One of my all-time favourite episodes of Sex and the City is the episode from season six entitled ‘One.’ It is probably THE favourite, favourite episode, in fact.
It’s the episode where we celebrate Brady’s first birthday. Miranda and Steve admit they are still in love with each other and share a sneaky kiss in the utilities room. The disastrous Petrovsky relationship is still in its infancy and so we are feeling happy for Carrie. Charlotte finds inner strength after a miscarriage and goes all Elizabeth-Taylor on the crowd. And Samantha, well, first she gets prescription spectacles. And then she finds a grey pube, which she dyes with extremely comical consequences. (If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch! But excuse the profanity, please.)
Lately, I’ve been thinking about that episode a great deal. Why? Well, aside from the obvious, I have looked in the mirror a few times over the last month or so and realised that signs of aging are coming in fast. Crows feet! Droopy breast-feeding boobs! Vertical wrinkles where my cleavage used to be?! Hands that look a lot more like my granny’s than my daughter’s! I am – as we all – fighting a losing battle.
I've never been one to notice when someone has lost or gained weight. I don’t know what botox does to a face, or fillers, or peels. I don’t even wear make-up. So when someone comments on anyone else having had ‘work done’ I am clueless. Unless they’ve gone from a size sixteen to a size six, or from a shar pei to a sphinx.
Growing old has never been a fear of mine, I can’t explain why, but somehow I always imagined I would look like my twenty-two year old self. In those days, I would flaunt my little hot bod and ironically, wear make-up all the time. I spent whatever money I had on getting my hair done and coloured ridiculous shades of red, blue or black. Like many of the cringe-worthy outfits worn in the eighties, I look back at my early twenties and wonder how my friends let me out in public like that. Oh, of course. They were dressed in similarly skimpy fashions.
So you can imagine my sheer terror when I realised that the weathering was inescapable. I found my eye cream with such a panic – under a pile of bum creams and talc-free talcum powder - the same eye cream my three year old has used to give me a foot massage, and splashed it all over. It didn’t take the crows feet away. Nor did that overpriced décolleté cream remove those damned vertical wrinkles. I now understand why underwear for the elderly is so comprehensive in it’s coverage!
Then the part that really annoys me – I look at my husband – and he hasn’t aged as quickly as I have. Now that I’ve noticed the fact that I'm on my way out, I realise that he has somehow caught the slow train while I’m on express. Damn those younger women. Damn those male hormones. What do I do? Well, I use some of his moisturiser as well, just in case.
The wrinkles remain. In fact, something in the men’s moisture balm makes them glossy. Facewash. Toner. Serum. Moisturiser. Eye cream. Repeat tomorrow. If only I can remember to make the time to do this every morning and not just on the occasions that I feel ransacked by the grim reaper.
Lathered in creams that cost more than a car instalment and really should live up to the hype, I attack my day. Banting – LCHF – is the new eating plan of choice and so I try to come up with a breakfast that doesn’t include eggs but fills me with protein and fat. No sugar; that’s a demon I seem to have beaten into submission. Multivitamin, pro-biotic, immune support since it’s flu season. So much pumped into my system to try to be ‘healthy’ and to lose some baby weight and to be as, let’s face it, good looking as possible.
Oh and I walk past a mirror later on in the day and notice my dark rings are darker, accentuated by the frame of wrinkles no doubt. There’s a black whisker growing where it shouldn’t and there are creases where my perfect smile used to be. Stuff it. It doesn’t matter that I'm losing weight (supposedly, Tim Noakes,) the skin carrying the smaller version of me is still heading to the taxidermist to be turned into those hippo-esque sofas.
And then along comes those bloody grey pubes. In that episode of Sex and the City, Samantha had earlier been proud of her age, even boasting that she needs reading glasses and finally disclosing that her ‘age box’ was closer to fifty than forty. But when she finds a grey hair down there, it sends her over the edge.
But why the fear? What’s so bad about getting older?
The Bible says that grey hair is a wise man’s crown. My hair is so coloured I have no idea if I have a crown at all. Popular cinema has brought out movie after movie to show us that growing old can be a wonderful phase of life. Speak to (m)any grandparents and they will tell you that they are having the best of their own children all over again, except this time they know it’s a fleeting period and they’re making the most of it.
It is, to many, a privilege denied. Old age and good health seem to be rarer and rarer bed partners these days, what with cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart disease taking their toll. So I should suck it up I guess. There is such a thing as aging gracefully and that’s just what I had always intended to do.
But somehow I never imagined that I would actually notice myself getting older. If you ask me to go out to a nightclub and dance until dawn tonight, I would still think myself completely capable. Hey – get a baby sitter for tonight and for tomorrow morning (so that I can sleep it off!) and I'm totally in! (As long as I could wear my sweats.) But there’s no physical way I could do that. I would be exhausted by eleven, unless I over did the caffeine-loaded energy drinks, in which case I may make it but it would take me about three days to get over it.
Then there are the other things: lack of memory, mysterious aches in my bones, feeling the cold, saying things that sound all parental and serious, finding some music too loud (sorry, Barny Simon!), considering vegetables as essential, and heaven forbid, the overwhelming need for a nap. A morning with my kids is exhausting; after one I need a siesta. A weekend with my kids leaves me needing a weekend to recover.
So I don’t remember the things I should, and feel pain where I shouldn’t. Recently I heard that women over forty no longer have v-jay-jays, they have a ‘vaginasaurus’ (it’s so old, it should be extinct!) I complain about the weather and politicians and potholes, just like the old folks do. I find all of this a perfectly good excuse to need to sleep a little extra. Apart from perhaps my first two years of life, I have never been as sleep dependent and simultaneously felt as equally sleep deprived as I do now. I guess that’s why some retirement homes have visiting hours for their residents, forcing them to have a sleep time as well.
Gosh, I would love a forced sleep time.
Damn, I sound old.
Which makes the next part even more ironic; I'm about to dispense some advice…
If you’re going to grow old, and I truly hope you are, here are my suggestions to help do it successfully:
Do it appropriately. No one likes mutton dressed as lamb and no one likes too much plastic surgery. Amazing how some would criticise your droopy boobs but those same would be hyper-critical of perky plastic ones. You/me/we have to be aware of the fact that as we age, our style and appearance needs to change, but should be done within reasonable and believable parameters.
Do it as slowly as possible. Having said what I did in the previous point, I would like to emphasise that I by no way advocate throwing in the towel and letting yourself go to the dogs. Use the creams, the fillers, the make-up, the suck-me-in panties! God created these things for a reason.
Don’t let it become who you are. Age is nothing but a number. That’s not a cliché, that’s a fact. You are really as old as you feel and you are genuinely allowed to feel as young as you like. So long as you’re not trying to look decades younger than you actually are (within reason, of course,) your outward appearance does not necessarily dictate how you should behave, what music you should listen to, what kind of car you should drive and what colour your nails should be.
And finally, don’t do it alone. Yes, yes, it’s great to be married. But that’s not what I mean. If we can learn anything from that remarkable documentary about modern females that is also known as Sex and the City, you NEED your girls around you when you face this mountain. In fact, aside from those industrial strength undergarments, they may the most important commodity in the aging process. Be it an aunt, a mother, a sister or a best friend, (or all of the above,) you need those girls around to tell you that no matter what, you’re still a catch, you’re still gorgeous and you’ve still got it, and always you will.