Why My Favourite Age Is Now
Yesterday, it was my birthday. I was reminded of this fact by my mother on the phone last week who, upon discussion of how quickly time passes, announced in hushed tones that I would shortly be ’48 you know, Lisa!’. Yes, thank you mum. Generally, my overall feeling about this rapid descent into the latter part of a century is pretty mild. Whatevs, girlfriend. However, I cannot deny that ticking the 45-55 category box on a questionnaire makes me feel like Dot Cotton, compounded by the knowledge that not only am I old enough to be the mother of Zac Efron, but that I could feasibly be a Great Grandparent to his children, should he have any. Fuck.
I’ve never had any major issues about age. Many people talk about how they feel the same in their forties as they did when they are 21. I’m sorry to burst this bubble but once the rose coloured glasses have been removed, this is categorically untrue. Yes, you may feel the same mentally. Although seeing as I spent much of my youth thinking that it was perfectly acceptable to drive around in the back of an uninsured VW Beetle with a Silk Cut in one hand and the other being used to swig directly from a Martini bottle, I might have to disagree. But physically, there’s no denying that time has taken its toll. In my early twenties, I survived entirely on corned beef and mayonnaise sandwiches, yoghurt, crisps and half price cocktails, never went to bed before midnight and partied every weekend. I could drink ten Harvey Wallbangers, board the Metropolitan Line safely, walk back from Eastcote station and still get up at 5.30 am to get back on the Tube to go to work, functioning all day like a normal person with not a hangover in sight.
Nowadays, four glasses of wine can be a recipe for disaster, involving possible memory loss and a full two day recovery period. Last year, I attended a friends birthday party which had the added addition of a Prosecco van. It was all good fun until I accidentally stepped into the pond wearing wedged espadrilles, compounding this embarrassing episode by falling flat on my face on the concrete dance floor, hitting an artery above my eye. I ended the evening sobbing in A&E alongside the York hen party casualties, covered in blood with a black eye looking like an extra from Dawn Of The Dead. Simply mortifying. Know your limits.
Also, as you get older, you need far more sleep. This is an undeniable fact. Whereas before my bed was a simple necessity, having three children has made me look at it in a completely different light. I long to sleep past 6.30 am, my body clock shot to pieces by endless nights of being disturbed fifty times by constant bottle feeding, loo visits and 5.00 am breakfast calls. Any excuse to rush to bed early and I’m onit. My bank balance has also taken a hit the more birthdays I have. No longer can I get away with a tube of Oil Of Olay; my skincare routine takes about thirty minutes, could moisturise a small country and if it’s not got retinol, peptides, Vitamin C or natural fillers involved, it’s not coming in. I’ve haven't joined the dermal filler club yet but I can tell you for a fact I’m not ruling it out.
But aside from my alcohol intolerance, insomnia and mortgage worthy skincare addiction, I actually quite enjoy being the age that I am. The older I get, the less I care about what people think of me (like me or don’t like me, it doesn’t matter), the deeper I care about things that matter to me (my husband and children and occasionally the dog) and the more I care about my own personal happiness (a fact often misconstrued as being selfish. Rude). I have discarded FOMO and become someone that will only really do what I want to do (this includes getting into my bed at 8.00 pm to watch Netflix instead of partying at Press launches). Anyway, on my birthday weekend, I’ve decided to do a run down of the five main learnings from my forty eight years to date. Here they are.
I Don’t Need To Sleep All Day & Party All Night
My teenage years perfectly aligned with the uprising of Acid House. I was a Wham girl, a Thompson Twins addict and spent every night after work in the basement of Slap Harry’s in Piccadilly ordering as many Harvey Wallbangers as possible during the daily Happy Hour. I was a party girl in the sense that I liked to drink wine and have a dance, but I mainly liked chatting on the sofa. Hardcore. The furthest I roamed club wise was Paradise Lost in Watford or even closer, Bogarts in South Harrow. Despite the fact that my brother DJ’d at The Church, I was as far away from the Acid House experience as it was possible to be. I was once dragged to The Gardening Club in Covent Garden where I was appalled by the absence of alcohol and left within ten minutes. House parties were my jam and club nights were my nemesis – nothing could dissuade me otherwise.
So how have I changed in my forties? I haven’t. I still don’t like to party and I’m totally happy with that. Unlike my husband, who recently went to see John Digweed with a similarly minded group of our friends at the Mint Club in Leeds. I was under some pressure to attend but there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going to a party that started at 10.00 pm and finished at 6.00 am. I didn’t do it in my twenties and I’m certainly not going to start now. Aside from the fact that it would take me at least four days to get over such ridiculous timings, I have realised as I get older that any inkling of FOMO has completely disappeared. I know what I like doing and I’m sticking to it. And yes, this mostly involves tapas, wine, the sofa and a box set. No judgment necessary.
I Know When To Hold Back (Mostly)
As someone who works on social media, I’m always really aware of what I say. When I was younger, my main focus would have been to get my point heard, whatever the situation. I’ve always said what I thought, never held back, always stood my ground, despite how this stance can affect other people. This doesn’t work on social media. Over the past three years, I’ve learnt to hold back. I don’t talk about controversial subjects, I don’t get involved in political discussion, I don’t comment on things that I don’t have 100 percent knowledge of. Although I know my follower demographic, I am conscious of the fact that I have no idea of the personal circumstances of the people who are listening to me. I don’t know their problems, their backgrounds, their financial situations, their home lives or anything at all, really.
Social media offers a huge, positive platform for change, but that isn’t the reason that I’m here. My account was created to document interior changes and ideas, to meet likeminded, creative people and latterly, to build a business. As someone who has a fair amount of followers, I’m always aware of what I’m putting out there and I try really hard to keep it neutral. Along the way, I’ve made mistakes, obvs. I’m naturally strong voiced - I’ve opened my mouth or posted something that I’ve regretted later on more than one occasion but in general and overall, I manage to hold myself back. Even if sometimes this involves recording my stories about ten times until I can say something in a way that isn’t going to piss people off. It’s not easy but I've learnt - mostly - to control it. Or I’d like to think so, anyway.
I Don’t Need Loads Of Friends
Back in my early thirties, I had plenty of friends. With children came friendships based on a shared trauma of countless nappy sacks, two hours sleep a night and the eternal quest for five minutes of feeling like an actual person. As the kids got older, we entered the middle class bastion of the playground zone, drawn together for Friday afternoon playdates involving wine, crisps and Margarita pizzas whilst multi tasking to ensure that they didn’t kill each other. It was a comfortable bubble of parenting support, filled with others who also had no idea of what they were doing but knew that it had to involve Sauvignon Blanc and possibly a sharing bag of Walkers Chicken Sensations. If you could get a sitter, Saturday nights were for dinner parties where you could spend five hours avoiding talk about child friendship issues or the Eleven Plus and remembering that at one point in the not so distant past you could go to the toilet by yourself.
As I have got older, my friends have petered out. We moved to York, the children went off to different schools, we became Facebook friends rather than regular confidentes. But the core group of friends that I made in those heady early child days are still there - we didn’t just have our children in common, we had shared interests and real friendships that have endured through change. As you get older, the urge to make new friends lessens, mostly because you’ve been there and done that and often, actually, sometimes you just can’t be bothered to get to know other people as you are happy with where you are. In the past three years in particular, I’ve found myself drawn towards people with similar interests as me - previously, the focus was primarily children but now the draw is much more creative. I’ve made a few friends in the last three years who have definitely ticked this box and it’s GOOD. My friend group may be smaller, but it’s life enhancing, exciting and more interesting every day.
I’ve Learned From Experience
In my twenties, I worked as a PA in the retail industry. The role of a PA, in general, garnered as much respect as a hot cross bun – forget about #metoo, this was back in the nineties when it was perfectly acceptable for the CEO of the UK’s biggest fashion retail group to smack you on the bottom as you walked out of a management meeting. In those days, I flitted from job to job, never staying in the same position for longer than two years, mostly because of my incapability to maintain interest. My exit routine went like this. Get bored of job, fall out with boss due to menial issue (such as lack of holiday approval or unhappiness with filing duties), cry with fury during discussion meeting about said issue, hand in notice immediately without another position to go to. Have big leaving party, sign up with 20 recruitment agencies, go temping indefinitely until another position arose. And repeat.
So what have I realised now? I’ve always been transient and I’m not going to change. I have friends who have stayed in the same job, same company for 25 years and that’s fine, but for me, new experiences have ALWAYS been my mainstay. But as I’ve got older, I’ve realised that the experience I gained during those varied job roles, ranging from working as a receptionist in a Co Op factory in Ruislip to assisting an art dealer in Mayfair, have made me more likely to approach new opportunities without fear of failure. I often failed, but I always got back up again and moved on. Oh, and I’ve also realised that from a work perspective, nothing is important enough to waste tears on.
I Taketh No Shit
Ten years ago, my Dad - a seemingly healthy, six foot man of only sixty years old - was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died eight days after his 61st birthday, four and a half months after they’d told him the news. The cancer had debilitated him, shrunk him to a shadow of his former self, destroyed his dreams of retirement with my Mum in Somerset, slammed his chances of knowing his grandchildren and left a gap in our family that would never be bridged. Four years later, I went for a mammogram after finding a lump in my breast and discovered that I had breast cancer. I was absolutely, totally furious. I had three children, the youngest of whom wasn’t yet three years old. What a bastard cancer is.
So in my fourth decade, I realised that all the small shit, the little stuff, the aggrevating minutiae of life meant absolutely zilch. Nada. Nothing. From being a woman who would regularly cry at the pressure of a performance appraisal at work, I literally became as hard as nails. Okay, they might be little nails, more like thumb tacks, but I’m now one hundred times more likely to stand up for myself in any given situation than I ever was before. I’ve realised that by not representing myself in the way that I actually feel, it’s detrimental to my mental health. No longer will I spend hours or even days wishing I’d said something different, that I’d put my point forward and not been scared to speak up. Social media feed aside, whether it be a work environment, social situation or a traffic steward at York Races who verbally abused me (I can tell you he most certainly regretted THAT one), I will stand my ground. No one else is going to do that for you. You’re your biggest fan.
Kirsten Dunst once said that her favourite age is now, and I am in full agreement with that sentiment. I’ve crammed a fair amount so far into my 48 years - some good, some bad and much of it ugly - but every experience has made me the person that I am today. If I was given the same opportunities when I was a younger person that I have had over the past three years, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to pursue them. With age has come confidence in myself and my abilities, albeit skills that I didn’t even know that I’d possessed when I was knocking back the Martini whilst zooming down the A40 listening to Luther Vandross with the windows open. Forty nine, I’ll be ready for you. But maybe without a Prosecco van.