Empty-Nesting: How awesomely liberating is it doing exactly what YOU want now?

It’s my birthday next week, and as has been our agreement for a number of years, the old man and I have a process in place for the event when it comes to presents. It goes something like this: I negotiate a budget (that usually works in my favour because he pretends to feel some semblance of guilt for shirking his responsibilities) and then I buy my own present, whereupon he wraps itafter asking me if I’ll do it first.

Beautiful woman holding up a bunch of balloons on a yacht.
Happy Birthday to me! I’m sure that this is exactly what I’ll be doing next week. Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

I know that many of you will think that our arrangement is kind of sad, but I can assure you it’s not. If you’d seen any of the presents – the towels, the chunky ID bracelets and the over-sized lingerie – that he has picked out for me in the past, you’d understand that for my husband this is a vital safety precaution, and for me it’s about self-care.

I admit that I am fussy. I’m not proud of it but I have very firm ideas about what I like. And even if I sent the old man to the store with an image and code for what I want, he would somehow get it wrong. So in much the same way that people frown at us over about our choice of separate bedrooms, I’m gonna ignore your predictions that our arrangement is a recipe for disaster. It works for us.

But I digress. The reason I mention this birthday is that I have already been out on the town for some retail therapy and purchased a rather cute little Boho top from Sportsgirl that in my head I had earmarked to wear to the girls lunch I’ve organised for the occasion.

However, as I pulled it out of the bag in excitement to check that I still liked it – because I am a serial returner, who is no doubt blacklisted by many of my local stores – the thought crossed my mind that I had been an idiot. Of course, I couldn’t wear it to my lunch on Saturday, I thought, because it’s two days before my birthday.

Seriously, for a few seconds there, menopause-related dementia made me feel seriously fucked off about not having anything nice to wear to my own birthday party.

Until I realised how absurd I was being. Of course I could wear the top, I reminded myself. I’m a free-as-a-bird, ass-kicking empty nester now, with no little people to point the finger or be influenced by my poor example. I am no longer that parental role model who has to pretend to be something I’m not just so that my kids don’t grow up to be assholes. No one is here to judge me if I open my present a few days early, drink wine during the day, or even smoke Cannabis againnot that my abstemiousness prevented Kurt from doing any of those things… and others.

I can make my own decisions again.

This is the wonderfully empowering bit about middle age. It is liberating. I am back in charge of whatever is left of my destiny and I can do things the way I bloody well want to. And if I want to wear my new top before my official birthday, I bloody well can.

I Must Thank My Son For His Mental Illness

baby-864137_960_720

The boy turned twenty-one last week, and while part of me wants to scream and holler with excitement, pride, and relief, the other part wants to sit in a corner, rocking and licking my wounds.

Many of you will be familiar with our journey with Kurt, our son. It was one of the reasons I began to write this blog, and I suspect that some of you follow it because you too have kids with mental health problems. You’ll also know that life with them is not what you signed up for, not by any parenting manual standard.

Some people say that parenting brings out the best in you and there have been times, particularly over the past six years, when I’ve wanted to rip that statement apart, over-analyze it with a few bottles of wine and then say “Fuck You!” because parenting is hard, and because there have been so many times when I have hated the person it has turned me into.

Before I had kids, I believed that being a parent was something I was born to do, and I made the assumption that I would be good at it. That naivety and arrogance have made the past twenty-one years feel like a very long and hard road at times, with its highs and lows, the steps forward and backward, the silent condemnation, and then more steps backward.

I’m not seeking pity or consolation. This is my honest acceptance of some responsibility for our journey, because perhaps if we’d done certain things differently, the outcomes might have changed. But we were amateurs at this parenting lark, carrying baggage from the past and the false expectations of others. And we’ve made it. We’re not out of the woods, but we can see the lights of the pub at the end of the road as we approach the start of the next phase of his life and the signs are that phase horribilis is drawing to a close.

My son is officially an adult, and as I draw the curtains on the past few years, I owe it to him to thank him.

I must thank him for shredding my heart strings and teaching me how vulnerable all of us can be – for which there’s nothing to be ashamed of – and for showing me how strong we can be when needed. This experience has opened my eyes. I have learned and grown from it more than from any other experience in my life and it has inspired me to write, develop compassion, get to know people before I judge them, and to form a concrete understanding of difference, unconditional love, and mental health that I will take with me into every other decision I make. 

This experience has shined a glaring light on what I see now was confusion in my younger years about what really matters.

Some God said that we are only given the stuff we can handle, and there have been times over the past decade when I was certain that I couldn’t handle being my son’s parent – or even why I should. You can lose sight of who you are when you have kids, and when you become the parent of a kid with special needs or a maverick, (or in our case ‘that kid’), there are times when you feel resentful about your needs being usurped by theirs. Instead of triumphs and awards, you get calls from school, the police, and the parents of other kids, and the pressure to keep pretending to be a professional at work (when your home life is falling apart) requires your finest thespian skills.

Not all of us are Mother Theresa types, with their long grey hair, premature lines, and a forgiveness in their heart for whatever shit life throws at them. Some of us lie in bed at night feeling broken, rallying against the unfairness of it all, thinking ‘why me?’

No one could have loved my son more than I have, and yet it’s hard not to think about how he might have fared with parents that were more liberal, or less anxious people than us; who might have come to the party with fewer middle-class expectations and ill-informed judgments. Poor kid. Although with fewer boundaries, who’s to say how he would have turned out.

As a parent, you can only follow your heart and do what you think is right.

At seven, I never thought my son would read and write; at twelve, I never thought he would have any friends; at sixteen, I thought he would kill himself; at eighteen, I thought he would end up in prison; and at twenty-one, I am still worrying – because what mother ever stops worrying about their kids?

But I am so proud of this young man. He has fought his own demons to stay here with us when others have given in, and with his fiery temper and big heart, his abounding energy and gentleness, his optimism in the face of constant rejection and his childish vulnerability, he has shaped me into who I am now – a better person.

And like every mother, I believe that he will go on to do great things – in his own time, (because Kurt has only ever done things in his own time). And I don’t mean GREAT things, necessarily,  I mean that he will do something extraordinary that is unlikely to fit squarely with society’s view of what is great; yet somehow, I have a feeling that it will be memorable.

 

Celebrating Your Millennial’s Birthday In Style

In spite of Kim Jong-un’s very obvious intention to spoil all our fun, Saturday marked the end of the last birthday “event” in our house for this year, as well as the end of winter and its excuse for visible leg hair. girl-438133_1920

 

It was NC’s 23rd birthday “event” and she chose to mark its Grand Finale with an intimate gathering of close friends at our place. You see, we don’t celebrate a birth “day” in our house, we have full-on festivals that usually last a minimum of two weeks or until the old man puts the birthday cards in the bin. It is a tradition passed down by my mum, who, even when the Bailiffs were knocking at the door, celebrated birthdays and Christmas in style. Once I got my head beyond the other tradition in our family – which is dying under forty – I decided it made sense to fully embrace her wisdom of making every year count.

 

With so little blood family here with whom to celebrate, the onus is on our little band of warriors to make our birthday “events” really special – difficult when you’re married to Scrooge – and those that have stood out in the past include NC’s seventeenth when she was too hungover to turn up to her own birthday lunch, and her twenty-first – which had a Marvel theme rather than the Cinderella theme I had anticipated, much to my private disappointment. It was relatively easy to return the pink ball gown back to Myer, but the cancellation of her dowry of two-for-one Simmonds to her Prince Charming – something Kurt seemed up for – was awkward.

 

Warm-up celebrations began two weeks ago and kicked off with a Bachie marathon, for which we fully intended to dress up in our cocktail dresses and sup on Champagne until we remembered that we don’t own cocktail dresses. Anyway, PJs are so much more comfortable than dresses especially as it was still winter here and as my brainiac daughter pointed out – Matty J couldn’t actually see us! Wine replaced Champagne because I suspect Kurt drank the only bottle of Champagne to last longer than a few hours in our house, that I thought was in the cupboard – a bottle the old man must have bought in a rare moment of madness prior to The Great Depression of 2015.

 

Then came the family celebration on the day itself – a meal out together where all our best intentions to be civil to one another for one night of the year ended in tears before the arrival of the chicken wings, negating one of NC’s best opportunities to moan about animal cruelty while we pretended to care. Kurt is usually the surprise guest at these meals because not even the promise of free nosh can tempt our son away from his bedroom and Breaking Bad these days.

 

Which led us to Saturday’s Millennial gathering – an intimate soiree of close friends, all twenty-something and gorgeous, for which the old man knocked up his now infamous Sangria and spent the remainder of the evening averting his eyes to breast spillage and feigning deafness during talk of penis size. Even Kurt was on form, breaking the family record for Sangria consumption without projectile vomiting.

 

Obviously, we have to conceal the full list of birthday events from the old man when all our birthdays coincide with the end of the financial year and it is a time of family mourning in our house. But between you and us, they included:

 

  • FULL access to the tv for once, for our marathon session of Bachie. This package included the predictability of hourly snipes from the old man about how we are supposed to be feminists – yawn! – while he pretended not to watch it. His refusal to get out ‘his guns’ so that we could pretend he was Matty J and objectify him was a disappointment – and frankly very un-British
  • A girls’ lunch of oysters and Sparkly prior to the birthday dinner
  • A shopping trip to buy an impulsive party outfit that neither of us will ever wear again
  • Pres, before the party pres
  • A full body makeover for each of us to include our leaving the house/end-of-winter leg shave. All hair will be donated to either the costume department of GOT for John Snow’s cape for Season 8, or my preference, a charity that turns it into hair extensions for those menstruating women or ones that have recently come out of a relationship, chopped all their hair off on impulse and look nothing like Charlene Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Cake-testing session
  • A visit to the hairdressers to become Daenerys Targaryen, because blondes definitely seem to have more fun
  • Hourly readings of the temperature of the Sangria for NC to record the impact of climate change on Spanish alcoholic beverages

 

 

 

 

 

When Your Millennial Wants A Birthday “Gathering”

Kurt is having a birthday “gathering” this evening, to celebrate his exit from the second decade of his life, and as we hurtle into his third with unbridled excitement and anticipation. This has been a particularly long stage in (our lives) his development and you might sense the resignation/fear, or hope in my voice when I say the word “gathering”, which is what we have agreed after lengthy Brexit-style negotiations, which historically are disbanded around 9 pm. 

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My idea of Kurt’s party.

 

 

I’m not sure why we have agreed to this “event” – he has promised me, IT IS NOT A “PARTY”  – and Kurt’s ‘chill, Mum,’ each time I freak the fuck out, has done little to assuage my innate terror.

 

If I look up the parenting strategy of “consequences” in any of the thousands of parenting manuals that adorn my bookshelves gathering dust, the cancellation of this “gathering” should have been a triumphant “win” moment for us. But it’s never that clear cut with kids with ADHD, and the thought of his one childhood memory being that time his bitch mum canceled his party, is something even the bitter old menopausal witch inside me refuses to contemplate.

 

Not that he’s really a kid anymore, as he glides into his third decade with all the panache of a bull in a china shop. It is recognized that there is an ADHD age, usually three to four years below the norm, and that makes much more sense.

 

His mates are a good bunch of kids, really, and they’ve stuck with him. They all hate me because (they’ve only heard Kurt’s side of the story) of the years they’ve endured my wrath and frustration at not being able to mold my child into what I expected and each abortive attempt to teach him right from wrong that failed. They have been pawns in our wars – banned from our place at times, kicked out onto the streets at unseemly hours of the morning. I like to think that I’ve helped make them streetwise.

 

None of them have a great respect for rules; they’re not the Polo shirt and loafer crowd I used to yearn for, more the stick n poke tattoo crowd who prefer to pierce each other, “hang” out together, talk about music; way too cool for clubs and looking up girls skirts, thank God.

 

He has told me there will be six of them, maybe seven, which means up to twenty, and he is going to warn our neighbors that his mum will march out in her dressing gown and bed hair ranting and raving (like she did last year) to shut the gathering down at 11.30pm. And then they’ll carry on – quietly, they think – until they decide I really mean it.

 

Meanwhile, the old man and I will hold a private celebration, for endurance, for the prematurely grey hair I’ve earned (and he would have earned), for the fact that our son continues to tell us he loves us (usually when he needs fags), and in spite of the tornados that have pushed us against the walls of our home so many times, that have nothing to do with climate change. And because, very occasionally, he does what is asked of him… and there is only one dent on the car. We may also make a toast to this, our last house party for our young adults… until next year.

21 – The Key To The Door And The Key To My Heart

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (film)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NC turned twenty-one last week and although I keep tormenting myself with questions such as ‘where did the time go’ and ‘how can I possibly have a twenty-one year old daughter?’, there’s no escaping the fact that 1. Somehow we created a beautiful young woman, and 2. We’re getting fucking old.

She celebrated the key to the door on Saturday night, although much to the old man’s chagrin she hasn’t left home yet, nor has she any intention of doing so.

And her party wasn’t exactly the sophisticated glamor-fest I had secretly hoped for, with formal style dresses, up-dos and killer heels. That’s not NC’s style. It was a Marvel-inspired party, full of super-heroes, face paint, masks and dastardly comic book villains, and NC blew everyone else’s costume out of the park in an uncharacteristically raunchy little outfit that Miley would have been proud of, with NB at her side as The Joker.

The old man and I reluctantly wore capes.

By the few sober accounts that we have, a good night was had by all, and even Kurt held his own in a crowd of twenty-something crazies; although it was obvious to all our guests that his costume irritated his sensory issues and the sight of Batman continually rearranging his balls as his trousers rode up his arse and dissected his man parts all night was a hot topic of debate.

But he also put together a video for his sister – his special birthday gift to her – a thoughtful collection of all her fugliest childhood photos, which culminated in a video of her snorting like a pig. It was set to Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ and it proved a strangely emotional experience to watch your child grow up on television, in the space of three minutes; to relive all those good moments that it’s so easy to forget in the fast pace of life.

I should have recognized NC’s birth for what it was – the precursor to a journey of evolving dysfunctionality. The writing was splattered all over the wall.

For rather like the nativity story, where the family struggled to find an Inn, (Wotif can’t have been around back then), NC’s arrival wasn’t plain sailing and certainly not the model, parenting manual moment I had set down in my birth plan. Perhaps it was a foolish decision at the end of my last day of work, as a final fling and fuck off to a flat stomach, to go clubbing with friends – as you do when you’re 38 weeks pregnant. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t twerking and gyrating on the dance floor, but rather anchored to a bar stool all night by the sheer voluminosity of the smallest baby in the world, encased in the biggest belly in the world.

So when my waters broke at 2am and the old man was too pissed to drive, and I ended up behind the wheel and then labored while he snored loudly in an armchair beside me, it seemed a little unfair.

‘Let him sleep,’ said the midwife, as I planned the speed of his death with each contraction.

Our daughter has never held back since that day – she has always been determined to make her mark. The naïve who don’t know her well, mistake her for being shy, but she has always possessed an enviably scary inner confidence in her own abilities. She has always depended on logic rather than emotion and strives forwards, rarely looking back.

Kind of part human, part arachnid.

For she can be calculating in her judgments and acerbically accurate in her wit. It is fair to say that a pertinent comment from NC can knock you sideways quicker than a sudden bolt of lightening, yet, as she has matured into a young woman and experienced the trials and tribulations of her own relationships, her scientific mind has been forced to embrace the primitive concepts of feelings and emotions, and she has evolved into a thoughtful, generous and loving adult.

My best friend.

She will never be a graceful or elegant young woman; she is more a socially awkward Bridget Jones or the loose-tongued Elizabeth Bennet, her icon from Pride and Prejudice, than the stereotypical heroine.

She’s not really the touchy-feeling type, either – although she swears she is trying to learn and whenever she catches me stressed and prostrate in the comfort zone of my bed, she lies her full body weight on top of mine and pushes down REALLY HARD because she read somewhere that it relaxes tension.

NC reserves her hidden tanks of love for the few people she deems have warranted them in her life. The Princess is at the top of her list – they both count loyalty as the most important trait of any relationship. NC cannot suffer fools with her petrifying intelligence, she can’t even pretend to tolerate them, yet she can laugh at herself when she still struggles to spell easy words correctly, trips in high heels or stammers when she reads aloud. She is a confusing hybrid of the old man and I. She is the nerdiness of his Peter Parker and the silliness of the Dawn French in me.

She has the key to the door now but will always have the key to my heart.

Fuck! I’m Nearly Fifty

So I’ve had nearly fifty years to organise my half-century mammoth birthday party to end all birthday parties.

Fuck! I'm Nearly Fifty
FreeImages.com/Yaziki Ekrem

And I have thought about it a lot in the past. But now I’m actually here, I’m not sure I can be bothered.

What happened to me? I used to pride myself on being an obsessive organiser and have wasted hours of valuable living time ruminating over all these fab plans since my fortieth. I was going to have a formal sit-down dinner, live jazz playing gently in the background, hired help (young, male and shirtless, preferably), the surprise appearance of Chris Hemsworth and loads of expensive Champagne.

But then life got in the way and my energy levels feel so depleted at the moment I hardly know what day it is at the moment, let alone how to really celebrate what is fundamentally not a great milestone in your life, other than the relief at having made it. This is not a moan for once – I’m actually in a reasonably good place with the kids both away and the old man pretending to be at my beck and call because he feels guilty about not working at the moment and is obviously questioning just how I balanced work and being a housewife for the last twenty years without combusting. But I’m just too bloody busy to think, sleep or even find the time to drink wine at the moment.

We have too many damn things to celebrate at this time of the year, too and there’s only a certain amount of smiling this old face will take. We’ve already suffered the old man’s birthday with his cruel taunts and reminders that I’m a whole year older than him. Like that’s new! Then there was Kurt’s 18th where we all maxed out on the dangerous levels of testosterone in the apartment, it might be our anniversary sometime during the next week and NC’s 21st is drawing perilously closer and I haven’t even started on the anxiety and insomnia required for that – although I have started dreaming about accidental damage insurance and looking at my pristine carpet longingly…

So my fiftieth has kind of passed me by, been downgraded to a level 2 and no doubt will evolve into another of my mish-mashed, last-minute-dot-com, fumbled-together affairs where I forget vital ingredients or to cook at all because I remember to drink. I blame the meds – they remove some of the stress but they also take out any sense of urgency from my event-planning these days and I’ve turned into a ‘just rock up’, ‘laissez-faire’ type of girl now.

Even the thought of what I’m going to feed vegetarians and coeliacs isn’t phasing me, so I really can’t be bothered, can I?

It’s not like I can trust any of the organization to the old man, even if he has assumed unemployed bum status since he become a professional ‘in-between jobs’ person.

The ageing process is slowing me down, that’s what it is. MY fifty is the new sixty. Partying no longer turns me on in the same way as snoozing in front of movies, fantasising about Gary on Masterchef, getting to bed as early as possible and drinking vast quantities of herbal tea to prolong the health of my bladder. And frankly, the thought of squeezing my voluptuousness into a tight dress makes me feel quite nauseous.

Fuck I’m Nearly Fifty!

What Do You Buy For Your Best Friend’s 50th Birthday?

I never really got the hang of how to be a good girl friend.

What do you buy for your best friend's 50th birthday?
Found on everylastdetailblog.com

I’m not trying to make excuses, but what a lot of my girl friends don’t realize is that I’m actually a male in the guise of a woman and I have a very black and white approach to life. I don’t believe in stereotyping but I’ve had to learn the special female skills like how to do small talk without looking for the nearest escape route, how to feign interest in other people’s lives and children, even when those kids are fugly, how to hug people when I greet them and how to be intuitively thoughtful.   I still fail miserably a lot of the time but there is some hope.   The 50th birthday round has begun in my social group and one of my best friends celebrated this monstrous milestone last week.   What the fuck do you buy for your best friend’s 50th birthday? The pressure felt immense. We’ve reached that age where we pretty much buy what we need, know what we like and don’t like and are intolerant of gifts that don’t quite hit the mark.   I also knew that this time I had to get it right. I don’t think she ever went on that pole-dancing course…   A more expensive piece of jewellery than the usual Witchery earrings was the obvious and easiest choice. It would have said what I needed it to say – that I recognized that this was a special birthday for her and that she is special to me (blah, blah, blah!). But the problem is that I have a serious overthinking problem when I shop. I’m a perfectionist and always have a particular design or colour in mind that is impossible to find unless you have the budget for a custom-made from Tiffany, and so I soon realised that the Holy Grail of jewellery that would suit my friend and the old man’s budget, just didn’t exist.   I went back to the drawing board. I researched handbags, ‘experiences’ and beauty therapies, which I knew she’d love – being a real woman and all that – but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.   So I gave her a bag of goodies instead.   But, special goodies. What I hoped was that my little bag of goodies would show some thought and appeal to our shared sense of humor, but best of all, give her more than one present to open!   You see, we’ve been friends for an eternity.

What do you buy for your best friend's 50th birthday?
Found on Pinterest.com. Originally from Anthropologie.

Twenty years to be precise, since NC (was so small that she hadn’t even started organizing me yet) and her son were nine months old to be exact, so even though I might still be incapable of picking the perfect necklace for her, because we’ve grown up together, over many wonderfully boozy evenings (in the days when we still thought we could change the world together), we’ve managed to work out the best things in life.   So that was my theme. I bought six gifts and numbered them as the things every woman needs in middle age.   In no particular order, they were:

  1. Good wine, shared with friends who know which wine hits your spot – in our case, a bottle of Scarborough Chardonnay (www.scarboroughwine.com.au)
  2. Something to keep you feeling sexy – the bigger the better! – if it had been me I would have gone straight for the Agent Provocateur but my friend is a little more classy so I picked some Elle ‘The Body’ McPherson boy-leg lacy briefs
  3. A hobby – my friend plays tennis so I bought her some tennis balls
  4. Beautiful jewellery – a pair of modern silver and pearl earrings
  5. Loads of cheese – she’s a cheese guzzler, this mate of mine, especially with a few Chardies inside her and I found this super-cute triangular cheese board from Salt and Pepper (www.saltandpepper.com.au). We do cheese together really well.
  6. Family – my friend lives by the beach and I found two really cute snow-globe-style photo frames with sand and small shells at the bottom and I put a photo of her with each of her children in each.

    What do you buy for your best friend's 50th birthday?
    Found on http://www.saltandpepper.com.au

Do you have any idea how hard it is to buy underwear for another woman – even one you think you know really well?   I admit that the organization of this gift was so uncharacteristically thoughtful for me I might have vommed cried a little as I wrapped up the pressies. She means a lot to me, this gal.   But surely that much attention to detail means I’m becoming more girly…even… growing up?   But before I finish, I must tell you about the last time I surprised this friend with a goodie bag. We were in our early thirties and I’m embarrassed to admit that I included a packet of Marlborough Lights in the bag back then. I’ll never forget that day because she was stuck at home on an uncharacteristically, stinky hot day in London with a baby with chicken pox, (that she had caught too), yet for some reason decided that a polka dot bikini would make an excellent fashion accessory.   Since then I have laughed hard many times with her.   The greatest gift she was given for her fiftieth birthday was a grandson, a few weeks before.   How far we’ve come.

The Only Way To Celebrate Your Middle-Aged Birthday When You’re Menopausal

The Only Way To Celebrate Your Middle Aged Birthday
Eat healthily!

Peri-menopause is a bitch, or that’s probably how my son Kurt would describe it.

 

THERE! I said the M word out loud – cue all two of my male readers to cough uncomfortably and exit the page as fast as their mouse can click.

 

But it’s a little known fact (unless you already this blog) that the best way to cure hormonal outrage is to shop. And I like to practise what I preach.

 

I’ve always thought that birthdays are over-rated, but if it hadn’t been for my birthday this week, I might have committed first degree murder such was the mindfuckery caused by my level 10 peri-menopause symptoms.I blame my state of psychosis on a) fucking around with my hormone levels in a backfiring attempt to feel less psychotic and b) the Princess sleeping between us in what is already a sauna of a bedroom and hence not getting enough beauty sleep.

The Only Way To Celebrate Your Middle Aged Birthday
Looking attractive all the time, will boost your confidence!

 

But because it was my birthday this week I couldn’t just wallow in the foetal position and rock in between drooling at photos of The Bachelor on my special day; I had to pretend to be human for the sake of the members of my family who were excited for me, (and who have also taken to concealing weapons in their bedrooms for self-protection reasons recently). So I locked the kitchen knife drawer, hid the scissors and photos of the old man, plastered a fake smile and the reddest lippy on my face and actually ended up having a great day.

 

You see the old man believed (wisely, as it turns out) that if he threw enough cash in my face, he could get away with NOT buying me another birthday present that I don’t want.

 

And he was right. Because I really AM that shallow.

 

So off I headed to Pitt St Mall on Tuesday morning and spent an orgasmic six hours trying on every pair of sparkly shoes and LBD in David Jones, interspersed with a very pleasant lunch date with my husband in the Oyster Bar, because I had to make him suffer somehow I felt I should include him, and very soon I began to feel remarkably better about the whole getting older, fatter and uglier thing.

 

I might have mentioned the medicinal values of Champagne before.

 

The Only Way To Celebrate Your Middle Aged Birthday
Brand new shoes, sparkly shoes – better than sex!

I shopped ‘til I fucking dropped and bought all sorts of shit that I don’t really need never usually lavish on myself, like jewellery and lingerie and the most gorgeous pair of super-expensive sparkly FLAT mules, and the day transformed itself into a complete ME-FEST to become undeniably one of the best days of my life!

 

I finally felt complete!

 

 

 

Still sucks being 49, though! Not quite old enough to blame Menopause on my personality metamorphosis or feel completely chez-moi in the plus-size, granny-pant departments of David Jones that I’m strangely drawn to these days. Yet old enough to feel cranky for absolutely no fucking reason, particularly towards that breed of stunning young bitches in white coats who insist on spraying expensive perfume in my eyes in the makeup department like they have some sort of fucking death wish.

The Problem With Middle Aged Birthdays

I celebrated a birthday this week. ‘Celebrated’ might be an over-exaggeration. Birthdays are quite peculiar now – I don’t really know how to mentally prepare for them these days. The medication helps.MjAxMy1iMDgyYjdjZWIyYmI5MWQ5

I don’t know whether I should be celebrating the fact that I’m getting older and wiser and the kids should be leaving home soon? Or whether I should be grieving the loss of my looks and my energy and embracing mortality. 

I never experienced the panic that engulfed a lot of my girlfriends when they turned 40, even though it was just after that particular milestone that my body seriously began to deteriorate at an alarming rate of knots. One day I had a few innocuous laughter lines around my eyes, which I considered to be kind of cute, the next day I had what can only be described as a second eyelid drooping over the top of them. And then there was the sly way that everything began to seriously drop – like my body was actually challenging gravity.

I’m getting used to the looks of pity from the kids in the changing room at the local pool now, when I first remove my cozzie and my boobs make their hasty retreat south from the safety of the lycra support, with the same speed as two satellites re-entering Earth.

(Hey kids! Get your own f..cking changing room!)

I’m also getting used to not being noticed anymore (*lying*).

Actually, it f…cking hurts like hell.

Attitudes towards women change when they reach their mid-forties. You are no longer objectified, whistled at or propositioned by strange men, which I suppose is what we women have fought for – but it also bruises the ego, if I’m honest.

You become a character actor rather than the lead.

Even more irritating is the expectation that I should behave in a mature way now. Doesn’t anyone else have that little voice in their head going ‘DO IT! DO IT!’ when they are about to say something inappropriate for some juvenile shock value?

It must be just me then. I will definitely need a ‘new filter’ before a hip replacement.

Apparently it’s okay to still laugh at the twenty and thirty-somethings when they have a bit too much to drink and get outrageously raucous, but if a forty-something woman HAS A GOOD TIME, she is frowned upon and considered immature.

NC and Kurt are horrified that I still find young men attractive and (occasionally) still want to party – they assume that my middle-aged needs should ramp down to the level of my middle-aged body and I should now only find big guts and bald heads attractive.

Perhaps us women should know better than to think that we can still enjoy ourselves. So how exactly are we supposed to behave when we’re middle-aged? Are there guidelines? Should I be re-evaluating, repackaging my image and re-marketing myself into a matron, in the hope that my personality is interesting enough to make me attractive?

The problem is, I’m just not ready to commit to middle age yet, even if my liver body does complain about the pace I set for it sometimes. I still believe in the cliché of ‘being as old as you feel’, and to be honest, I often enjoy the company of the teens’ friends more than my own friends these days.

Their existence is so uncomplicated compared to mine. Why were we so full of angst back then?

We can become bitter and jaded as we get older and I admit to being guiltier of that than most. Some days nothing seems right, life seems too hard, work gets in the way – it can be frustrating when you reach your forties but are still pinned back by the constraints of work and responsibility.

The teens, on the other hand, are still enjoying that fantasy of immortality and the promise that comes with that illusion. Remember when you thought that forty was ancient? That you would live forever? Then, somewhere in your timeline between rearing babies, marriage and your career, you forgot that you were supposed to be making the most of every day.

And finally you reach 40 and realize that (FML!) you actually might be halfway through your life already. T

The pace of ageing definitely picks up after 40. Before you know it, you find yourself looking at over 50s holidays and apartments, and there are things you no longer want to do just because you’re tired, or your back hurts, or you can’t tolerate late nights or alcohol – or even an evening in the company of people who just don’t quite make the ‘interesting’ mark.

Or you just can’t be f..cking bothered. Because you know what you like now.

And what you do know is that time is a much more precious commodity, even though you waste so much of it these days worrying about your health and visiting the doctor about any minor change to what is normal for your body. Why do you think old people get up so early? Because they don’t how much time they have left.

And those pearls of wisdom that you somehow acquired along the way as you got older, turn out to be pretty cool actually, and help diffuse some of the angst of ageing. There’s the wisdom of being happier in your own skin, of knowing what you like and what you don’t like, of finally being able to accept yourself for who you are.

Have you noticed that the problem with middle-aged birthdays is that they make you over-analyse everything, which increases your anxiety? Which is why I’m still pretending that age is just a number.