It takes a long time to learn how to be happy but, at 45, Caitlin Moran thinks she’s nailed it


Caitlin Moran reveals her secrets to being happy

hen I was 13, I believed that my happiest adult self would be going to literary parties every night in a green velvet dress and matching velvet heels, smoking cigarettes in a cigarette-holder, marrying Johnny Depp and being the kind of writer who flew to New York, Berlin, Reykjavik or Auckland every month, before returning to my fabulous sixth-floor industrial loft in east London. At 45, I now know that velvet dresses make you so sweaty you have to put a sanitary towel in the armpits, heels hurt, literary parties have the worst wine, Johnny Depp’s a bit of a knob, smoking makes you smell, flying around the world involves infuriatin­g levels of taking your shoes off and waiting around, and east London is too full of hip young women dressing like Su Pollard for me to ever feel comfortabl­e. I have chosen, instead, a life of jeans (Whistles barrel leg, the only jeans that don’t camel-toe me), Crocs, vapes, a husband who wears cardigans, travelling no further than the Brecon Beacons unless absolutely necessary, and having a solid old Victorian house in north London with a garden I can dote on. Middle-age is for happiness. That’s the point of it: you’ve lived long enough to learn what it actually looks like. And, although everyone’s vision of middle-aged heaven is different, I feel that, along the way, I’ve learned a few fairly universal rules that, when applied to any life, will slowly but surely nudge you towards a happy middle-age.


Love. I now know what it is. It’s not crazy arguments in the rain, or being endlessly forgiving, or fighting to keep things high-octane and exciting. It’s being comfortabl­e. When you find love – true love – your nose will let you know, because when you sniff this man/ woman, you’ll feel instantly relaxed. Like they’re some fabulous new pill which, when you take it, makes you think, ‘Yeah, I could sit on the sofa with this person for the next 20 years, just being a bit silly and messing around – and it would be awesome.’ Remember, for pretty much half your relationsh­ip with your beloved, you’re going to be asleep next to them. You don’t want something too dangerous – you want something as comfortabl­e as your favourite T-shirt. That’s not to say you should relax so much that you drop your standards of

conduct, for the other secret about making a relationsh­ip last is to remember to remain courteous at all times. Manners are important. You must maintain respect. You should always have a soupçon of worry that if you start taking each other for granted, all this delicious magic could disappear. For instance, I have been with my husband for 25 years now and, after every helping of sexual intercours­e, he always says, ‘Thank you very much for the sexual intercours­e,’ and I reply, ‘You are welcome to that sexual intercours­e.’ If I could, I would leave him a glowing review on Tripadviso­r.


Arguments. I think 90% of arguments between husbands and wives tend to be about housework. One person notices all the things that need doing, gets furious that the other hasn’t, and when they finally confront them, their partner says, ‘All you needed to do was ask me!’ and they reply, even more furious, ‘I shouldn’t HAVE to! That’s just ONE MORE JOB I’D HAVE TO DO!’ And then they get divorced. Here’s how you get around that: put a whiteboard on the wall in the kitchen. Every time you notice a job that needs doing, write it on the whiteboard. At the top put, ‘All these jobs need to be done by Sunday evening – write your name next to the ones you’re going to do.’ In a stroke, you’ve stopped thinking about them, everyone knows what needs doing and can do the jobs in their own time, instead of being nagged, and you can see exactly how equal/unequal your burdens are. If you still get divorced, it’ll probably be about Brexit, and I can’t help you with that.


Fashion. Here’s what women do during their 20s and 30s – faithfully and arduously curate a capsule wardrobe. This is what we’re told to do. The perfect day-to-night dress, the crisp white shirt, the relaxed jacket, the no-crease holiday skirt. And then, at some point in their late-30s or early 40s, women open up their wardrobe and find… all their clothes have ‘Gone Evil’ overnight. Suddenly, everything looks bad. A combinatio­n of getting the Middle-aged Bob, putting on a stone and forgoing heels means that your entire wardrobe needs rethinking – and no one ever tells you this in advance. Don’t blame yourself, and don’t be self-loathing. It’s just nature being a dick. Buy yourself a suit, a pair of dungarees and a new cashmere jumper, and remember that your day-to-night dress was starting to look a bit old, anyway.


Drinking. Here’s another thing they don’t tell you: when you reach middle-age, you can’t drink any more. Wine turns against you. What you thought were hangovers in your 20s are thrown into sharp relief by the existentia­l dread and full-body agony of hangovers in your 40s. However much this saddens you, comfort yourself by reflecting on the astonishin­g amounts of money you’re saving now that one bottle of wine will last you and three friends a whole night.


Friends. These are one of the bonuses of middle-age. We tend to think of female friendship as predominan­tly a phenomenon of the young – out clubbing together, mending heartbreak together, racketing around on mini-breaks and being a gang. We presume that, as we get older, our marriages become more important than our friendship­s. In reality, this isn’t so. Any group of middle-aged women will have, collective­ly, gone through divorce, death of parents, raising of children, unemployme­nt, mental ill-health, abortion, miscarriag­e, promotions, demotions, joy and sorrow. If you really want to see a closely bonded, ride-or-die group of women laughing like hyenas, walk past a middle-aged women’s night out. If I had time, I’d reboot Sex And The City as Sixty And The City. That’s where the real female camaraderi­e lives.


Raising teenagers. If you’re a clever, hard-working, independen­t woman, you would presume that these are all useful attributes to have when your children hit their teens and start dealing with life’s bigger problems. NO. It took me many years to learn this the hard way, but your teenagers do not want you to use your brain and experience to solve their problems. This is the age where they have to learn to solve their own problems. What you must do is pretend to be a very kind, but stupid, old lady – projecting the aura of a lovely dairy cow called Buttercup, perhaps, and make encouragin­g mooing sounds as they figure things out themselves. About 90% of teenage rage is caused by you trying to solve their problems: it’s a thankless task. Just moo instead.


Your body. The biggest surprise of ageing, for me, has been how much fitter and hotter I am in my 40s than in my 20s. Then, I felt utterly distant from my body. I thought of it merely as a problem, which needed to have things like ‘diets’ and ‘horrible exercise’ visited on it every so often, to punish it into something more acceptable. But having now gone through pregnancy and childbirth, I feel more connected to my body – I know it’s amazing, and it tells me what it wants: an apple. Some yoga. A walk. To swim in Hampstead Ladies’ Pond. It likes waking up early to hear the dawn chorus, and being in bed by 10pm with a good book. And it really doesn’t want to fly to New York. Not when the roses need deadheadin­g, and its husband is on the sofa with Seinfeld on pause, waiting to give it a foot massage. More Than A Woman (Ebury Press) by Caitlin Moran is out 3rd September.

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