An old school friend recently contacted me and asked me what I was planning for my 40th next year. Oh shit, that's right, I'm turning 40. Thanks for the reminder dude. I honestly don't give it that much thought which may well be a form of denial. Or perhaps I am going to be like one of those energetic youthfully attired 80-year-olds you see hanging out at clubs saying things like: 'I might look old, but inside I still feel 28!' I worked with a woman who told me she was going to start doing drugs when she became elderly. "What have you got to lose right? You spend your life trying to be healthy and worrying about stuff, so when you get old, that's the time to cut loose."
My eyesight isn't what it used to be, I have to write things down, a lot, and I don't bounce back from hangovers like I used to. In fact a particularly late and boozy night can set me back about 3 days or so. I try and alternate drinks with a glass of water so I save myself the pain the next day. That and the fact that with small children one of you has to remain sober to see to them should they need you in the night and children have absolutely zero respect for a hangover - they wake you at an ungodly hour, continue to shriek, demand, and expect energetic visits to the park etc. The youth of today, pah. These days I'm also very careful about what I put into my body, I exercise twice a week, and then walk whenever I can. Having had a spinal MMR a couple of years ago the consultant said to me: "You've still got time to fix your body but don't leave it too long" - a massive 'now or never' get your shit together wakeup call.
But the first time I really came slap bang broken nose against the glass aware of the fact that my body was ageing was when I found a grey hair. What's next, some down there too? Oh the horror! My girlfriend suggested continued highlights and for my nether regions a Hollywood wax. "You can get rid of it," she assured me, "no one needs to know." I'm not sure what scared me more? The realisation that my body had embarked on its inevitable decline and eventual shutting down, or having to assume the downward dog pose while getting my tookus waxed by a young woman chewing gum.
I'm hoping the whole steady decline thing happens a lot slower and later what with the exercise and good diet, but I can see why turning 40 throws so many people into midlife crises mode. Although personally I am not planning on buying a sports car, getting lipo or having an affair. OK, maybe the sports car and maybe just maybe some Botox. People have started asking me why I look worried, even when I am at my most tranquil, and it's all down to a blasted set of twin lines between my eyebrows. In truth I am medication and non essential surgery phobic, so Botox or any kind of filler is extremely unlikely. Instead I'm trying very hard to un-train the muscles by not frowning at all, even when my son makes me extremely angry, which is tough. I look psychotic - zen calm face while shouting expletives.
I recently read somewhere (don't ask me where - memory is another thing that aint as hot as it used to be) that we change a lot in the different stages of our life - not just physically but in terms of our personality. OK, obvious right? But for me, to stop and think to myself: I am probably a vastly different person to what I was in my early 20s (which btw, is a good thing because I was a bit of a train wreck in those days), is somewhat of a mind f*ck. It makes me wonder about people that get married to childhood sweethearts or in their early 20s. Do they have moments when they look at the other person and go, 'Actually, I'm not really sure this is what I would choose now?' Or perhaps some just get very lucky and meet a person early on that they can weather the changing storm with. I think more positively the realisation and acceptance of change in yourself can also be quite freeing though: You don't have to hold onto old ways of being or opinions, or even people in your life that no longer enrich you. Likewise bad hairstyles.
I am currently organising a big party for my husband's upcoming 40th milestone. I'm not sure if I am going to have a party next year myself though. The kind of party I think I ought to have to prove that I am still young (and terrified of getting older) is probably not something I would enjoy in reality. I have some friends that are younger and far cooler than I am or ever was for that matter. We go to places like Mahiki or uber cool restaurants that play loud music meaning you cannot actually have a conversation. I nod and smile and look like an idiot in these places, and most of the time I feel like a tourist in their young cool lives. The last time I visited Mahiki it was virtually impossible to get a glass of wine in the club as they refused to serve anything but vodka and cocktails at the table. I don't drink cocktails because the last time I had a couple I lost an evening - complete memory loss. I went to the bar and asked for the wine list and was told they only had Pinot Grigio by the glass, which was my cue to leave. Another shitty thing about getting older is that you become increasingly inflexible and set in your ways.
What I would like for my 40th is a few days away with my husband while my sister who has promised to spend a week at our house, takes care of the children. They love her; she's fun, patient, sweet and kind and comes bearing armloads of gifts. I fantasise about lying at the pool with a glass of wine (that is not Pinto Grigio), having meaningful (uninterrupted) conversations with my husband that are not only about the children, bills, and what we need to do in the house. But maybe, you know, asking him what he is thinking about, what his 'If I won the lottery' dreams are, to tell me about the current book he is reading etctera. And having nothing more strenuous to concern myself with than applying sun lotion, some tennis maybe, an afternoon nap, a long bath, and then getting ready for a night out on the tiles. And then turning in at 11pm with a cup of herbal tea and maybe a Poirot on the iPad in bed. Bring it!
And finally, I took my mother to see Dolly Parton at the 02 for her birthday. My mother is fond of extolling her views on how the youth of today are out of control due to lack of corporal punishment. My parents were firm believers in the whole *bullshit* spare the rod spoil the child philosophy. My mother and I will never ever see eye to eye on this, but I still love her. At the Dolly concert I'd say I was one of a handful of people that wasn't over 60. And let me tell you, the 60 plus bunch weren't exactly flying the flag for good manners either. The four women to the left of my mother did not shut up during the entire performance - even the slow and sweet melodies where Dolly sat on a chair and played a guitar while singing. The two women to my right (a boozy mother and daughter duo) started off by walking past us and spilling wine all over my mother's feet, and then getting into a massive argument with a couple behind them because they refused to sit down throughout most of the performance. "You're a selfish git" spat the 70-something-year-old woman behind us." "Yeah yeah, get over it. I'm not spoiling my Dolly experience for you!" retorted boozy mother. I pretended to ignore the elbow that kept getting jammed into me by this woman while she jumped and jived to '9 to 5' because experience has taught me that liquored up post menopausal woman can be surprising lithe and quick on their feet in a fight.
Despite the rowdy oldies, the concert was AMAZING. Dolly was exactly what she says on the box and didn't disappoint. Amazing energy, gracious, funny, and full of lots of lovely anecdotes about her life growing up and her career, interspersed with her iconic music of course. If that's what 68 can look like I think turning 40 might not be so bad after all.