Forty something evangelists piss me off. Not the sanctimonious shouty types that wave their arms around and claim that Jesus solves everything (He doesn’t. I accidentally smeared silly putty on my pashmina this morning and no matter how many times I shouted “CHRIST ALMIGHTY”, precisely nothing happened until I ran it under the hot tap with a bit of hand soap), I mean the incredibly perky grown-ups who can pass the pencil test AND seem to have all of life’s problems sorted.
“I’ve never felt better! Forty is DEFINITELY the new thirty.”
“I’m in great shape! I love going to the gym! I go to yoga three times a week!”
Perky the sodding perk OFF. We all know you’d love to be lying in bed with a family pack of Maltesers. Everyone would. They’re Maltesers, FFS, ergo less likely to trap your sciatic nerve or fart near your face.
I’ll be 43 this June and my selfies need more filtering than ever. I don’t eat badly and take regular exercise, but so far this year I’ve:
- Had a trapped nerve in my arm (fucking OW!)
- Hurt my Achilles Tendon (mildly OW, but OW nonetheless)
- Endured The Worst Flu in the History of the Universe (only a mild exaggeration, dear reader. I genuinely thought I was a goner)
- Had to knock off the drinking substantially, lest my mental health deteriorate to such an extent that I hide under the bed and never come out
… and today I have a mystery pain in my right arse cheek. It’s only just turned April.
I have a one-way ticket to decrepitude, and all the yoga, detox smoothies and fucking mindfulness in the world cannot halt the slow progress of time.
Problem is, every time I open Instagram these days, I’m bombarded with ads for fitness apps, invariably hashtagged to fuck with variants of #fabulousandforty. The photo or video is usually of some absurdly slim, long and tanned woman doing something unfeasibly bendy on a beach, while wearing teeny tiny Lycra and with nary a stretch mark or caesarean scar in sight. Christ, they might be 87 for all I can tell, such are the incredible levels of airbrushing and the sort of flexibility that can surely only come from multiple fractures.
But I am, to all intents and purposes, a grown up. I know bullshit when I smell it. At my age, I’m pretty well equipped with all the facts about what my body can and cannot do:
- Pack a fairly good punch
- Roller skate over 5 kilometres without dying
- Consume a marvellous amount of vodka without too much of a hangover
- Bake a decent Victoria sponge
- Administer some of the best cuddles in the universe (or so I’ve been told)
- Endure levels of pain that would break the average Guantanamo inmate (thanks birth!)
- Apply a full face of make-up AND blow dry my hair while on the receiving end of a ‘flying hug’ from a 9 year old
- Grow taller
- Weigh any less than 9 stone without experiencing the kind of suicidal thoughts that only come from lack of carbohydrates
- Live without foundation
- Eat eggs without looking and sounding like the Baron Harkonnen.
- Make my tits defy gravity without the assistance of spendy knocker scaffolding
- Maintain any kind of yoga pose without feeling like a prize twat and wanting to saw my own limbs off
All this self awareness, yet halfway through my life (hopefully) I’m still being patronised on a daily basis by a media that tells me what I should and shouldn’t be, how I should look and what I should be doing. It was bad enough when I was a teenager, panicking myself into an eating disorder. Then in my twenties, when desperately trying to be “one of the lads” was befitting of the day and as hideous as it was artificial. In my thirties it was all “BREED, BITCH, BREED. WHY AREN’T YOU BREEDING? TICK-FUCKING-TOCK.” As Tyler Durden wisely said, “sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”
These endless intrusions into my life are the guilt equivalent of those fucking idiot men who send unsolicited dick pics to women online. Do they anticipate a stampede to the nearest gym? Or Botox clinic? Judging from the amount of women wafting around in “bodysculpting activewear” (as a copywriter, this instantly makes my hackles rise), I fear we have entered an era of collective insanity.
I for one have absolutely zero intention of spending what’s left of my life mentally or physically flogging myself because I don’t have the endless legs of Elle McPherson or pneumatic tits of Kelly Brook. I enjoy dressing up, love make-up, and yes, I am endlessly bothered by the big frown line that has nestled between my eyes for the best part of twenty years, thanks for noticing. I have a near obsessive relationship with SPF, but I simply don’t have the cash, time, energy or inclination to make fighting against the inevitable a full-time job. And nor should I.
And nor should anyone else.
I tell myself that this bullshit only exists because people, somewhere, genuinely think they’ll get something from it. They’ve been led to believe that they’re doing life wrong and won’t be happy unless they fit a mould that some arbitrary, nameless, faceless person has created. It breaks my heart a little bit that there might be other 43 year old women out there who haven’t yet realised that perfect doesn’t mean happy. Perfect is utterly overrated and – dare I say it – crashingly dull. Would you rather spend the rest of your life shitting it that you have cellulite, saying no to cheesecake and constantly being Paula McPerky in the face of endless gym guilt?
Or would it just be nicer to believe that life is too short to give any level of fucks about their definition of “fabulous”. The word needs reclaiming from the bastards who want to drag women down: do it and take no prisoners.
Go dancing, eat the bloody cake, skinny-dip, get pissed, ask for what you want, feel sexy, be yourself, trust your judgement, follow your dreams. Fucking hell, wear a ball gown to Sainsbury’s, if that’s what makes you happy. But be happy on your terms.
Nothing else is real.
Changing what you see can help you to change who you see in the mirror: