I think I’m on the cusp of a mid-life crisis. This has worrying ramifications. Firstly, I’m only nearly-forty, which means my life expectancy is now not-quite-eighty. Without wanting to sound spoilt, I was rather hoping for more. Secondly, I’m concerned that if this mid-life crisis continues I will have to run a marathon, something I’ve always vowed I’ll do, but am not convinced I’ll manage. I’m more of a sprinter. Sharp fourteen-second bursts of high energy followed by 23 hours, fifty-nine minutes and 46 seconds of hard-core, chocolate-accompanied lethargy. Yep, sprinting I like. And skiing. Skiing’s okay too because the lifts do all the hard work, unless you’re one of those loonies who lash skis to their backpacks and WALK up the mountain, which I most certainly am not. Not yet, anyway, though who knows what idiocy I’ll undertake if this crisis takes hold? No, at the moment I very much like a ski-lift, preferably with a heated seat, and a Lion Bar in my pocket (avalanche supplies, my dad used to call them, gleefully reaching into his pocket on the first lift of the day). So why is this crisis looming, biting at my ankles, officially marking the end of my carefree youth (oh, carefree youth, why didn’t I love you more when you were here?). Well, yesterday I saw a young man, about 18, running into a pub in that loping way that young men can do. A flash of jealousy hit me. I wanted to be back in my teens and loping (sprinting?) into the pub to drink, laugh, and flirt, buzzing with the vibrancy of youth. Later, after my two younger daughters are tucked up and we are positioned, as usual, in our dents on the sofa, I happened to catch sight of my husband (a man I met in a pub at university when we were both young and impassioned, arguing and kissing like over-excitable Latino revolutionaries), sitting opposite me, slippers on, doing the fiendish Sudoku, and the mid-life crisis leapt out and hit me squarely around the chops.
‘Life as you know it is over it,’ the cackling beast screamed. ‘OVER I TELL YOU!’
‘Mr J,’ I said, through white-hot panic. ‘Shall we go to the pub?’
‘What?’ he replied, laying the paper on his knee and looking up. ‘But it’s past nine o’clock?!’
Then I felt faint as the crisis bore down on me. I sat and thought, because thinking, though perhaps not advised (many a problem can be made significantly worse with too much thinking), is what I tend to do in this type of situation. I need to start smoking again, I thought to myself. I’ve always wanted to pierce my nose. Would Rhianna-red hair and an asymmetrical fringe suit me?
‘I’m getting a tattoo,’ I announced. ‘And a piercing.’
Then my fourteen year old daughter looked up – her skin wrinkle-free, her hair long and lustrous, gravity something she only thinks of once a week in double Physics (not every day whilst scooping boobs into a bra made of reinforced steel) – and I saw the look on her face was one of pure horror. ‘A tattoo and a piercing? But…but…you hate pain.’ That was what she said, but her horrified look spoke a silent cry: ‘you’re TOO OLD! How will I show my face with an old, newly pierced mother.’ Her silent cry had a point, of course. Harrison Ford hit 60 and pierced his ear. He also drop-kicked his wife of over twenty years and married baby Calista Flockhart. He turned from super-cool Indiana, into OMG-have-you-seen-what-he’s-done Harrison. Nicky Haslam started dressing like a Sex Pistol. Women and men all over the place reach a certain age and start to Botox their foreheads into permanent expressions of youthful inexpression. Silicone gets pumped into spaniel-ear bosoms, six packs are sculpted out of flabby male stomachs. Harley Davidsons are bought. Pool boys are hired.
I closed my eyes and imagined myself without the man sitting opposite me, the man with the slippers and the fiendish Sudoku. I imagined (now whisper this) myself with a younger version: stomach hard as wood, shiny eyes, the energy of, well, of a young man, and I wondered what it might be like to drink cocktails ’til dawn, go to gigs, go clubbing, and do the other four times a night. Then all of a sudden I came over all exhausted. Thoughts of partying left my head to be replaced by how lovely it feels to climb into bed at the end of each day. How, sometimes, just before I go to sleep, I get a little rush of pleasure at the thought of my morning cup of tea. How comfortable it is beside my husband in my sofa-dent, watching television, with a cat on my lap. Then I thought about the marathon, and with that the mid-life crisis finally ebbed away, at least for the time being. A marathon? No way am I ready for that…
(By the way if you fancy following this blog, there’s a ‘Follow’ button with a dinky yellow flower in the bottom right of your screen. It’s not the easiest to see, so I thought I’d point it out!! Ax)