This ageing gig. Gosh, is there anyone in the history of humankind who has found growing old easy?
Freddie Mercury once sang Who Wants to Live Forever? I do Freddie, I want to live forever. I write this days away from my XXth birthday. That’s what I’m calling it from now on, XX. (Remember that.) Yes, I’ve arrived at the point I never understood when I was young and said I’d never arrive at (surprise surprise): not wanting to disclose my age. More on that shortly. Let’s just say I’m old enough to have seen many a trend come into fashion, go out of fashion and come back in again at least twice.
Now, we’re all different. I’m sure there are those who aren’t bothered about growing old
In fact, some people are able to laugh about ageing like the lovely Laura of Five Litttle Doves (although if I was still only thirty-frickin-six, I’d be laughing too). So maybe it’s misguided and presumptuous of me to describe the following list as things you should know about growing old because you may not agree. I just thought I’d let you know what I’ve experienced as it may serve as a warning of what’s about to come (if you’re younger than me). Equally, it might reassure you that you’re not alone (if you’re older than me)! So, read it and weep. No, learn. I meant read it and learn…
1. THERE WILL COME A POINT WHERE YOUR HEART SINKS UPON RECEIVING A 40TH BIRTHDAY INVITE.
The last few years when I’ve been invited to a 40th bash, I’ve thought “bless…just a baby’. Now I just want to burn the damned invite and pour myself a double vodka.
2. ALL THE WORDS BECOME SMALL!
ALL of them. I’m having to hold everything (shampoo bottles, appliance manuals, pasta packets, cinema tickets etc) at arm’s length, so the words aren’t blurred and that’s with my glasses on/lenses in. And now poor Hubster’s sight is failing. If someone were to watch us trying to read…well…pretty much anything, they’d die laughing. Our kids get quite a comedy show as their parents pass games instructions etc between one another, in exasperated defeat. The blind leading the blind, honestly.
3. YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD FOR COFFEE TEQUILA SHOTS
until you actually do coffee tequila shots. My Saturday night girls are mainly way younger than me and are quite partial to them and I do love them so…when in Rome…) Sadly coffee tequila shots don’t love me and have no qualms about reminding me the next day. And the day after that…
4. YOU USED TO GET EXCITED ABOUT PURCHASES
such as handbags, jewellery, shoes… NOW, you get excited about ‘just the right size’ thermos flasks and the perfect number of cup accessories for your weekend hikes. Don’t laugh! I’ve been hanging out at playgrounds and after-school activities for years with rubbish ones that have no handle/aren’t the right size. Then as luck would have it, I found this the other week for barely half the cost of others. Look…the best bit: it’s got two cups, TWO I tell you! Do you understand how handy this is for weekend hikes?!
5. YOU’LL HAVE A ‘MOMENT OF REALISATION’ ABOUT PEOPLE KNOWING YOUR AGE
I’m usually the eldest amongst my friends. As the years have gone by, I’ve started feeling like a museum exhibit that gets rolled out for people to admire. Don’t get me wrong; I understand it’s flattering, to an extent. But sometimes it’s uncomfortable, especially when a friend mentions I’m almost as old as their mum (and calls me granny). I’m not sure exactly when I started thinking I’d rather people didn’t know my age but something happened recently that confirmed I really don’t! I was dining with some relatives, one of whom likes telling people my age. (I get it, she’s ‘proud’ I look younger than my age and the intention is sweet.) A guy from the next table joined us and an interesting (if embarrassing) thing happened. My relative asked him to guess our ages. My heart sank: Here we go again. He guessed theirs, looked at me and said “You’re 26”. (Funny guy.) I thanked him: “That’s lovely but we both know I’m not 26. Now, how old do you really think I am? I don’t mind”. Well you have to be game, right? I must admit I kind of felt sorry for him. He must have thought I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t tell the truth here. I’ll offend her either way. This is the interesting bit: after paying me a compliment, he said “Ok, I really think you’re 36”. Here comes the embarrassing bit: my relative practically spat her prosecco out shrieking “She’s XX!!”
6. YOU USED TO BE ALL ABOUT THE LATEST RESTAURANT OPENINGS AND COOLEST CLUBS.
Now your idea of a fun time is reorganising your household storage.
INSERT PIC OF SHOE ROOM
7. YOU LEARN TO CONFRONT THE BODY IMAGE DEMONS.
Despite still being blessed with what’s ‘conventionally’ regarded as a slim figure, my natural shape tends towards pear-shaped and I’m now actually wider than I’ve been in over twenty years (pregnancies aside). My friends literally scoff when I say this but there are genuinely items of clothing that don’t go on as easily as they used to; I can still get into them but the buttons and zips are none too happy about the extra work required to make this happen. It doesn’t help that I seriously struggle fixing an exercise schedule that fits with the madness of kids/house/blog/life in general. I know I’ll never return to my gym-sculpted younger self and actually I’m not heartbroken over it! I’ve surprised myself with how fine I am with having a bit more ‘meat’ on me, maybe because I don’t feel the same pressure to be svelte that I felt in my twenties. And I do think not having full length mirrors in our house helps…
8. YOU BECOME…ERM…VERY ‘PRACTICAL’ ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS.
Such as going for an eye test and taking your existing glasses with you because all you need are new lenses…there’s nothing wrong with the frames…they were great twelve years ago and they’ll do just fine now! OLD PERSON behaviour I tell you. So is this:
9. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW OLD YOU GET, SOME THINGS WILL NEVER CHANGE.
– I think I’ll always cringe at the sight of Mariah Carey spilling out of a boob tube whilst
– I’ll never be able to watch reruns of Glee because I have a similar reaction to Lea Michele doing anything. Sorry but it’s impossible to like everyone.
– I can’t help laughing when someone falls over (unless it’s me, ahem) and yes I know it’s unkind and juvenile and I don’t do it in front of them. Hey, I don’t do drugs or cheat on my husband so allow me this one vice.
10. THE ONLY WOLF WHISTLES YOU GET ARE FROM WORKERS WARNING YOU NOT TO WALK INTO THE SCAFFOLDING. (Female readers!)
[Deep breath]. I may incite uproar and judgement with this but I’ll never forget when I first realised that my age was making me invisible. I was 34 and visiting friends in Paris where I used to live. As I stood on a pavement waiting to cross Rue de Rivoli, it struck me that something was different from my visit three years before. It took me a minute and then it hit me: nobody was hooting anymore! Men were no longer leaning out of their car windows calling me or walking past me on the street saying a sleazy ‘bonjour’, daily behaviour (harrassment) I’d experienced when I used to live there. Part of me was happy to say goodbye to that degrading nonsense that used to make me dread walking into a cafe on my own but part of me was (dare I set feminism back decades by saying it) erm…how do I put this…wistful. Shut the front door!! Say what now? Yes I hated that chauvinist treatment when I lived in Paris in my twenties but standing on that street corner, as a visitor in my thirties, it hit me that the attention had ground to a halt because I no longer looked ‘young enough’ to attract it, translation: young enough to be harrassed. [Mental note to self: write blog post on how ageing is a godsend.]
11. YOU EVENTUALLY HAVE TO SAY ‘SO LONG, FAREWELL’ TO COLLAGEN.
Yes folks, let’s observe a minute’s silence over the sad passing of that miracle ingredient that made me/you look youthful. I no longer get mistaken for someone in their twenties (the story in point 5 doesn’t count) and on bad days not even someone in their thirties. Makeup doesn’t work the magic it used to, there is no skincare on earth that can bring the plump firmness back (no matter what all those Loréal ads say) and a hollow slackness has appeared on that face in the mirror. But worst of all, the eyelids drop! The face sagging: I get that. The tummy wrecked to holy hell by three pregnancies and births: logical. But my eyelids dropping? What kind of sick joke is that? I look like I’m permanently asleep. I have friends battling serious illness and problems of my own more serious than The Mystery of the Vanishing Collagen and Droopy Eyelids so I know this could seem insensitive and self-absorbed. But our issues are our issues and frankly, it takes the wind out of my sails seeing myself age. (I said I was trying to confront the body image demons; the face doesn’t count, ahem.)
12. LIFE’S ALL ABOUT STAGES AND I’VE REACHED THE NEXT ONE
As I sit here writing at my ‘cafe office’, there are two young mothers in that follow-the-toddler-around-before-they-run-out-to-the-road-or-destroy the place stage, unable to sit down and drink their coffee before it’s cold. Each summer, I see mothers struggling onto the beach with a hundred bits of equipment, babe in arms. I see women pushing buggies loaded with paraphernalia. And I can’t help thinking ‘Gosh I’m so happy I’m way past that stage now’. When I met my dolly of a niece, I found myself saying things like “Mine used to do that when they were little”. I felt like a veteran mother (let me be a veteran at something okay?) yet friends with older kids say to me “I’m glad I’m out of your stage…your kids are still so young.” At least I get to drink my coffee while it’s still hot, well, lukewarm. See? All relative…
13. I’M PAINFULLY AWARE OF MY MORTALITY AND BY PAINFULLY AWARE I MEAN TERRIFIED OF DEATH’
So very much I could say…
Friends who shouldn’t have died so young.
People battling illness.
So many people who have lost their parents.
People who unexpectedly lost their partners.
The crap that’s in our food no matter how hard you try to eat healthily.
The cancer cells in our body that might be just waiting to gang up and leash their worst.
I’m aware of it every day.
Since publishing this post, it’s been brought to my attention that I didn’t mention memory loss as a major symptom of ageing. I would have included it but…I forgot!