This time next week I will be fifty.
This ⬆️ is as close as I ever want photos to be from now until beyond forever. A selfie, through two lenses from the shoulders up and always, always, ALWAYS in black and white.
Apart from that, far from melting down about it, I am just overwhelmingly resigned. I can’t, apparently, stave off time. Anyone have a handy wormhole?
As I approached forty, all hell broke loose. I don’t know why, because looking back now, I was in a pretty tasty situation. I had a job I loved and a good professional reputation. I was at my personal best with regards to confidence, and emotionally, *pretty solid. My body was good – recently confirmed by the photos my ex returned to me – 10 years after we split up and now he’s a dad. Seemed like the right time(!) I was genuinely surprised and sad I hadn’t appreciated it as I should have when I had it. I was living with my hot boyfriend in a nice flat and travelling as often as possible. I started crying a month before and more or less didn’t stop. Given the above, it was completely irrational. I just couldn’t compute the number. ‘But… it’s FORTY.’ Incredulous. The night before the big day, the other half suggested going for a walk to get some air as I was crying at the dinner table. Again. On the way to the Albert Dock in Liverpool, I broke down on the corner of Thomas Steers Way and Custom House Place, sat on the floor unable to walk another step and sobbed. No rhyme. No reason.
Roll on ten years that went down faster than Prince Andrew’s zipper in a room full of teenage girls and the heavy weight of existential dread looms large again. However, this time it’s different. At forty it kept donging in my ears like an almighty gong formally calling me to eat at the table of middle age – F O R -T Y, F O R -T Y, F O R-TY. This time, it’s a repetitive question in my ear, ‘what are you for? I mean, like, actually for?’ This voice is the one I fondly refer to as ‘the cunt’. The cunt doubts everything, questions every action or decision (or thought, actually), causes me immeasurable anxiety and sometimes likes to remind me that, ‘if the next ten years accelerate at the same rate as the last ten, you’ll be 120 in the blink of an eye. Oh, and you’re a useless dickhead.’ Cunt.
What’s it all for, this…^gestures wildly around at everything^. That question is not specific to fifty, by the way, but it’s very much amplified at the moment.
I’m now making my flat a home. About time, some might say. (But why?) I actually have a flat for more than a nanosecond. About time, some might say. (But why?) I’m investing my time and the little money I have in more worthwhile and enriching things and pastimes. And for the love of Christ, trying to save. Finally. About time, some… have said. (But… Ok, I know the answer to that one.)
I think, I, I think I’m settling down, and before you even think it, this expression has NOTHING TO DO WITH MEN. YES, I AM SHOUT TYPING. Do not ask me about men, my thoughts on men, my feelings about men, men in my life or lack thereof, just because I said I’m settling down. It may come as a surprise, but life also happens without them. If you value your life, see previous post. It’s possible to do this without external help. Although, I should probably acknowledge Merlin cat here, of course. I do have a little responsibility. It’s furry and quite bitey.
Now what though? We reach these milestones and then the next day is the same as the one before. It’s a bit like New Year’s Eve, innit? Just a little stiffer of joint and fatter of arse.
Is that it? Do we just keep trundling on, doing stuff until we die? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not depressed or anything like that, (I don’t think), I’m just genuinely, deeply curious. I’m still trying to work it all out.
And with that cheery thought, I will ring in this new era a calmer, quieter version of myself. On the day, I will lie-in and have a decadent breakfast (not so different, as it’s pretty much what I’ve done throughout the pandemic – eat. Eat and eat and eat. I’ve eaten as if the confinement is forever and I won’t see actual humans in the flesh again). Champagne will be involved. I will take my book somewhere sunny and socially distanced and try to relax and let go of the everyday nonsense that goes on in my bonce. Just for the day. I will speak with family and friends and watch a movie and a couple of us will go for lunch the day after. Life’s simple pleasures. For the most part, this is the way I have spent birthdays since 40, when I last organized actual dinners and gatherings for myself. But I’ll appreciate the crap out of this one.
I look forward to the next step and to being more conscious of being conscious. Because, let me tell you something my friends, time flies, and it seems to go quicker with every passing year – and, if I have learnt anything at all in all this time, it’s to not simply drift through the next few.
*I say ‘pretty’ because it’s true that the year before, my boyfriend drove me to drink gin in a tin most nights with his constant online chats with attractive blondes and secrecy about his whereabouts and I once considered a stake-out of the salsa club. I’m only human.
Thank goodness you mentioned Merlin and included a photo of the boy.
All this talk of growing old and the mystery of lifr is very Shakespearean . I expect it appears in most of his plays but no more so than in Macbeth. ‘Out out brief candle…..” In his day to treach 50 would have been exceptional.I loved your line about Prince Andrew’s zipper. Comedy gold! I hope your cunt stops giving you a hard time. The voice that is, not your vagina.
Really sad to read about the way your boyfriend treated you so cruelly and the effect it had upon you. I knew there would be sadness amongst the humour but it caught me unawares and filled me with sorrow.
So thank goodness for Merlin.
You look beautiful by the way. Really beautiful.
(I have had some of these thoughts about existence too,as I will be 68 in April.)