Friday, 2 September 2011

The view from my forties.

There has been a spate of birthdays amongst my friends recently most of whom are much younger than me.  Reading many comments along the lines of “OMG I’m nearly 30!” or “old!old!old!” has prompted me to ruminate, now I am well into my forties, on the difference between being in my teens/twenties and being where I am now.

Not the way to manage your pension....

1: Pensions and dull financial stuff.

The first thing that occurs to me is how radically different your worries are. I have suddenly become concerned about pensions and what the hell I am going to do about retirement. There has been a shocking shift, from now I grow closer to being 65 than 25. In a way this is prompted by positives; I have observed my parents and their friends. Some are having a great time: travelling, relaxing or starting second lives with new interests, hobbies and even businesses. But it does require both money and a roof over your head. I am perhaps just in time to do something about this but have become horrified by the situation of those in their 20’s who will not pay into a pension because they expect to buy property or have their own business. The simple fact is that most people do not end up being the person they expect to become during their 20’s.  The chances are that you won’t end up being where you anticipate being, perhaps better off or far worse. The ideal is to have property, savings and a pension. It is known in gambling as 'spreading your bets' but at least do something no matter how little, even £10.00 month is better than nothing. The fact is no one else is going to pay for you and if you are a woman and currently busy procreating you are worse off than most, at least a quarter of the women I know who took this route have been left with the children and little support. It is not 'rock and roll' and grim I know but it has to be said.

Ohhhh, bellinis !

2: Not stressing about the wrinkles.

Another peculiar thing is that you really do become less concerned with your looks, or rather let me rephrase that. You understand your looks. You also tend to realise after bitter experience that there is not a lot you can do to change them, that miracle products do not exist and that yellow glittery eye shadow will never suit you. Of course wrinkles appear and chins sag but it is a very slow and painless process and is happening to everyone else your age.  In my case I have quite average looks; age is hopefully giving my appearance a bit of character. Also a look at your younger self somewhat surprisingly shows that you didn’t look much better. Perhaps you might have looked a bit slimmer or a bit fresher but often, when compared to your modern self, also a bit ‘wrong’.  I think that this actually makes older women a hard sell for beauty manufacturers and it is why they try and demonise the ageing process and really have a right go at our self-confidence at the same time. Not that I believe in ageing gracefully particularly, just ageing the way you want.  However I can confirm that looking at women the same age as me and that I have grown up with those that tan and smoke do look distinctly worse for wear. Also you have to watch your teeth, I’ve managed to lose one already! So that’s it really on the beauty front, don’t smoke and don’t burn your skin. No shit Sherlock! On a positive note, so far, the boozy ladies look just as good as the tee-totallers and the slightly chubby seem to be ageing more slowly than their thin cousins. Mind you I still fume at how unphotogenic I am...

3: Not wanting to look 25 again even if you could. 

One thing I do regret about my fellow forty-somethings is that the media driven obsession with youth seems to have taken hold with a vengeance. I am very glad to see the back of the pale gabardine mac, grey- permed uniform that previously marked out the elderly but am taken aback to see flighty teenage fashion on 55 year olds.  I don’t want to look like my mum and she would rather have her teeth pulled than look like me. Then there are all these nips and tucks and breast enhancements and things. Each to their own, but think of all the holidays they could have bought and all the fun to be had with that money?  The fact is nobody cares what you look like as much as you and you probably care too much. Don’t get a boob job, go on holiday! The health information around now is so much better, the chances are todays 20 somethings will look better than today’s 40 somethings who were children in the skin burning e number scoffing 70’s anyway. That is if they don’t eat all the pies, I have just been to the seaside and I have never seen so many fat kids.

It is definitely worse than it was.

4: Sticking up for yourself and other women.

The thing that grates the most is that women despite decades of feminism are still the victims of ageism and sexism, particularly in the work place. Sad to say this can often be a case of ‘women doing it to themselves’ rather than ‘women doing it for themselves’.  There has been a huge concentration on maternity rights which although important does not necessarily help all of us. I hope women in their 20’s join a union, start being feminists again and stick up for themselves more otherwise to be frank I think they’ll be more stuffed when they reach their forties than my generation. It’s important they know that they want or don’t want babies as far as possible and plan for it. This ridiculous body clock crap was largely absent from my youth and the degree of social coercion applied by the media for us to become mothers has also increased shockingly in the last two decades. If you don’t want kids don’t have them. Sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many of my contemporaries have admitted they love their children but would not have children again if they could turn the clock back.  There is no mysterious body clock that can override women’s mental faculties, that is simple propaganda, we need to make decisions for ourselves. If a woman of my generation said in her twenties she was not a feminist she was either a religious nut, a twit or a bit thick and didn’t understand the word.  The reaction to hearing this would be similar to hearing a female friend say her hobby is ‘kitten stamping’: complete incomprehension.  But now I hear young women saying it all the time. Weird.

4:  Not infantilising men.

I have also learned, very painfully that men are just like women. Not a separate, dafter, species. Putting yourself mentally in a man’s shoes when dealing with them romantically or otherwise goes a very long way. This does also mean that you can also spot a dud more speedily.  I’m now too old to let men get away with anything and have grown out of this compartmentalisation of men. I blame Bridget Jones, Sex and the City and a whole slew of other stuff for establishing a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation. Little gaggles of grown women behaving like sixth formers, just like the school disco all over again. This is also behind the selling of products using that genre of adverts where the poor man is incapable of understanding washing machines. Not only is this deeply sexist towards men but extremely patronising towards women.  Men don’t like being treated as a combination of potential sperm donor/mate for life and spare child which seems entirely reasonable to me. They aren’t very keen, on the whole on women with lots of cats, but I digress. And I have never been able to get to the bottom of that one….

Both sexes; equally weird.

I don’t really have many pearls of wisdom or any really, because to be frank I haven’t been at all wise. Nor do I think I provide any particularly sterling example to anyone. I’m too angry and too foolish. But I am older, and grateful for some things (especially that I didn’t have those tattoos when I was twenty, tattoos need to be treated with special care!) and am even looking forward to my fifties. I’m grateful to have made a few correct decisions; not to have children, not to do what was expected of me and to have bothered to study and travel later into my life than most. Domestic bliss and a mortgage was never going to be my route but is perfect for others. I just think we are all far too hard on ourselves and should develop the habit of stopping and having a long hard think (even if it is not cheering) every so often. Don't let the media and society at large brow beat you they have their own agendas. And then hit the cocktails, just being alive and well is a lucky state of existence don't you think?

Are you happier than you were in your twenties? Are you in your twenties and worried about getting older? Should I have had the bat tattoos? xxx


Lavender and Twill said...

~ * ♥ * ~

I must confess I do worry about getting older... Having a child has already changed my body so much and I am having a rather hard time accepting it, but that is still something I wouldn't change.

Getting wrinkles and saggy skin? *shudder* I am not looking forwards to that. I already have enough saggy skin. I don't want any more. Yet I also don't want to fight aging. I think that growing old gracefully is the right thing to do, but you can't do that if you stress about your looks, your life and all that jazz. The two things just aren't compatible.

So how did you do it Red Legs? How did you get comfortable with moving on?

bonita of Depict This!
~ * ♥ * ~

Miss Matilda said...

Interesting post.

Would urge the middle aged woman to lay off the demon drink though, far too many of us think we can knock it back like we are 20 and I beg to differ, I think you can spot a middle aged lady drinker a mile off...and it is very aging.


RedlegsinSoho said...

Bonita: perhaps I have just been forced to choose my battles and ageing is something I cannot win against. Illness worries me far more, especially as contemporaries start to fall ill and get ageing diseases like high blood pressure. This concentrates the mind I think. I do worry about finances and security, but wrinkles? pfsh!

Miss Mathilda..I think you cannot drink like those in their 20's, I fall asleep or have some tap that says enough, well most of the time. I love tipsy middle aged and older people but not drunks. I'll try not to drink too much Blue Nun in December ; )

Minn x

superheidi said...

Loved reading your post. I'm five years ahead of you and I think I'm up for the first signs of the second big hormonal change.

I can assure you, wrinkles are not on the list of problems. But other body changes do leave me speechless by times and I realize that it won't get any better from here. The thing that worries me now is the pace of the process and issues come in plural.

Tattoos on people my age always faded from black to a fuzzy blue/green. Not particular pretty, but they are quite small. I wonder how all the big tattoos from now will mature.

My 20s were all right, I must confess I liked my 30s better than my 40s so far. Life is more harsh and grave. The bigger issues of life did not pass me by. But I am very happy with my mind and experience.

Hence I'll never understand people (is it a baby boomer thing?)that state that they're still 17 years inside. Yeah right!

Anonymous said...

I'm in my late 20s, but I've always looked forward to getting older. I think I grew up seeing too many older ladies with amazing styles who did not give a shit and it had an effect on me. It probably also helps that I never want children and come from a line of women who tend to age fairly well (until the stress gets to them.) I try to look after myself and look forward to a time where I can be more settled and sure of myself than I am now. I don't know why people reminisce about their 20s so much, for most people that I know, it is a difficult and uncertain time, especially in today's climate.

LollyWillowes said...

I agree with all of this, except the cat bit, all the men I know like them!

I loathe the way so many women today seem to collude in their own opression though, it's weird and it's creepy and it has to

Living Vintage said...

So glad I am not 25 getting older is n't easier but being young wasn't easy either. I am in my early 40's and I think the hardest part at my age and having a young family is worrying about financial security issues. Losing my job 20 years ago wouldn't have been a big deal now however.....

Straight Talking Mama! said...

What a great post!

I hate all the youth & perky bosom obsessed side of society. When I see people saying oh I wish i looked like *insert 15 year old model who hasn't even got to womanhood yet* it makes me cringe, I would no longer like to look like that than I would a monkey!

I have accepted my changes and aging well I think so, although i'm not keen on the fact that I struggle more with my weight now, I always have but now it's soooo much harder!

I agree the smokers and tanners look older, the drinkers not so much as long as they haven't been excessively heavy drinkers for years, those do look awful too.

I worry about finances now far more than I ever did, who'd have thought it eh?

I also agree that you rarely end up where you think you will in your 40s that you thought you would in your 20s, I don't mind tattoos at all but I think people do have them very easily at the moment, and what I think would have worked for me in my 20s wouldn't now and I'm one of those people who still likes what I liked in my 20s, I dressed in 50s stuff then and now, but I'm still a different person!

I'm 45 next month and welcoming it head on, however speak to me in 5 years when I'm facing 50, see if I'm still so perky ha ha!

Miss Matilda said...

I love being an old soak! LOL xx Blue nun is fine by me darling xx

monika said...

I'm only 31, but I'm already starting to feel the benefits of maturity. I've mostly learned to like myself in spite of my flaws, which makes it much easier to like other people too. My appearance hasn't changed much yet, only a few grey hairs and laugh lines, so I don't know how I'll feel about that.
And I think old people with tattoos usually look cool.

Loucrezia said...

I'm 28 - 29 in 3 months, my better half recently turned 30 and after months of "oh my god I'm an old man" crap his 30's went by without a whimper of complaint, and there have been none since. Getting older does not bother me in the slightest. I was desperate to turn 20 so I could no longer be a teenager! I have had no urges to be a mommmy, or a wife. I am happy in my rented flat, with my work provided pension and my smallish savings in the bank.(I'm an accountant, I've been on top of my finances since I was 17!) but, one thing I will say is that I have noticed is that I do feel rather mutton - as - lamb in some of my clothes and that my tastes in that regard have started to change, with regards to both quality and fit as well as style. Out have went cherry print halter dresses - In perfectly cut vintage style suits and dresses!

Mim said...

I'm 37 and about the only thing I wish I had back is boobs that stand up on their own. Otherwise I'm happy with the extra years. (I've paid into my pension since my 20s, because I plan to enjoy my old age.)

There is no time limit for enjoying life. It is true that fewer people will immediately fancy an older women, but if a woman's enjoyment of life depends on how many people wish to investigate her orifices, that's a bit sad, really. Nothing else much changes unless a person makes those changes for herself.

Kally said...

I'm 25, my boyfriend is in his early thirties. He is doing his masters degree while living in his mum's attic, I am living with a small elderly dog while running my own business, far from my family, worrying about the increasingly large wrinkles on my forehead and thinking far too much about my next tax return.

I feel like I'm in limbo a lot of the time however, having left behind the frivolities of my university years but not yet settled properly into a career or cohabitation. Whereas I do occasionally lament the loss of my ability to drink three litres of supermarket value cider or go out partying four nights a week on a budget of a tenner, I'm also acutely aware of my keenness to catch up with our nesting friends and be living in a house with my partner, with a more reliable income, buying sofas, planning holidays, merging our record collections and having a proper permanent workshop for my business.

I suppose a lot of people would tell me to enjoy being capricious, but I think I piled an awful lot of dangerous, wild behaviour into my irresponsible youth and a little more security, even if that means a couple more wrinkles, would allow me to have more fun.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. As a woman eyeballing the arrival of her 50th birthday, I'd like to mention the huge advantage of growing older: CONFIDENCE. I am so much happier than I was in my twenties and thrities, when I spent a lot of time being shy and worried about what other people thought of me. Now I have confidence in my abilities and if someone doesn't respect me or doesn't like me, it bothers me surprisingly little. I enjoy my looks too, despite the odd wrinkle, and feel an enjoyable frisson in contemplating becoming an even older woman, who will look and dress as she feels, unbothered by what the media may try to dictate. Liking yourself, ideally loving yourself, makes all the difference in contemplating the second half of your life. And knowing that you are closer to the end, rather than the beginning, gives a wonderful clarity in deciding what really matters. Enjoy yourselves and your lives.

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