Getting old is getting old

“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? 

Unbalanced life lessons

Eight lessons I’ve learned since I became an Unbalanced Woman. 

  1. There’s always more to do – my To Do list will never ever end. So it’s not the end of the world if I let some items stay on that list a while. I really will vaccuum my filthy car ‘one day’. No need to be more specific than that. 
  2. Everyone’s priorities and standards are different – There’s no point judging myself against someone else. I admire the gorgeous mums in the school playground, immaculately dressed and in perfect make-up. I wish I looked like that at 8.30. But I wake up   looking like Medusa with very grumpy curly-snake-hair. So my beauty priority is simply to tame my wild frizz, just enough to avoid scaring young children. Everything else can wait. 
  3. To achieve one thing, you often have to give up something else – for example, for my health needs I have prioritised more rest time, but sacrificed running. Getting back to running is still lounging on my To Do list, diarised that famous ‘One Day’. For now I do it occasionally. VERY occasionally. 
  4. It’s OK to ask for help…  Of course we all know that, but I often feel it’s easier to just do it myself. They might not do it right. Also true. But what if…. they learn and (shock horror) might do it better? 
  5. …It’s even better to give yourself permission to not even do some stuff at all! Yes it would only take a couple of hours to nip to B&Q and buy a new piece of wood to fix that skirting board. But neither I, nor anyone else in this house jumps out of bed on a Saturday shouting “Woohoo, odd jobs day!” And so far there have been no giant mice sneaking in through the hole for a Mouse Party (or if they do they are great at tidying up after themselves, so they are welcome).
  6. If something makes you happy, make time for it – be selfish and let some other shit go. Occasionally having my nails done feels like a treat. Yes I could spend that time cleaning my car or going for a run. But…. I DON’T WANT TO!! 
  7. This is it. This is my life. As the famous phrase goes, no-one lies on their death bed thinking “I wish I’d spent more time at work”. And I know I certainly won’t lie there thinking “I wish my cupboards had been tidier”.
  8. And finally, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that having an Unbalanced Life where I complain that I can’t fit everything in, is actually a wonderful existence, because it means my life is full of things that are important to me – family and friends to love; a job that funds my life and challenges my mind; a house and garden that create great (messy) memories; a million things to do, people to see and choices to be made. 

I may be busy, I may be dizzy, but fuck me, I’m one lucky Unbalanced Woman. 

#HappilyUnbalanced

A biased review

Do you mind if I go a bit off piste today and instead of talking about me and my Unbalanced life, talk about a band that I went to see this weekend? I know that’s unusual. I’m certainly no music reviewer or expert. If I tell you that this band is really rather good and you may want to have a listen, you should know that I am completely, utterly biased.

I’ll tell you why… you see that ginger guitar player on the left…? Well I’ve had him! More than once. In fact, he’s my husband and father of my ginger child.

So here’s the background story. When I met my husband I was already 32 and pretty sure of who I was and who I wanted to be with. Compromises were now unacceptable (little did I know how many compromises you actually have to make when you are married with kids – but that’s another story). I was upfront and laid down two important rules:

  1. I will ALWAYS have a cat. I am crazy cat lady and you’ll have to live with cats forever
  2. I am not cool when it comes to music, I’m a pop monkey, and you will have to live with that too

You see, Ste is pretty cool (by comparison). He plays guitar in a band, all his friends are in bands, or write songs, or at least love listening to ‘proper’ music. They discuss bands I’ve never heard of – how ‘dirty’ the sound of guitars are, and compare the features of hundreds of pedals and amps in depth, while I gaze on remembering how this morning I was dancing round my kitchen to Katy Perry (with my cat) and looking forward to going to see Take That in the summer.

I could pretend to like the same music, and be more cool, but I’m just not. I watch the X factor style TV programmes they slate as commercial shite, and when I sing along to Ed Sheeran on the radio, I don’t even know it’s Ed Sheeran at first, it’s just a song I like. I am the opposite of a musical snob – I actually have no idea what is cool and what is not. I just like what I like. Fuck the judgement.

Anyway, last year, Ste joined a new band with a weird name, ‘Control of the Going’, and a weird sound. They play ‘Psychedelic Rock and Roll’. I had no idea what that was, and at first when I listened to him play I quoted my grandma, and Alan Partridge, “That was just noise.”

Clearly I was not their target audience, and that’s lucky, because it turns out there are a growing crowd of people who do like Psychedelic Rock and Roll – enough for them to start getting radio plays and now a record deal. A chuffing record deal!! They have released their first single today, and start recording their album next week. I may soon be married to an actual Rock Star!

Even better than that for me – because it’s still a bit about me! – now I really like them. I promise I’m not just pretending to because they’re getting a bit of success! You can tell from what I said earlier that I am honest about these things. It turns out that I do actually like psychedelic, dirty guitars when there’s a tune I can sing along to over the top. Gary Barlow could perhaps build that idea into Take That’s next album.

So here’s the shameful plug… Do you fancy having a listen?

Visit Control of the Going on Facebook  or Twitter as @COTG_

You can listen to their new single ‘She’ for free on soundcloud (just click to play) or on Spotify,or you can buy their single on vinyl – because that’s what the kids are doing again these days.

And here’s a review of the single launch – where Ste gets a special mention.

Alright yes, I’m really fucking proud of him. I warned you I was biased. The rest of the band are bloody brilliant too.

Have a listen, like their Facebook page, spread the word if you can, maybe even go and see them when they tour!

Perhaps I’m widening my musical taste and getting slightly more cool than I used to be, (even though I say ‘cool’ which is probably not cool either). At least I will always have a cat or two though.

Being married to a rock star wont change me!

Embrace

If I asked you to describe your body, what’s the first thing you’d think of?

I’ve just been to the cinema to watch a documentary called ‘Embrace’ where people were asked that same question, and their responses were… fat; disgusting; not perfect; I need to lose weight. It was a bit shocking. People of all shapes and sizes all responded in the same way.

Then the film maker, Taryn Brumfitt, points out that almost everyone she asked made a negative comment about the way their body looked, but no-one comments on what their body allows them to do. Her statement is “This body of mine, it’s not an ornament, it’s a vehicle.”

It makes you think doesn’t it?

Our bodies are amazing. They are so clever, and they allow us to get to places, have life’s adventures and perhaps even create new life. How come we take all that for granted but criticise if they are not the ‘perfect shape’ to LOOK at?

embrace1

Now I’m not a person who spends that much time thinking about what I look like. I’m really not that bothered most of the time. Let me give you an example…

I once met a friend of a friend who does cosmetic treatments. Within an hour of meeting her she had focused in on a frown line above my nose (not prompted by me) and told me, “I could easily remove that for you”. If she could have read my mind she would have heard two things: First my desire to twat her square in the face, and second a very sarcastic tone which said, “I’m about three stone over weight love, do you think a care about a little line on my forehead?”

But I just smiled and said, “Oh it doesn’t really bother me”. Now to be fair, she was a lovely lady and she was talking with a very positive intension – she meets women every day who obsess about they way they look and she has a way to make them feel better and more confident. What’s wrong with that?

But, let me be honest, even though I don’t care about that line on my face enough to want to remove it , tit’s still the first thing I notice every time I see a photo of my face. Let me be REALLY honest, even though I’m not bothered enough to diet, I still delete the pictures where I think I look like a total heffer, and share the ones where someone else is standing in front of me and taking focus away from my size.

It seems it’s part of our wiring to care about how we look and how others judge our appearance. Because they do. We do. I do! And now I’m questioning why. If I know it’s wrong, why do I care? Why do I judge others?

The answer, according to Taryn, is everywhere. We all know about the ‘bad’ magazines, and the photo-shopping and the adverts for diets  and beauty products that don’t work. God-damn money making twats, selling the impossible.

embrace3

Yes, of course. But it’s not just ‘them’. She pointed out some of the ways we talk to each-other…

“Oh you’ve lost weight, you look amazing.”

“I daren’t have a cake, I don’t want to get fat.”

“I’ve got to get back to the gym, my thighs are like tree trunks”

Holy fuck. We say this in front of our kids, and then wonder why they start using appearance comments as insults.

The real standout of the film for me was a lady who had been badly injured in a fire and was scarred across her face and body. She received supposedly well-meaning comments that she was lucky to have such a good husband who stayed with her. Which made her question – Is that all I was before? A pretty face?  Was there not more to me than how I looked? She ended with the killer line… “Actually I am pretty awesome.”

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried.

embrace2

Thought-provoking, heart-breaking, hope-inspiring. And a whole lot of fun too. I laughed out loud several times, not least when Taryn visited a surgeon who told her what ‘normal breasts’ look like. She has even better self-restraint than me!

Please, PLEASE find a way to see this film.

Watch the Embrace trailer.


Here’s how you can see Embrace

There are screenings across the UK now. But you wont find this film as a normal cinema listing. It’s an independent, crowd-funded film, being promoted via Demand Films, and Taryn herself is in the UK hosting some of the events. (She is a-may-zing. I heart her.)

The idea is that people like me, who feel passionate about sharing this story with more people, will create demand for more screenings, and host our own events. And hopefully that will create demand for more and more screenings. You see?

Find a screening near you

Or host your own event.

There’s no financial outlay. Demand films help you set everything up at your local cinema and help you promote it to your friends and local community. If enough people buy a ticket the show goes ahead. If not enough tickets are sold, it is cancelled and no money is taken from people’s payment cards.

Show us your man-tits

This really, REALLY gets my goat. 

(Man asked to remove his top during a talent show audition)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… If this were a woman who had a great rack, we’d all mentally congratulate her and admire her attributes, possibly even be a bit jealous and remember a time when we had better tits, before age and children made them sag, wither or entirely disappear. 

But if an audience of mainly men was wolf-whistling and shouting for her to take her top off, there would be absolute fucking uproar. The TV programme would get loads of complaints, from furious people saying that we should judge her by her singing talent and not her other ‘assets’. 

So why the fuck do we think it’s acceptable to reverse it and treat men this way? 

If you didn’t see this on Let it Shine, BBC1, I’ll explain. This man, Harry, walked out on stage to an almost instant reaction from the panel and audience about the way he looked. Before he spoke people were whistling and fanning their faces. He was asked to show his torso, and he said he would if the judges gave him a high score for his singing performance. 

Why the fuck should he feel he needs to make such a promise? It’s like a sleazy casting couch, but in public, and celebrated on prime time TV! 

I see so many articles about how we make women feel that their appearance is all that matters and we need to change that perception. Young girls thinking they have no worth if they don’t have a flat tummy, perfect tits and a thigh gap. We all know it’s wrong. We all know that we need to tackle this. 

We have already seen a massive movement away from the Miss World competitions, Benny Hill characters and Carry On films of olden days. People are tackling the magazines, cat walks and beauty industry to use ‘real women’ in campaigns and stop the body shaming. We’re better than that now. We know that we respect women for what they can DO, instead of how they look. 

So again, why the hell do we think it’s acceptable for us to reverse it and treat men this way now. 

I can appreciate when a man looks good. I can appreciate a woman looks good. I might comment on it, the same way I would comment if someone is funny, clever or talented. I would not ever ask or set any expectation them to remove their clothes in public, so I could get a better look. 

Here are the times it is OK to ask a stranger (male or female) to remove their clothes so you can get a better look:

  1. When you are a medical expert who needs to examine them
  2. In a bra fitting service of an underwear shop 
  3. In a strip show where the person has made it perfectly clear that they have consented to show their body during their performance. 

The point is, if we get angry when women are subjected to ‘sexist taunts’, we have to be angry when it happens to men. 

That’s what equality means. Equal. Treated the same. 

Just a man

This week the Official White House photographer Pete Souza revealed his favourite photos of Obama

Looking at these photos I found myself singing that Flash Gordon song – not the noisy ‘Flash, Ah Ah. Saviour of the universe” part, but the slower bit of ‘Just a man, with a man’s courage”.

I think these photos show why Obama has been so popular (whatever your own politics). Because whatever tough job he’s had to do, he’s shown us that he’s also ‘just a man’ – a human that we can relate to.

He’s not an unreachable, perfect, presidential superhero. He’s shown all sides of himself: a person who can be joyful, fearful, compromised and totally fucked off – even this week, shaking hands with a man he clearly thinks is a total cockwomble!!

obama-2

Just a man: a husband, a father, a team member, a friend.

All of those things are just as important as ‘a President’.

To me that’s inspirational.

I’m a mum, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a colleague and an Unbalanced Woman who spouts out a load of crap in my blog. I’m far from perfect at any of them.

I’m not a superhero with one super power. I’m an Unbalanced Woman who does a million things as best she can. Like everyone does.

That’s what these photos show me.


“Just a man, with a man’s courage

He knows nothing but a man
But he can never fail.

No one but the pure of heart
may find the golden grail
Oh oh oh oh”

(Queen)

Full set of photos here:http://9gag.com/gag/ajqEV90

I’m a Tapas Mum

Since going to see the film ‘Bad Moms’ I’ve been thinking about which stereotype of the mums I most relate to. Stay at Home Mum; Working Mum; Single Mum; Yummy Mummy etc etc. I’ve decided none of them sound quite right for me. So how about a new one… The Tapas Mum.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve never ‘wanted it all’ as the phrase goes to describe those who want a perfect family, great career and to be a permanent Goddess in the bedroom and the kitchen. I’ve never quite believed in that!

I do like the idea of having just a taste of each though. A little bit of everything. Like choosing a few small Tapas plates, instead of a massive portion of one meal.

For example:

  • I don’t need to be a high-flying, top of my organisation, cracking-through-the-glass-ceiling role model career woman.
    But I do want a job that I enjoy and that I feel I’m pretty good at. 
  • I don’t need to be perfectly turned out in full make-up and 4 inch heels whenever I leave the house.
    But I do want to feel good when I go out to nice places. 
  • I don’t need a perfectly presented show home and a manicured lawn.
    But I do like to be able to relax down in the evenings without spearing my bum on a pile of toys or yogurt-smeared cushions.
  • I don’t expect to have weekly meet ups with my girls for cocktails, dinner and dancing.
    But I do enjoy the occasional chance to get together with a friend or two for a brew or a shit-load of wine. 
  • I don’t need a pre-planned date night and a massive bunch of flowers delivered on a whim.
    But I do appreciate the times we get to go out and be a couple in a kid-free / no judgement, adult environment. 
  • I don’t expect my kid to be an Olympic-level athlete, mastermind of science or musical prodigy.
    But I do want him to have nice manners, have enough confidence to have a go at stuff and laugh a lot. 
  • I am never EVER going to be Nigella Lawson, in cooking skills or body confidence.
    But I will occasionally make a nice family meal that tastes half decent and give my husband a snog by the sink. Sexy! 
  • I most certainly don’t bake delicious pastries for the school summer fayre.
    But I do show up, donate a load of supermarket-bought chocolate for the tombola, and happily hand over every coin in my purse for the lucky dip. I even buy and eat the cakes that other people have made (that’s really not a chore, I really love the school fayre!)

Being a Tapas Mum is pretty great. So what do you say… can we create a new stereotype?


(This post was also shared on SelfishMother.com)