I celebrated a birthday this week. ‘Celebrated’ might be an over-exaggeration. Birthdays are quite peculiar now – I don’t really know how to mentally prepare for them these days. The medication helps.
I don’t know whether I should be celebrating the fact that I’m getting older and wiser and the kids should be leaving home soon? Or whether I should be grieving the loss of my looks and my energy and embracing mortality.
I never experienced the panic that engulfed a lot of my girlfriends when they turned 40, even though it was just after that particular milestone that my body seriously began to deteriorate at an alarming rate of knots. One day I had a few innocuous laughter lines around my eyes, which I considered to be kind of cute, the next day I had what can only be described as a second eyelid drooping over the top of them. And then there was the sly way that everything began to seriously drop – like my body was actually challenging gravity.
I’m getting used to the looks of pity from the kids in the changing room at the local pool now, when I first remove my cozzie and my boobs make their hasty retreat south from the safety of the lycra support, with the same speed as two satellites re-entering Earth.
(Hey kids! Get your own f..cking changing room!)
I’m also getting used to not being noticed anymore (*lying*).
Actually, it f…cking hurts like hell.
Attitudes towards women change when they reach their mid-forties. You are no longer objectified, whistled at or propositioned by strange men, which I suppose is what we women have fought for – but it also bruises the ego, if I’m honest.
You become a character actor rather than the lead.
Even more irritating is the expectation that I should behave in a mature way now. Doesn’t anyone else have that little voice in their head going ‘DO IT! DO IT!’ when they are about to say something inappropriate for some juvenile shock value?
It must be just me then. I will definitely need a ‘new filter’ before a hip replacement.
Apparently it’s okay to still laugh at the twenty and thirty-somethings when they have a bit too much to drink and get outrageously raucous, but if a forty-something woman HAS A GOOD TIME, she is frowned upon and considered immature.
NC and Kurt are horrified that I still find young men attractive and (occasionally) still want to party – they assume that my middle-aged needs should ramp down to the level of my middle-aged body and I should now only find big guts and bald heads attractive.
Perhaps us women should know better than to think that we can still enjoy ourselves. So how exactly are we supposed to behave when we’re middle-aged? Are there guidelines? Should I be re-evaluating, repackaging my image and re-marketing myself into a matron, in the hope that my personality is interesting enough to make me attractive?
The problem is, I’m just not ready to commit to middle age yet, even if my liver body does complain about the pace I set for it sometimes. I still believe in the cliché of ‘being as old as you feel’, and to be honest, I often enjoy the company of the teens’ friends more than my own friends these days.
Their existence is so uncomplicated compared to mine. Why were we so full of angst back then?
We can become bitter and jaded as we get older and I admit to being guiltier of that than most. Some days nothing seems right, life seems too hard, work gets in the way – it can be frustrating when you reach your forties but are still pinned back by the constraints of work and responsibility.
The teens, on the other hand, are still enjoying that fantasy of immortality and the promise that comes with that illusion. Remember when you thought that forty was ancient? That you would live forever? Then, somewhere in your timeline between rearing babies, marriage and your career, you forgot that you were supposed to be making the most of every day.
And finally you reach 40 and realize that (FML!) you actually might be halfway through your life already. T
The pace of ageing definitely picks up after 40. Before you know it, you find yourself looking at over 50s holidays and apartments, and there are things you no longer want to do just because you’re tired, or your back hurts, or you can’t tolerate late nights or alcohol – or even an evening in the company of people who just don’t quite make the ‘interesting’ mark.
Or you just can’t be f..cking bothered. Because you know what you like now.
And what you do know is that time is a much more precious commodity, even though you waste so much of it these days worrying about your health and visiting the doctor about any minor change to what is normal for your body. Why do you think old people get up so early? Because they don’t how much time they have left.
And those pearls of wisdom that you somehow acquired along the way as you got older, turn out to be pretty cool actually, and help diffuse some of the angst of ageing. There’s the wisdom of being happier in your own skin, of knowing what you like and what you don’t like, of finally being able to accept yourself for who you are.
Have you noticed that the problem with middle-aged birthdays is that they make you over-analyse everything, which increases your anxiety? Which is why I’m still pretending that age is just a number.