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.
Recently I was chatting to an old colleague, who’s in a long-term relationship but has started having feelings for women: “I don’t know whether to talk to my boyfriend or just, you know…go have fun,” she said, flushing. Maybe…try not to cheat?” I said gently.
As you get older, friendships become so important. It’s ironic really, as often friends are the first thing to go in our big, busy lives. We get partners and kids and houses and suddenly we’re stressed, stressed, stressed and we’ve got no time and the babysitter just cancelled and why the fuck are my car keys in the dishwasher? and we let our friendships thin just at the time we need them most.
Sometimes I think if there were credit ratings for hearts then mine would be junk status: BAD INVESTMENT, the signs would say, PURCHASE NOT ADVISED. All the sensible consumers would keep a wide berth, tutting: “Don’t touch that sweetie,” a mother would say, “it’s rotten.”
Maybe I’m naïve, but I assumed most people had the same values as me: don’t steal or lie, don’t cheat on your exams or taxes or people, be kind to others, help if you can, work hard, protect your family, protect our world. Actually, I’ve been surprised at how often our values aren’t in synch: how many people are disingenuous or dishonest; how many are cruel or lazy or neglectful; how many can’t see how their actions make our world and hearts a bleaker place.
Regrets are terrible things. They’re like pieces of glass littering a beach. As you roam back over your memories it’s all warm and soft until you feel the sharp slice of them through your feet. They hold so much power. What could my life have been if only I had followed my heart, held my nerve, chased my dreams? The path you took will never be as exciting or fulfilling as the one that passed you by.
The first time you have sex with a woman is a complete minefield. I don’t want to do men a disservice or anything, but they’re mostly pretty easily pleased between the sheets. Just swing your legs around a bit and yodel and they’ll usually sort themselves out quite happily.
Where do you stand on honesty? Are you an everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink kind of person? Or do you take a more…curated approach to candour, drip drip dripping the truths as occasion demands?
How do you feel about your body? Everything dandy? Tickety boo? Do you wake up in the morning, run to the mirror and think phwoar, that is one hot piece of ass? No? Thought not.
Unrequited love. It sounds so…dramatic doesn’t it? Like something from a novel or a film: “l’ll never love again!” she cried breathlessly. Unrequited love is champagne tears and silk gloves and morose diamonds in the moonlight. It’s mourning and yearning and summers in Paris in the arms of another lover. It’s sending away breakfast and picking at dinner and waiting for the hopeful ding of the postman’s bell. It’s an affliction of youth: a brief, sweet, bitter wail of despair, strong in its turn but swift to abate.