My goodness, I am getting OLD. The dreaded numbers are looming like a gaping maw, the ‘OH’ of forty has nasty jaws and I fear it will chew me up and spit me out, rather than swallow me whole. Yes, yes, I know that life begins at 40, I should be living in the moment, July is miles away etcetera etcetera. Technically, I should be grateful, I mean for a wild child who possessed zero ambition to make it past the age of 18, I am actually not doing that badly (almost) making it to the big bad four-oh.
One factor that freaks me out to Twilight Zone proportions is that I am absolutely not a ‘standard or typical model’ of a forty year old. I don’t fit current stereotypes, rather I am the antithesis of what ‘society’ deems an almost 40 female ‘should’ be. I hate that word. No, not forty (although I am beginning to choke on it after repeating it so many times on this blog already) I mean the word ‘should’. A very wise lady told me to delete it from my vocabulary. I highly recommend you do so, as I ignored said wise lady’s advice and it is one of the banes of my life. I should be this, I should be that, I should have this, I should have that….this invisible criteria that one must live up to in one’s head and you only put on yourself, not others. I really am trying to let go of those unreasonable, unattainable standards. There is no point in trying to be someone you are clearly not. But I still try on occasion.
I’m not married and never have been (gasp, horror), not because I have been a barren spinster all my life, but because I don’t believe in it. If other people want to do it, that is up to them, but personally, I think getting married is a ridiculous carry on, forced onto us by the constraints of modern capitalist society. It is a gross waste of money, involving an utterly unnecessary parade of foofery (‘Foof’ is a woman’s lady garden – make of that what you will). I don’t need to trounce around in a stupid frock or sign a piece of meaningless paper to prove or show that I love someone.
So, having made my views on marriage abundantly clear, we move swiftly on to ‘taboo number two’ (I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it. Well I did, because I am a writer. But I am a rubbish poet.) I don’t have any kids. *Stepford Wives everywhere faint with horror.* I’m not gay. I’m not barren either, but I have zero desire to have children. ‘Surely there must be something wrong with me?’ their eyes say, then I get ‘the dreaded sympathy look’. Conversations seem to die on their arse when I am asked ‘The QUESTIONS’ which go something like this…..
THEM: Are you married?
THEM: Do you have any kids?
THEM: Stares open mouthed, giving me the ‘sympathy look’
Me: Tum te tum *shuffles away awkwardly doing the slow crab dance of shame*
Obviously not everyone is of the same ilk, but I’ve played me in that scenario more times than I’d care to. On most good days, I couldn’t give a tuppeny fuck about what other people think, I rarely allow people under my skin, but sometimes I do let them live rent free in my head for a bit. What really bothers me is that women in particular seem to be defined by their relationship status, what kind of car they drive, the brand of their waldies (Doric for wellington boots) and the number of kids they have ‘pushed oot their foofs’ (should the plural of ‘foof’ be ‘fooves’? fellow grammatical pedants – discuss).
My point is, why don’t we ask one another more interesting questions? Questions about music, and art, about things we love, what sets our senses tingling, what are our hopes and dreams? Maybe I’m too much of an idealist looking for a utopia that doesn’t exist, but societal norms are like a prison I want to break out of and burn to the ground. If society was an actual person, I’d hunt them down and give them a bloody good hiding.
Again, I digress. You must despair of me. Back to the numbers. My biggest gripe about this looming milestone is that the digits just don’t add up to how I feel.
I have a childish streak in me a mile and a half wide, so when I hear myself saying ‘Aye, I’m turning forty this year’, my brain just goes ‘EH????!!!’ and I get this weird feeling of unreality (cue twilight zone theme tune). There are some wonderful humans who display genuine looking shock faces when I say that (two this very week). I’m better at self judgement than taking compliments but its nice to believe the shock faces are real sometimes. (och hud yer wheesht, I am a work in progress!)
I am only just beginning to grow up in some ways, but more and more lately I am beginning to witness words, tumbling out of my mouth like unstoppable boulders whilst I realise simultaneously in abstract horror that what I have said sounds….. EXACTLY like my mother. #DOUBLESHUDDER
Anyone who has experienced this monstrous event will empathise and know exactly what I mean. There was one particular instance not long ago, which made me laugh then gave me a future vision of myself as an old and ‘decreppit wifey’ (Doric for wizened old lady) beating small children off my doorstep with a broom.
I had been at the cinema with a friend and it was a late, dark and bitterly cold evening, the wind had snow and ice on its breath. My friend was very kindly giving me a lift home (I have the best mates in the entire UNIVERSE by the way) and we were observing this young lady standing at the lights waiting to cross the road. We were still shivering from the short but windswept walk from the cinema to the car, so without even thinking, I declare loudly ‘Can you believe she is out in those shoes with bare feet, and no scarf or anything? She must be bloody freezing!’ To which my mate replies ‘Ah ken’ (‘Ken’ means no in Doric, never to be confused with a person named Ken).
As we realised the Mum/Pensioner-ism that had just escaped from my very own gob, we looked at one another and burst out laughing. ‘Oh my God, that sounds like something my Mum would say!’ The irony of that statement, is that when I was that lassie’s age, I’d have been out in that weather wearing FAR less and no jacket (and on occasion, no underwear either – what can I say, I was a rebel without a clue).
So there you have it, my first ‘pensioner’s quip’ which I entirely blame on my looming birthday. I decided to write myself a prayer to stave off the onslaught of pressure to grow up and be responsible, now-that-I-am-almost-40.
Dear Higher Power, I hope that I can continue to laugh at myself and not become all serious about life, the universe and everything. I pray that my uncontrollable urges to jump in puddles and the like always outweigh my penchant for being judgemental, and taking myself too seriously. May my love for shouting at the television never spill over on to the the street and lead to hitting small children off my doorstep with a broom. Amen ‘n’ stuff.
One of the things that I truly love about myself is my childish nature and although in certain areas of my life I have to pretend I am responsible and grown up, I am aware that my disguise is quite rubbish and that I am a child at heart. We all are, regardless of the numbers of years we have been on this planet. The world is a playground and I want to go and PLAY in it, experience everything and see loads of far-flung places.
I have had an extraordinary life so far, and I want it to continue to throw epiphany grenades at me and surprising me at every turn. Each time I have climbed to what I thought was a plateau, life bestowed another mind-blowing gift that leaves me reeling with wonder, awe and gratitude. Age is only a number, so maybe it is time for me to let go of the ‘oh’ and embrace the ‘four’.