We all get wider…

Friday 18 November 2022

This week, I concede that none of us can stop the march of time….

Its all begins back in August, with the arrival of my niece’s wedding invitation,

Dress code: black tie”

My offspring all hit the shops, finding finery and sharp suits that will also be worn for uni balls and (for Small boy) musician gigs. But for their old single mum…gosh it’s a good few years since I needed anything quite so formal! In fact I have to go as far back as my former (slightly more) glamorous life as a married woman, when ex-hub’s job occasionally afforded the occasion for a posh-frock.

Hang on a tick” I cry, “I think the odd outfit may still be (gathering dust) in the wardrobe!”

And indeed two of them are, both, to shamelessly name drop, worn originally for royal occasions! One is brown and one … ahh one is a sumptuous green velvet number with a scalloped neckline and fitted floor length elegance!With great excitement I try it on and fall instantly in love with the gorgeous thing again. There is just one little snag….the zip refuses to proceed past my waist!

But ‘it’s only August’ think I! The wedding is months away and I resolve to trim back into a dress I previously wore in the previous millennium (and before children were even thought of.) I resolve to rediscover the body I had 25 years ago.

So, I run, I stretch and I scrunch. I spurn delicious buttered break-time toast, toil through the working day fuelled only by miserable sachets of cup-a-soup and track each morsel on a calorie checker app! Alas, none of it makes even an ounce of difference. So when I am out for a drink with an engineering friend, recounting my lack of progress, and he offers to ‘construct me’ back into the garment, I decide, after laughing fully out loud, that enough is quite enough. It is simply never going to happen! The figure I was in my late 20s just has to be consigned to the history books.

Is it of some comfort to read that the struggle to shift a few pounds for other women ‘of my age’ is a fairly common one? Why yes it is! Much is written on the subject and Everyday Health’s article ‘5 reasons its harder to lose weight with age‘ it typical in outlining: age-related muscle loss, hormonal changes, slowing metabolism, general busyness and lifestyle changes as key factors. I am also cheered by some findings too that a ‘bigger butt’ is also caused by widening pelvic bones. In summary, with a mixture of rueful regret and a fair dose of relief, I reason that accepting a changing shape is just all part of growing old gracefully.

So tonight, I have a final Friday night strut around the kitchen in my lovely green dress (clipped in with washing line pegs) before packing it away to donate to the local hospice. I also review the brown number, bought a good 10 years after the green and a hopeful dress size larger. It may not be quite as glamorous or ‘show stopping’, it may be the colour of my old school uniform, but it is still very nice, allows me to move, has a nice swirly skirt, ticks a re-use recycle box (I’ll possibly announce it as ‘vintage’ to sound a little more fashionable) and … it fastens! So bravo for the brown and wedding here we come…

My bucket list!

Saturday 11 June 2022

Bucket lists? Well if you are anything like me, the very mention of the phrase used to conjure up images of slightly balding men in lycra, dangling from the end of a bungee rope, having a mid-life crisis. Definitely not my cup of tea!

So what has changed?

‘The bucket list…’ states a Stanford Medicine article, is ‘‘… a list of things that one has not done before, but wants to do before dying’’.

It’s a definition that left me perplexed. Yes, for years, I really didn’t grasp the notion at all. No procrastination or waiting until the grim reaper came knocking for me. If there was something I wanted to do, I’d pretty much go out and do it. And, busy as a bee, I gallivanted through life: learning, travelling, adventuring, performing, and falling in and out of love. It was.. amazing.

But then came parenthood and … single motherhood-hood. Wonderful as that is too, in so many ways, as I now contemplate ‘empty nesting‘ I realise that the last 20 years has extinguished some of my drive and daring and made me become a little bit invisible in my own life. As a single-mum, because the focus is never on you, I think that I simply forgot, over time, to have any hopes or dreams of my own. I forgot how good it feels to live life to the full, with aspirations for me as well as my children.

So last Summer, as a friend was explaining their creation of a list of ‘60 things to do before I’m sixty’ , it was like a jolt of electricity through my veins. As, she ran through some of the items, with me shouting,

Ooh, sounds great!’, ‘Count me in!’

an even more exciting idea was forming. Designing my own schedule of ideas; now that truly was intoxicating and felt like a missing piece of me being slotted back into place. I needed some goals of my own, some challenges to look forward to, some re-invention of my former self. I needed … my own kind of bucket list.

So here we go. It is not ’60 things to do before I’m sixty‘ because after 2 decades of keeping everyone else happy, I did struggle to turn the spotlight in my direction and think about what might make me happy. Instead, it is ten things to do in the next 24 months, which I figure is a good start could snowball into other ideas.

  1. Learn to play the oboe part of Elevazione: Domenico Zipoli
  2. Have a night out at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho
  3. Submit an educational article for publication
  4. Go to a whisky festival
  5. Drink beer at the Oktoberfest
  6. Sign up for German classes
  7. Raise money for The Samaritans
  8. Watch ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  9. Read Jane Eyre: Jane Austen
  10. Learn to swim underwater

And… as a cheeky extra,

11. Go skinny dipping!

Many wouldn’t appear on anyone else’s ‘to do’ list, but I am pretty confident that they are all things I’d love to do. Little bits of me, reflecting: my values, my passions and my interests, plus in the case of number ten, facing a life-long fear and … I actually cannot wait to get started!

Middle Aged Mum Fashion …

Saturday 13 February 2021

It is a day that all starts innocently enough…

Buoyed by birthday money, Small Boy is updating his wardrobe. My lovely son has his own style and very definite ideas about clothes. Yes, alas, the halcyon days of kitting him out for the season with a trip to Sports Direct, and still having change from a £50 note, are very much a distant memory. Today, I reluctantly concede, as a disappointing generational stereotype, to committing that cardinal parental-sin of looking a little startled by some of his choices. I find myself rightly subjected to a volley of indignation,

“What mum?’

Why are you looking like that mum?

I can only hold up my hands in apology,

“Oh just ignore me. What do I know anyway? Look at the state of my dowdy outfit!”

And it is true. I guess you could blame lockdown but my current style is beyond frumpy and dull; it more or less says ‘given up on life.’ With my own birthday just around the corner, my shopping-mad offspring sense an opportunity,

Mum – why not let us pick some new clothes for your birthday?

I decide to agree. Yes, it could be fun to spruce up my ‘look’. In fact, I actually start to feel quite excited. Until that is I see Small Boy rapidly typing this into his search engine,

Middle aged mum fashion”

ARGHHHHHHH! There it is! Out in the open. Not ‘sassy mum‘ not ‘sophisticated mum.’ Oh no! It’s the double edged sword of style derision for me, mumsy and … middle aged! Now, of course, at a personal level, I am only too aware of my advancing years. But hearing it from someone else, now that is a very different matter. Because it means that, if I did dare to think or hope that I was fooling the rest of you about being quite this old… I was sadly mistaken!

Middle-aged. Gosh what is it about that word? Well firstly, for those of you still in your thirties or forties, I bring glad tidings! The Huffington Post, claims that Middle Age does not actually start until you turn 53. But, as I read their entertaining article ‘40 signs you are Middles Aged’ , I’ll confess that I could have ticked off several indicators from list in my mid-forties! And I think this is the issue. It isn’t a particular age that you reach, it is a gradual realisation that you are no longer young, with life stretching endlessly before you as a blank canvas of opportunity. Some of your mental speed has gone. Some of your fresh-faced bloom has gone. Time, well that has well and truly gone. And, in place of all that youthful hope and energy, comes, for many of us, the judgemental misery of ‘taking stock’. In the grimmer works of Josh Cohen in the Guardian,

The middle-aged person is liable to look in the mirror and see someone who could have done better, who has failed to fulfil their hopes and ideals.”

Cohen’s article, ‘Why is midlife such a lonely time? addresses serious concerns about the impact of a culture of consumerism and competition on our mental health, a climate which has resulted in loneliness affecting 1 in 7 of those in the 45 – 54 age group. And it is certainly true that on my lower days, I can sit in a meeting with younger colleagues, or wander around a trendy dimly-lit clothes stores, feeling a little bit invisible and isolated from the world. As I prepare to wave a second teen off to University this Autumn, I can wonder where, or even if, I fit into society any more. I can find myself asking the question ‘What exactly have you done with your life?’

But, the truth is, I am very definitely not alone in this! Lisa Stein’s article for Scientific American, ‘Midlife Misery: Is there Happiness After the 40s?‘ find that a bit of a ‘blah’ is universal and all completely normal in your 40s and 50s. Even better, it does not last forever.

…by the time you are 70, if you are still physically fit, then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year old,”

Now I do find it all very comforting to learn that some moments of pondering, even gloom, are a common reaction to middle agedness. But seventy… now that is a bit too long to wait. I turn back to Small Boy’s screen. Do you know what – those middle aged mums are rocking the fashions! Time to place a few orders and embrace the mid-life, before that is over too …