It’s a beautiful morning, the first few of a string of sunny days promised by the weather app. FINALLY! Never thought I’d say it, actually. I’m one of those weird people who really love autumn when it gets dark and cold – it spells over sized scarves (well, I’m Scandinavian after all), candle light, the scent of cinnamon and mulled wine to me. Well, I suppose it’ll be the alcohol free version for me when autumn rolls in again but that’s cool. And I love winter too, yet this must be the first time I’m truly glad to see the back of it – this one definitely over stayed its welcome. The park is beautiful now and during my long walk yesterday I caught myself smiling like a fool several times. The last time I was struck by the beauty of the park, well, that was just a week ago when it was shrouded in mist late one evening, but still – spring is finally here and it makes me feel light and carefree.
Except last night, that is. I didn’t feel light and carefree AT ALL. I have no idea what happened and I didn’t watch anything unpleasant or scary on TV before going to bed, nor is the book I’m currently reading a dark one, but I ended up first struggling to go to sleep and no amount of cuddling into hubby helped and then when I finally did go to sleep I ended up having nightmares. Horrible, menacing nightmares. Nothing too horrific, but my nightmares rarely are. It was pretty much what my nightmares tend to be when I have them, which, thank God, isn’t often: ordinary situations but there is a strong sense of foreboding, impending doom and danger looming close. Hubby and I were in a house and all power went. We were in bed so it didn’t really matter as we were meant to sleep but then there was the expectation that someone was in the house and I thought I was hearing noises. That’s it. That was my nightmare. It’s never an actual bad event, it’s the moments BEFORE, weirdly. It’s terrifying though. It’s the moment you realise something is wrong, that something terrible is about to happen and it’s too late to stop it or get away. Awful.
But hey ho, the sun is shining and given how tired I am chances are I’ll be out like a light this evening and sleep soundly again like sobriety has got me accustomed to. Yay sleep.
Not drinking and walking lots has meant I feel like a million dollars. I feel so good it’s ridiculous and it’s utterly lovely. Call me conceited and self absorbed but I think I can see it on the outside too and assume it’s my body’s response to no longer being poisoned. So over the weekend when hubby and I were out and about on our normal little adventures and road trips, I took a bit of time putting on a bit more make-up – it felt good to look at my reflection in the mirror and find my 42-yearold self smiling back at me with bright eyes and glowing skin. Well, OK, perhaps not glowing but MILES better from my drinking days. I felt good. I felt I looked good too. I don’t aspire to look 25 – because I’m not 25, so why would I – and I’ve never considered myself to be a breathtaking beauty, but I am me and I like me and at the moment I am feeling extra fantastic despite the fact that the editor of Vogue would probably deem me a haggard old crone. Who cares? I’m good enough.
There I was, walking around Boots to buy some, er, feminine care products. Oh fuck it, if you find tampons offensive, go read a different blog. I was looking for tampons, and also some Feminax as my fibroid – but youthful, apparently! – uterus was giving me hell. And there is was, the first time I have ever felt aware of ageing. Or rather, that it was a problem in any way.
“Are they for your daughter?” the shop assistant asked me.
At first I didn’t understand what she was saying or where she was going with it. I genuinely couldn’t grasp what she was actually asking me.
“Are you getting feminine products for your daughter?” she asked with a kind smile.
I was so taken aback I didn’t know what to say or do, just slowly shook my head and I know my mouth was open as I had to make a conscious effort to close it as I tried to compose myself. She must have realised and probably wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole because she mumbled something and pointed at some shelves behind me. I know the feeling – one of my best friends showed up to our wedding celebration last summer with what appeared to be a baby bump and I congratulated her. Turned out she’d just put on a bit of weight. So I have all the sympathy in the world for that poor woman. I was absolutely overjoyed when I thought E was knocked up again (to the point that I was welling up when I shrieked OH MY GOD and ran to hug her and then proceeded to put a hand on her stomach) and this lady was a kind soul who probably has daughters herself and just wanted to give really good advice on the best products. Fact remains though, she had taken a look at me and decided I was clearly too old to still have periods and I felt utterly crushed.
I’ve never thought about it. I’ve never worried about it. I’ve never considered it an issue. There I was, feeling on top of the world, and then the next moment I glance at hubby and feel like I may as well have not bothered with make-up at all. I went from feeling ace to feeling destroyed in a flash. And it didn’t end there. As the guy at the till handed us the receipt, he also printed off a voucher.
“This is for you,” he told me and pushed it across the counter for me with both hands with an air of reverence like it was a cheque for a million pounds, “in case you’d like to regain something you may have lost.”
It was a voucher for No 7 anti-ageing serum.
He was friendly and only meant well just like his colleague so I returned his smile but on the inside I broke a little. I’d managed 42 years. Out of those I’d say a good 15 during which friends the same age as me worried about ageing yet I never did, not once – not because I looked any younger or better or thought I did but because the idea just never entered my mind. I never had any problem with going through life and its stages. In fact, if anything, I think I’m prettier now in my 40s than I was in my 20s – I look better with a bit of living leaving its traces. I looked about 13 until I was approaching 30 so as crazy as it may sound, I always welcomed those laughter lines. My frown ones too! I’ve happily greeted them all. Yet, there I was, I’d only come in to make a quick purchase and yet within the space of five minutes I’d been reduced to rubble and been equipped with a set of insecurities and misgivings I’ve never given thought to before. Bloody hell. Talk about being deflated.
Still. I sort of forgot about it and the following morning I felt good again as I walked around the park, having left the house NOT feeling fat or old or ugly or whatever all these youth serums, treatments and concealers are advertised to make me think. But then it happened all over again later that afternoon when hubby and I were at the mall. I went up to a shop keeper to ask where the men’s All Saints store is located as we couldn’t find it. She didn’t know but grabbed me by the hand and pulled me in behind the counter.
“Let me put something on your eyes,” she told me chirpily and then winked at hubby, “this will make her look 20 years younger!”
Hubby looked pleased and that’s when I lost it. I stopped in my tracks and bore my eyes into her stupid little 20-something face.
“I don’t want anything put on me, thank you. I like 42.”
She smiled uneasily, unsure what to do next and I felt my cheeks burn of humiliation as a group of 20-something men nearby stifled some giggles.
I get it, I really do. She’s on minimum wage and her job is to go in for the hard sell and convince us women on the other side of puberty that we need to look younger, thinner, smoother and all the other things Instagram has filters to achieve. Those products she’s selling are great, I’ll give her that – I have several Onsen cleansers and other bits on my bathroom shelf and it’s lovely stuff – and I don’t think it was her intention to further reinforce my newly found insecurities, but fuck me, that just about did it. May as well cut my hair into a short old lady hairstyle, dye it a nice grey, blue-ish colour and sleep with rollers in it to make it nice and poofy, ignore the platform espadrilles I had my eye on and get a pair of comfortable Ecco shoes instead. And never bother with make-up again as it clearly is too late for me to even THINK there’s a point in accentuating features I should be hiding or improving. Like my eyes, that she wanted to put something on. My eyes are probably one of the things I like the most about my outside. They were the very thing the little bitch wanted to alter.
But fuck’em. I do wish they’d refrain from unsolicited “help” with ageing and suss out which ones of us are actually looking for products that we’re meant to believe will help us recapture days long gone instead of assuming everyone over 22 is unhappy in their skin. I was fine in mine, ta very much. I’m no painting but this is my face and I like it. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth for me to approve of my image. I’m 42 years old, I have lived and I have these laughter lines because I’ve spent a lot of all that living laughing and smiling. So fuck you, Onsen chick – go take 20 years off someone else because I’ve loved all of mine, all 42 of them and you can’t take a single one of them from me, and if you can’t bear the sight of me you can look the other way if all this smiling I’ve done offends you. But wow! It had to happen sooner or later though, that someone would suggest I look old and/or that I need to look younger, it seems to be the way of the world, doesn’t it? Here’s me thinking my 40s are my best years in all respects including the lines on my face (which I actually, hand on heart LIKE because they are part of me – so bite me) only to be shot down by a pubescent sales girl whose greatest fear in life is reaching the other side of 30. But hey, those three shop people – The Age Police – just caught me off guard, that’s all, plus you might argue three separate incidents within the space of 48 hours was harsh at best and especially so when I felt a million bucks. I think I’d been less hurt by it if I’d strolled out in my PJs with not a scrap of make-up on but this was me after I’d made an effort and thought I looked pretty damn good. Ouch.
None of that matters though, it’s – as they say – skin deep and who I am isn’t do to with laughter lines or cellulite. Inside I feel strong and healthy and with no alcohol and all this walking I feel equally strong in my body. It’s an amazing feeling, even after a night of nightmares, to wake up and feel WELL. Still very much perched right here up on my Pink Cloud and sometimes I wonder when it’ll wear off, given feeling well is something that makes me so happy it makes me giggle, and surely how you feel on a daily basis is something you eventually stop to notice? Who knows. And who cares?
Today I’m not going to drink.