I was useless at being young. I was one of those annoying creepy children who refused to play outside but lurked around earwigging on adult conversations especially when they dropped their voices (no surprise that I always felt for Eustace in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. He seemed like my kind of guy).
As a teenager my social life was Top of the Pops and the War Poets interrupted twice a year by school dances and once, thrillingly, Wigan Casino. My twenties I can barely remember – they raced by in a baffling blur of business, boys and booze. My thirties were all breastfeeding and babies.
Frankly I’d be great at being young now. I think I’ve lived my life the wrong way round.
So this week I thought I would remind myself that I have learned a few things along the way.
Once you realise you are your own best material and start working out how to show yourself off, it’s very liberating. Plus you look better.
I used to travel up to Liverpool a couple of times a week with two women colleagues. On the way back we would buy special edition Kit Kats, every women’s magazine we could lay our hands on and dive into both straight away. Sure enough, the train had barely left Lime Street before we were planning gym programmes, “essential” wardrobe items, detoxes, microdermabrasion, the works.
Beware these glossy beauties. They are frenemies masquerading as light entertainment: they pretend to be on your side but with every page you turn you become more aware of little things you ‘need’. Plus the bitchier ones make you feel queasy and complicit for sniggering at famous people looking fat, as if cellulite on the back of your legs is an affront to civilisation. Better to read novels. Good ones.
What goes around come boomeranging straight back, but there is also a, perhaps unfair, expectation that as you get older you will behave better. Act like an arse when you’re 20 odd and you are feisty, edgy, complicated. Pull the same stunts at 50 and you’re difficult, bitter and, frankly, a horrible old cow.
I don’t believe there is a person with a pulse who hasn’t had bad times – whether its a life crisis, low days or just a touch of the glums. And because it happens to everyone, none of us should be afraid to ask for help. Often the people who help you out in these moments aren’t your best friends. Often they are people you barely know who float into your life and out again. We all rely on the kindness of strangers. It’s odd, I know, but sort of nice. Bad times can sometimes do a lot to restore your faith in humankind.
A while ago I went on a radical detox and lost quite a lot of weight. But despite everyone telling me I looked dreadful (the fact my kids started nicknaming me Skeletor should have been a clue) I couldn’t see it myself. Then one day at the park, over an altercation between dogs, some angry man with a mutt that looked like a clenched fist, called me a “scraggy old c…”. It was the scraggy that hurt. I couldn’t argue with the rest.
So find the size and shape that you feel comfortable with; banish the bathroom scales to the 7th circle of Hell and buy a copy of “Fat is a Feminist Issue”. You will be happier and much less hungry.
When they smile on you, you will find the perfect thing in your size, your favourite colour and at a massively reduced price. When they don’t, relax. There’ll be some other thing along you like just as much another time. No one died from lack of another black skirt.
Conversely, be careful not to anger the deities by buying some old nonsense just for the sake. They don’t like that. Yeah verily, they will punish thee and thou shalt drop a permanent marker or mayhap some balsamic dressing on that garment before the cock has crowed thrice – thus it is written.
And although new stuff is hard to resist, after a couple of wears, new clothes become what we fashionistas call “clothes” and morph into that tangle of stuff in the wardrobe called “nothing to wear”.
Think of yourself as an old vintage car. You probably need a bit of a run out now and again, the right kind of fuel, somewhere comfortable to rest, careful handling and a lot of polish. And if you don’t tackle the rust spots pronto, you’re just another old banger. So take your vits, eat good food, look after yourself, exercise and you will purr along like a sleek old E Type.
Know your power, my pretties, and use it well. It can inspire others, especially younger women, and more importantly it can terrify the bejazus out of any mahoosive assholes who try to put one over on you.
Make sure when you do wave your cash goodbye, it’s for something, or someone you love….Or a good haircut. It’s always worth investing in a good haircut.
Don’t fall for the myth that you’re indispensable. You’re not. Any employer worth their salt has a backfill plan up their sleeve for when you leave. Work hard, do your best but don’t give up on the stuff that’s important to you. You will always remember what you missed but you’ll never remember what you missed it for.