I am 57! I have greying hair, which I stopped dying about eight years ago. I am slightly overweight, though I comfort myself with the notion that having a few extra pounds lessens the desiccated look. I have lines around my eyes and creeping up my neck. Cellulite dimples my thighs. But I am 57!
And at this ripe, delicious age, an age I have earned, I truly resent being told I should look a certain way. An unblemished face, a perfect body. A body that does not show the life it has led. I have earned every single wrinkle. I have earned every single dimple. I have earned every single grey hair. I am 57!
Yes, I am sure I could have kept a few of those orange peel blips off my thighs. Yes, I could probably have kept a few lines around my eyes at bay if I hadn’t laughed, or cried, over the years. Yes, I could always resort to the bottle to dye my hair. Or botox. Or the knife.
But why should I?
I am not a dyed-in-the-wool bra-burning feminist, insistent on the premiss of love me as I am, or not at all. I readily remove the hair deemed to be unattractive on a woman. I am not against trying to keep the signs of age on the back burner, within reason. I moisturize, I hydrate, I exercise, but I also enjoy a glass of wine and a plate of fish and chips.
What I truly resent is being made to feel inadequate by advertisements, by society and most shamefully, by other women, who seemingly refuse to accept that age is a privilege. I am tired of being told to try this regimen, this protocol, this method, this diet, in order at the age of 57 to look 37. I am inordinately lucky to be this age.
I don’t want to be 37 again. Been there. Done that. Fun at the time but moving on. I like having my children grown up, leading their own lives, generously allowing me to be part of their lives, though not something I ever presume. Giving birth to them does not mean they owe me. I adore my grandchildren, and treasure every moment spent with them, but neither they nor their parents are obliged to give me that time.
As my very beautiful daughter ages, in years but not in looks, I am, every time I see her reminded I am reaching, probably, my last quarter century. If I get another 25 years of this incredible, glorious life – well damn, I will have done well. But I absolutely refuse to live those precious 25 years trying to look like my daughter’s friend rather than her mother.
And let’s face it, some of those lines are due to her. And her brother. My children were not difficult – over and above the usual teenage years – but no matter how relatively easy their puberty was, I defy any parent not to have garnered a few grey hairs, a few lines in those tempestuous years. And frankly if you didn’t, then I have to wonder if you were present.
Age is truly a privilege. As is parenting.
Each time I read about the dangers of eating a certain thing, drinking a certain thing, doing a certain thing, I am reminded that many of our forefathers lived long and productive lives doing everything we are now told is bad for us. My mother was a prime example. And now we are told our bacon butties, our pastrami muffulettas, our full English breakfasts are going to do us in via that insidious word, cancer.
Well, you know what? Fuck cancer! If I have another 25 years in this incredible, glorious world, despite politics, religious fanaticism whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or whatever you want to believe in, then I am going to live it as I want to live it. If I have only another 10 of those years, well fuck cancer, or whatever else it is that is going to kill me. I am going to live it my way.
What I will not do is live the years ahead of me worrying about what may kill me. I refuse to worry about looking my age. I am 57. Those 57 years have been, on the whole, wonderful, exhilarating, years. There have of course been blips. How tedious life would be without a hiccup every now and then. Those bumps along the road remind us not to be complacent. A perfect life is a life not lived.
I will live those remaining years the way I have lived the previous 57 years. With verve, with fun, with laughter, with attitude.
So stuff your advertisements for a wrinkle-free face, a blemish-free body. My face and body may not be perfect but, so far, my mind is filled with experiences, knowledge garnered from the cliff face and not some academic cloister, with memories, with life!
And so as the clocks fall back in 2015, I raise my glass and borrow from the Yiddish language and say “l’chaim”, to life, or in the immortal words of George Gershwin and sung by Maurice Chevalier, “life is a bowl of cherries, don’t take it serious.”