Last week I had a birthday – the big one, the big ol’ lady one, the one that features patches of coarse grey hair and frankly startling lines between the eyebrows that make you endlessly retake photographs in a fruitless effort to erase them, trying out new angles and working those forehead muscles again and again, when you should really just be enjoying yourself – kind of like this:
And now I am trying to make peace with the fact that I have left my thirties behind. I am metaphorically setting sail into the dank, murky waters of Middle Age and waving to Mark who is firmly out on that sea, having a good old time, catching fish with some red-faced bald mates and drinking beer. I’m still on the shore ATM, and the water isn’t deep yet, just kind of pooling around my dry, cracked feet and horny toenails (one of which actually came off a few weeks ago in that way that signals to you that your body is breaking down – crumbling into dust). It feels ok, certainly better than dead, though I fear imminent, whispery things like The Mysterious Peri-Menopause, becoming invisible to all men, skin tags and wiry hairs coming out of the side of your face that you don’t notice until the Important Social Event was over. Here are my top tips for getting over yourself when you turn 40:
Go On Holidays
This is a brilliant tip, because you cannot have a bad time going on holidays. You don’t have to do your usual domestic shit and you can drink daytime cocktails and read a lot. As Faithful Readers will know, in August we were in Puglia (see above forehead-concern photos), in September I had that little Alpine Yoga situation, and this weekend, Mark took me to Portugal for my birthday present.
STOP THE PRESS
It was all kept a secret, kind of, which suited me fine, because I am usually the one researching the flights, scouring for the best villa at the cheapest price, agonising over car rental as opposed to local taxis, wondering if the photos of the pool are fake, etc etc. This time, I was told to keep the weekend free, and that we would go somewhere, and that the kids were going to be farmed out. What a bloody dream it all was – although upon a bit of quizzing, there were gaps in the schedule which meant that no one was going to be looking after the dog or picking up the kids from school, so I had to pull rank and do a bit of last minute mama-control-freakery to plug those gaps which may have involved the Social Services/RSPCA. But mostly I just tagged along and hoped for sunshine.
So on Friday morning we got to Gatwick and I averted my eyes from the boarding passes – it wasn’t until we were actually boarding the plane that someone said
“something something something FARO something something” and then I knew we were off to the Algarve. It might have also been a surprise for Mark – he’d been telling everyone that we were going to the Amalfi Coast – so who knows *quite* what was going on there. Amalfi, Algarve – it’s all a bit ‘letter A’, isn’t it? Anyway, it all comes highly recommended for feeling better about becoming old.
Where to? Where could we possibly be going to? There are many places that start with ‘A’:
This is the marina at Vilamoura. Mark is battling a Screaming Orgasm. I am not:
So Portugal is quite full of seafood. This isn’t great for someone seafood phobic:
Thank the Portuguese saints for these then! Pastels de nada! Properly cinnamony and about 1 euro:
This is us after we discovered you could flee the Hilton complex;
And little half-sized bottle of vinho verde – what a gift to give to the world, Portugal!
Have more than one celebration
In early summer, as I was moaning to a friend about becoming 40, she told me that there was a surefire way to overcome the anguish – in her case, it was to throw THREE PARTIES. She said that by the third, you are so bored by it all, and used to the idea, that you don’t really care any more. This, I think, is very smart. I had one party, but with the mystery weekend away, it felt like three parties. My party was on a Tuesday night, and the invite email was a bit off-hand, like:
‘If you want to, please come over for some food and drinks for my birthday. But you don’t have to come, you really don’t. It’s a Tuesday, everyone’s probably busy. I understand. Don’t worry, really.’
Now, this works as a kind of reverse psychology. Everyone thinks – yeah, ok, maybe – we will see how we go. Then, at 6pm on a Tuesday, they think, ah well, it won’t hurt to pop in, will it? And 56 people turn up to eat salted beef/ham/lamb with warm ciabatta, kale salad, aubergines with tahini, tomato and pomegranate salad, cheeses, chocolate mousse and a cake made by Honey & Co, bought by your wee mate Amanda. I wore a golden frock that was said to be the most beautiful altar curtain anyone had ever seen:
Also, my arms look very pumped in that first photo, and I would like to say that this is how they look, but it was just a marvellous (birthday presenty) trick of the light.
Collagen would be the best present for a newly 40 year old, because it leaves your face and neck, slowly but surely, to sink down, down, down into the earth from whence we all came. It is why my face and shrivel neck is beginning to look so droopy:
Droopy like a well-made-but-seen-better-days weather-beaten house from the late 70’s that has been in the rain and the wind and the sun a little too much, and things are bulging and sagging because no one bothers with maintenance and repair. The kind of house that has rusted stuff on the front lawn and no real garden. Come back, cheeks! Neck, please stop that crepey thing you do!
So I invested in a derma roller – one of those tiny things that look like Decorator Barbie would use to roll paint onto her DreamHouse – but with added needles. I had a conversation with one of my yoga buddies who said she goes to a lady to get it done, where the skin gets pierced a bit, bleeds a bit, then the skin repairs itself by flooding with collagen. Though it sounded a bit gross, I ordered one on Amazon because I am a little bit cheap. After intensive use, I now look like this:
I also discovered that Otis was using it to make tiny holes in the bathroom wall, which annoyed me greatly. So my poor little pock-marked skin now has tiny flecks of paint embedded in it. But…collagen! I’ll take a bit of accidental Dulux for the soft pillowy-ness of a frightening baby!
So anyway, it’s all over and I won’t go on about being 40 any more. I’ll find something else to whinge about. But not about my lovely friends, or my most excellent husband who listened and who planned and who cooked and who tried his best to make me happy on my birthday. And that, frankly, is present enough in itself (although Portugal *was* a good call).