As I write this new (long awaited I’m sure) literary masterpiece, I am in the throes of turning 45.
It seems like only yesterday that I was in my late 30s and writing about my dread of the number 40.
And now it is just a hop, skip and a jump to 50.
I wouldn’t be so bothered if time was not going so damn quickly. We have now been in Australia for six and half years, the minx is almost nine and the ravages of age are becoming more and more apparent (on me, not her). And I will reiterate something that I said in my very first blog – I know that I am lucky to be getting older, that it is a privilege, and I am well aware that there are individuals who do not get the chance to get older. It’s just that you begin to notice things, like the phrase ‘well, at your age’ being casually bandied around a lot more than it used to be.
There are a million bloggers, vloggers and YouTubers out there who, we are told, ‘tell the truth about getting older’, and it is promised that ‘you will not believe what happens next’, but there are still certain things that I had not been told no matter how many hours I spent trawling through the internet. These are things that are mainly to do with the human body and how it alters as the years go by, and I don’t just mean your hearing goes a bit and you forget where you put your keys, I mean all the little hidden things we don’t talk about that one day raise their head and say “Hello there! You’re old!”
Here are the main ones so far – and if you are younger than me then consider this a Public Service Announcement. You’re welcome.
Looking in the mirror the other day, it hit me just how much I am starting to look like my Dad. It is actually pretty terrifying. Not that my Dad is horrific to look at, he’s not the Phantom of the Opera or anything, but I would have thought that as the years passed I would look more like my older female relatives. The main thing that I have noticed that has changed about my face is the fact that I am becoming what I believe is called ‘jowly’.
For those of you not accustomed to jowls, they are the parts of your cheeks that begin to hang down either side of your mouth, swinging around below your chin like facial flaps. Sometimes, when standing in poor light which picks up the wobbly cheek meat and permanent baggies under the eyes, I look a bit like this…
When I talk emphatically, my cheeks make a moist slapping sound. On the plus side, if I shake my head vigorously I can give myself a round of applause.
As well as becoming jowly, you may also find that your neck skin begins to fold and sag. If you are unfortunate enough to have low flapping jowls that look like a vulva and a neck that looks like a vagina, then I can only sympathise. I am only at the ‘turtle looking up’ phase. Still, something to look forward to.
Now, of course we all know that as we get older our hair goes grey. But did you know that grey hairs have a life of their own? Did you know that they have the strength of a thousand hairs like the ants of the follicle world? I am fairly sure that they could lift 10 times their own weight should the need occur. That is one of the reasons I do not wear hats. They are wiry, curly, unlike any other hair on your body, and they taunt you as you get ready in the morning. They call to you in a soft, menacing voice.
“Look at meeeee.” they say, “Look at meeeee. I’m a massive grey hair. You can dye me if you like but I’ll be back. I’m like the fucking Terminator and your self-esteem is John Connor. LOOK AT MEEEEEEE. You’re thinking of plucking me out aren’t you? But you are afraid, afraid of the old wives’ tale that if you pluck me a hundred of my type will grow in my place, even though you’ve asked Maureen down the salon and she told you it wasn’t true. Go ahead, make my day. Pluck me. Pluck me hard. You can’t, can you? Instead you are going to spend the rest of the day attempting to smooth me down with your own spit, looking in every reflective surface to check if I am sticking out of your scalp like an antennae. You’re weak. You have not one ounce of my strength. Idiot.” Or something like that.
Your other hairs seem to shy away in fear of Mrs Grey Hair. Repulsed by her extrovert nature, the way she flaunts her follicle ferocity, they repeal in terror, until one day you notice that your once thick locks are looking decidedly thinner and your parting is widening. And the thing is that you will not have a clue until somebody takes a picture of you from behind and you notice scalp where hair used to be. Like this…
I’m one windy day away from a full Telly Savalas.
You may find yourself rubbing them in cold or damp weather especially when you get out of a comfy chair.
One thing that I do like about getting older is the fact that I can get away with making random noises, and by that I do not mean farting (see ‘Sphincters’). I’ve always had a propensity to grunt as I get up or sit down or walk upstairs or leave the dinner table, anything that requires physical exertion. Now I can get away with it, like I can get away with comfy slippers and a Sunday afternoon watching ‘Columbo’ with a nice of cup of tea. Indeed, I can now get away with using the phrase ‘nice cup of tea’. Moreover, if someone offers me a ‘nice cup of tea’, I am quite within my rights as a middle-aged woman to reply “Ay, go on then. I’ll treat me sen.” So, to recap, to make this noise as I sit down ‘Eeeenuuugyungggngnien’ is perfectly reasonable and in fact expected.
As I have mentioned before, I have been a martyr to my esophageal sphincter for many a year; I’ve not been able to eat, well, pretty much anything without ensuing chest pains and intestinal cramps for about 20 years now, but it has got to the point where I have to keep a packet of Rennies in at least three different places in every room of the house, in every pocket and in every handbag, just in case. I pray to the food gods after each meal or snack to protect me from hours of agony spent writhing in my seat with a mouth full of acidic saliva like some sort of reluctant snake, should I wander too far from my antacids.
Of course, when you get older, the anal sphincter also begins to relax, so that one emits tiny bum trumpets at any given moment; when one is bending down, laughing, coughing, running up stairs, sneezing, standing up, sitting down, any slight movement might encourage a little fluffle. This can be hilarious or devastating depending on the time, place and audience. Contrary to popular belief, farts are not always funny.
Now, I am sure that letting off indiscriminately is only the tip of the anal iceberg, if you will. I am quite certain that in 10 years’ time I will be writing about my impending 55th birthday and the terrible day when I hiccupped and shit myself in the biscuit aisle. Again, something to look forward to.
I have become, if you can believe it to be possible, far less tolerant of practically anything as of late. Now, as we know avid readers, I think about things a lot and we also know that lyrics bother me, Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘If You Let Me Stay’ for example. I can’t go into it again; I’ve only just calmed down.
A few months ago, I responded to a tweet about Pitbull who claimed that he had immeasurable respect for women because he was raised by his grandmother, a strong matriarch. “Respect is it?” I tweeted. “And this from the same man who wrote the lyrics ‘face down booty up, that’s the way we like them’, and ‘she says she won’t but I bet she will’. What nonsense.” In the morning, my response had received 902 likes and 134 retweets (as well as a response from a nice gentleman in America who advised me that I should “Shut the fuck up, bitch”).
“Please Michelle! Regale us with another example of lyrics that drive you insane!” I hear you cry. Oh, go on then…
Take ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ by Madonna.
She’s in ‘trouble deep’; she is a young woman, pregnant by a gentleman who she protests has been treating her real good. What she insists is that her father does not nag her, but that what she needs right now is ‘some good advice’. Imagine the ensuing conversation…
“OK, love. Let’s sit and have a chat. So, who’s the father? Wait. Him? Is that not the lad I warned you all about? The one I said you could do without? You chose to ignore that advice didn’t you? That is a little frustrating, but not to worry pet. Let’s sit and have a nice cup of tea and talk it through. What’s that? You’ve made up your mind? You’re keeping your baby? Well what the fuck are you going on about then? Why have I opened a new packet of Hob Nobs? Annoying adolescent.”
I’ve worn glasses since I was 18. My first foray into spectacle wearing was in the form of a massive pair of burgundy, owl-eyed framed binos which I thought were cool but which of course were not. I could get away without wearing them on a night out, right up until my twenties, because as my mum said, ‘”Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses!” Brilliant. But then it got to the point where things were just a little too blurry and I had to wear them all the time. And then it got to the point where I could not read and then look up and expect my shit eyes to focus on something in the near distance straight away. I went to see the optician who informed me that, at my age (told you), the corneas harden meaning that the eye loses the will to live and gives up or something.
I needed varifocals.
Varifocals are those glasses that have you looking up and down to get the right angle so that you don’t fall down the stairs, or have you tipping your head back to read down your nose when looking at a menu, thus completing the look of an old git whose major organs are failing. I chose a lovely pair of frames; classy and stylish, black and sleek. I thought I looked the dog’s danglies. That was until the next day at work when I opened my laptop. “That’s funny,” thought I, “I don’t remember having Roz from Monsters Inc. as my screen saver.” I then realized that that was no screen saver, it was in fact my own reflection.
Everyone knows that as you get older, bits of you that are not taut will inevitably take the slow journey south as gravity takes control. What I did not realize is just how unattractive boobs become as they migrate towards your naval. Sagging breasts are known by many different names, and most of these are quite cute; Wombles’ noses, for example, or beagles’ ears. But these names are far too cute for the process of breasticular elongation (I just made that up).
Honestly, saggy boobs look like someone has dropped two grapefruits into a pair of 30 denier tights and then drawn a target on each foot. There you go Gen Y. Something to look forward to.
Other things to look forward to:
- Pains in places that you had never really though of before, like the heel of your foot, or your elbows, or your earlobes.
- Thinning pubic hair.
- Nasal hair.
- Erroneous single hairs that sprout up in the most unusual and unexpected of locations. Basically there is a lot of hair related shit that you need to prepare yourself for.
- Saying things that your parents said that used to drive you insane, especially if you have kids. Examples of these phrases are:
- Because I said so
- You don’t know you’re born
- Were you born in a barn?
- You’re done in the bathroom are you? I’ll turn the light off then shall I?
- You’re not going out like that
- Have you got a vest on?
- Do your jobs then you can play
- If you don’t eat that, there’s nothing else
- I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the youth of today (this ranges from no work ethic to too tight jeans)
- That’s too rich for my blood
- Music today all sounds the same
- The very real likelihood that you have already picked out the song you want played at your funeral.
- Drooping eyelids. Putting on eye makeup is like trying to paint a day old rice pudding.
- Thinning lips. And not being able to wear dark lipstick because as soon as you apply it, it starts to infiltrate the cracks around your mouth so that you look like Heath Ledger’s Joker before you even get to dinner.
- Hangovers. After the age of 35, these last approximately 4 days.
- Stones – gall stones, kidney stones. They are real my friend. And thoroughly un-fucking-pleasant.
- Mammograms. Totally necessary but like trying to catch a blancmange in a sandwich maker.
- The increased need to sleep in the afternoon. ‘Nanny naps’ some call them which is another cute name for what is essentially an ‘I’ve had a bit of a busy morning shut eye’.
- The need for ’10 minutes peace and quiet’.
- Overly-enunciating words when people don’t hear you the first time, because you are fed up with repeating yourself and quite frankly, you need 10 minutes peace and quiet and a bit of a nanny nap.
- Other people who are active and not aging as rapidly as you giving you advice.
- People who are younger than you moaning about how old they are.
- Wanting to wear a cool T-shirt with a slogan on it, trying it on and then realizing that you look like a crazed woman who has no bathroom but a lot of cats.
- Having your ‘check liver’ light come on after two white wines.
- Sitting and mourning your lost youth every time an 80s song comes on the radio, resulting in lines of traffic aggressively honking at you at major intersections.
- Sympathising with Disney villains more than the princesses. Maleficent, Mother Gothel, Cinderella’s step mother – I feel them. If I wasn’t invited to a party that everyone had been invited to, I’d be a bit miffed and, you know, a little homicidal. Or if I had the chance to stay young and hot forever, or had someone do all of my shit for me, I’d take it.
So yes, growing older is interesting, and the older I get the more life seems to be slaloming. The years speed by and you realise that you need to stop saying ‘we really ought to’, and actually just do it. The thing that makes all of this OK, though, is the knowledge that I get to grow old with these two crazy kids…
…and that is just wonderful. Don’t worry though. Even that won’t stop me moaning. That’s what you do at my age.