Tuesday 9 April 2013

Let Them Eat Cake!

I’ve been to a few parties lately, I’m delighted to say. There was my friend’s 50th where I came away feeling relieved that actually, even at around half a century, we danced for hours and looked more young than old - only to be flattened by my children who’d been waitressing there, had ample chance to view all invited guests and felt compelled to comment on just how ancient we all were.

I also went to a friend’s 30th a few months ago, although to be honest, I can’t claim to be invited to too many of those these days. But, despite wearing a bag over my head and the highest heels to mask the frumpy inadequacy of having fourteen more years to my tally than most of the invitees, I had a fantastic time with the wonderful guests and came away thinking they were no different to me. Thankfully, my daughters were not in the vicinity to pass comment.

I’m going to a 21st this week - anybody know where I can find a pair of 24 inch heels? – and this got me thinking about a post I wrote a couple of years ago when my blog was quite new. A whopping eight people read it. (Any new bloggers out there? Stick with it, it does get better!) So I figured I could get away with re-posting it. Mum? I’m sorry, you’ve read this before...

I don’t know why people get upset about being 40. There’s a whole industry devoted to telling us we should, but I say, it's time to have your cake and eat plenty of it.

Hear me out on this.

My teenage memory of my father’s 40th was that he spent the entire previous year moaning about it which really rather overshadowed the whole event. I thought it was a bit of a shame, not to mention slightly tedious to live with, after all, he didn’t seem any different to me when the calendar flicked to July 4th of THAT year.

About three years ago I started celebrating 40th birthdays with a vengeance. It started with my older sister’s where we got to dance with Kevin Adams – swoon - the choreographer from Fame Academy during a pamper weekend with our other sisters. I left the three day weekend topped up with love and joie de vivre. Every few months thereafter another party popped up. Champagne flowed and friends buzzed with the excitement, and the planning, of the special day – a lot like a wedding really – a whole group of people keen to party with you because they like you.

I don’t think it gets much better than that.

And then came mine. It was a surprise, not the birthday you understand, but the party really was. I know, it was ridiculously naive not to suspect. Everybody knows I love a surprise – and magic - and that’s what I got. I will remember that party for ever. My 40th year was a bumper year of celebrations. Three fortieths in one week was the record, like Four Weddings and a Funeral all over again.

And there’s the rub.

I’m sad to say that I have been to funerals too, three for people who didn’t make it to 45. I think the least I can do is be grateful for being one of those fortunate enough to reach another milestone.

And nobody could claim they didn’t know. There’s no cackling imp on your shoulder one morning, hissing the words to Happy Birthday before announcing that, although you thought you were 20 with no dependents, no money and no cares, the harsh reality is that you’re double that. 

I didn’t feel any different when I tipped over into the forties, save for feeling a little more special for a few days because all my lovely friends and family had made such a special effort for me, but my hair didn’t suddenly sport a grey hue (well and truly sprouting now though, isn’t it? – Ed), nor did, alas, my spots disappear back to my teenager years where they really should have stayed in the first place. My dodgy hip didn’t sort itself out as a good will gesture but nor did it get worse overnight. The things I ‘hadn’t done’ at 40 I also hadn’t done at 39 and the things I have on my to-do list – getting Glass Houses published, please - well I’m a whole lot closer to them happening in my forties than I was two years ago.

So you see, I think it’s all a big con, an inspired ploy by the greeting cards industry. And I propose a counter move. I shall set up my own niche market: the Formidable Forty-Ones because surely 41 has the potential to be much more depressing? When do you ever hear anybody ask more than a day in advance, ‘What are you doing for your 41st?’ or, ‘Are you planning a surprise party for [insert beloved’s name]’s 41st? Let me know if there’s anything I can do.’ Do you ever see anybody collecting photos in a clandestine manner for an embarrassing 41st slide show? Or having them enlarged to A2 and giggling with excitement at the result with the bemused printer? 

No. And this needs to be rectified. My best selling card will be, ‘No surprises, no big presents, no bubbly...’ and as the chintzy music plays on opening, the words, ‘but we still love you all the same,’ will spring out. Corny? Oh yes. But if you can’t be slushy on your friend’s 41st, when can you be?

Happy Day to all of you! And may you always feel younger than you are. (Unless you’re eight
, of course, and then it’s the other way around – Ed.)