Age? Let’s do it dis­grace­fully

The West Australian - - OPINION - Gemma Tognini

It’s not of­ten I’m prompted to deep thought be­cause of my dog. Usu­ally, he’s too busy lick­ing his nether re­gions or skiv­ing off to pro­vide much in the way of in­spi­ra­tion. This past week, how­ever, it hap­pened. He met a puppy in the street and not just any puppy, but a bor­der col­lie pup. All fat, fluffy and panda-like, adored and adorable.

Buster, an eight-year-old ver­sion of the same model, had what I can only guess was an ex­is­ten­tial­ist cri­sis. I’ve never seen him re­act to an­other dog like that. A mate dryly ob­served that youth can be threat­en­ing and they didn’t blame him for flip­ping out.

Is it OK if we have a bit of fun to­day? Pri­mar­ily at my ex­pense, but per­haps at some of yours, too. This year, I turned 44. It’s young I know, but in the in­ter­ests of to­tal trans­parency, it still feels weird typ­ing it let alone say­ing it. And I still, months down the track, can say it is the first time in my life that I feel a vast chasm be­tween the num­ber on the page and the way I feel.

I won­der, too, if it has any­thing to do with the light­ning speed at which this year in par­tic­u­lar seems to have raced by. There has been many days where I’ve felt as if my hands held lit­tle more than a greasy grip on a rope, play­ing tug-of-war with time.

My cop­ing strate­gies ranged from tak­ing up cal­is­then­ics (hang­ing up­side down from a set of high rings and learn­ing to do a hand­stand like some wannabe gym­nast) to over-en­thu­si­as­tic wardrobe au­dit­ing.

Oh yeah, when the Prime Min­is­ter asked (rather vaguely) last week, what is an au­dit? I thought . . . look no fur­ther Mal­colm, I’m your gal. In brief, it means bring­ing out ev­ery­thing in your wardrobe (or Par­lia­ment, just say­ing) and work­ing out what you’re deal­ing with be­fore get­ting rid of the non-com­pli­ant of­fend­ers.

For­get dual-cit­i­zen­ship, my au­dit re­vealed ma­te­rial of far greater con­cern. Some items can only be de­scribed as op­ti­misti­cally cling­ing to their po­si­tion in my wardrobe. Ex­hibit A. Doesn’t mat­ter that I can still fit into that leather mini dress I found hid­den, as if in shame, among my clothes. I put it on and the thrill of it fit­ting like a glove was very quickly over­taken by the knowl­edge that yes, it’s per­fect; for Hal­loween next year or should I be re­quired to go to a pimps and pros­ti­tutes party any time soon.

Don’t you think it’s true that we women are harder on our­selves and on each other than we need to be? So, here’s where I want to play devil’s ad­vo­cate. Against my­self.

We talk about age just be­ing a num­ber but how many of us be­lieve it. Af­ter all, what re­ally mat­ters is not age­ing pre­ma­turely on the in­side. So yes, how many of us are bold enough to flip the bird at so­cial con­ven­tions that tell us what’s “too old”? I tell you one thing, I’m giv­ing it a red hot go, al­beit in slightly lower stilet­tos than a decade ago.

We do it to our­selves and we do it to each other. The pres­sure to pre­serve, like lemons, even against the in­evitable march of time. Whether it’s whis­per­ing about a friend whose “had a bit of work done” or ques­tion­ing whether a woman over 40 should be wear­ing a play­suit in pub­lic. We give our­selves and each other a hard time and to what end?

Per­haps in part at least, to al­lay our own fears about changes to our life that are be­yond our con­trol.

I mean, who hasn’t had work done? I have and do not care who knows it. There’s noth­ing like that “well-rested look” trust me.

No doubt some of you have al­ready judged me for be­ing that hon­est, but guess what? There’s great free­dom in know­ing whose opin­ions mat­ter and whose don’t. From be­ing com­fort­able in your own, oc­ca­sion­ally cos­met­i­cally en­hanced skin. Any­way, you don’t live in the same house for 40 odd years with­out ren­o­vat­ing so judge away peo­ple, judge away.

I don’t know about you, but I’m much more con­fi­dent in and ad­mir­ing of 44-year-old Gemma than I ever was of her 24 or 34-year-old it­er­a­tions. I wouldn’t trade any of the things I’ve be­come, lived through, cried and tri­umphed over, for a perkier set of boobs. Con­cur­rently, nor would I judge an­other woman for go­ing and or­der­ing her­self some if she felt like an up­grade.

What­ever floats your boat, I say. If that’s how you wanna ride this train, there’ll be no grief from me.

Get­ting older, even an­other day older is a gift. For what­ever rea­son, this is the first year that I’ve truly un­der­stood that. Most of us can think of some­one we knew and loved who didn’t get the priv­i­lege of ago­nis­ing over their wrin­kles or wor­ry­ing about how they look in a bikini. Or fret­ting over thin­ning hair, dad-bod and man-boobs.

Bot­tom line, go bald or wear a rug; botox or wrin­kles — does it mat­ter? What mat­ters is we get the chance to choose.

My point is, I’m all for age­ing grace­fully but as I progress down this road, I feel like I’m more in­clined to age a lit­tle more dis­grace­fully and with a lot less judg­ment. Of my­self or any­one else.

Illustration: Don Lind­say

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