Monday 8 October 2012

Writing is one One Elle-of-a Thing.

(The August 2011 Elle cover)

This morning I emailed something to Elle. I'd been asked to submit a small piece and, as always, the moment I sent it off, I started obsessing. Would it be good enough? Was I too honest? Is it what they wanted, blah blah blah...Why do we do this? Because once you've obsessed, panicked and written, it really is rather lovely to see your name in print. I wrote the following (unedited) essay on growing older for Elle's August 2011 issue. I thought I'd been too honest at the time, but once you decide to go the confessional route, there really is no going back. Anyway, I'm 43 now and it still hold true. 

On Growing Up, Not Old

The only things I miss about my 20s are my thighs and my ovaries.
My thighs are more flab than fab and fertility, let me tell you, is a bitch in your 40s. But as for the rest. I’m glad I’m here. I’m really glad I’m here.

I remember when my mom turned forty, it was a big deal, she had a Ladies Lunch at home and my dad arrived to propose a loving toast to her.  I was 13. When I turned 40 we threw a raucous party, with 80s music, and I wore a tiara, a too-tight bustier and masses of black, sequin tulle. We ate oysters. And drank too much.  My husband gave me two Nurofen and a litre of water before I went to sleep. I still woke up with a hangover. But grateful I had neither children nor babysitters to consider. In celebrating my 40th birthday, I had become the 20-something I had always wanted to be. I was less insecure, more in love, happy in my career, delighted with our travelling lifestyle and (more) comfortable with my body than I had ever been before. I was rocking. Dancing to Tainted Love and Rock Me Amadeus when you (finally) have big breasts and no longer have teenage acne will do that to you. Momentarily. But the euphoria does wear off. Especially when the Clomid kicks in and you find you’ve progressed from recreational to procreational sex. And when you realize how much it’s costing you to just hang in there. Because while you once proudly proclaimed that you intended growing old disgracefully, you didn’t mean this to be in the physical sense. So in addition to the once-monthly facials, pedicures and obligatory waxing, there is also the hair colour and cut every four weeks. And while I’m not exactly the poster girl for plastic surgery, I do admit to having a bit of work done. Let’s just say that Botox is a beautiful thing. There is also regular acupuncture and therapy but I consider those to be a necessity no matter what your age.

But I don’t feel old. I might be less fit than I once was and I may weigh substantially more than I once did. But I don’t feel like a ‘grown-up’, whatever that may be. I’m just happier than I’ve ever been before. Which doesn’t mean that I’m never sad, or no longer insecure, but it does mean that I now know that I can contain these emotions, even embrace them if I can learn from the experience, and that they too, will, like everything else, soon pass. I sometimes wonder how much of my present state of mind can be attributed to my age, or if it does, in fact, not have more to do with the man I married. A man, not afraid of complexity, a man who embraces all that I am. I do believe he deserves more credit than the inevitable chronological markings of time. But it is the passage of time and the experiences enjoyed and endured that define me.

Now in my 40s I am more comfortable with my own sexuality. It used to frighten me when I was younger and this, coupled with an intense shyness, prohibited me from enjoying the company of boys and men as much as my friends seemed to do. Whereas now, I am free to flirt without intent, I’m also comfortable in my own skin, which allows me to get closer to theirs. I like men, both straight and gay, young and old, I find them fascinating, mysterious, surprisingly vulnerable and extremely funny. I like their company and I like knowing that they like mine. But it is The Sisterhood that I treasure most of all. Throughout the years I have managed to surround myself with a group of strong, inspiring women who thrive on meaningful engagement as much as they like to open a celebratory bottle of Cap Classique or put the kettle on for a sympathetic cup of tea. They can all laugh raucously and rudely, but also weep at injustice. They are all kind.
I learned a long time ago that the two prerequisites of a great lover or friend is firstly are they kind and secondly do they make you laugh. Now that kind of wisdom comes with experience, and experience, always, trumps a tight butt and flawless skin.

1 comment:

  1. Stunning! Stunning! Stunning!

    Being forty IS fabulous, isn't it. Wonderful piece, Sam.