“Look at that amazing middle-aged woman. I can’t wait until I have those gorgeous expression lines on my face. That’s so sexy.”
Said no 20-something, ever.
I’ve been wondering why people approaching 30 seem to worry that they they are old. Old!! Women today have an average life expectancy of reaching our 80s, yet before we are out of our 20s we already think we’re past our prime, and start to wish we were (or at least could look) younger.
What the hell are we teaching each other?
I started thinking about it when my little boy innocently asked me “why do people always want to look younger” after watching a TV advert for women’s skin care. It was a shock because, although I know somewhere deep inside me that it’s ridiculous, it’s also so fucking normal that somewhere along the way I stopped even noticing.
Even from a very young age I remember the phrase ‘you never ask a woman her age’, and wondering, why? My gran would sing, “Keep young and beautiful, if you want to be loved”. Sigh. And we all know by now that it’s taken decades for celebrities to be allowed to get older, unless they take to the knife or needle or chemicals, to cut and stretch or fill their skin with age-reversing magic.
When we are children we can’t wait to grow up to be old enough to do whatever our current age restricts (watch the best films, ride the best rollercoasters, drink all the booze). Then we hit about 25 and realise we’re heading towards 30… it’s all downhill from here. So there’s a period of about 5 – 7 years where we think we’re in our prime, and then what? Re start trying to stay young, to reverse ‘growing up’.
Why do we value youth so much, when age means we continue to grow – in knowledge, experience and an understanding of what’s actually important to us?
We only seem to value people getting older when the numbers get much bigger. Then people start telling you their age all the time. “I’m 83 you know!” They are proud, and we are impressed because they have made it to a ripe old age, and perhaps they are still showing us that they can have enormous fun.
Let me give you an example, of dancing in public :
- Age 5 = cute
- 25 = sexy
- 35 – 55 = embarrassing
- 65 – 95 = Go Grandma!!!
We just love seeing an obvious pensioner mixing it up with the kids at a festival or dancing in the street. They show us that pure joy is what’s important at any age. They also show us that they give no fucks what so ever.
I’m 44 And apparently I have a life expectancy of 89. I’m not even half way! It is a fact that I am younger than the average person (just) and perhaps in the absolute peak period of my life.
My body may not be as flexible as it was when I was an 11 year old gymnast, but I no longer care about which of my friends can do the best standing back-flip. I have other things I need my body to do. My tits may not point in the same direction as they did when I was 22, but that’s because they have been a life source for another human. They can point whichever twatting way they want to after that.
But I tell you what, mentally I’ve never been healthier. I know what’s important to me and what’s not, and that helps me to realise that I’ll never again waste my energy worrying about how many candles there are on my cake each year, unless they start to cause a fire hazard.
Every age I have been has been my favourite so far. We need to start talking about THAT. We need to help the teenagers, the 20-somethings and people at every number of candles understand that their age right now can be celebrated – just like the kids showing off their age on a birthday badge; just like the woman who is proud of being 83; we have made it through another year. We have learned more, experienced more, grown more as a person.
I’m still growing, and I don’t mean my waist line (that’s a given).
In my 20s – I had a ball, drinking and dancing in noisy, smelly, disgusting clubs, making new friends, shopping for shoes and flirting with boys. (Maybe more than flirting sometimes)
In my 30s – I had a ball, going to pubs where I could get a nicer glass of wine, a seat and good conversation. There was theatre, gigs, and cinema with a solid group of friends and I ‘settled down’, got married and became a mum’. Life was even better.
In my 40s – I’m having a ball, going to great restaurants, festivals, museums, holidays with my family, afternoon tea with my friends. Life is even better.
I look back in younger days with massively fond memories, but do I want to go back to smelly clubs with sticky floors, shit wine and questionable men? No, I don’t. Except, if I do want to go, I will go. I will be one of those ‘old women’ that my 20-something self would have sneered at because they were embarrassing themselves, drinking too much and taking over the dancefloor, and turning ‘our club’ into a grab a granny night’. How dare they?!
I’ll tell you how dare they…. because I’m learning it now – middle-aged women have learned the best life lesson there is – they have learned about what’s import to worry about and what’s not. That’s what age is wonderful at giving us – a depleting number of fucks to give. It’s really quite liberating!
If we want to go out and get shitfaced on a better class of cocktail, we will. If we want to wear a more sensible heel, we will. And if we want to stay at home watching a box set, and only drinking tea, we fucking well will and we don’t care if that’s boring. We earned the right to do whatever we want by drinking a decades-worth of cheap, warm cider and alco-pops then staggering home on blister-bleeding feet.
So I’m not scared of getting older, because experience tells me that life only gets better. And if that experience shows as lines on my face then that’s just fucking dandy. (Marketing people take note – I’ll still buy face cream, but to make my skin feel nice.)
Let it be known that I am 44, and 44 is brilliant. If you’re not there yet, you’ve got a lot to look forward to. Honestly. And if you’re older, please tell me what else I can look forward to.
Or have I already lost the plot because I’m so old and passed it?