I think I’m having a mid-life conflict. I say “conflict” and not “crisis” because it doesn’t involve despair and an unhealthy sense of my own mortality, more a feeling that I’m sitting on the fence between old and young.
I recently turned 40 and while it may be the new 30 – or however else it might be mitigated – there’s no escaping that I’m no longer a spring chicken. Where once I would have gallivanted at nightclubs, drinking vodka and diet coke and wearing hotpants, I now relish nothing more than reading in bed and a Friday night glass of wine. An evening out might be a meal with my husband – with a midnight curfew and possibly still a few pages of fiction – or, worse, letting my hair down discussing unruly children and vasectomies with fellow school mums.
It’s true, I’ve settled comfortably into middle age with all its accoutrements, especially tartan and tweed. I no longer drink to excess, I take cod liver oil capsules for my joints and I pay attention to the Budget (you never know how those pesky tax increases might affect you). I feel I’ve reached a point where if not exactly dismissive of other people’s opinions, I care a lot less about they think of me. Good preparation, I feel, for old age, when you can do and say whatever you like and get away with it.
In terms of appearance, I’m lucky to have plenty of positive role models. Never have women of a certain age worn it better, with everyone fawning over the likes of Dame Helen Mirren, and though I may not quite be in that league, I do take heart from being the same size as I was at 20. I don’t feel awkward buying clothes from Miss Selfridge, despite being twice the age of their average customer, and I don’t plan on buying anything beige from M&S anytime soon.
In fact, I don’t feel especially old. I might eschew late nights and hangovers but I do like liqueurs (preferably Grand Marnier) and Thorntons chocolates. I also recently bought the most ridiculous pair of shoes I’ve possibly ever owned. They’re silver encrusted and so high I can barely walk in them. Buying them did make me question if I really was having a mid-life crisis, but having checked my motives, I think I mainly just liked them and thought, “Why not?” (Now I’m 40, I don’t need to justify my actions.)
Inevitably, turning 40 gives rise to reflection along the lines of, “What have I achieved?”, “Was it worth achieving?” and “What do I still have left to do?” I’m mainly focusing on the latter – why get hung-up on the past? – and to reinforce to myself that I’m serious, I’ve made a to-do list for this, my landmark year. On it are both the predictable (write a novel) and the unconventional (make a song and dance video for YouTube), proving that even in middle age, I’m allowed to have fun.
The way I see it, my 40s will be a decade of liberation in which I throw off the shackles of duty and dependence and embrace a new, more autonomous me. Not that I plan to be selfish, just not as selfless. Take heed, husband and children – I’m talking to you! I plan to be successful and self-possessed – the kind they say is growing old gracefully – and if I can keep the wrinkles and sagging body at bay a bit longer, then so much the better. So bring on the fifth decade, I say. I intend to be fearless, fierce and fabulous.