Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just like that

One of the things that I find particularly remarkable about middle-age (amongst many!) is the fact that it always seems to hit with such a surprise. I mean, nothing in your life will have come with a lengthier lead-up time and yet still it's as if one day you look in the mirror and holy hell (I've moderated the usual language here), you're middle-aged. Just like that.

I can remember a conversation I had once, around 33 years ago, while sitting in a beer garden at Nelson's Bay (along the NSW coast). It was summer, with late-afternoon sunlight dappling across my sweet vermouth and coke, and I was wearing a pair of cut-off jean shorts and a lemony t-shirt that depicted a sun setting across my boobs (ah, how prophetic - and how ironic that I can remember exactly what I was wearing 33 years ago but I can't find where I put my car-keys this morning). Anyway, for some reason the conversation turned to being forty and I can vividly remember actually recoiling with distaste. What, me forty? Perhaps not being a size ten? Or having these smooth tanned legs? Or looking drop-dead spunky with my spiral perm? Or liking sweet vermouth and coke? Impossible to visualise.

Yet now forty has not only come, but gone - along with my size ten figure, my spiral perm and (thank god) my liking for alcoholic drinks that straddle the fence between confectionary and crap. Funnily enough, even if Doctor Who landed on my front lawn with the Tardis and offered me the chance to go back, I wouldn't take him up (although, depending on which doctor I scored, I might very well invite him in for a little time-travelling of our own). Because although I view my youth with much nostalgia, I'm pretty damn content with what I've done and where I've been in the meantime. So it's rather like looking at baby photos of my offspring. I smile as I run my finger across the curve of a plump cheek, and even emit one or two wistful sighs, but then I close the album with a sense of relief that I'm no longer cleaning mustard-coloured poop out of baby crevices, or negotiating a pram through peak-hour shopping, or fishing duplo out of the toilet bowl. It was fine while it lasted, and now it's over. Which is probably just as well when I recall that along with the size ten figure and the smooth tanned legs, I also had a level of intelligence that would have made Homer Simpson seem like Stephen Hawking. Not just because my education had been severely lacking (for instance I joined the RAAF at 17 believing that Perth was somewhere north of Brisbane and that Adelaide was little more than a rumour), but because my firmly-held opinions were... well, daft. My pearls of wisdom included:
  • it's not really cheating unless it's pre-meditated.
  • Rock Hudson can't possibly be gay. You can tell.
  • that women's lib stuff is all irrelevant - but why oh why can't we RAAF women be posted overseas like the guys, or even given a choice of jobs beyond just admin or cooking or stewarding?
  • marijuana shouldn't just be made legal, it should be compulsory. Then everyone'd be a little more relaxed.
  • the rhythm method is a totally reliable form of contraception.
  • riding one's motorcycle without a helmet is an inspired way to blow-dry one's hair.

I'm not sure if it was all that sweet vermouth, or maybe my spiral perm was a tad too tight, but believe me the world is a lot better off with me at fifty. And, most probably, so am I. So why is it there seems to be this general perception that middle-aged women spend a great deal of their time mourning a lost youth? Or am I just being a) sensitive, b) paranoid, or c) just in a bad mood because I still can't find the car keys?


  1. looking forward to following your progress and in reading the book. I'm sure it will be very entertaining.

  2. My god you have that era down pat....sweet vermoth, I don't think I have touched a drops since those days!!!