Our columnist offers up a mid-life manifesto
THIS WEEK, for the first time in my life, I forgot my hairdresser’s appointment. In the summer, to my absolute shame and embarrassment, I stood up my friend Rachel, who was waiting to have lunch with me in a Norwich restaurant. My shifts at work had changed, and it completely slipped my mind until I got a text saying: ‘Are you still OK for lunch?’ 15 minutes after I was meant to have arrived.
The thing that shocked and upset me about these incidents was that they were both in my diary. It now seems that a diary in itself is not enough – I have to set myself reminders for events in my diary. This is not me; I have always been the one with an almost photographic memory. But those photos are curling and fading to sepia.
I recently interviewed the writer Allison Pearson, who has caught up with her ‘I don’t know how she does it’ heroine Kate Reddy in a new book. Kate is now my kind of age. Virtually every page made me laugh out loud – there was a lot in it that seemed to echo my life; juggling teenagers (or nearly teens), elderly parents and a job, at a time of life when your own hormones are playing havoc.
She refers to her state-of-theart retrieval system turning into a dusty, provincial library staffed by a man in slippers called Roy. Roy shuffles off trying to find the name of that mum you talked to at the school gate, or the title of the book you read on holiday. At the moment my ‘Roy’ is trying to remember the great idea I had for this column just a few nights ago. Good luck with that, Roy: I didn’t write it down. I didn’t set an alert. It has gone.
‘Women in the second half of their 40s’ is not a group that normally gets much attention, but I feel – completely objectively of course – that this is wrong. We are the real superwomen, holding it all together in mid-life while our bodies start to let us down and both ends of the age spectrum constantly tug at our heart-strings. The trouble is most of us don’t feel like superwomen – we mainly feel exhausted and overwhelmed by lists.
On my to-do list for the coming week – in no particular order: switch electricity supplier, check if my parents’ electricity supplier needs switching, buy a present for a 50th birthday, buy a present for a fifth birthday, write 20 thank-you notes for presents received at my own child’s fifth birthday party, sort out my father’s iPad problems (remotely, as he lives four hours’ drive away), book booster injections for my children, write this column (deadline already passed), source a new septic tank lid, get car serviced, shampoo the dog, get new trainers for my son and put together a Powerpoint presentation on leadership(!) for a school talk, having never used Powerpoint before.
Obviously I don’t put on the list my job, the food shopping, the school runs and the laundry. At the moment I can do those without reminders, but there may come a time...
The good news is that we 47-year-olds are apparently the focus of great attention from politicians. Research on the last election shows that it is the 47-year-olds that are the ‘switchers’ who could make the difference as to which party gains power. This, of course, should give us power.
We need a manifesto aimed at mid-lifers. My first suggestion would be that a promise to create an extra day in the week just for us: we would have it all to ourselves and could use it to get everything done. And then maybe a special helpline we can call in times of panic: “Please give me a crash course in Powerpoint over the phone in five minutes, before I have to go and pick up my daughter from drama!”
I asked Allison Pearson whether humour was the answer to keeping going during this frenetically busy part of our lives. She said humour was important, but she also wants to make sure women of our age don’t get overlooked and get the appreciation we deserve. We need to shout about just how amazing we are.
So, here I am – with my lists – shouting!
“She refers to her stateof-the-art retrieval system turning into a dusty, provincial library staffed by a man in slippers called Roy”