often comment that we could be sisters. We walk at the same pace; we talk at the same pace and all listen to Justin Bieber (I know, I know).
A couple of months ago, I visited an old school friend of my husband’s with my 22-year-old daughter. He kept looking from one of us to the other in disbelief. ‘It’s like I’m seeing double,’ he said.
Flattered as I was, I wondered if it was irritating for Olivia and said to her afterwards that he was just being polite. It hadn’t bothered her at all, she replied. On the contrary, she loves the fact that she looks like a younger version of me.
Celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, 45, who’s the spitting image of her daughter Ava, 22, and Amanda Holden, 51, who this month posted a jaw-dropping picture of herself poolside with 16-year-old daughter Lexi, make you realise that if you take good care of yourself, there really is no need to look middle-aged any more.
Not only do so many of my generation exercise more and work harder to stay in shape, but there is plenty of help in the form of beauty treatments, fabulous hairdressers and High Street fashion that can be worn from 16 to 60.
Plus, teenagers seem to look older now, too, more sophisticated, thanks to expert make-up and all the clothes online shopping affords them.
The result? There is an interchange now between mothers and daughters that didn’t exist 30 years ago.
Amanda Holden, 51, posted a jaw-dropping picture of herself poolside with 16-year-old daughter Lexi (pictured) this month on Instagram
It’s no longer seen as odd that daughters and mothers hang out together and even share lip gloss. (I can’t tell you the amount of lip glosses I have lost to my youngest daughter, who seems allergic to anything that doesn’t have Christian Dior written on it.)
If you look at this from the point of view of us mothers, it’s obviously marvellous. We can revel in midulthood, jolly pleased that anyone is still noticing us.
But how do our daughters feel? Do they wish we would just go grey, listen to James Blunt and never set foot in Zara again? When I told my younger daughter about the yoga pic on Facebook she laughed. ‘Your friends are clearly all so old they’re going blind.’
Even my dad sometimes walks into the room and thinks I’m Mum
Of course, that might be it, but personally, I prefer to believe that like many other mothers my age, I am just incredibly well preserved.
Here three mother/daughter doppelgangers reveal how, despite the age gap, they could easily be mistaken for sisters…
THERE ARE TIMES WE COULD PASS FOR TWINS
GEETA VAIWALA, 44, is a facilities manager for a chain of retail parks. She lives in Altrincham, Cheshire, with her daughter Malissa, 18, who’s studying clinical psychology at university in London.
GEETA SAYS: When Malissa reached her early teens and started wearing make-up, the resemblance between us really became noticeable. Until she was about nine she had short hair and looked like her dad. Suddenly, I realised we smiled the same way in photos.
These days, we’re regularly mistaken for sisters. I tease her and say that must mean she looks much older than she is. A few times, Malissa has asked me if I really do think she looks old, but I reassure her that she certainly doesn’t. She just looks very grown-up and gorgeous, which is completely different.
I’m always striving to have youthful looks, especially as Malissa’s so beautiful. I want to ensure she has a mum who looks her best and I can’t deny I do compete a little to look as young as she does when we’re out together.
Geeta Vaiwala, 44, (pictured left) admits that she competes to look as young as daughter Malissa, 18, (pictured right) when they are out together
We get comments on nights out and on numerous occasions when we’ve arrived at restaurants and I’ve said, ‘I’ve got a reservation for my daughter and me’, the staff can’t believe it.
Malissa and I have similar length black, curly hair. I’m a size eight to her six, and at 5ft 3in she’s only an inch taller than me.
I’m fortunate to have very young-looking skin thanks to great genes from my parents, which I hope she’s inherited, too.
When I went out with friends on my birthday last September, Malissa came, too, and we spent all night explaining to people that we’re mum and daughter, not sisters. Mischievously, we have been known to play along with it sometimes and say, ‘Yes, that’s right, we’re siblings!’
MALISSA SAYS: I’ve got so used to everyone commenting on me being Mum’s double that it would be weird now if I didn’t look like her. Mum is gorgeous and looks much younger than 44, but us getting mixed up is probably more flattering for her than me as it implies I look older than I am.
I can’t see the likeness a lot of the time, but even my own family get us mixed up. Only last month, my uncle came to visit and said ‘Hi, Geeta’ when he walked into the kitchen where I was standing with my back to him.
After starting university last autumn, I posted photos of Mum and me on social media and my new friends said: ‘That’s your mum? We thought it was your cousin!’ Many times we’ve been getting dressed to go out and have chosen near identical jeans, tops and jackets and one of us has said that we ought to get changed otherwise we’ll look like twins.
ONLY OUR DIFFERENT BOTTOMS GIVE THE GAME AWAY
SARAH HAIG, 47, is a sales rep and lives in Limehouse, East London. Her daughter Leanne, 31, lives nearby and has a wedding photography business.
SARAH SAYS: When Leanne was about 14 a friend remarked that we had the same round face, in addition to our blonde hair and curvy figures. Over the years, it’s become more difficult to tell us apart, particularly from behind.
Typical comments include, ‘Wow, I thought you were sisters!’ or ‘You don’t look old enough to be her mum’, which always makes me laugh.
Of course, I was in my teens when I had Leanne and the narrow age gap undoubtedly contributes to people struggling to distinguish between us. It will be interesting to see if that changes as we get older.
Leanne, 31, (pictured left) said she was mistaken for her mother Sarah Haig, 47, (pictured right) by her mum’s old school friend
Leanne’s a couple of inches shorter than me and she’s got a different fashion sense, preferring shorter hemlines, whereas I like to wear them below my knee. We’re both naturally light brunette but have our hair highlighted blonde.
Although I look like my own mum, particularly around the eyes, it’s easy to tell us apart and our likeness is best described as a family resemblance, whereas Leanne and I really do confuse people.
LEANNE SAYS: An old school friend of Mum’s came up to me in the street near our local market thinking I was her. Even my dad sometimes walks into the room and at first glance thinks I’m her. All my life I’ve had comments about how alike Mum and I are, and I can’t deny that these days the only distinguishing feature from behind is that I’ve got a big bum whereas hers is much flatter!
At secondary school, I got into make-up and started having my hair highlighted. Then Mum did the same because she liked how blonde hair suited me and it became even trickier for people to tell us apart.
WE’RE MISTAKEN FOR SISTERS — EVEN IN OUR BIKINIS!
MHARI OAKES, 44, is a sales director for a global wellbeing company and lives in Northwich, Cheshire, with her daughter Cameron, 15.
MHARI SAYS: On holiday in Antigua last December, we were being transported around the resort in a golf buggy one day when the driver turned to me and said: ‘I saw you yesterday and I have to say you looked amazing in that yellow bikini!’ to which I replied: ‘That wasn’t me, it was my daughter!’
Despite our 29-year age gap, it wasn’t the first time people have confused us, particularly from behind. In the past three years, we’ve had so many comments about our likeness, usually from strangers who think we’re sisters.
Mhari Oakes, 44 (pictured right) said she and her daughter Cameron, 15, (pictured left) are both into health and fitness and have size six to eight figures
It’s the same when I post pictures on social media, prompting friends to remark that they have to zoom in to tell who’s who now that Cameron is almost the same height as me at 5ft 3in.
If we’re wearing sunglasses, it leaves people utterly perplexed. We’re both into health and fitness and have similarly trim size six to eight figures.
I can’t deny we both love it when people can’t tell us apart.
I’m young at heart anyway. I’m the mum diving into the swimming pool and being silly rather than reading on a sun lounger. But being told I look so much like Cameron definitely makes me feel even younger.
She reminds me of myself as a teenager, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to see a striking resemblance. The more she dabbles with different clothes and make-up, the greater it’s become — especially as she pinches things from my wardrobe.
Even my own mum mistook Cameron for me on holiday in Australia in 2019. Mum started shouting, ‘Mhari! Mhari!’ only to realise it was her granddaughter when she turned around.
CAMERON SAYS: I can see the likeness in some ways — but not as much as other people seem to. On holiday, strangers assume we’re sisters and even family can’t get over the likeness.
But I love that Mum gets compliments for her youthfulness and style. She’s a great role model and I’m enjoying raiding her wardrobe now that we’re the same dress and shoe sizes. I mostly borrow her pink Victoria’s Secret jumper and her collection of vest tops.
My friends think Mum’s cool, and even they are always saying we’re alike.
She always wears her hair down apart from when she goes for a run. I wear mine in a ponytail for dancing, but my favourite way to style it is down like hers, partly because I know that’s when we look most alike.
Interviews by SADIE NICHOLAS