When Jane suc­cumbs to the win­ter blues, she and Bry­ony have very dif­fer­ent ideas about the cure

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - MUM AND ME -

Fu­elled by al­co­hol, I found my­self send­ing a re­ply to a ‘fit and ac­tive mid­dle-aged gen­tlem an’

Mum would ben­e­fit from hav­ing some­one to help her – and by some­one, I do not mean a boyfriend

Jane Gor­don Age un­known Mother, grand­mother and 24/7 child­min­der

Try as I might as we ap­proach the sea­son of good­will, I can’t seem to shake the dark feel­ings that have been over­whelm­ing me for the past few weeks – OK, months. I know that I should be thank­ful for all my bless­ings – fam­ily, friends and good health (I have at least fi­nally thrown off Granny Flu) – but there is an over­rid­ing sense of some­thing miss­ing in my life, chiefly a fu­ture.

This is de­spite the good ef­forts of the two peo­ple I have dared to con­fide in – Bry­ony and Belle. Back home for a cou­ple of nights last week, I spent much of that time be­ing buoyed up by Belle, who has more than earned the ti­tle BFF. I sum­moned up the courage to tell her how melan­choly I was feel­ing on one of our early morn­ing dog-talks, and that evening she turned up at my door unan­nounced bear­ing a clutch of what she called ‘pep-you-up props’, which in­cluded a scar­let lip­stick, a bot­tle of fizz and a copy of the mag­a­zine The Oldie. This last gift was some­thing of a sur­prise, bear­ing in mind that Belle is more of a Vogue/Stella woman, but as ever, there was method in her mad­ness.

‘I have brought you an an­nual sub­scrip­tion that in­cludes ac­cess to a brand-new site for the over-50s called Grey­dar,’ Belle ex­plained.

Fu­elled by al­co­hol and Belle’s ir­re­press­ible en­thu­si­asm, I found my­self, an hour later, not only send­ing a ten­ta­tive re­ply to a ‘fit and ac­tive mid­dle-aged gen­tle­man’ with his own ‘sea-go­ing yacht’ but also pen­ning my own ‘want’ ad.

I am fully aware that I have been here be­fore, but if noth­ing else, this par­tic­u­lar look­ing-for-love ex­pe­ri­ence has al­ready been a cut above the other dat­ing sites I have signed up to, thanks to my BFF. My ad may not bring me what I think I want in time for Christ­mas, but just putting my­self out there has cheered me up a lit­tle.

‘Fit and ac­tive mid­dle-aged gentle­woman seeks a fu­ture.’ What can pos­si­bly go wrong?

Bry­ony Gor­don 38 Mar­ried to a very pa­tient hus­band Harry, and mother to Edie, five

Ire­ally want mum to have ther­apy. I re­ally want ev­ery­one to have ther­apy, be­cause I think the world would be a bet­ter place if we were all forced to sit down once a week and talk about our feel­ings. But as, re­al­is­ti­cally, I am not able to make this hap­pen, I will fo­cus all my at­ten­tion on my mother, who seems to labour un­der the il­lu­sion that some­one else will make her feel bet­ter – that some­one else be­ing a man, not a qual­i­fied coun­sel­lor.

We all do it, of course. Most of my 20s and early 30s were spent wait­ing for Harry to turn up and make ev­ery­thing bet­ter. And though he did, for a while, it soon be­came clear that the only per­son who was go­ing to cre­ate any sort of long-term sta­bil­ity in my life was me. Hence re­hab. Hence ther­apy. Sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers can sup­port you through the tough times. But they are not go­ing to stop the tough times. I feel deeply pa­tro­n­is­ing when I say this to Mum, be­cause I am sev­eral decades younger than she is (who knows how many?), and re­ally, what do I know? Also, it’s all very well for me to wax lyri­cal about the joys of self­suf­fi­ciency while my hus­band qui­etly cleans up the mess around me. But. But, but, but! I do think Mum would ben­e­fit from hav­ing some­one to help her – and by some­one, I do not mean a boyfriend. The prob­lem is, ev­ery time I sug­gest ther­apy as an op­tion, she looks at me as if I have just told her to join the Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses. Mum is of the gen­er­a­tion that sees ther­apy as self-in­dul­gent, and even a daugh­ter who does the odd bit of men­tal health cam­paign­ing can­not, it seems, al­ter that. ‘I’m too old to start chang­ing the way I think,’ she says, when I chal­lenge her on this.

‘But I thought you were only 21!’ I cry. ‘I don’t need some­one to help me process my feel­ings, dar­ling. Just some­one who can fix my dish­washer from time to time and bring me break­fast in bed at the week­end.’

I roll my eyes and start think­ing up the per­fect Christ­mas present.

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