I have a complex relationship with getting older. On the one hand, I love getting to know myself, all my strengths and weakness and weirdnesses. I love unpicking the assumptions I’ve made about myself and watching them slither to the floor: oh, so you do like mushrooms; you are an outdoorsy person; see, you are brave. When you’re young, you’re always rushing to fall in with the crowd. You wear shoes that are wonky on your feet because you want to fit in. Age brings understanding and confidence. You start to coax the real person out from their hidey hole, bit by bit, until all of a sudden they’re standing tall beside you.
On the other hand, as soon as I hit my thirties, my tits collapsed. It was like – BYE! Have a nice life! I went from being a Baywatch Babe to basically a surfing board with a couple of very old balloons taped to the front, dangling in the wind.
You start to find hairs too. Grey ones. Long ones. In weird places. I once found a grey hair on Blue Eyes and joked about her being a granny.
“This is serious,” she growled.
“Righto, my little flower.”
You climb the ladder at work, shouldering responsibilities as you go. One day you look down, laden, and get vertigo. There’s no one to catch you when you fall now. Instead, you need to be there to catch others. It’s scary. When will someone realise there’s been a horrible mistake? That I should be back at base camp having a doughnut?
I start giving presentations, trembling behind the podium, feeling my face burn. I still feel like a teenager trapped in an adult’s body:
Okay, breathe. It’s all good. Just imagine meadows. Nice, calming meadows. Frolicking lambs. The hills are aliiiiiiive with the sound of me rammmbling…Still talking. God woman, what are you on about? Blah, blah, data, blah. Can’t believe you get paid to be *this shit*. Fuck, I’m sweating. Ugh. It’s like sitting in a bath…Oh, I just let out a little fart! A jacuzzi then. Can you pay attention? What if they ask questions? Oh good, MORE sweat. Bloody well done. They won’t be worrying about questions if they think you’ve pissed yourself.
You buy a house and have to learn how to take care of it. Things break and it’s your job to fix them. One day my drains block, causing mini floods in the garden. Eventually I call a plumber who pokes his nose into the drain and says:
“Yeah love, it’s not a blockage. It’s a giant hair ball.”
I scream as he pulls out a hair ball the size of a small chihuahua.
There are wonderful things too. You gather knowledge like a magpie and pass it on. You feel a fierce love for the small people in your life, and the old people in your life. You make a will and it’s no longer something to be afraid of, it’s your way of protecting the people and causes you care about. You buy good art and good dresses and feel proud of what your hard work has achieved.
This is how you know you’re a grown up. Does it mean you’re ready, for sweaty speeches and hairy drains and boobs like month-old cabbages? No. But you deal with it, because all the other stuff – the knowing yourself and celebrating your achievements and protecting the people you love – is so damn awesome.
The only thing scarier than growing up?
Not growing up.