I’m even fond of my baggy el­bows! mimi spencer on why her midlife body is so lib­er­at­ing

Mimi Spencer on why her midlife body is so lib­er­at­ing

Woman & Home - - Editor’s Letter -

“That,” says my teenage daugh­ter, pulling gen­tly at the baggy skin of my el­bow, “is your we­nis!”

“my what?”

“your we­nis, mum. it’s not an anatom­i­cal term ex­actly. more a slang word for that bit you’ve got right there.”

i google it. she’s right. Good lord! With­out a jot of no­tice, i have gone baggy at the we­nis. i was ab­so­lutely ex­pect­ing muf­fin and bingo, those twin blights of life that de­scend on the waist and up­per arms in mid­dle age (though these days part of me thinks they sound more like a nice day out). but it turns out that there’s more, so much more: as your fifti­eth year ap­proaches, count­less changes – sub­tle, un­de­ni­able – creep up on you, like ivy grow­ing over a win­dow.

not that i’m com­plain­ing. there is much to be grate­ful for in life’s mid-zone: a sense of the “set­tled self”, a con­fi­dence borne of the years, a re­al­i­sa­tion that there’s no need what­so­ever to wear a mini skirt ever again. but, still, there are struc­tural changes that re­quire at­ten­tion, a bit like a house that gets to a cer­tain point and then re­ally needs a lick of paint and the draughty win­dows see­ing to. it’s all a ques­tion of main­te­nance.

most of the midlife shift is, of course, a brute func­tion of grav­ity. once you’ve been knock­ing around for five decades or so, the sheer weight of the world causes ev­ery­thing to head in­ex­orably

“I feel so much more con­fi­dent now”

south. a de­cent bra – not a flimsy fairy af­fair, but a proper one with uplift and (crit­i­cal, this) comfy straps is a mat­ter of ne­ces­sity not choice. Per­son­ally, i have no­ticed the midlife Drop mostly around the jowls. mine are sud­denly ob­vi­ous in a cer­tain light; soft and pil­lowy, al­most downy, like a puppy’s tummy. i re­mem­ber my grand­mother’s jowls, which wag­gled about in a very friendly, beatrix Pot­ter kind of way when she was of­fer­ing me hot cross buns. now that i have jowls of my own, i’m not quite so keen.

While there are tons of mid­dle-aged body changes that we tend to dis­cuss at length – the thick­en­ing of the tum, the grey­ing of the hair, the novel af­fec­tion for a cap-sleeved top – there are some that sub­sist un­der the radar, to be dwelt upon in the pri­vacy of one’s own bath­room, glued to the mag­ni­fy­ing mir­ror, armed with a pair of tweez­ers and a grim sense of pur­pose.

i, for in­stance, am cap­ti­vated by my eye­lids. How crêpey! How fas­ci­nat­ing! How am i sup­posed to wear eyeshadow ever again? these days, i tend to do my make-up quickly in a dimly lit room (it helps that, like most fifty-some­things, i’m now slightly my­opic). as that same grandma rightly told me at the age of 15, “What you can’t see can’t hurt you, dar­ling” – so true!

the other word that emerges as the years roll by is “ooof”. it’s a noise you start to make when you get out of a seat, or into a car, or out of bed. it ar­rives unan­nounced and set­tles in the air like a burp. at the age of 50, the me­chan­ics of your body start to in­sin­u­ate them­selves on pro­ceed­ings. Fingertips are colder, teeth wonkier, hands newly in­ter­est­ing, like a map of the ok­la­homa dust bowl.

in all of this, though, like many women, i feel a great deal of af­fec­tion for my midlife body. it’s mine, and i’ve known it for a long while now – in the same way as you’d pre­fer to sit on a favourite sofa, not on a new one in a swanky show­room.

there’s some­thing lib­er­at­ing about no longer be­ing be­dev­illed by the loom­ing prospect of a bikini, some­thing mag­nif­i­cent about not giv­ing two hoots whether your bum looks big in a pair of jeans. at a cer­tain age, none of that seems to mat­ter much any more. and, yes, i’m even start­ing to love those baggy el­bows of mine.

The Midlife Kitchen, by mimi spencer and sam rice, is out now (mitchell bea­z­ley)

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