Anita Ekberg, star of La Dolce Vita, has died. She was 83. After her death, her lawyer said that Ekberg was “saddened by her illness and advancing age.” One of the most iconic, sexy screen goddesses of the past century was angry at the ageing process. If she felt like that, what chance do the rest of us stand? We all look at female Hollywood A-listers over forty and play “spot the work they’ve had done” then read the papers the next day who vilify them for it. They’ll “praise the bravery” mind you of any woman “not ashamed” of her ageing…so that’s nice.
I shall be 43 years old tomorrow. Forty. Three. I am completely pissed off about this. I don’t want to be 43. I don’t want to age. I am angry that I have no choice in this. Truly, completely and utterly fucked off. I know it’s stupid, pointless and illogical. We’re all growing older by the second, after all. We’re all in this boat together: the one heading for Death. I’m totally with Ekberg, who said, “I don’t know if paradise or hell exist, but I’m sure hell is more groovy.” I’m not afraid of death either…I just don’t want to be old. Right now, the dystopia of Logan’s Run feels right. (Ironically no one under thirty will be aware that this is a reference to a book/film in which all members of society are killed on their thirtieth birthday.)
In my early thirties I divorced and trained in a new career. Consequently, many of my friends and colleagues are a good ten years younger than me. They are just starting to have babies, or posting gorgeous pics of themselves on holiday in bikinis on Facebook, or partying until all hours…things I was doing back then too. Things that I can still do, in fact, but a lot more self-consciously, with a lot more filters, and a lot more recovery time. Last summer I went out with a group of girlfriends in their early thirties. We got talking to a bunch of men who, on discovering my age, were shocked because they thought I looked the same age as the other women around me. Yay, go me! There were high fives all round (from me too) and I felt incredibly happy. How shockingly shallow? I completely conspire with our culture of ageism. I am embarrassed when I pitch articles because I know all the other women pitching (more successfully) are in their twenties – and the women rejecting me are probably young enough to be…well…my very baby sisters? I’ve looked into Botox, collagen, non-surgical facelifts, surgical facelifts, marionette line surgery…I could go on. I know how much each procedure costs and where my local providers are. I am appalled at myself. Why am I doing this?
I hate that older friends who tick the same “age category” boxes on market research forms as me are starting the menopause. This actually makes me want to cry. In the middle of her hot flush last week, a colleague said to me, “This’ll be you soon.” I had to walk away as I felt personally insulted. It made my tummy go funny. What’s that about? Over Christmas I had a mild pregnancy scare, and rather than going through the “oh shit, what if…?” scenarios of yesteryear, I was relishing the idea of showing people a scan photo as a form of defiant victory. “Ha! Look what I can still do!” I am a ridiculous person. In 1989 I watched When Harry Met Sally and remember laughing at Meg Ryan weepingly declaring, “I’m gonna be forty.” “When?” Billy Crystal asks, bemusedly. “Some day, “ she sobs in response. And I understand now. Forty came and went for me – and it was a milestone. It is the age where it suddenly becomes “weird” for women to start having babies. Everyone talks about “the risks”. You’re no longer quite a viable proposition in the baby making stakes. A good friend who is the same age as me had her second child a couple of months ago, a little boy. He’s gorgeous, and she’s amazing. Knackered, but amazing. I remember being beyond knackered with each of my three kids when they were babies. Would it feel worse at 43? Or better because I would know from experience that it’s temporary? (Do not let me have a baby. If you are reading this, you are now partly responsible for ensuring I do not get pregnant.)
Last year I went on a date with a guy who had wooed me for weeks. The date was wonderful (I thought). It was long, lazy, and fun…and I never heard from him again. Not a peep. After many, many (many) hours of analysing this, I decided it’s simply because when he saw me close up, I was just too damned old. Yep, this is how my brain now works. I am obsessed. Would I prefer that it was because he thought I was dull and stupid? Yeah, I probably would…because I know I’m not. Or if I was, I could change it. I can’t make myself younger though. And yes, I can hear myself. And yes, I know how awful I sound. There are dreadful things happening all over the world. I should appreciate how lucky I am. I should focus on things I can actually change. I should look at people older than me who have and still are achieving amazing things and having fulfilling lives. I should appreciate that my advancing years (oh god, that phrase) afford me life experience and wisdom. Ugh.
Then there are the pretty, young ones who tweet things like, “Only 2 more days of being 29. #old.” FUCK OFF! Seriously, I need to be younger. I know all of this is ridiculous…I know. And I’m sorry I sound so shallow and uncaring and vapid. In real life, I’m not, I promise. But today the truth feels ugly. Old and ugly.
All of this said, one of my favourite recent discoveries is American Horror Story. I have binge watched and am adoring Jessica Lange. She embodies everything I want to be as I continue to age. In fact, if I could be half the sex-bomb at 43 that she is at 66, I’d take it. Gone is the naiveté of the King Kong, Tootsie, hell, even The Postman Always Rings Twice performances.
The girl of bygone days has nothing on the woman of today; she exudes sex appeal. The woman is 66 years old here: no surgery, no Botox, no bullshit. Okay, there’s a bit at the very start of season three where she furiously commits murder by literally sucking the life from a doctor unable to perfect the anti-ageing potion over which she obsesses, but hey…I sympathise with those emotions.
Then there are the jokes. When Wayne Rooney had sex with a forty eight year old woman who happened to be a grandmother, the tabloids took the piss mercilessly – not because he was an idiot prepared to throw away his relationship for the thrill of paid-for sex, but because he’d paid for sex with a woman in her late forties. How disgusting. The humiliation felt by her must have been palpable. Imagine, five years from now, someone taking the piss out of a bloke for having sex with me because I’ll be so fucking old. Wow. That’s before we even think about the hilarious “dried up” throwaway comments that are thoughtlessly bandied around on comedy panel shows galore about any woman over forty.
Oh and by the way, a word to the wise: never EVER enter into the realms of guessing a woman’s age. Ever. If you guess the correct age, she will be upset that you don’t think she looks younger than her years. If you guess younger, she’ll think you’re being nice – which means you must think she looks older than you actually think she is. If you guess older…well, don’t. Just don’t.
Hmmm. With age comes wisdom, does it? It’s a shame that skin thins and is more easily damaged as we age because it feels as though it needs to grow much, much thicker.
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