The Strange Melancholy of Middle Age

Here’s a thing from today that has blown my mind. Apparently, when you say the phrase ‘social mores’, you pronounce it like this:

‘Social MORAYS

Is this too tricky to even imagine? If so, do as I do and picture a bunch of moray eels hanging out. Of course, the correct pronunciation of this odd word may well be obvious to you all, but not to me. It turns out I’ve been uttering the occasional ‘xx mores’ in this kind of situation like, well, ‘s’mores’ without the first bit. How many times must I have been at a party or in a work situation and I’ve bemoaned other people’s lack of ‘social MORZ’? I am dying. If I’ve been wrong about that, what else have I been wrong about? I have a friend who cannot say ‘menstruation’ correctly and I’ve never corrected them, and Mark, as you may well have been informed last blog post, cannot pronounce the word ‘wasps’, so it isn’t just me.

But what else do I say that has other people cringing? I need to know, painful as it is. Please feel free to give me a little tap’o’the shoulder and a whisper’o’the ear if you are ever in earshot and I do it again. This linguistic mishap-laden road is leading to quite a bit of paranoia, I tell you.

And where does this end? How many things can a person continue to get wrong as they surpass youth and head, sun-spotted nose and creased-forehead first, into the middle age? I would imagine quite a few. Entirely wrong song lyrics, an inability to manage simple maths, no understanding at all of geography, not being entirely sure if badgers are real, inexplicably confusing the words ‘sausages’ with ‘potatoes’ if overtired…is all of this normal? Is it just the kind of charming thing that makes up the patchwork of one’s life, or did that term I missed in primary school with a terrifically bad bout of glandular fever make me dumber than I thought?

It could be the peri-menopausal brain fog I keep hearing about. And if it is all to be traced back to my hormones (or lack of, or an uneven mix of them, or whatever it is that happens to women right about my age) then this would make sense because, as well as suddenly a bit thick, I seem to be cripplingly tired all the time. This Platinum Jubilee weekend, with all the parties and drinks and cakes and BBQs and things, was remarkable less for the jolly Union Jack and prosecco-fuelled japes and more for the constant desire I felt for lying down and fully surrendering to sleep. Which makes me worried: is it that I am not so much tired as ready to die, because what is the desire for constant sleep, really? It’s just being dead. Which feels entirely premature because I am in good health, my family is nice, my joints, though cracking and stiff, tend to work fairly well. I’m not yet 45. I am still breastfeeding, even.

So. I am defeated by sleepiness and am becoming melancholy about my lost youth and former effortless ability to manage wakefulness for a decent period of time. I’m also melancholy because I went to Waitrose this afternoon for frankfurters, brioche buns and something to whiten my whites (not a euphemism) and the lady there asked me how old my eldest son was.

“He’s 17,” I said, as I packed my things into my 50p Waitrose bag, the thicker plastic-woven kind of which I have about 25 sitting at home, thickly taking up room and forever being forgotten about because I only ever pop into Waitrose for a packet of strawberries and come out surprised by the sheer volume of stuff that suddenly feels crucial.

“Oh.” She said. “He’s going to leave you soon then. When my daughter left I was sad for two months. I cried every day. It’s terrible. I had to leave work one day because I was crying so much. I’m only telling you this so you can be prepared. I’m sorry. Do you have your Waitrose card?”

I didn’t, as it happened, so I missed out on there being 20% off some weekly items. This made me a little sad, but not as sad as the whole “YOU WILL LITERALLY WANT TO CEASE LIVING WHEN YOUR BOYS LEAVE YOU” thing. Which I know will happen, because I already feel sad about them leaving one day. It’s another layer to my middle-aged melancholy. I am sad about the fact that they aren’t small, and that they don’t hug me much anymore, and that their hair smells oily rather than like yeasty magical biscuits. I’ve ruined one set of teeth (well, Noah did that himself, but still), and they have scars and curved spines and a therapist and no one needs me much anymore. Remi is starting fulltime nursery in September and from late June I will have a job that takes me away, physically (Canary Wharf, even) and mentally. I won’t really be around to cook frankfurters for them. No one will be able to scan my groceries while regaling me with terrible tales of impending motherhood-related grief as I purchase a family-sized container of Vanish and pretend not to feel like weeping alongside them.

I will miss the tiny bits of family life that I didn’t take much notice of anyway. The ones I can – and the ones I can’t – remember. The moments maybe I wished away. There aren’t enough photos or videos on my phone of them being small and now I feel regretful and panicked. I was too busy getting annoyed or thinking I should be doing something else. AND NOW WHAT? I’m about to enter a world of reverse mothering; once they kept entering the flat, needing cots and beds, taking up space, adding to crockery and cutlery needs. Pretty soon, they will leave the way they came. Out the door. Bigger though, and more sweary.

I spoke to my mum and dad about this and they were like YES IT IS TERRIBLE. They don’t even have any of their kids or grandchildren in the same country, even. They say it hurts – and I am getting it now.

Still. I have a three year old and we are trying to remember to do fun stuff before the moment/months/years pass. Here is Remi after we spent £9 on two ice creams and then he said he doesn’t like cold things:

Luckily Casper was there and he ate them both:

Here’s the divine, gentle, handsome Noah in his charity shop prom night ensemble with a needy clingy mother. Remi is making some kind of inappropriate salute:

My bruise from our family self defence classes. Luke did some defensive kicks and I didn’t take my watch off. I have been ridiculously proud of this bruise and have shown everyone:

Adorable baby and his Mirka tools freebie sunglasses from his dad on a Queensway saunter:

A little Platinum Jubilee garden marshmallow BBQ action. I was probably asleep under a table:

We went to Wales and had a marvelous time with the best family who also stretch to being oversized – seven kids at their place in all, though not everyone was at home. Our kids were housed in a massive bell tent and we bbq’ed, played piano, split apple juice on the glorious wooden floors and ate all the available pizza. It was a triumph!

We also enjoyed the sheep, frogs, dogs, horses, badger tracks and bird watching:

I start my new job in a few weeks so I am planning on spending my remaining time not taking naps. I will chat to my children and take them out and read to them without one eye on my phone. I will feed them alfresco and actually try to listen to them instead of muttering a lot of inauthentic ‘mmmmm hmmmmms’ while they tell me stories I don’t understand. I will try to capture this mothering thing which is disappearing a little more each day.

How did it come to this?

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2 Responses to The Strange Melancholy of Middle Age

  1. frances says:

    don’t worry too much about them leaving – I know it feels scary but it’s actually ok – they appreciate being home so much more when they come back!! also you have a very gradual tapering what with the 3 year old and on up… so hopefully that will soften the blow. re: tiredness – yes! my friend who is a super high powered CFO swears by ashwagandha. I haven’t tried it as work from home so can be tired without anyone seeing (usually) xx

  2. rose says:

    Sounds like you are actually doing a great job and I am impressed. Such a grand crew of young men-to-be. Hope new job is all you want it to be and that you will be working with wonderful people. I miss your posts and am crossing fingers we will still hear from you.
    Thank you so much for writing. It will be blazing hot here for next few days and I shall picture you in fabulous London weather. Wishing you much joy.

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