This is forty

To my younger self, forty always conjured up images of no-nonsense mother-types, ensconced in track suits and devoid of style or glamour.  The forty year-olds I knew had sensible, greying hair, and were really into cleaning, gardening and watching the tele.

When my mum turned forty, I was thirteen years old, hormonal and often insufferable, I imagine.  In my eyes my mum was generous, dependable, a bit daggy, and perpetually exhausted. Who could blame her, with three teenage kids to deal with?   For a while there she sported an eighties perm, and when my friends remarked on how young or pretty she was, I scoffed and mumbled.  In my worldly teenage eyes, mums didn’t qualify as pretty.

Mums went to work, ferried us around to our various activities, and mine took herself off to lie prone on the bed for twenty minutes, each and every afternoon, around four thirty. Mum invented the power-nap, before it actually became the Power-Nap.

And now, all of a sudden, I find I’m forty.  How on earth did that happen, I wonder?  I’ve been booted out of the mid-to-late-thirties club.  Politely but firmly shown the door.

Part of me wants to cling to the furniture and make a scene, as they drag me out.  I can’t be forty!  I don’t have particularly sensible hair!  I’ve yet to submit to the neat bob, or the lob (that’s the long bob), even if it would shave hours off my weekly grooming regimen.  In fact, I’ve recently had my locks dyed red.  I imagine the name on the tube was Deep Denial Red.

I am finding more grey hairs these days, but it’s not the fine silver ones subtly appearing in my regrowth that bother me.  The ones that strike fear into my soul are the alien, wiry white hairs that suddenly announce themselves by standing to attention on my part line.  These albino follicles appear from time to time, seemingly overnight, and I dutifully yank them out in a ridiculous show of defiance.  Take that you horrid impostor.  We don’t want your type around here.  And tell your friends!

I garden from time to time, albeit begrudgingly.  And I now know that late afternoon fatigue that forced mum to have to lie down.  The kind that rolls in like a fog, until sometimes you’re so shattered, you think you may just vomit.

Okay, so there are times when I do feel forty.  A frazzled mother with permanent frown lines, lecturing the kids over toys not put away, knees up at the table, and starving children in Africa.  Last night, I believe I used all three in the space of our dinnertime conversation. It seems that my mouth just clicks into autopilot, and starts trotting out the same old gems we were all lectured about as a child.  I’m not your servant you know.  I wasn’t put on this earth just to cook and clean up after you.  I see the kids’ eyes glaze over, and realise with horror how sensible and old I sound.

The frown lines I blame on my frequent utilisation of my ‘Are you kidding me? Do you I look like I was born yesterday? and Are you sure you want to go there?’ stares.  I enlist these expressions when I’ve run out of calm reasoning, or simply haven’t the energy to sum up another reprimand (which means that they’re pretty big in my repertoire these days).  I’ve also noticed that I subconsciously frown when vacuuming, typing, or washing the dishes. It makes for a rather unflattering reflection in the steamy kitchen window.

I know some swear by Botox, but I think I’d rather stave off those furrows in my brow by investing the money in a housekeeper.  That way I could take a rest from the vacuuming, but would still have the ability to pull out the ‘Do it again, and you’re dead meat‘ stare, when the need arose.  Yes.  I think I’d like one of those housekeepers who irons the shirts, mops the floors and thoughtfully leaves a frittata cooling on the kitchen bench…


{slaps self around the face}

What?  Where was I?..

The part of turning forty that I wouldn’t trade, even for a supernanny-gardener-housekeeper-cook dynamo, is watching my kids growing up to become real little people. Little people shaped by me, and for now, still a part of me.

As mind-bendingly monotonous and draining as some days can be, they are invariably interspersed by moments that stop me in my tracks, and turn my heart to jelly.   Simple things, like my daughter’s lean, strong little arms surprising me from behind, as she catches me at the school gate for one last hug.  I suck in that moment, while she buries her head and takes a big breath, before galloping off across the mod grass, back to the classroom.   Being floored by the frequent, spontaneous, unconstrained declarations of love from my four year old son: I think you’re the loveliest mummy in the whole world, and I’ll never stop loving you.  Not even when I’m a big daddy.  Gulp.

Somewhere between those heart-melting moments, and the dinner table lecturing, I decided I needed to have a party.  It didn’t feel right to let my birthday come and go last month, without an indulgent, glamorous, defiant night.

And so that’s how I came to find myself, ordering another daquiri at 1am, taking to the dance floor solo, and being at one with my tiki dress and maracas.  Trying to save my friend from a slow, hilarious, inevitable tumble as we hobbled over cobblestones to Supper Inn.  I was never going to be much help there.  Befriending fellow diners and ordering suckling pig with my husband at 3am.  On that night (in our minds at least) we were pretty cool for forty-somethings.  We even slept through breakfast the next morning, and right on until lunch.

A few weeks later, I’m counting up the ways I’ve celebrated turning forty.  There was the party.  There was the dinner.  There were lunches.  And this weekend, as the closing ceremony to my birthday festival, I was charioted away by my two best friends, for a surprise spot of theatre and a long, decadent dinner.   Very fitting, I felt, for someone of my age.

And now, blog entry included, I think I’ve milked turning forty just about as much as I can.  I best get busy.

That frittata isn’t just going to make itself, you know.

This is forty This is also forty