The “old” me would have approached a birthday like many of us treat a visit to the dentist. It’s going to happen, we might as well just roll with it but I am not going to enjoy it. I am now firmly, very firmly, in my thirties and with every year that passes I am one year closer to 40. At one time that age would have filled me with dread.
A stripper and my Nan
I remember my Mum’s 40th birthday. I also remember the stripper that gave me an eyeful. He wasn’t there for my Mum (much to her disappointment), he was there for the table next door. That day I learnt that there is more than one use for baby oil. I was far too young to learn this; I was also far too young to be watching my Nan whooping with excitement as the young man whipped of his trousers to reveal a thong. 40 seemed so old. That night, as I watched the bright orange stripper gyrating next to the dessert trolley amongst the black forest gateaux and the lemon meringue pies, I decided that I would never turn 40.
I stuck to it. Every birthday after 30 became a count down towards 40. However, this year my attitude has changed. I am now glad to have another birthday. I am glad to be making that rapid approach towards 40. It has been a year that I have lost a close friend to cancer, it has been a year where I have watched other close friends battling illness. Therefore, I feel honoured and privileged to be celebrating a birthday. I am glad to be growing up, sort of. This year there was no anxiety as my birthday approached. I toasted my birthday with a glass of prosecco and my birthday tea was cheese and crackers in front of Strictly Come Dancing. I might not have felt like going out and painting the town red but don’t worry I did go out on my birthday eve! However, a couple of cocktails and I was ready to go home. The old me would have admonished me for not living it up. The wiser me realises that a hangover with children is never worth it and that you don’t need a night of excess to have a good time.
In my thirties I feel comfortable in my skin. My twenties were riddled with angst. I did not enjoy my twenties, despite being a newlywed. I felt under pressure. Pressure to succeed in my career, to buy a house, to have children. Pressure to be an adult! However, after I achieved all of these things I wondered why I put myself under so much pressure to achieve them in the first place. Yes, I am delighted to be a mother. My family are what is most important to me. I have come to realise that the rest: the money, house and career doesn’t make you happy.
In your twenties you feel this pressure to be more grown-up. In your thirties you realise that it is just about being you. About being happy. In our twenties we rush through life. We are in a rush to do everything. In our thirties we want to slow it down, we really want to appreciate the life we have. My twenties were a toxic mixture of ambition, hangovers and bad food. It was all about ME. I was selfish. I didn’t know what an avocado was and exercise was something that I did before a night out.
Why I like my thirties
In your thirties you realise that life is short. In your thirties you realise that it is about being happy, it’s about making the most of the life you have. In my twenties I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. In my thirties I accept what I see in the mirror. In my forties I am hoping that I can embrace what I see in the mirror. In your twenties you worried about whether you would fit into your black dress for the night out. In your thirties you worry about your children getting ill. You worry about how much drink you consumed in your twenties. You worry about the lack of respect you showed your body in the past. You admire your body for being able to carry two children.
Mr C and birthdays
Mr C has never had the same angst regarding his birthdays. If anything he has been rather baffled by my loathing of the day. He has positively enjoyed reminding me that he is in fact a little younger than me. Combine this with the fact that Mr C is only getting better with age, where I on the other hand have felt like I am on a rapid descent towards being a crumbly old woman. However, our society treats men differently to women. As women we are made to feel that we need to be holding onto our youth. Face creams, serums and moisturisers are all aimed at keeping us young. I recently found out that I should be moisturising my nail cuticle! Nail cuticle! I am very slack when it comes to applying magic creams. If I applied everything, then it would take me forever!
My face, my story
Yes, I look at my face and I see the laughter lines and the crow’s feet. The things that the magic cream tells me I should be eradicating. I like my lines. Perhaps, I would like them a little less obvious but I don’t want to lose them. They are me, they show that I have lived a life, they show that I laugh and that I worry. My life is etched on my face. Face-lifts, creams and Botox might promise me a wrinkle-free face but I don’t want that. My face and its lines are not a disease that needs curing. Getting older is not a disease. Getting older is a gift.
How I feel about birthdays now
As each year passes I have come to realise that your birthday doesn’t suddenly signal the start of your face sliding south. It is the tequilas that do that 😉 I am proud to have welcomed another birthday. I am proud of getting this far, surviving childbirth, recessions, loss, leaving my career behind, leaving my home behind and enduring loneliness. I have survived them all. I hope that I continue to survive whatever life throws at me. I hope that I get to see many more birthdays. Yes, I am another year older but for the first time I feel that little wiser. Now I truly appreciate how celebrating a birthday is a privilege.
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