Coming of Age

9th June 2022 This week I want to talk about age. It’s something that affects all of us, like it or not. I turned 64 in April, and I have to say that from my standpoint, there aren’t that many good points to it. Getting old is when your body starts having a say in what you can and can’t do, unless you’re one of those people who has always been blessed with finding it easy to be active. If like me, you were definitely not born to find pleasure in exercise, staying active becomes more and more difficult, the older you get. I was a chubby baby, a plump toddler, was layered with ‘puppy fat’ through my later childhood and was a fat teenager, and as the years have passed, I have now become what they call morbidly obese. Despite that, I was very active as a youngster – whilst I found no thrills in the PE lessons at school, regular readers of my posts will know that I attended Rene Rawlinson’s dancing class religiously every Saturday from aged two to fourteen. For my size, I was quite light on my feet, and though I couldn’t run far to save my life, I had rhythm and enjoyed the music. As a teenager, I was first on the dancefloor at school discos and last off. That carried on right through my formative years and my ‘nightclubbing’ days in the 1980s. I worked in restaurants and pubs, on my feet all day and danced all night.

Even as late as 40 years old, when managing the Ship Aground at Talsarnau in North Wales, I spent all my working hours shopping for supplies, running around a kitchen cooking during sessions and slogging up and downstairs between the cellar kitchen and the bar, carrying trays of food to customers.

It was when I went to university as a mature student in 2000 that I noticed I was finding it more and more difficult to walk far. I would get out of breath walking between lecture halls at Lancaster Uni, (it’s a big campus you know!) trailing behind my fellow students, though admittedly they were mostly more than 20 years younger than I! I still managed to cut a rug on evenings out in the various pubs and clubs that we frequented, particularly a little nightclub that specialised in having drag artists perform on a Saturday night – I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the place – if you know it, please let me know in the comments because it’s driving me mad not knowing!

Anyway, I digress as usual – what I’m trying to say is that as most people reach middle age their bodies start marching to a different beat than their heads. In my mind, I still feel the same as I did when I was in my 30s, but my 64-year-old carcass? That’s a different story altogether. The trouble is that age sneaks up on you without you noticing. One day you’re twisting the night away till 2:00 am and thinking nothing of it – the next you’re praying for 9:00 pm so you can put the kettle on for your nightly mug of Horlicks.

When did it start that I couldn’t squat without my knees cracking; that I needed to push against the arms of chairs to rise up from them? When did it start to become painful to tie my hair up in a bun or ponytail because I can’t hold my arms up for the length of time it takes? I know I’ve mentioned before my anxiety about falling over, because I know there’s no way to get up again without assistance. When did I first notice that my eyesight was failing – both for distance and for reading?

Let’s start with gravity. Gravity sucks – in more ways than one! Particularly for women, unless they’re prepared to work hard on their physical being. When you reach middle age, all of a sudden you find it very uncomfortable to be seen in public without what my Nana would have called ‘foundation garments’. You feel self-conscious if your summer outfit decrees that you can’t wear a bra – though if you’re lucky you can invest in a ‘multi-way’ bra that might help. Otherwise, I tend to suffer a severe case of TOB (Tits On Belly). But back in the day it wouldn’t have bothered me to go out bra-less. Now? I get my bras made for me, welded out of steel in a Korean shipyard. No, I jest, but not for me those lovely lacy items of lingerie – my bras are definitely substantial! In Nana’s day, foundation garments meant full corsets, or at the very least a long-line bra and ‘roll-on’. And no, I don’t mean deodorant.

A roll-on was a girdle, made of very strong elastics that you literally had to ‘roll on’ by rolling it up into a sort of tight belt and easing it over your lower portions until the bottom of the garment rested at thigh level, then you rolled it out and up, tucking in all your flabby bits until the top part met the bottom edge of your long-line bra. If you didn’t get it right, the girdle would just roll back down again, leaving your flab blowing gently in the breeze. Moving down the generations, my mother’s version of this would be a ’corselette’ or ‘panty-girdle’, and today’s equivalent is probably something created by Spanx. You must have seen the ads for these on the Internet, they’re always popping up on my Facebook feed, (thanks FB for believing I need one!) the ladies demonstrating them suddenly looking lithe and slim without a lump or bump anywhere in sight, thus allowing them to wear the tightest of ‘bodycon’ dresses. I just can’t understand where it all goes to! I mean, common sense dictates that the flab has to go somewhere – and I envision myself with rolls of fat pushing out of the top so that my cleavage is under my chin, and my thighs bulge out into tree trunks the size of an ancient oak capable of hiding Charles II. Not that I’ll ever find out, because they don’t actually make these instruments of torture in my size! I think we ‘BBWs’ as we’re called on polite social media, are just mean to ‘lump it’ – literally!

But I care not – I may be obese, but I’m comfortable in my skin, and don’t give a hang if I don’t meet society’s regulations that stipulate what is beautiful or not.

Speaking of which, Beauty is another area where age launches unexpected and stealthy attacks. They never tell you about the stray black, wiry hairs that appear overnight, growing out of cheeks and chin with gay abandon. I swear, you can look in the mirror before going to bed one evening – the next morning when you come to look again – there is an inch-long whisker sprouting from the middle of your cheek. And if you have no vanity and rarely examine your face in a mirror, just try leaving it for a week before you look closely – if you’re anything like me, you’ll have the makings of a full-on hipster face-furniture set. Never mind diamonds – a girl’s best friend is her tweezers!

I do believe that men have it much easier than women when it comes to aging. All our lives, we women have to fight to keep ourselves ‘attractive’. It’s grossly unfair when you think about it – all men have to do is to take reasonably good care of themselves (or let their mothers/girlfriends/wives look after them) and they just get older; their hair starts greying which makes them look distinguished, and their wrinkles make them look ‘lived-in and interesting’. That’s it! For us women, in order to fulfil our ‘natural’ functions, we start when we’re young girls, trying to make ourselves look pretty in order to attract a partner. Then we start breeding, carrying our offspring for 9 months, then fighting to regain our pre-pregnancy bodies, over and over until we’ve had as many kids as we want. Then we have to keep up the battle so that our other halves don’t lose interest in us, or accuse us of ‘letting ourselves go’. We spend our lives chasing our tails to keep our families nurtured, then they bugger off to college or university, or move out to relationships of their own. Just when you start thinking you’ve got some ‘me time’ to start doing the things you actually want to do (which may or may not include tending to our poor neglected bodies), what happens? The Menopause!

Yippee! Now we have to suffer the hot flushes, the cramps, the mood swings, the loss of libido and all the rest of it and the only reward we get at the end of it is that we don’t have to suffer periods any more. Whoop-de-doo! But then – when you’ve just thanked God that’s the last pack of Tampax you’ll ever have to buy – may I introduce you to Tena Lady? Yes, that’s right, now there’s just the ‘stress incontinence’ you have to deal with. Of course, you try to do the pelvic floor exercises you learnt as a new mother, to keep the old ‘Vaj’ nice and tight (again, you don’t want your man to lose interest, do you?). But there comes a point when all your internal muscle gripping isn’t worth a light and you’re sore afraid to laugh, sneeze or cough unless you’ve got something in your pants to catch the fallout. Indignity? What indignity?

Okay, all this has been fairly tongue in cheek, even though true. In fact, I’m happily at the point that a lot of people feel when they get older. I like being in my 60s – it’s true!

I think I still scrub up pretty well when I can be bothered – fortunately the occasions when I have to are few and far between, which actually makes it all the more special an event when I DO put on the full slap and turn my face to the world. The rest of the time, I’m happily slobbing out at home; I live in my ‘comfies’ (which usually comprise leggings or shorts and oversize t-shirts and my slippers). I do whatever I want, when and where I want without needing to explain anything to anyone. If I want to eat crumpets and Nutella at 3:00 am, or spend two hours in the bath reading, then that’s exactly what I do. I’m in the fortunate position that after being made redundant 5 years ago, I haven’t had to work, which is the only upside of my disabilities. Yes, I’m broke, but I have enough coming in to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head. A lottery win would be fantastic, but until then, I’ll manage, just about. My writing is a joy, not like work at all because a) I don’t get paid for it, and b) I set my own deadlines, and c) I have no boss to answer to. I try to eat sensibly, and rarely drink alcohol, but that’s because I care about my health enough not to want to court disaster. But if I do feel like a glass of wine or a bar of chocolate, I have one, because, let’s face it, life’s much too short to be miserable. My philosophy is that you have to die of something, so you might as well die happy! Who wants to be the healthiest corpse in the graveyard?

So, I try not to stress about stuff and try to keep my mental health issues under control. I can recognise now when I’m depressed, and know that as long as I keep taking the medication, it will pass eventually. Likewise with the anxiety – I know it’s irrational to panic about the things I’m anxious about; logic tells me that I will get through whatever the situation is and a panic attack will resolve itself eventually – my mantra is ‘This Too Shall Pass’ which is true of absolutely everything when you think about it.

So, I’ll end on a few GOOD things about getting older. Nostalgia – there’s nothing like getting together with your old friends and family and reliving the happy times, or listening to the music that accompanied your earlier life. Peace – you don’t feel guilty about turning things down, or taking naps, or living your life at your own pace. Self-love – if you make it through to a ripe old age, you tend to be comfortable with who you are, and you don’t give a monkey’s for what other people think of you any more. That’s their problem, not yours.

Finally – few memes about getting older that have made me smile – I hope they do the same for you. And don’t forget, I’d love to hear your opinions and comments – please leave them in the box provided, or send me an email!

  • I am not lazy, I’m on energy-saving mode
  • Inside every older person is a younger person wondering ‘what the hell happened?’
  • Being cremated is my last hope for a smoking hot body
  • May you live to be so old that your driving terrifies people
  • Laugh till you leak – it just makes it funnier!
  • I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me
  • When I grow old, I don’t want people saying ‘what a lovely old lady’. I want them saying ‘Oh crap, what is she up to now?’

Until next week,

LH

By lizziehughesauthor

Hello! I'm Liz, a writer from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, although I'm originally from t'other side o't hill as they say around here. I'm from Barrow in Furness, which was in Lancashire when I was born - still, whether it's Lancashire or Cumbria, it still makes me a Northern Lass. That means I'm honest, straightforward and feisty. My current book is (very) loosely based on my family history, though the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!) I'm hoping to publish in April 2022, or possibly earlier. Watch this space!

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