Before you go . . .
Lucy Etherington and the age of irony
Ilove Autumn. I mainly love it because the wardrobe issues of summer become simpler. Cashmere jumper, knee-length boots, skinny jeans and Primark pea coat. That’s still ‘what’s hot’, isn’t it? It’s been OK for years, please don’t tell me it’s ‘what’s not’. And if it is, please shoot the people who make those damn lists.
Since moving to Suffolk, no offence, but it’s nice to not feel the pressure to be fashionable or relevant. Every decade is still relevant, especially, I have noticed, the 1980s (tracksuits) mixed with the 1960s (eyebrows, quiffs or beehives). I only just found out that my beloved Uggs had been deeply unfashionable for over a decade because I read somewhere – browsing the Sunday Style mag at Mum’s – they were back in again. Maybe they’re out again, now. It’s so hard to keep up.
I’ve never been very adventurous when it comes to fashion, but now I’m nearly 50 I’ve become more . . . what’s the word? Vivid. My usual black and grey, universally decreed ageing, are no longer an option. And beige only works with a ton of blusher. Lately I’ve bought things in rude pink and screaming red silk. I read in India Knight’s turning-50-bible, In Your Prime, that I can even wear leopard print, although I don’t think I’m ready. The first stage of ageing (39-45) was largely my vanity doing an Edvard Munch Scream, until I realised it’s dangerous to pull any kind of face for too long. All that pouting, smoking and tanning in the eighties means I now have to keep smiling, like a member of an evangelical cult, to counteract the lip fissures. There followed desperate plumping, filling, jogging, yoga and chia (denial), wine glugging (anger, but while smiling, to minimise wrinkles, which may have looked unhinged), weeping (once cute, now deranged), and plenty of absentminded floating from Top Shop to The White Company to M&S, wondering where I belong. I read Jung, de Beauvoir and Sontag, who declared growing old “mainly an ordeal of the imagination”. I did art classes, relearned the piano, wrote a book, started a business and moved to Suffolk. It was quite productive.
I like to think, aged 49¾, I’m finally at acceptance. As India points out, I’m in my prime. Not my sexy prime, which was definitely 35 and coincided with a nervous breakdown/spiritual awakening, and a compensating side effect of weight loss and foxiness. This is more a poignant brink-of-the-abyss prime, when you are smart enough to know what’s coming. Instead of freaking out, or getting depressed, you decide it might be wise to enjoy and embrace this moment, because, let’s face it, the centre cannot hold. Things will fall apart.
I know I’m lucky. My friends and parents are well, my kids are growing beautifully and still like me, I can write coherent sentences, I can wear ridiculous stacked heels to weddings, even if it does require an emergency visit to the osteopath come Monday. I am loving the enriching pleasure of deepening relationships, creativity, political energy and a liberated sense of being.
From a psychotherapeutic viewpoint, there is no chronology in ageing. We are parallel universes of every age we have ever been, and will be. I am simultaneously a rebel teen, a precocious six-year-old, a mother, a wife, a writer, a handful of dust, a baby, “a myriad of selves”, wrote Penelope Lively in Moon Tiger, “who spin and mix and part like sparks of sunlight on water”. Those closest to me are all the ages I have known them. My oldest best friend is 13/25/38/49, with flashes of ‘crone’ wisdom clashing with immature idiocy, and annoyingly lush non-grey hair, same as when I met her aged 11. We still love David Bowie, and art exhibitions, and laughing until we weep rivers, and now tributaries of mascara.
I hope I never underestimate the value of friendship and laughter, something my gorgeously ageless mum has taught me, which may sound suspicious coming from a comedy writer. If she was a hairdresser the importance of having highlights would be equally sage. But I happen to think she’s onto something. I can’t reverse time or gravity. But, what the hell, bring on the leopard print. I’m ready to be ironic. email@example.com
‘I like to think I’m finally at acceptance. As India points out, I’m in my prime’
ABOVE:Bring on the leopard print