‘I’m even fond of my baggy elbows’ Author Mimi Spencer on why her midlife body is so liberating
Author Mimi Spencer on why her midlife body is so liberating
“That,” says my teenage daughter, pulling gently at the baggy skin of my elbow, “is your wenis!” “My what?”
“Your wenis, Mom. 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! Without notice, I’ve 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 (but, these days, part of me thinks they sound more like a nice day out). But it turns out 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’s a lot to be grateful for in life’s midzone: a sense of the ‘settled self’, a confidence borne of the years, a realisation that there’s no need whatsoever to wear a miniskirt 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 seen 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, the sheer weight of the world causes everything to head inexorably 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’ve 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 we discuss at length – the thickening of the tum, the greying 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 do my makeup quickly in a dimly lit room (it helps that my near vision is slightly more blurry now that I’m 50). As that same grandma 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’; a noise you start to make getting out of a seat or bed. It arrives unannounced and settles in the air like a burp. At 50, the mechanics of your body begin to insinuate themselves on proceedings. Fingertips are colder, teeth wonkier, hands newly interesting, like a map of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.
But, in all of this, like many women, I feel great 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 couch, not on a new one in a swanky showroom.
There’s something magnificent about not giving two hoots if your bum looks big in jeans; something truly liberating about no longer being bedevilled by the looming prospect of a bikini. 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. Mimi and Sam Rice’s book The Midlife
Kitchen (Octopus), is out now.
‘I feel so much more confident now’