I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “How come it’s taken you so long to write this blog, Andrea? How come you didn’t start writing ‘You Know You’re Over 40 When…” when you were in your twenties?’.
I have no good answer, I’m afraid. Maybe it’s just taken me to be over 40 to understand what it’s really like to be over 40.
Or maybe it’s only now that I finally accept that I’m over 40. Now that I’m in my 42nd year. (Wait – I turn 42 this year. That makes this my 42nd year, right? Or does it make it my 41st? Math was never my strong point; mainly because I’m not American. Maths, I’m much better at. Though still not good enough to know if this is my 41st or 42nd year.)
Growing up, I often thought that it was ridiculous that women – and it was usually women – lied about their age. Actually, I say ‘usually women’ but that should strictly be ‘usually famous women or women I’d been told about’. Because I was never aware of any women in my own life actually doing this. Probably because the only grown-up women in my life were my mum, my aunts and my teachers. The former, I knew the age of, as one does with family (unless you’re my friend Sarah’s flamboyant great aunt, who lied about her age so consistently throughout her life that not even her closest family – or she herself – knew how old she was). The latter, I of course didn’t know the age of, because, well, I was told that it’s rude to ask a lady how old she is. Plus it could land you in detention.
So throughout my life, I never lied about my age. Not even to get cigarettes. Mainly because I didn’t smoke.
No, I didn’t lie about my age – until I reached my late thirties. And then, I didn’t start lying, as such, but simply failing to reveal my age.
There were three main reasons for this, I’ve realised. Firstly: I simply didn’t – and still don’t – feel my age. I suspect this is true for nearly everyone (who doesn’t feel like an eight-year-old operating in an adult world sometimes? I mean, apart from actual eight-year-olds?). I’ve been stuck in a state of arrested development for a great part of my adult life so far – or as polite society might put it: I’m a late-starter. For example: despite being a Western, middle-class 42-year-old, I don’t have children, am unmarried, only just bought my first property, and don’t know how to drive. All of which will no doubt affect the nature of my witterings on this blog (the inability to drive possibly less so) and all of which probably give an insight into who I am, how I got here, and how I got here so late.
Secondly: In my thirties, I often got the “But you don’t look it!” response (these days, less so. But more of that another time). And while this made me secretly half-happy because I knew that it was meant to be a compliment, it also left me feeling secretly quite sad – because what it gave with one hand, it took away with the other. It was simultaneously complimenting me on something external while slapping down the reality of who I was inside. So while the external me was flattered, the inner me felt rather unloved. Or at least: unappreciated. When someone says that a woman ‘doesn’t look her age’, the implication is that this is a good thing, because she shouldn’t look her age. Because we don’t like our women to age.
And the third reason I was failing to reveal my age to people was because I did want them to think I was younger than I was. (Which I know must sound strange, given my second reason above – but women are complex creatures, right? For example: I am against anti-ageing skin products, but I do dye my grey hair. I like cats, but also dogs. And so on.) The reason I wanted people to assume this was simple: I’d started writing comedy. Specifically: jokes and sketches for live shows, radio and TV. And contrary to what you might think, I can confirm that comedy writing isn’t dominated by men – it’s dominated by men who started doing it from a relatively young age. And so I thought there would be some stigma attached to launching a career in this in my late – as opposed to, say, early – thirties. So I kept schtum about my age, in case people dismissed me, or thought I was odd, because of it. After all, the only thing worse than a women who’s ageing is a woman who’s ageing, and odd.
And yet now, in my 41st/42nd year, I just don’t care so much. I don’t care so much about being over 40, and about what other people think of me. Or more accurately: what I fear they might think of me. I don’t want – or am unable (I suspect it’s a combination of both) – to hide my age.
But even more than not wanting or being able to hide it, I rather want to embrace it. And as I sit here – a glass of red on the go, ‘Kind Of Blue’ playing on the stereo* and my boyfriend sitting across from me playing computer games (he’s 13 years younger than me – and before you ask, yes, I do see that fact featuring in this blog) – I feel ready to embrace it. To celebrate it. Yes, goshdarnit, to blog about it.
Here I come, forties! Don’t try to get away from me! I can run faster than you! Actually, these days I can’t. Not with my stiff knees. But more about those later.
*Note to under-40s: A ‘stereo’ is a hifi unit. No, wait: a music system. You still say ‘music system’, right?