L asked me a (presumably rhetorical) question last week. She asked me, ‘Where has the time gone?’. If anyone should be able to answer that, I should, given that we’ve known each other since we were 11 and now I’m staring down the barrel of 39 (L would require me to note at this point that she is six months younger than me and not 39 until 2014).
But it did start me wondering. Sometimes I’m shocked by the face that looks back at me from the mirror. Where did those dark circles come from (5 years without an uninterrupted nights’ sleep probably, thanks Daughter)? And the lines! My new office has the cruellest light. I sit side on to a big window and have the reality check of my wrinkles in natural daylight every time I look in the mirror to refresh my lipstick. You know when you’re looking rough when your 5 year old suggests putting some makeup on. I was driving Daughter to her 9am ballet class and hadn’t had time to put the slap on. The conversation went like this:
Daughter: Mummy, why haven’t you got any makeup on?
Me: I’ve decided to stop wearing it. Why, I’m still beautiful aren’t I?
Daughter: Yeees, but you look a bit…pale. I wouldn’t stop wearing it if I were you.
Sometimes, when I’m driving, I look at my hands on the wheel and wonder who they belong to. I have hand cream in the car now, ready to top up at a slow changing set of traffic lights. They’re not my hands, surely. That feint hint of an age spot can’t belong to me.
I’ve noticed getting up (or down, for that matter) from a chair is often accompanied by an ‘oof’. The knees aren’t what they were, that’s for sure. They used to do their business silently, now they make their presence heard with a crack.
I’ve noticed that I visit Marks and Spencers more often, and even more scarily covet things that I see in there, particularly shoes. I don’t think I’d ever made an non-underwear clothing purchase in M&S until six months ago. There’s a BHS nearby and L has told me in no uncertain terms to stay out. But sometimes I do feel a pull…
I haven’t noticed policemen getting younger, but I have noticed celebrities getting younger. My memory must be going too, because I could have sworn some of them used to be older than me and are now younger. There’s a particular film star that used to be the same age as my older sister, and you’d have definitely said she looked good for her age. I read an interview with her recently and she’s now younger than me, and not looking quite as good for that age. I was very pleased on my recent night out to have my age guessed at 30 though (not as pleased as Sister though, who had already declared truthfully that she’s four years older than me), but I haven’t got the guts to knock off nearly nine years when asked my age. I think I’d cry if someone said ‘blimey, you’ve had a hard life!’
It’s not just the hands, face and cracking knees though. It’s the expectation that I’m to behave like a Grown Up. Sometimes I want to ask people why they’re demanding these things from me. What kind of irresponsible world lets a 19 year old make decisions about people, money, systems and strategies. What’s that you say, it’s twenty years since I was 19?! You must be mistaken, because I still feel like a 19 year old. I still take buttons home to Mother to have them sewn back on. And see I called it home, when I’ve had my own home for many years. Father still gives me lifts to places. If I ever have to go to B&Q I drag my feet and scowl. I use three out of twelve cycles on the washing machine and couldn’t answer Father-in-Law’s question about the best wash for his jumper. Mother gave me a new cardigan she had knitted for Daughter without washing it, saying I’d probably have a delicate wash on before she did. Yeah right. What’s a delicate wash? It’s light, dark, 30 or 40 or towels. But if Mother is reading this, I hand washed said cardi.
It’s weird at my relatively new job, because I arrived at it a professional woman in my thirties, with wife and mother on my cv, and they treat me as such. Where I used to work (remember, where I voluntarily left and wasn’t ousted in a new face fitting regime), some people had known me since I was 23 and regaled them with tales of nights out, and some of them still treated me like that.
So maybe it is time to put a post-it note on the mirror that says ‘You are in your late thirties’ and embrace Marks & Spencer, delicate washes and start sewing my own buttons on. I was embracing my inner child yesterday and put on a pair of Father’s 1980’s glasses that were lying around for some reason and turned around to Daughter and Niece, saying ‘What do you think of my new glasses girls?’ and they both looked at me with distain. Sister was cracking up though. So maybe not. There’s plenty of time to be mature. Although when I was looking in to local WI meetings for Mother to attend, I did fancy putting my name down myself. Maybe the child in me just wants to get her buns out!