Hauling up the big girls’ pants

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
I am officially a middle-aged woman. When others aren’t around to witness it, I have started sporting a floppy hat, jeans that have not been fashionable in a decade, and gardening gloves, writes Kate Oktay.

Kate Oktay
Kate Oktay

I realised I was wearing the uniform of 40ish-50ish females the other weekend and whooped with glee. "Hey! Look at me," I shouted to my husband, "I’m my mother!"

"You have taken the flag she passed you!" he yelled back, grinning.

And I have. I say things like, "It went down like a lead balloon", which would have been dated half a century ago.

This transition is more enjoyable around other similarly-minded, similarly-aged women. You can cackle and commiserate about how your face is starting to fall off your face; and how you adore your children, but they are really starting to do your head in; and about how you went to a school meeting and when they asked if someone would do a job you felt uncomfortable at the lengthy silences and kept saying yes, and now somehow you are organising the signs, the advertising, a Christmas craft, and the burger stand (the last of which you are desperately trying to get out of), and the people who you could complain to are also the people who have managed to be doing far more than you, so you are stuck with spending November 29* covered in a fine mist of beef-fat and regret.

Flannel pyjama pants once sat low on my hips and year-by-year have crept up my ribcage. I used to look with baffled wonder at the choice of waistband location on those I once termed elderly, and who now seem more youthful by the minute. These days I am beginning to understand: the slouch towards comfort, a sudden sensitivity at a cold draft, and exactly how wonderful elasticised trousers starting just under boobs really are.

There are many lovely things about becoming a middle-aged woman. One is relaxing back into your personality and accepting the fact that you are just the person that you are, whatever that brand of awkward and a wee bit odd that might be. The increasing lack of care about what anyone might think is liberating. In your 20s you think you don’t care what others think. Two decades later, you understand what not giving an eff really looks like.

Plus, when you are young and the world seems fresh, experiences can sting, but as you get older you become both jaded to the everyday, but also, unrocked by life’s ebbs, surges and sodden floods; shrugging a resigned and cheerful "Meh" if someone is being a dick, or you have been a dick, or the car has broken down again.

True, you become invisible, and torn between two generations, both of which need looking after. But, aside from the constant low-level exhaustion and feeling as though you definitely are messing up at least one part of your life fairly resoundingly, middle-aged ladyhood is pretty good. And, while you might be invisible, that’s often a low-key great thing - given the sort of people to whom you are invisible. Those who would have been feeling up a thigh unasked when you were 17 are exactly the ones who don’t notice you are there now. So you can pretend they don’t exist too, and everything about the world is vastly improved.

On my street I am surrounded by women who are 20, 30 and 40 years older than me and who are growing old with grace, joy, and more style than I will ever manage.

Yvonne, with her generosity and excellent conversation, and Mina, who, in her 80s, can be found up trees with a saw and who is known to all the children in the bay because of her kindness and readiness to talk about spiders, sticks, and things that interest the under-10 set.

Women who are excellent examples of just how to age well, and looking at them I am happily growing old.

So, if your birthdays are becoming less celebratory every year, take comfort, you might be looking worse, but you’ll probably be living better, and that is what counts.

* Please go to the Macandrew Bay School Fair on Sunday, November 29 at 11am. Come early and buy a burger; the sooner we sell out, the sooner I get to go home.



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