Be­fore you go . . .

Lucy Ether­ing­ton and the age of irony

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - Lucy Ether­ing­ton, writer, mother, Suf­folk dweller, tries to fathom the mean­ing of it all

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. lucyether1@ya­


‘I like to think I’m fi­nally at ac­cep­tance. As In­dia points out, I’m in my prime’

ABOVE:Bring on the leop­ard print

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