As a woman in her forties and who can no longer use the excuse that I’m not old enough to know better, I’m going to come clean about something.
Basically, I no longer care what the world at large thinks of me.
This isn’t to say that I’m Sticking It To The Man (whatever ‘it’ might happen to be at that particular time). No. This is me saying ‘I defy your expectations of how a woman in her forties should look/act/exist’.
There have been a couple of things doing the rounds on social media: the first was an item written by some stripling of a child stating that women over 30 shouldn’t be seen wearing certain items. Amongst these were hoop earrings, just to give you an idea of how banal this opinion actually is. Myself, I have no need of hoop earrings, unless I’m planning on transporting parrots, but I get that other people like them. I recommend wearing them large enough to teach poodles to jump through, just to get at that so-called fashion writer.
To counter this, and much to my extreme amusement, an article appeared on my feed yesterday which was headlined as ’24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear’. I recommend a look – here. Every suggestion is perfect.
But it got me to thinking that society has these ‘norms’ to which it expects us (and when I say ‘us’, I frankly mean ‘women’ to adhere at certain stages of our adult lives.
Aged 18-25? Why, you’re perfect as you are. You are the perfect demographic. Do what you like. Go where you want. Wear an old bin bag for all we care. The worst we can do for your demographic is to shake our collective heads and say ‘ah, the yoof of today’. But all our fashion articles, all our holidays, all our marketing is aimed in your direction.
Aged 25? You’re a quarter of a century old. Think about it. Quarter of a frickin’ century. Best start thinking about growing up now, because it’s a downhill slide to thirty from here. In fact, the next few years of your life will become consumed by the dread that you’ll no longer be a twenty-something. It’ll be the end of the world as you know it, because everyone knows that once you hit thirty, you’re Past It. (There’s that elusive ‘it’ again).
You are no longer relevant. You have moved, the gods forbid, into the next age group tick box!
When you reach the dizzying heights of 29, you’ve accepted your fate. Thirty, you say confidently, is the new twenty. This is all well and good and frankly I find it an admirable approach, but what you’re going to encounter is a subsection of society that immediate begins wearing Frank Bough style cardigans once they turn thirty. That same subsection that starts to go to bed early for no reason that’s what they assume ‘old’ people do. Those people will shake their heads at your tales of your wild night out, where you drank beer straight from the tap, or bounced on a kid’s bouncy castle in the rain, or played on your PS4 all weekend. Shame on you. Shame. You should have been doing the housework, or spending sixty hours in a B&Q trying to find just the right tiles for the bathroom, not going to Ikea and deliberately going the wrong way around the one-way system because it winds people up.
Partway through your thirties, you’ll undergo a repeat of what happened at 25. You’re nearly 40. FORTY, for God’s sake! What’s even the point of being forty? But wait! It’s going to be OK, you’ve got that Frank Bough cardigan that your friend got you for your thirtieth. Now you really have to knuckle down and do the things society expects of you. Maybe join the WI. Maybe consider buying matching coffee mugs and being really really proud of them. Because you’re in your forties. And here, my advice and experience of what societal ‘norm’ for my age group comes to an end, because it’s all new from here.
Truth is, I’m not long for my forties. Soon, that first number will be a ‘5’, and I no longer care about it. I just hope that I make the most of what time I’m actually given on this ridiculous planet.
For most of my thirties, I worried incessantly about being forty, but then it stopped. Because here’s what I realised.
Time is a constant. We can bemoan our mortality, but there’s sweet Fanny Adams we can do about it. No amount of creams or magic potions will stop the aging process. People have become so fixated on what the exterior is like that they forget, by the age of thirty five, to have fun. They let their insides rot away. They lose the ability to play, to imagine, and to enjoy the miracle of being alive.
There’s such a difference between being an adult and being grown up. Being an adult is a certainty. It’s a physical thing. We only measure it in years because that’s what society expects of us. Being an adult is knowing when you have to pay your bills, knowing when you have to sacrifice a holiday because the roof needs retiling, or giving up your hard earned cash to your offspring because you love them and want them to be happy. Being an adult is knowing when you need to be silly, to fill your life with love, laughter and ludicrousness. Being a grown-up is accepting your mortality and waiting, sternly, drinking tea from your matching mugs, whilst tutting at the state of your peers, who are rolling about in mud, dressed as fantasy characters and playing make-believe.
Being a grown-up is utterly dull and I want no part of it.
It’s my life. Those I invite on board the roller coaster are there because I want them. You don’t like the sudden drops, or the inversions? Then go play on the swings. This is my party. Happy to just roll with the world? Then welcome on board. Person who makes the best train noises wins this lollipop!
Caveat: I may have done some of the seemingly childish things on this list and I regret none of them.