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? 

Girls’ night minutes

One of the best things about a night out with the girls is the flurry of messages the next day. It’s like receiving minutes from a business meeting, reminding you of the discussion, decisions made and any actions before the next meeting.

The minutes helpfully also contain photos that help jog your memory of the end of the night when snap chat was introduced… including ones you really don’t remember happening.

Here are my minutes from a meeting of former attendees of Glossop comprehensive school, who met in Glossop public houses for a period of several hours. Seven attendees, three apologies.

Let the official record state that last night a meeting of 7 ladies concluded the following:

1. A recognised cocktail-making expert in our group decreed that the Porn Star Martinis in Victoria Lounge are of the highest grade, equaling only those made in her own household. Samples were provided and the group agreed to further (immediate) consumption. Action: all future meeting to include PSMs. Oh, and cheese platters.

2. The group discussed hair removal techniques. Action: anyone suffering from ‘Jungle Minge’ should consider waxing to remove their ‘thigh-brows’.

3. The group discussed their experiences with nits and fleas. Conclusions: 1) if you are in a hotel bath with fleas jumping on the water – get out. 2) The woman seen in a Disneyland restaurant, picking fleas out of her hair and studying them is officially ‘a fucking minger’.

4. The group found themselves laughing uncontrollably several times. Action required: quickly swallow whatever is in your mouth to avoid spraying (wasting) alcohol, lean into the person next to you and rock slowly forwards and backwards whilst wheezing that your face hurts from laughing. Option to slap yourself or your friend on the thigh during swaying motion. Repeat as necessary.

5. The next meeting will be scheduled shortly, but a future off-site conference is now being planned for a weekend in the sun. The agenda for that conference will include beers at the airport, disco dancing and sun lounging. The option of 7am yoga was raised and seconded, but the other members immediately declined that offer in favour of investment in long term bed-dwelling and fry-ups.

Girls’ nights are officially the best meetings – fact!

End of minutes.

(Photographic evidence of meeting provided by Snapchat)

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.

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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.

Frankly my dear….

I did a Step class today and I was terrible. Really terrible. Out of time, sweaty, noisy breathing, a mess. But do you know what, I didn’t care. I genuinely didn’t give a toss if people looked at me, laughed at me or felt sorry for me. It made me realise that I have grown a confidence, a tougher skin that allows me to do things I want, whether I’m good at them or not. 

I’ve always said that as a mother, my one wish for my child is confidence. I want him to feel that he can have a go at anything he wants, and not be held back by fear of what others think. So I suppose I need to make sure he has at least one role model for that. 

I’ve wanted to do a Step class again for a long time, but as it’s been 20 years since I last did one (are they now classed as Vintage aerobics classes?), I was a little worried about my ability. This week I finally bit the bullet and booked in. 

Everyone had their place, and I was the new girl so I was placed in the only gap – right at the front of the class, and it felt like my white T-shirt was the brightest thing in the room. Not for long though, that quickly became my face. 

But I had a weird sort of muscle memory that told me ‘you can do this, you’ve got the beat and it’s fun. Do the hard versions, add the jumps… yes girl, pump up the actual jam!!’. 

My confidence was growing. 

However muscle memory soon became muscle screams when my calves remembered that they haven’t been pulled like this for two decades, and you know, what the fuck was I thinking?

My lungs and heart also joined in, telling me in no uncertain terms, “You’re over 40, you’ve done practically nothing since you got your dizzy disease, I think we might die!”

Brain: “Erm yes, hello! Dizzy brain here, wondering if you’re even contemplating those weird jumpy spins the teacher is adding in. Just a thought… if you do that I’m telling knees to give way and your sizable arse will soon be crashing right through that step. Understand?”

My confidence was dropping dramatically. 

Teachers always tell you that you can stick with the ‘easy version’ if you want to, but 30 minutes in and I was struggling with even that. This is the moment I remembered that I can do what I want. I don’t have to keep up with the group, it doesn’t matter if I’m on top of my step with my arms in the air, when everyone else is doing a complicated squat/ twist combo on the floor. I’m here to enjoy myself. And so I did. 

Who cares if I’m at the front? Who cares if everyone is looking in my direction and I’m clearly shit at this? Who cares if my tits and other wobbly bits are having their own disco? The music was great, I was pleased to be taking part and I was filled with memories of being young and fit and loving life. 

When I stopped giving a damn I had such a great time. I smiled, I sang along to Rihanna and I made up my own moves. And afterwards I told the teacher that I loved it and will be back next week, and she looked pleased. I think. 

Not giving a damn is brilliant. Enjoying something you’re not good at is still possible. Perhaps I’ll get better, perhaps I won’t. Perhaps I’ll be known as ‘that woman who can’t really do it but always laughs’. Perhaps I’ll be in agony tomorrow and regret ever going. 

I’m not going to worry about it. Right now I’m still smiling. 

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. 

Windows to the soul

“Eyes are the window of the soul”
My soul must be frigging knackered.

So why doesn’t this soul get some more sleep?
Because it owns an Unbalanced brain that won’t shut the fuck up about all the things it really needs to do today.

Brain: You’ve not read all those papers for that meeting tomorrow…
You really need to sort out selling your car before the MOT runs out…
Those pictures you bought 3 weeks ago are still leaning against the window…
Actually this whole house is a shit hole…
And you’ve not done any washing…
Do you realise you’ve not hit your 10,000 steps or 5 a day once this week. You’d better get outside at some point…
And buy fruit…
And you’d better do something nice with your child today because you’re going to London for 2 days and won’t see him….
And the cats need fleaing…

Soul: Fuck off brain. Give me a break. Can’t you see how busy I am carrying these bags under my eyes?

Brain: Oh yes I most certainly can. You’d better go shopping and buy some Touche Eclat. You can’t go to London looking like THAT.

Soul: f$•% *@wg~s

(My soul also has a foul mouth.)

Weird Compliments

I have been complimented on two parts of my body that I’ve never thought of as compliment-able. I’m feeling quite smug. They are my eyebrows and my cervix.

Yep, I’m surprised too.

1. I have excellent eyebrows, just like Cara Delevigne apparently. I’m “so lucky” because others pay a fortune for high definition brow work.

Until recently I never knew that brows where something people even noticed, unless left to form a Gallagher-esque mono-brow.

Mine have only ever been a disappointment to me that I can’t move them independently and give people that one raised eyebrow what-the-fuck?-face. How I covet that skill.

2. My second unexpected body brilliance is my ‘obedient cervix’. I have been told this twice so I know it’s a fact.

At a smear test I was told that most cervixes hide away and make it difficult to perform the test. But mine is ‘well behaved’ and pops straight into view. As if saying, “Hey there visitor. Welcome. Swab me? Of course. You’re welcome.”

So while they both might seem weird to me, if someone is handing out a body compliment I will take it. With relish.

And next time I admire another woman’s pert bum or her ability to move gracefully into downward dog, I will not chastise myself.

I will think, “Her body is great. I’ve got *naturally* high definition eyebrows and an extrovert cervix, so yay both of us.”