How Hard Can It Be?

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Gh Spotlight -

Funny thing is I never wor­ried about get­ting older. Youth had not been so kind to me that I minded the loss of it. I thought women who lied about their age were shal­low and de­luded, but I was not with­out van­ity. I could see the der­ma­tol­o­gists were right when they said that a cheap aque­ous cream was just as good as those youth elixirs in their fancy pack­ag­ing, but I bought the ex­pen­sive mois­turiser any­way. Call it in­sur­ance. I was a com­pe­tent woman of sub­stance and I sim­ply wanted to look good for my age, that’s all – what that age was didn’t re­ally mat­ter. At least that’s what I told my­self. And then I got older.

Look, I’ve stud­ied the fi­nan­cial mar­kets half my life. That’s my job. I know the deal: my sex­ual cur­rency was go­ing down and fac­ing to­tal collapse un­less I did some­thing to shore it up. The once-proud and not unattrac­tive Kate Reddy Inc was fighting a hos­tile takeover of her mojo. To make mat­ters worse, this fact was rubbed in my face ev­ery day by the emerg­ing mar­ket in the messi­est room in the house. My teenage daugh­ter’s wom­anly stock was ris­ing while mine was de­clin­ing. This was ex­actly as Mother Na­ture in­tended, and I took pride in my gor­geous girl, I re­ally did. But some­times that loss could be painful – ex­cru­ci­at­ingly so. Like the morn­ing I locked eyes on the Cir­cle Line with some guy with lux­u­ri­ant, tou­sled Roger Fed­erer hair (is there any bet­ter kind?) and I swear there was a flicker of some­thing be­tween us, a siz­zle of static, a fris­son of flir­ta­tion right be­fore he of­fered me his seat. Not his num­ber, his seat.

‘Totes hu­mil’, as Emily would say. The fact he didn’t even con­sider me wor­thy of in­ter­est stung like a slapped cheek. Un­for­tu­nately, the im­pas­sioned young woman who lives on in­side me, who ac­tu­ally thought Roger was flirt­ing with her, still doesn’t get it. She sees her for­mer self in the mir­ror of her mind’s eye as she looks out at the world and as­sumes that’s what the world sees when it looks back. She is quite in­sanely and ir­ra­tionally hope­ful that she might be at­trac­tive to Roger (likely age: 31) be­cause she doesn’t re­alise that she/we now have a thick­en­ing waist, thin­ning vagi­nal walls (who knew?) and are start­ing to think about spring bulbs and com­fort­able footwear with con­sid­er­ably more en­thu­si­asm than, say, the lat­est scratchy thongs from Agent Provo­ca­teur. Roger’s erotic radar could prob­a­bly de­tect the pres­ence of those prac­ti­cal, flesh-coloured pants of mine.

Look, I was do­ing okay. Re­ally, I was. I got through the oil-spill-on-the-road that is turn­ing 40. Lost a lit­tle con­trol, but I drove into the skid just like the driv­ing in­struc­tors tell you to and af­ter­wards things were fine again; no, they were bet­ter than fine. The holy trin­ity of midlife – good hus­band, nice home, great kids – was mine.

Then, in no par­tic­u­lar or­der, my hus­band lost his job and tuned into his in­ner Dalai Lama. He would not be earn­ing any­thing for two years, as he re­trained as a coun­sel­lor (oh, joy!). The kids en­tered the twister of ado­les­cence at ex­actly the same time as their grand­par­ents were tak­ing what might char­i­ta­bly be called a sec­ond pass at their own child­hood. My mother-in-law bought a chain­saw with a stolen credit card (not as funny as it sounds). Af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a heart at­tack, my own mum lost her foot­ing and broke her hip. I wor­ried I was los­ing my mind; but it was prob­a­bly just hid­ing in the same place as the car keys and the read­ing glasses and the ear­ring. And those con­cert tick­ets.

In March it’s my fifti­eth. No, I will not be cel­e­brat­ing with a party and yes, I prob­a­bly am scared to ad­mit I am scared, or ap­pre­hen­sive (I’m not quite sure what I am, but I def­i­nitely don’t like it). To be per­fectly hon­est, I’d rather not think about my age at all, but sig­nif­i­cant birthdays – the kind they help­fully put in huge, embossed num­bers on the front of cards to sign­post The Road to Death – have a way of forc­ing the is­sue… How Hard Can It Be? by Al­li­son Pear­son (Harpercollins) is on sale from 21 Septem­ber

I wor­ried I was los­ing my mind; but it was prob­a­bly just hid­ing in the same place as the car keys and the read­ing glasses and the ear­ring

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