My 40th birthday is looming, looming like some panting, perspiring, red-faced reminder that my twenties are long gone, as are my waistline and anything pert.
I am actually 38 so I suppose 40 is lurking rather than looming, however I have a history of taking a long, running jump at birthdays. I started preparing for my 30th at the age of 26, for example. I am an intelligent woman, I know that there is nothing at all wrong with growing older, and I am well aware that some unfortunate souls do not get the chance to turn 40. I am also well aware that getting older does not mean turning into the creature from hot-flush lagoon, festooned with HRT patches and shopping for support stockings, and I pray with all my might that I wake up on July 11th 2013 looking like a pre-break-up Demi Moore. I know 40 should not bother me, but it does.
So why does 40 bother me so much, even though I am residing in the fair and pleasant city of Melbourne?
Friends who had travelled to or lived in Melbourne had a lot of information and advice for me before I left Blighty – it’s a far better lifestyle, more outdoorsy, great cake shops in St. Kilda, parks and playgrounds everywhere for Olivia (my 2 year old minx), but nobody, nobody prepared me for how damned attractive Melbourne is. And I am not talking about the eclectic mix of architecture – from the Art Deco residences of the suburbs to the post-modern glass frontages of the Bourke Street skyscraper – I am talking about the people.
I have never lived in a place that is filled with so many stunningly attractive human beings. Is there anyone in this city who does not look good in a pair of shorts? How is it that so many citizens can get away with cut-off jeans and a pair of flip flops? And although I may have spotted the occasional sunburnt bod, for the most part people have quite gorgeous all-over tans. How does one get an all-over tan anyway? How much time does one have to dedicate to basting oneself throughout the summer months? I simply don’t think I have the patience or the dedication to cover myself in oil and rotate myself every 15 minutes like a Thanksgiving turkey and quite frankly there are bits of me I would never expose, even in the confines of my own back garden, for fear of being set upon by some animal welfare group whose sole concern is throwing buckets of water over me and trying to roll me back into the sea.
Now, let me illustrate my point with an example of attractiveness from the evening before Australia Day this year. My husband, the minx and I had spent a lovely evening at the Suzuki night markets, wandering, eating, purchasing, and debating whether or not we would be able to consume an enormous pancake called ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’. As we ambled through the city streets on our way back to Flinders, three young couples walked towards us in some sort of parade of exquisite beauty; the first couple (whom I presume both modelled for Dolce and Gabbana), both blonde and beautifully coiffed; the second, slightly better looking than the first, tanned and luscious, laughing the care free laugh of those who have yet to discover their first grey eyebrow; the third, a couple on whom I am sure Zeus modelled the rest of the Gods. Imagine…
‘What should Aphrodite the Goddess of Beauty look like Mighty Zeus?’
‘What about that young Melbournian couple there?’
‘Which one? For there are many to choose from Oh Mighty Zeus.’
‘What about those two there adorning the crossing between Exhibition and Bourke? The ones draped in Chanel?’
‘Ah yes, I see them. Fair dinkum Zeus, your wish is my command…’
I begrudge these young people nothing, and I know that one day their looks will fade and they too will have children and spend most of their mornings picking Lego bricks out of their feet and porridge out of their DVD player (at least I hope with my entire being that this will one day happen to them), but that does not make me feel better when I am trying to hide two and half year old baby weight behind the Bugaboo.
Of course there are other quite beautiful sights, for example in Melbourne’s CBD. One favourite of mine is the Crown Casino, the CBD’s ‘crowning glory’ if you’ll excuse the weak pun. Opened in 1997 and situated on the southern banks of the Yarra River, it is a quite magnificent edifice, the flaming torches at its entrance a fitting, if not slightly gladiatorial, decoration; it is difficult not to get swallowed up by that feeling of excitement and the anticipation of huge wins and possible sightings of the odd celeb (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have been known to grace its golden halls). The atrium drips with chandeliers and wealth, the boutique shops tempting you with their glitzy window displays.
Kin Hubbard, the noted 19th Century humourist and journalist once said ‘The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket’, an honourable sentiment, but easier said than done – if you are anything like me, all notions of ‘safety’ and restraint go out the window when surrounded by the unfamiliar and exotic, especially if I have just entered a building betwixt two flaming torches.
Moving on, we have the Arts Centre with its Eiffel-esque tower or Federation Square, its buildings reminiscent of Gaudi’s magnificent architecture, and, of course, women of all ages in tiny dresses and high heels, a particular favourite or my husband.
I’m amazed that he has not been hospitalised with whiplash, either that or a severely strained neck from the oh-so-much-more-exasperating ‘surreptitious stare’ – as annoying as a stifled yawn and just as obvious to the trained eye. Imagine a small dog that has had stitches after some minor operation. Now imagine the plastic collar that his owner attaches around his neck to stop him licking said stiches. This is what I am thinking of purchasing for my husband. Not that he licks himself when he sees a beautiful woman, you understand, it just might make him think twice before he cranes his neck to have a really good look. I am by no means a jealous woman, I know I have nothing to worry about, it is just a nod to my own insecurities, and to the absolute knowledge that I will never, ever look good in short shorts. If I was being particularly jealous and spiteful, I could liken Melbourne women to the coffee served in any of its fine establishments – first we have the latte; long, tall, smooth; the cappuccino, shorter and frothier, and then of course we have the skinny flat white…
In conclusion, if next year, you spy a woman sitting in a coffee shop in a small Bayside suburb, festooned in HRT patches, sweating and weeping gently, that will be me. Come over and wish me a happy birthday. Maybe we can hit the casino?