Thursday, 10 January 2013

Who’s that girl?

Next week I will turn 40.  I like to think that it won’t bother me; that I am comfortable enough in my own skin to let my thirties go without a period of adjustment or mourning but I fear that this will not be the case.  Ageing is an insidious thing.  It creeps up on you; weaving its dark magic on your body and face without you really noticing until one day, BAM, you are stood in front of a three way mirror in a harshly-lit Next changing room and your world comes crashing down.  I don’t go clothes shopping very often and on an ill-fated shopping trip to Manchester just before Christmas I remembered why. Badly angled mirrors, nasty lighting, the terror of asking beautiful, pert 17 year-old shop assistants for a top in a size 14 – these were the horrors that lurked inside the changing rooms of the Arndale Centre.

My nemesis - "Deidre Barlow" neck
I always used to get round the three-way mirror back-fat trauma with a combination of squinting and denial.  I would do the pout-mouth that all women do when they try on clothes in front of a mirror and console myself with the fact that I had applied my eyeliner quite nicely that morning.  Unfortunately I cannot escape the fact that first thing in the morning I look like my Dad in a wig.  It’s not that my Dad is unattractive; it’s just that I don’t particularly want to share the facial characteristics of a 66 year old man.  If I was a character in a Jane Austen novel I would be described as having “lost her bloom.” The changes are subtle but they are definitely there – this is ageing.

One of the more depressing events of the past twelve months was being ID’d in my local supermarket when buying a bottle of wine.  Why was this depressing I hear you ask?  Well, after a brief moment of joy, that to the outside world I was still a dewy-skinned 18 year-old, my hopes were completely dashed by the young checkout man giving a little guffaw at his audacity of ID-ing someone who was clearly well past it.  He was flirting with me in the way that young men flirt with old ladies.

Earlier this week I watched a Channel 4 programme about women having mid life crises and there was a lady who had gone down the Botox / surgery route to tackle her ageing demons. Although this woman certainly caught the eye, it was for all the wrong reasons (tattooed eyebrows – what’s that all about?) It only reaffirmed my long held belief that Botox does not make you look younger, it just makes you look like you have had “work done”. Attractive, 42-year old presenter Sharon Horgan revealed that she had tried Botox last year around her mouth after catching herself “looking a bit gummy” when she smiled. “My husband went mad with me” she admitted.  I am with the husband on this one.

Aside from vanity, I have another slightly less shallow reason for the feelings of apprehension surrounding my forthcoming birthday.  I remember my Mum’s forties as being the decade where her multiple sclerosis really took hold.  She had relapse after relapse and was hospitalised several times.  By the time she had reached fifty her walking had been severely affected and she used a wheelchair if she had to walk more than a few steps.  I try not compare myself to my Mum as there is no reason why my MS should follow the same path as hers but in my darker moments it is difficult not to worry that a similar fate (or worse) awaits me.  MS is a mercurial disease and although I feel better now than I have done for two years, I have learned the hard way to never take my good health for granted. I may get distracted by the trivialities of saggy boobs and old lady hands but underneath I know maintaining my general good health is paramount.

So my only course of action after a festive period characterised by sneaky breakfast After Eight Mints and midnight cheese and crackers is to try and be a bit healthier again. It’s time to get out on my bike, start chopping vegetables and have a root around in the freezer for that bag of Quorn I bought back in October. The back fat, eye bags and Deidre Barlow neck can all go to hell.  I am determined to embrace middle age and I have a Good Housekeeping Magazine subscription to prove it.  I am going to celebrate the fact that at forty I am happy and healthy and for the time being am winning my own personal war with this shitty disease.

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