It has suddenly struck me that, in roughly 4 months time, I’ll be half way through my fifth decade and at the wrong end of the age bracket whenever I have to fill in online surveys. It took several attempts of counting on my fingers to work out that, even though I’m 44, it’s not my fourth decade (Maths has always been a challenge for me since my days at Jericho Primary School, when I had to stay in at playtime because I just couldn’t get that bloody frog to land on the right lily pad on the number line).
When I was younger, I never looked my age. I’d been a normal sized baby at birth. I would probably have been labelled obese by the time I was 8 months old, given my mother’s liking for putting rusks in my bottle! But while I may have grown outwards, I never grew upwards and had evidently inherited my mother’s height gene.
I found my constant Oompa Loompa impression to be a mild inconvenience at times. Rarely did I wear the correct size in clothes and I was still having to buy Clarks’ shoes when I was in secondary school, so there was no chance of me being able to swap footwear with friends when the mood took us, despite out verucca scaremongering. Furthermore, I was an August baby so my best friends had passed their driving tests before I’d even met the required age to start learning. I subsequently decided there wasn’t much point in applying for my provisional licence, as I had a rank of taxis willing to chauffeur me around various West Cumbrian locations.
The ultimate challenge for me was when we started “going out”. No amount of make up or heels was going to transform me into a legal age drinker! So the plan of attack was as follows: in pubs such as The Strand or John Paul Jones, I would sneak into a corner and wait as my tall, aged friends bought me a half pint of Snakebite and Black. In venues such Sennys or the Whitehouse who employed bouncers, the bar was raised. My friends would surround me and we would attempt to enter en masse, like a pack of animals…… Sometimes it worked, whereby I would then put myself in a corner and repeat the above. Sometimes it didn’t work. The bouncer would spot the ten year old me and immediately tar my 18 year old friends with the same underage brush and we would turn on our heels, mortified, deciding on the Taylor’s Tavern instead because it was so dark in there that the bar staff could only just and so make out body shapes, so I’d be safe with my baby face! Therefore you can imagine my excitement, when, on my 18th birthday, my ID card arrived. I would show ‘em!!
The comments of never looking my age lulled me into a false sense of security. At the age of 29, I was still being told I didn’t look old enough to teach, marry, mother. By the age of 35, 3 kids later, I finally had a chance to look in the mirror and boy, I didn’t recognise myself! All that frowning at Joel had engraved furrows into my forehead. All the supposed laughing from the joys of being a parent had etched lines around my eyes. And what I thought were chubby cheeks from eating the kids’ leftovers turned out to be saggy jowls and no amount of dieting or facial exercises was going to get rid of the buggers!
So I now look my age, probably older. Only Botox, fillers and polo necks are going to help me now. Every now and then, I get an overwhelming desire to stop the ageing process; I’ll eat healthily, exercise more, drink green tea (apparently it stimulates collagen growth), apply hair dye and buy shit loads of creams which promise the immediate and effective reversal of the signs of ageing. But then something good comes on the telly, I spy the last packet of beef crisps at the back of the cupboard and I persuade Sam to take the dog round the block (he might as well because he’s still not bloody revising!) so the impetus to lose years from my face dissolves as quickly as a Tetleys teabag in my milky mug with three sugars! But there is hope. For every middle aged woman out there, we no longer need to depress ourselves when looking in the mirror and being completely overwhelmed by the person looking back. There is the miracle cure out there which will make our former friends marvel at how the ravages of time have not yet launched themselves at your face and attached themselves with utter determination. Because, when worse comes to worst, just use a Snapchat filter, upload the photo to Facebook and everything in the world will be right again!
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