I write this having just got in from my 36th birthday party.
When I say “just got in”, obviously what I actually mean is I got in an hour ago, but then had to sign a mortgage deed (adult points: 1, buying a house), take my make up off (I KNOW! I actually take my make up off now. I am an ADULT! Adult points: 2, am sensible individual who cares about own skin) get Piglet ready for bed and breastfeed him to sleep.
Birthday parties aren’t like they were in the old days.
And at 36, thank God for that. I don’t think I could cope with the late nights, hangovers and drama of my younger years at this mature stage of life. Please just let me just polish my halo of sobriety and good sense and sit on the Throne of Maturity until I ripen like a fine cheese.
I don’t think I had ever even thought about the reality of being 36 before this week. I think I thought that at 35 I would just drop off the end of the earth and into some great cosmic dustbin marked “old age.” The closest I had got to imagining it was that memorable episode of Sex And The City (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, that programme has the answers to EVERYTHING) when the girls go to Atlantic City and Charlotte gets depressed about her birthday, wears a frilly high-necked blouse in the style of an uptight Victorian governess and refuses to have any kind of celebration on the grounds that she is now officially an “old maid.”
And I got to thinking….(cue self, leaning out of a Manhattan window in pensive mode, twiddling a pen and thinking about my next column, which will inevitably be based on my turbulent love life) that I am also now an old maid. I guess we can quibble over the exact definition of the word “maid” in this context, but the fact remains, I am 36 and unmarried. Four more years and I won’t even be able to get away with wearing a wedding dress, to quote the brilliant but depressing Enid “when you get to 50, there is a very tiny pool of available men. A wading pool actually, and you are swimming IN MY WADING POOL!” another of SATC’s great characters.
I don’t agree with Enid, of course. I happen to think that women over 40 can look great in wedding dresses. I could add the caveat that it depends on the dress, but this is surely true at any age, and anyway, who cares if you look good. It’s your wedding, wear what the hell you want!
So, as Carrie asks the roulette board at the end of the Atlantic City episode, what happens after 36? It’s an unknown. Past the zone of the under 35s and into a whole different box. I am no longer considered, in political terms, a younger voter, but have passed into the realm of the old guard. Those who can be relied upon to wallow in comfortable middle age, who no longer need to be courted by politicians chasing the youth vote and who will probably *mimes vomiting sign* vote Conservative (NEVER! You can take away my youth, but you can never take away my FREEDOM!).
The truth is, for all my denial, I don’t feel like a youth. I am getting a little bit rotund around the middle. I am more interested in school catchment areas than trendy bars, and my searches on Pinterest revolve around kitchen decor ideas, rather than 101 ways to wear flicky eyeliner.
I can’t even do flicky eyeliner, and after years of living and working with smudgy bits around the corners of my eyes where I have made a feeble attempt at it, I have finally given up and embraced myself for what I am, namely someone who is utterly rubbish at make up.
So, to ask the question again; what happens after 36?
The answer is, I don’t know, but I am ready to embrace the possibilities. And I will damn well wear a wedding dress if I like.
Probably that 80s vintage one I bought for £22 though, and which someone had thoughtfully snipped into a puffball skirted minidress. I can’t see me buying any others anytime soon.
But then again, who knows? No one knows what happens after 36. It could the precipice before the plummet into the abyss, or it could be the launch pad before the take off to greatness. Only time will tell.